Sarah Palin resigns as governor of Alaska. (Photo: Reuters)
What the hell is going on with Republican politics lately?
Insane southpaw Bill "Spaceman" Lee once described Boston Red Sox baseball (pre-2004, of course) as high tragic opera, the kind of shattering long-running mental and emotional experience that leaves one with arms flung heavenward screaming, "Why, God, why?"
One must assume there were very many Republican strategists greeting the Saturday dawn in painfully similar fashion. It would not come as a tremendous surprise if reports surface next week about a rain of frogs and plague of locusts striking Republican National Committee headquarters.
I mean, seriously. This is getting entirely out of hand. The Republican Party, its adherents and its advocates have been running an astonishing gauntlet of shame, silliness and disgrace for four long years now. Randy "Duke" Cunningham went to jail for accepting $1.3 million in bribes, Bob Ney pleaded guilty to corruption charges, Tom DeLay got indicted for money-laundering, Jack Abramoff lobbied half the GOP members of Congress into federal investigations, Mark Foley went sideways with Congressional pages while Dennis Hastert covered it up, Larry Craig tapped his foot in a bathroom stall and got busted for solicitation, and Ted Haggard, minister and leader of one of the largest evangelical churches in America and a pillar of the GOP base, was discovered enjoying meth parties with homosexual prostitutes in his spare time.
This deluge of ignominy eventually resulted in a ravaging defeat at the polls for the GOP in the November 2006 midterm elections. There was, and remains, nothing particularly inspiring or exceptional about the Democratic Party which routed them and took back Congress that year - they were, and remain, a fairly bland and timid lot in the main - but the GOP was just so bad that the country abandoned them, thus beginning the long, slow crumbling of Karl Rove's dream of a permanent Republican majority.
The pattern continued two years later when John McCain concluded perhaps the most preposterously poor presidential campaign in American history with a decisive defeat at the hands of Barack Obama, who almost literally came down with the last drop of rain but was more than able to upend a badly damaged Republican Party.
In the aftermath of the 2008 presidential election, the entire GOP seemed to go, quite literally, insane. Spokespeople such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck began braying about FEMA concentration camps being built to imprison conservatives, which in retrospect may have been the GOP's best option; they'd be in cages, sure, but at least they wouldn't be able to hurt themselves any more than they already had. The hits just kept coming like tidal waves of bad news, the most ridiculous of which, for a little while anyway, was the madcap sex scandal that erupted around South Carolina governor and 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Mark Sanford, who got caught cheating on his wife in Argentina.
Sanford set the benchmark for absurdity for about a week, until Alaska governor and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin detonated her political career with a resignation press conference on Friday that likely will remain the gold-standard for political insanity for many moons to come. The 2008 campaign introduced Palin to the American people for the first time. McCain's decision to place Palin on the GOP ticket will go down in history as one of the more extraordinary political blunders of all time. For the Democrats, Palin and her berserk brood have been the gift that keeps on giving, right up to this past holiday weekend.
First, Palin announced that she would not seek re-election as governor. Almost immediately after this announcement, Palin gave a press conference in which she declared that she had no intention of being a lame-duck governor, and so was stepping down from office. The fact that she made herself a lame duck by announcing her intention not to run again was merely an accent in the symphony of dumb Palin unleashed upon an astonished press corps.
The full transcript of Palin's resignation press conference reads like the ramblings of a badly deranged child:
We are doing well! I wish you'd hear more from the media of your state's progress and how we tackle Outside interests - daily - special interests that would stymie our state. Even those debt-ridden stimulus dollars that would force the heavy hand of federal government into our communities with an "all-knowing attitude" - I have taken the slings and arrows with that unpopular move to veto because I know being right is better than being popular. Some of those dollars would harm Alaska and harm America - I resisted those dollars because of the obscene national debt we're forcing our children to pay, because of today's Big Government spending; it's immoral and doesn't even make economic sense!...
Let me go back to a comfortable analogy for me - sports ... basketball. I use it because you're naâ€¹ve if you don't see the national full-court press picking away right now: A good point guard drives through a full court press, protecting the ball, keeping her eye on the basket ... and she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can win. And I'm doing that - keeping our eye on the ball that represents sound priorities - smaller government, energy independence, national security, freedom! And I know when it's time to pass the ball - for victory....
In the words of General MacArthur said, "We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction."
Whatever the ultimate reason for Palin's resignation may turn out to be - looming scandal, presidential aspirations or raw, undistilled stupidity - the fact of it has added another leaf to the long tome of Republican woes. The idea that McCain actually thought this person fit to be an elderly heartbeat away from the presidency is mind-boggling, and the thought of her trying to run for president in 2012 is nothing short of hilarious.
This is the GOP of the 21st century. You'd think it couldn't get any worse, but if Palin, Sanford, Haggard, McCain, DeLay, Foley, Cunningham, Ney, Abramoff, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, Bush and Cheney have taught us anything, it is that we can never assume the bottom of the GOP barrel has been reached. The Republicans will really have to outdo themselves to top this most recent disaster, but nobody should doubt they have it in them.