It is tempting to begin a sentence about today's Republican Party with the words, "Just when you thought they couldn't get any dumber," but then you realize you're talking about a group that actively thwarts benefits for the unemployed while pimping tax cuts for rich people, a group that champions a political base which by and large doesn't believe dinosaurs existed because they're not in the Bible but can't stand the thought of stem cell research making people whole again, who attack the ideas and policies of the majority with vehemence but absolutely refuse to offer any of their own, and you come to the realization that you can't begin a sentence with those words, because there really is no bottom to this particular barrel. This particular breed of dumb is a lot like the oil in the Gulf of Mexico; it broadens and spreads and grows by the day, and will continue to do so until someone finally goes in and cleans it up once and for all.
This week's barrage of dumb started early - on Saturday morning, in fact - and hit the ground running. The Washington Post reported that congressional Republicans and their advisors are attempting to devise a game plan for the remaining four months before the midterm elections. Their efforts thus far have been spent making the economy worse for as many people as possible - hence the filibustering of unemployment benefits - so as to stoke popular anger that they hope will sweep them back into power, so long as nobody notices they are the ones creating the misery they look to capitalize on, of course. The election plan? Simplicity itself:
Some of the party's most influential political consultants are quietly counseling their clients to stay on the offensive for the November midterm elections and steer clear of taking stands on substance that might give Democratic opponents material for a counterattack.
"The smart political approach would be to make the election about the Democrats," said Neil Newhouse of the powerhouse Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, which is advising more than 50 House and Senate candidates. "In terms of our individual campaigns, I don't think it does a great deal of good" to engage in a debate over the Republicans' own agenda.
It's not that Boehner (Ohio) is arguing for a cease-fire. The debate among Republicans comes down to this: The speaker-in-waiting, for all his love of political combat, thinks that voters will not trust GOP candidates if their attacks don't also provide at least some substance. The consultants argue that public anger, if properly stoked, alone can carry the party over the finish line. In their view, getting bogged down in the issues is a distraction and even a potential liability.
So instead of any sort of high-minded debate on the signal issues of the day - Afghanistan, Iraq, energy policy, the Gulf, the economy, the banks, the mortgage crisis, the environment - we will be subjected to four stupid months of name-calling, obstructionism and general nonsense, again. The American people have historically been suckers for this kind of game, but with everything going on these days, one has to wonder if four months of goop from the GOP might wind up backfiring tremendously with the populace.
As for the dumb, it only got stronger as the weekend came to an end. The Tea Party, which was recently exposed by Gallup as having a different name ("the GOP base"), began eating itself with large, healthy chomps. Sarah Palin, the once and future queen of the 'Baggers, invented a new word - "refudiate" - and then proceeded to compare herself to Shakespeare, proving once and for all that intelligence has no bearing on becoming famous. At about the same time, the Tea Party Federation threw out founder Mark Williams and his Tea Party Express for blogging about how spiffy slavery was for Black people in America. I suppose you have to give credit to the Tea Party for finally drawing a line in the sand about how much racism is too much, but with "Yup, I'm A Racist" t-shirts still being sold at Tea Party rallies, claims that the Tea Party isn't fundamentally racist because they dumped Williams are still going to be a hard sell.
The self-immolation didn't stop there. It seems a number of prominent Republicans are now vocally criticizing and ridiculing the Tea Party for being disorganized neophytes who do more harm than good to the GOP. Names like Trent Lott, Bob Bennett, Lindsey Graham and Bob Inglis are on the list of people who think this particular political phenomenon is a lot of noise with no substance. Graham was particularly venomous with his comments, stating in the New York Times that, "The problem with the Tea Party, I think it's just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country. It will die out." Ouch...and yes, the Tea Party in whole and in part rose up righteous to attack Graham, Lott and the rest of their critics, further scrambling the GOP's political eggs on the eve of the midterm push.
But wait, it gets better.
A lot better.
Because there's a lot of high-level conversation in the GOP ranks about championing the presidency of George W. Bush as a reason to vote Republican in November.
No, really, it's true. Again from the Post:
The chairmen of the two Republican campaign committees defended the presidency of George W. Bush in television appearances over the weekend, a preview of the GOP's planned pushback against expected Democratic attacks on the last president.
John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program that "Bush's stock has gone up a lot since he left office," adding: "I think a lot of people are looking back with more fondness on President Bush's administration, and I think history will treat him well."
The rhetoric from Cornyn and Sessions reflects a gamble by Republicans that Bush, who left office in 2008 deeply unpopular with broad swaths of the American public, will, as almost every president does, rebound in terms of his public image as time passes.
To date, that softening in public opinion has yet to occur. In April, a CBS/New York Times poll showed just over one-quarter of the public (27 percent) saw Bush in a favorable light while 58 percent viewed him unfavorably. In a June NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, 50 percent said they felt negatively about Bush while 29 percent had positive views. (The percentage of people feeling "very" negative -- 31 percent outstripped all of those feeling positive.)
And, polling suggests that Bush is still broadly blamed for the current state of the economy, which almost certainly will be the top-of-the-mind voting issue this fall. Fifty nine percent of respondents from a Post/ABC News poll in April said Bush was more to blame for the current state of the economy while 25 percent put the blame on President Obama.
What to say of this particular gambit?
Oh yeah, I remember.
Bring it on.