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“The Grand Old Party Of Nihilists And Cranks”: The Politics Of Destruction With The Values Of Zealots

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, Republican Saxby Chambliss, Georgia’s senior senator, was considered a steadfast conservative. The American Conservative Union has given him a lifetime score of 92, while the Club for Growth has scored him at 83. He earns an A from the National Rifle Association.

But a couple of years ago, Chambliss embarked upon an exercise that would merely have cemented his stature as a power broker as recently as the administration of George W. Bush: He joined Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, to form a bipartisan group of senators working to come up with a deal to whittle down the deficit. In other words, he considered compromise with Democrats.

In our current warped political universe, that was enough to earn Chambliss a potential challenger from the right, and he decided not to seek re-election. Chastened by Chambliss’ experience, none of the Georgia Republicans running for his vacant seat wants to occupy the same ZIP code with the words “compromise” and “bipartisan.”

This is what the Grand Old Party has come to: It’s now led by nihilists whose only politics are those of destruction and whose only values are those of zealots. There may be reasonable Republicans remaining in office, but they’ve been bullied into compliance and cowed into silence.

If you don’t believe that, listen to the growing drumbeat for the impeachment of President Obama — despite the glaring lack of evidence that he has committed impeachable offenses. (Having the temerity to win a second term is not an impeachable crime.) While such talk was once restricted to the nutters — men like U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI), who has said the president’s impeachment would “be a dream come true” — it has leaked into the GOP’s water supply.

Witness the recent off-the-cuff remarks of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who, though a standard-bearer for the hard right, has been considered a thoughtful and rational man. At a recent meeting with constituents, Coburn declared that the president was coming “perilously close” to the standards for impeachment.

Last month, at a tribute in his honor, the retiring Chambliss obliquely urged his party to come to its senses. He didn’t explicitly mention the GOP’s spiral into right-wing madness, but he did speak of the importance of his work with the Gang of Six, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I don’t mind crossing party lines. If Republicans had a patent on all the good ideas, we’d be in power forever. We don’t have a patent on all those good ideas,” he said.

But his intended audience has taken another lesson from Chambliss’ bipartisanship: If you even consider it, you will be labeled a RINO — Republican In Name Only — by the tea party activists who now wield enormous power in the Republican Party. Having chased Chambliss off, they have taken to hectoring Georgia’s junior Republican senator, Johnny Isakson, for his failure to jump with enthusiasm to the idea of shutting down the government over Obamacare.

Tea Party types have also targeted longtime senator Lamar Alexander, Republican from Tennessee. In a letter urging Alexander to retire, they claimed that “our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship, two traits for which you have become famous.”

In response, Alexander penned a remarkable op-ed in The Tennessean defending his record as a politician who has occasionally reached across the aisle. “I know that if you only have 45 votes and you need 60 senators to get something important done like balancing the budget and fixing the debt, then you have to work with other people — that is, IF you really care about solving the problem, IF you really want to get a result, instead of just making a speech,” he wrote.

However, such time-honored traditions of governance have little effect on the white-hot rage of radicals who want to toss out any conservative who remembers the lessons of his middle-school civics classes. They have no respect for the basic give-and-take on which representative democracies thrive, no real interest in improving the nation’s fortunes. So, no, Senator Alexander, they don’t care about solving problems.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, August 31, 2013

September 1, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Impeachniks Roar”: Like Raged Unhinged Primates Shrieking And Pounding Their Chests

There have been only two presidential impeachments in the 224 years since George Washington became America’s first president. Both—of Andrew Johnson in 1868 and of Bill Clinton in 1998—failed to get the required two-thirds majority in the Senate. And Richard Nixon, of course, was about to be impeached in 1974 when he chose to resign instead; unlike the other two, there would have been nothing partisan about Nixon’s impeachment and he almost certainly would have been convicted. There are always some partisans of the party out of power who would like to impeach the president, simply because it’s the only way to get rid of him if you can’t beat him at the polls. But a presidency without too much actual criminality shouldn’t produce too many such armchair prosecutors. Or so you’d think.

But these are no ordinary times, and the Republican thirst for impeaching Barack Obama (or “Barack Hussein Obama,” as impeachniks inevitably call him) has gone mainstream, as evidenced by the fact that The New York Times featured a story about it over the weekend. The pattern is becoming familiar: at a town hall meeting, a member of the House or Senate is confronted by a constituent practically quivering with anger and hatred at the President. The constituent demands to know why impeachment hasn’t happened yet. The Republican politician nods sympathetically, then explains that though he’d like nothing more than to see Obama driven from office, it would require a vote of the House and then a trial and conviction vote in the Senate, and that just isn’t going to happen.

As Steve Benen said, “I remember the good old days—back in 2011—when unhinged conservative Republicans in Congress used to come up with pretenses of high crimes when talking up presidential impeachment. Lately, they don’t even bother. Obama is the president; he’s a Democrat; the right doesn’t like him; ergo impeachment is a credible option. QED.” Take, for instance, Representative Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan. When the ritual question came to him, Bentivolio said it would be “a dream come true” for him to submit a resolution to impeach Obama. But he lamented the fact that “Until we have evidence, you’re going to become a laughingstock if you’ve submitted the bill to impeach the president.” I mean, come on—evidence? What is this, Judge Judy or something? No constitutional scholar he, the congressman only realized this bit about “evidence” after doing some careful research. “I’ve had lawyers come in—and these are lawyers, PhD.s in history, and I said, ‘Tell me how I can impeach the president of the United States.’ [They replied,] ‘What evidence do you have?'” The nerve!

Meanwhile, out in the ideological hinterlands, the rabble are getting roused. People are putting “Impeach Obama” signs on overpasses! There’s a Facebook page! “Movement To Impeach Obama Snowballing” shouts World Net Daily (along with a plea to “Visit WND’s online Impeachment Store to see all the products related to ousting Obama”).

To be sure, it isn’t that there aren’t plenty of Republicans who reject impeachment out of hand, because there are. But they’re regarded by many in the base as contemptible quislings; within the party, the moderate middle position is now occupied by those who wouldn’t mind impeaching Obama, but realize that the practical hurdles are too difficult to overcome. And yes, there were liberals who wanted to impeach George W. Bush back in the day, but they were almost all fringe characters. They weren’t the people making our laws. As always, on the right the extremism goes much farther up the tree.

There will come a point—around October of 2016, I’m guessing—where this insanity will just peter out. But between now and then it could well grow more intense, with more and more members of Congress (not to mention 2016 presidential candidates) forced to take a position of sympathy toward impeaching Obama. For the base, disappointment long ago turned to anger, which is now turning to a kind of guttural explosion of rage. Like early primates who find that all the shrieking and pounding of chests has failed to drive off the interlopers who had the temerity to walk right in and think they could coexist in this part of the forest, they’re left with nothing to do but to fling their shit in the general direction of those they hate and fear. But hey, America is “polarized” and both sides are equally to blame, right?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 26, 2013

August 26, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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