With the Republicans’ Benghazi Committee uncovering no meaningful new information, and with the panel’s investigation effectively exonerating Hillary Clinton, right-wing conspiracy theorists this week had no choice but to give up and find a new hobby.
No, I’m just kidding. They’re actually redirecting their ire towards Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).
Just yesterday, I predicted that some conservatives would turn on Gowdy, in whom they’d invested so much hope. The far-right South Carolinian was supposed to bury, not exonerate, Hillary Clinton, I wrote, and his inability to deliver a useful campaign weapon will likely be seen as both a failure and a betrayal.
A few hours later, far-right radio personality Michael Savage told his audience, “Trey Gowdy should be impeached for wasting my time! He promised us a lot! Remember?” (Members of Congress can be expelled, but not impeached, under the U.S. Constitution.)
Of course, Savage isn’t alone. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank explained today that “conspiracy-minded” conservatives are blaming Gowdy “for failing to deliver the goods.” There was a meeting yesterday of the “Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi,” where members agreed the far-right South Carolinian let them down by failing to confirm their beliefs.
A woman in the crowd floated a new Benghazi conspiracy. “Has someone in the GOP leadership gotten their fingers involved in watering down some of this to benefit Secretary Clinton?” she asked. Nobody rebutted this idea.
Herein lies a lesson for Republicans who are perpetually trying to appease the far right: It’s a fool’s errand. They went to the tea party – and now they’re taking Donald Trump to the prom. Likewise, then-House Speaker John Boehner named the Benghazi committee because activists were dissatisfied that seven previous congressional investigations had failed to uncover major scandal material. Now an eighth has produced more of the same – and the agitators are as agitated as ever.
There’s a certain twisted logic to this. The unhinged right starts with the ideologically satisfying answer – President Obama and Hillary Clinton are guilty of horrible Benghazi-related wrongdoing – and then works backwards, looking for “proof” that matches the conclusion. When their ostensible allies fail to tell these activists what they want to hear, they could reevaluate their bogus assumptions, but it’s vastly easier to believe Republicans have let them down.
Wait, it gets worse.
As Milbank reported, a former Ted Cruz adviser complained yesterday that Gowdy “did not draw a connection between the dots.” And why not? According to retired Gen. Thomas McInerney, the Benghazi Committee chairman “had his reasons – political” for holding back.
McInerney “speculated that congressional leadership had approved ‘black operations’ to run weapons from Benghazi to Islamic State forces in Syria.”
This is what it’s come to: Benghazi conspiracy theorists are so creative, and so unmoved by evidence or reason, that they can convince themselves that congressional Republicans are in on the conspiracy.
As Donald Trump and his allies try to incorporate ridiculous Benghazi rhetoric into their 2016 platform, keep in mind who his unhinged allies are.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 1, 2016
At the New Republic David Dayen has an appropriately scathing appraisal of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s accomplishments this year. He famously cannot get a budget resolution passed. He’s done nothing on the list of priorities he announced when he took up the gavel. But beyond those failures, he can’t even deal with emergencies, including the Puerto Rico debt crisis, the Zika crisis, the Flint water-poisoning disaster, and the opioid epidemic.
To Dayen, that makes Ryan worse than useless, because “[t]he basic test of governance is the ability to respond to rapidly changing events.” This may be true in theory, but the entire premise of Ryan’s accession to the Speakership is that he’d place “governance” on hold until November, despite a Potemkin village semblance of “regular order” and other legislative activity. Here’s how I put it back in December:
What Boehner, McConnell, and Ryan in turn appear to have accomplished is to convince conservative activist groups and the members of Congress who listen to them to become satisfied with an apocalypse later rather than an apocalypse now. Ryan will get the lion’s share of praise as some sort of party-unifying genius, but it’s the promise of a postelection conservative ideological feeding frenzy that’s really done the trick. If Republicans pull off the POTUS/House/Senate trifecta next year, then the kind of policies now considered “divisive” when pushed against the resistance of Senate filibusters or presidential vetoes will then be noncontroversial.
And so, all the controversial stuff was dumped out of a continuing appropriation and tax extender package (the so-called “taxibus”) that ensured the federal government would continue to function until the end of the fiscal year (conveniently near Election Day), with the gamble being that divisions over what to do with a Democratic president might soon be moot.
But this do-nothing plan didn’t take emergencies into account, and thus emergencies are hanging fire for Ryan.
He will presumably muddle his way through, but the steadily darkening prospects for any sort of Republican mega-win in November is making all the signatories to this implicit deal uneasy. And if things go south on Election Day, so will Ryan’s reputation:
If, on the other hand, the GOP loses the presidency and/or the Senate, then the party could be back to where it was when Boehner was Speaker, and Paul Ryan won’t necessarily be any better at dealing with frustrated right-wingers.
The difference is that Ryan may be exposed as a fraud, which is not what he had in mind when he agreed to take the gavel.
By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 22, 2016
“The Insanity Started A Long Time Ago”: Overheated Talk Against The Government Has Come Back To Bite The GOP
Julian Zeilzer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, isn’t buying the handwringing we’re seeing from David Brooks and the National Review about the presidential candidacies of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. In a case that others have made, but perhaps not so thoroughly, he says: GOP Establishment Deserves Trump, Cruz.
Going back to Reagan’s embrace of the Moral Majority, the racism Lee Atwater infused into George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign and the fact that it was McCain who chose Palin to be his running mate in 2008, Zeilzer demonstrates how GOP presidential candidates laid the groundwork for what is happening today.
He also captures how Boehner and McConnell initially embraced the election of tea party candidates like Ted Cruz back in 2010.
In the House of Representatives, Republican leaders were more than welcoming to the tea party revolution that took hold in 2010 — until it no longer suited their purposes. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell welcomed the energy and enthusiasm that tea party activists brought to the fight against President Barack Obama.
While the activists might have pushed the boundaries of acceptable partisan compact with threats like allowing the government to go into default, the discipline as a voting block and willingness to stand up to an ambitious President helped, in the leadership’s minds, to revitalize the standing of the party. Or at least that’s what Boehner thought before he felt he had to leave.
Zeilzer points out that conservative media has also played a role – echoing the warnings of conservative David Frum.
I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination…If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.
Finally, Zeilzer notes that overheated talk against the government has come back to bite the GOP establishment.
At the heart of the Cruz and Trump campaign is an essential message that has been a central theme of conservatism in the post-World War II period: that Washington is never good and career politicians are without virtue.
Their anti-politics rhetoric comes directly out of the “conservative establishment” politics that formed in the 1970s and 1980s. “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” Reagan said.
Once again today, David Brooks is pleading with Republicans to “stay sane.” His supplications completely ignore the path the GOP took that led them to where they are today. As Zeilzer notes, “the alliance, the ideas, the rhetoric and the style have all come from the heart of Republican politics.” In other words, there’s no “staying” sane. That’s because the insanity started a very long time ago.
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 26, 2016
Just when Speaker Ryan was probably thinking he’d mollified them with another symbolic vote to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood, the Republican lunatic caucus in the House speaks up to remind him that he’s on a short leash.
“It’s too early to judge the speakership of Paul Ryan and I think it is fundamentally unfair to try and judge the speakership of Paul Ryan over the last month or so. But, as I have also said, the honeymoon is over,” said Labrador, an Idaho Republican. “I think he needs to start putting up real conservative reform in the House and doing the things that are necessary to show the voters that he is a different speaker than John Boehner because frankly, everything he has done so far is no different than what John Boehner would have done.”…
He added, “The question is will Ryan be a good speech-maker or a good policy-maker…The question is not just can you deliver on the speech but can you deliver on the substance. The question is whether the Republican party is a conservative party or not. I’m afraid that so far we’ve shown that [the Republican Party] is not a conservative party.”
The implied threat contained in the statement, “everything he has done so far is no different than what John Boehner would have done,” is crystal clear. Labrador wants Ryan to know that unless they get what they want, they’ll do the same thing to him that they did to Boehner.
But if Ryan was actually paying attention for the last few years, what he’ll also know is that the lunatic caucus is famous for making unreasonable demands that no one in their right minds would ever go along with – and they don’t have a majority of votes in the House to get what they want. The only thing they DO have is the ability to threaten to blow shit up. Eventually Speaker Ryan will face the same thing Boehner did – you’ll never please them. And then what?
It’s too bad that a Republican Speaker can’t/won’t tell these lunatics to bugger off. But then, that’s exactly the same problem the Republican establishment is facing with the candidacy of Donald Trump, isn’t it? They created this monster as an alternative to actually governing after the 2008 election and it just keeps turning on them.
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 8, 2016
Matt Yglesias has written an article that probably won’t be embraced by the partisans on the far left or the far right. It’s titled: 2015 Was the Year Congress Started Working Again. He begins by listing their accomplishments and adds some commentary.
Among some of the things Congress accomplished: The main federal statute governing K-12 education got an overhaul. So did the federal disability insurance system. A long-running dispute about federal highway funding got resolved, as did a long-running dispute about Medicare payments. Last but by no means least, December saw a whole bunch of tax changes featuring good news for low-wage workers and a broad set of business interests. Congress even passed a law to ban microbeads in bath products to help protect the nation’s fisheries.
These aren’t all good bills, and almost none of them are what anyone would consider a great bill, but in a way that’s the point. Legislation passed in 2015 because congressional leaders went back to doing what congressional leaders are supposed to do in times of divided government: compromise to pass bills that don’t thrill anyone but do make both sides happier than they would be in the absence of a bill.
We all know that people like Sen. Ted Cruz aren’t happy about any of this. There are plenty of people on the left who aren’t thrilled either. But as Yglesias points out – it is a clear improvement over the government-by-crisis dynamic we saw previously.
Unlike Yglesias though, I don’t see the productivity resulting from the fact that President Obama is now a lame duck or that Congressional leaders don’t have much of a stake in any of the Republican presidential contenders.
What those explanations miss is that in 2015, Republicans took control of both Houses of Congress. Simply obstructing Democrats was no longer a viable strategy. Initially they eschewed government-by-crisis in favor of passing bills that would force President Obama to use his veto pen. That strategy started to fall apart almost immediately when the lunatic caucus wanted to shut down the Department of Homeland Security over the President’s immigration executive orders.
All of the compromises Yglesias listed happened when the Republican leadership abandoned the lunatic caucus and sought ways to work with the Democrats. And that, my friends, is precisely why John Boehner is no longer Speaker of the House. The lunatic caucus rebelled.
So what is the new Speaker to do? Here’s what Siobhan Hughes reports:
House Speaker Paul Ryan starting this month will push to turn the chamber into a platform for ambitious Republican policy ideas, in a bid to help shape his unsettled party’s priorities and inject substance into a presidential race heavy on personality politics.
Right out of the gate for the new year comes this:
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) January 1, 2016
It looks to me like Speaker Ryan is going to once again try to herd the cats of the lunatic caucus in an attempt to rack up symbolic votes that will be stopped by a presidential veto (if not in the Senate first). One has to wonder how that will fly with the angry/fearful right. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be stuck with a do-nothing Congress once again.
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 4, 2015