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“Active Inertia” Of A Dying Party: Intellectually Bankrupt, Republican’s Are Pyromanic’s In A field Of Strawmen

Take pity on poor Marco Rubio. You’d be reaching for a bottle of Poland Springs, too, if you had to spit out the dry-as-dust bromides and the well past their sell-by date Reagan-era platitudes that Rubio was forced to expectorate as the Republican Party’s designated responder to President Obama’s State of the Union address last Tuesday.

“More government isn’t going to help you get ahead,” said Rubio, doing his best Ronald Reagan “government-isn’t-the-solution-it’s-the-problem” impersonation. “It’s going to hold you back. More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them. And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty.”

Later on, Rubio wasn’t content to merely propose we reduce debts and deficits. He had to go all the way to balance the budget in ways that did not involve the choice between “either higher taxes or dramatic benefit cuts for those in need.” Instead, Rubio offered the oldie but goodie that we should “grow our economy so that we create new taxpayers, not new taxes, and so our government can afford to help those who truly cannot help themselves.”

Good grief! Could this speech have been given 30 years ago? Of course it could, says Andrew Sullivan, because it was not a political speech at all but rather a “recitation of doctrine dedicated to Saint Ronald.”

What Rubio gave us on Tuesday, says Sullivan, “was an intellectually exhausted speech that represents the intellectual bankruptcy of contemporary Republicanism” — a series of “Reaganite truisms that had a role to play in reinvigorating America after liberal over-reach in the 1960s and 1970s,” perhaps, but offering little that was new or applicable today.

If reciting these platitudes in Spanish counts as what the GOP thinks it will take to restore the party to political or intellectual relevance, says Sullivan, then “they are more deluded than even I imagined.”

After listening to Rubio, I am in agreement with Josh Barro when he says the Republican Party’s problem isn’t the messenger but its whole economic message. And to fix that, Republicans need to show they are serious about policy — and for “smart government” on a case-by-case basis – and not just demagogues when it comes to government.

Michael Grunwald had the same thought when he said if Republicans really believe they lost the last election “because Romney was a boring rich white guy who alienated Hispanics” then in Rubio they got their chance “to see a charismatic Cuban-American with humble roots but otherwise indistinguishable positions on every issue except for immigration.”

And the result should have had Republicans reaching for drinks stronger than water.

I am not sure what to say when Rubio tried to pass himself off as a regular guy who went through college on federal student loans and has a mother who gets Medicare — but who then speaks for a party committed to cutting, if not eliminating, both.

At the same time, I am left speechless by Rubio’s assertion that Obama has no cause for blaming President Bush for the nation’s debt – at the same time Rubio insists the “real cause of our debt” is the $1 trillion deficit Bush left Obama when he took office — times four. And shame on Obama, says Rubio, that Obama did not immediately undo everything George W. did and reduce the deficit to zero in the middle of the second worst recession in 70 years.

But “that’s why we need a balanced budget amendment,” concludes Rubio, idiotically.

Rubio offered no compromise on gun control, nothing but border security on immigration, drill, baby, drill as an energy policy, not a word on gay equality, and nothing at all about the 60,000 Americans fighting and dying in Afghanistan. And as for climate change, he quipped: “No matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather.” Ha, ha, ha.

Rubio was also like a pyromaniac in a field of straw men insisting President Obama is hostile to the free enterprise economy, believes the economy collapsed because government didn’t tax enough and that the “solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.”

At the same time, Rubio blames the 2008 financial collapse on a “housing crisis created by reckless government policies.”

I used to write speeches for Republicans, and so I suppose I should be indebted to Senator Rubio for providing such a perfect distillation of all the reasons I gave up on the thankless, potentially health damaging task of articulating ideas for Republicans who don’t have any.

By my counting, Rubio is now the third leading Republican (after Governor Bobby Jindal and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor) who’ve gone “over the top” like doomed WWI doughboys as they charge across their barren ideological No Man’s Land in a futile effort to reposition a Republican Party that wants no part of change.

One measure of the heavy lift facing Rubio and Company as they try to pour new wine into old bottles was the reaction of other Republicans to the President’s State of the Union address. Their collective message seemed to be: What a tragedy a perfect opportunity was squandered for the President to declare he’d become a Republican after winning reelection in a landslide.

“He seems to always be in campaign mode, where he treats people in the other party as enemies rather than partners,” said House Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who seemed puzzled Obama had not immediately embraced Ryan’s ideas.

“In the last election, voters chose divided government which offers a mandate only to work together to find common ground,” said Speaker John Boehner who seemed puzzled the President actually thinks like a Democrat. “The President, instead, appears to have chosen a go-it-alone approach to pursue his liberal agenda.”

But the response I loved best came from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who sounded like some slave-owning Southern Oligarch warning the President against offering “another litany of left-wing proposals” or throwing “red meat” to his base because, you know, “the campaign is over” and so the “Republican-controlled House” is back to calling the shots.

You’ve had your fun Mr. President, McConnell seemed to be saying. You won the election fair and square. But now it’s time to face facts. That’s a nice little democracy you’ve got there, Mr. President. But don’t forget, we’re still in charge.

Republicans like to think themselves connected to the disciplines of the free market, with its emphasis on competition, innovation and the relentless “creative destruction” of revolutionary change. Yet, it’s astonishing to me how Republicans at the same time exhibit the sclerosis of what author Chrystia Freeland calls the “active inertia” of dying organizations that fail to adjust to the imperatives of change because “they do what they always did — only more energetically than before.”

 

By: Ted Frier, Open Salon Blog, February 15, 2013

February 16, 2013 - Posted by | GOP, State of the Union | , , , , , , ,

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