As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Proud To Be Stupid

As we head into the crucial conference report on the recovery package and the expected final vote, I'm still kind of marveling at how the GOP, despite being discredited, disempowered and disliked during this debate, still somehow thinks that they came out on top of it all. Now, history being what it is, they are surely looking to 1993-94, thinking that they had nothing to gain from supporting Obama's vision for getting the economy back on track, and with the expected long recession, hoping that they can blame every dip downward the next two years on the President and his party and return to prominence. Now, when you've got basically nothing, I'm sure that can be something of a comfort. But it's the pride in a strategy that presupposes horrible economic pain for millions of Americans that gets me.

Three months after their Election Day drubbing, Republican leaders see glimmers of rebirth in the party's liberation from an unpopular president, its selection of its first African American chairman and, most of all, its stand against a stimulus package that they are increasingly confident will provide little economic jolt but will pay off politically for those who oppose it.

After giving the package zero votes in the House, and with their counterparts in the Senate likely to provide in a crucial procedural vote today only the handful of votes needed to avoid a filibuster, Republicans are relishing the opportunity to make a big statement. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) suggested last week that the party is learning from the disruptive tactics of the Taliban, and the GOP these days does have the bravado of an insurgent band that has pulled together after a big defeat to carry off a quick, if not particularly damaging, raid on the powers that be.

"We're so far ahead of where we thought we'd be at this time," said Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), one of several younger congressmen seeking to lead the party's renewal. "It's not a sign that we're back to where we need to be, but it's a sign that we're beginning to find our voice. We're standing on our core principles, and the core principle that suffered the most in recent years was fiscal conservatism and economic liberty. That was the tallest pole in our tent, and we took an ax to it, but now we're building it back."

This fawning profile by Hairboy Byron York is even giddier. With an essential truth right at the top.

You see it all over Capitol Hill, in the hallways, the hearing rooms, the gathering spots. Republicans, coming off a devastating, across-the-board electoral defeat, are … happy. Being in opposition, after eight years of a Republican presidency and 12 years of GOP rule in Congress, suits many of them just fine.

It’s not that they were glad to lose. There are a lot of indignities involved in being the minority, and a pretty small minority at that. But talk to Republican lawmakers and insiders these days, and they speak as if an enormous weight has been lifted from their shoulders. Some of that weight was named George W. Bush, but in a larger sense, Republicans are relieved to be free of the burden of running things.

So are Americans. Because, facing the worst crisis since the Great Depression, Republicans have distinguished themselves by claiming the New Deal caused and prolonged the last Depression, called the bill a "reparations" bill and a "generational theft" bill (parroting Michelle Malkin, misused data from the CBO, claimed that infrastructure spending doesn't work and that government hasn't created a single job, etc., etc., etc. And in the short-term, the public totally rejected them. This makes them happy.

“Look at these faces,” said California Rep. Kevin O. McCarthy, pointing to a roomful of Republicans and their families during a dinner in one of the resort’s expansive ballrooms. “They’re all smiling. You’d think these people are still in the majority.”

Obviously, they’re far from it. But that fact is breeding a much-needed unity that Republicans lost years ago, members say.

“We’re more unified than I’ve seen in four or five years,” said California Rep. Dan Lungren, who challenged Republican Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio late last year. “It has to do with being surrounded.” [...]

“I know all of you are pumped about the vote the other day,” Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the party whip, told lawmakers Friday night, eliciting loud cheers from the roomful of Republicans. “We’ll have more to come.” [...]

Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, the chairman of the Republican Conference whose office organized the three-day retreat, kicked off the final dinner with a clip of George C. Scott as Gen. Patton imploring his troops, “We’re going to kick the hell out of (the enemy) all the time, and we’re going to go through him like crap through a goose.”

Actually, this is starting to make sense to me. For Republicans, politics has nothing to do with improving people's lives or leaving the world better off than when you found it. It's about going through them like "crap through a goose." It's a wrestling match and they like getting into their tights and jumping off the top rope. That they lack values and direction makes no difference - they like going out and knocking their opponent against the turnbuckle.

The problem is that the media feeds upon such horseplay, and the Democrats are so risk-averse and responsible that the dynamic frequently becomes the aggressor versus the weak and cowardly. And the media cheerleading at this assault and battery becomes pervasive enough that Democrats scale back their agenda and water down their plans. What's worse than Republicans being proud to be stupid is that their shtick works.

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