Photo by Rob Kall (with image processing)
Do you smell something burning? Is that high-pitched squeal that seems to be growing louder by the minute coming from a fiddle? A tea kettle?
Perhaps one of the many ironies about the "neo-Neros" if you will, of the Republican Party -- as they fiddle along with the "throw out the baby with the bathwater" mind-set driving their movement to basically burn down the federal government through harsh "fiscal reform" -- might be that this mind-set is one that has resulted in virtually no movement of their companion "take back American culture" agenda.
The knowledge that the GOP fiscal reformers' hare-brained insistence on thwarting the Obama Administration in every way possible has thus far hamstrung its ability to take advantage of the Administration's capitulation to many aspects of the GOP's overall blueprint for social reform, should be a development which calls into question both the mind-set and motivations of this particular group of Republicans "who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."
And what an opportunity it has been. Throughout Obama's presidency, there has been a steady stream of sacred cows offered up in the negotiation processes involving any number of issues. To the chagrin of many progressives, the Administration has repeatedly said "yes" to the demands of the "Party of No" for more and more of the lifeblood of the poor, the middle-class and older Americans. In the current debt-ceiling battle, the Administration has committed to tinkering with Medicare and Social Security and proposed a perhaps unprecedented three-to-one ratio in favor of spending cuts to revenue increases.
Yet, the GOP's basic response to this series of submissions has been: "What part of "no' don't you understand?"
Thus, as opportunities to advance their social agenda go, clearly the GOP is missing several golden ones due to its jackass-like stubbornness on the debt ceiling issue (Which in is a bit ironic itself since it is the donkey that represents the Democratic Party). Nevertheless, their refusal to agree to this simple adjustment, which for nearly all GOP congressional incumbents, has been a routine "been there, done that" exercise of formality in pre-Obama years, has served as yet another avenue for gridlock promotion by a Party hell-bent on fomenting enough political brinkmanship, one issue at a time, to snuff out the next several generations of potential inter-Party cooperation and compromise.
It's worth pondering. Who can argue that the GOP as we know it has devolved from a Party whose willingness to work across Party lines permitted Richard Nixon to appoint both Democratic Texas Governor John Connelly as Treasury Secretary; and liberal New York Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (who was a global warming bell-ringer way back then), as his Administration's domestic policy advisor.
For all his faults, the politically-savvy "Tricky Dick" was obviously cognizant of the pitfalls of raw ideological litmus testing as a means of determining qualifications for a position. Thusly, the fact that Moynihan, for example, was a Democrat had little bearing on his appointment. It was his re'sume'. Moynihan brought with him, the kind of background in academic research related to social policy needed to meet the challenges of his appointment.
Such was not the case, of course, with the Bush Administration, within which ideological correctness held such primacy over actual expertise that it led to the appointment of the likes of Bremer and Brown. No, not some law firm, but the respective heads of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). You know, L. Paul; the guy who basically sparked the Iraq insurgency when he fired the entire Iraqi army, sending thousands of disgruntled ex-soldiers home with their guns; and FEMA's Mike Brown, who, as far as Bush was concerned did "a heckuva job" handling the Katrina disaster.
This same impetus -- at the insistence of the Tea Party -- within the GOP for ideological purity now has that Party so jammed into the quicksand of partisan politics that any effort at moving forward virtually any kind of legislation favored by Democrats can be expected to be reflexively filibustered into inertia by a bloc of brain-frozen "nutters of the Tea Party Caucus who overlord each and every single legislative initiative by the GOP out of Congress.
It's a reality that has befuddled and angered not just many American political observers, but also many from governments the world over who recognize the global consequences of America's GOP-inspired fiscal kamikaze drive.
"The irony of the (fiscal crisis) at the moment " is that the biggest threat to the world financial system comes from a few right-wing nutters in the American congress"" observed British Business Secretary Vince Cable, in an article published in Politico in late July.
Meanwhile, if you find the previous Nixon analogy too mid-20th century-ish, there are other comparisons. The unfortunate reality of today's Tea Party-inspired GOP is that it makes both progressives and traditional conservatives Republicans wax nostalgically for the resurrection of a species of post-Nixon conservative politician that has either become extinct, or have been driven into hiding -- "Reagan Republicans."
If, among other things, Reagan did indeed meet former U.S. Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford's description of him as an "amiable dunce," it was also that affability which to a great extent allowed him to have his way with a House and Senate under complete Democratic control. By contrast, based on the low approval rate that continues to plague Congressional Republicans, the guys running the Party today could hardly be described as "amiable."