Sunday, October 13, 2013


Ross Douthat is disgusted with the folks he calls "the Kurtz Republicans":
"THEY told me," Martin Sheen's Willard says to Marlon Brando's Kurtz in "Apocalypse Now," at the end of a long journey up the river, "that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound."

His baldness bathed in gold, his body pooled in shadow, Kurtz murmurs: "Are my methods unsound?"

And Willard -- filthy, hollow-eyed, stunned by what he's seen -- replies: "I don't see any method at all, sir."

This is basically how reasonable people should feel about the recent conduct of the House Republicans.
Douthat sees no justification for what they've done:
... Every sensible person, most Republican politicians included, could recognize that the shutdown fever would blow up in the party's face. Even the shutdown's ardent champions never advanced a remotely compelling story for how it would deliver its objectives. And everything that's transpired since, from the party's polling nose dive to the frantic efforts to save face, was entirely predictable in advance.

The methodless madness distinguishes this shutdown from prior Congressional Republican defeats (the Gingrich shutdown, the Clinton impeachment), when you could at least see what the politicians involved were thinking.
The Clinton impeachment? You mean the one that House Republicans went ahead with despite losing seats in the 1998 midterms precisely because the public didn't want Clinton impeached? The one they went ahead with even though there were never going to be enough votes in the Senate to convict? That wasn't methodless, and this is?

Of course, they did that and won (or "won") the 2000 presidential election anyway, while holding on to the House and Senate. So maybe there really was a method to that madness: Al Gore and the rest of the Democratic Party were punished for the sexual sins of Bill Clinton.

And maybe there's a method to the current madness as well. Yes, I know that right now the negotiations in Washington involve Senate Democrats' insistence that the sequester cuts be rethought. Yes, I know that's a sign that Republicans have not only utterly failed to stop or slow down Obamacare, they're losing ground, while Democrats are pursuing an end to the sequester as a possible big win.

But I fear what Steve Benen fears:
... even if [senators] reached some sort of resolution, it may not matter, since House Republicans still appear to be in a sociopathic mood, and may simply reject anything that emerges from the upper chamber, no matter the consequences.
So I'm rooting for Senate Democrats, but I worry that they can't get their "big win" through the House, and meanwhile they're going to be portrayed as tax-and-spend liberals, so their current efforts will actually lose them some of the public goodwill (or relative lack of bad will) they've recently gained, because the public is so conditioned (by mainstream pundits as much as by right-wingers) to hate spending.


Back to Douthat:
... The trends that brought us to this point are clear enough: the discrediting of the Republican establishment during the Bush era; the rise of a populist right that often sees opposition as an end unto itself; the willingness of too many media figures, activists and politicians to stoke that wing's worst impulses....
Was there a "discrediting of the Republican establishment during the Bush era"? Not on the right. Oh, sure, right-wingers will swear to you that they always thought Bush was an excessive spender and that military adventurism flies in the face of what they always believed, but they're lying. They loved what he did until it was clear that it wasn't working and wasn't keeping the hated Democrats at bay (i.e., until the 2006 midterm results came in).

And the populist right didn't "rise" on its own -- it was cultured, like something in a Petri dish, by right-wing operatives (in Kochville and Murdoch Land) as a means of rebranding the same old GOP after the 2008 elections.
... Kurtz Republicanism isn't likely to go away until somebody else within the party -- someone with more movement credibility than the speaker, and more subtlety and vision than Ted Cruz -- figures out how to take the energy driving the shutdown and redirect it to more constructive ends.

... Republicans need to seek a kind of integration, which embraces the positive aspects of the new populism -- its hostility to K Street and Wall Street, its relative openness to policy innovation, its desire to speak on behalf of Middle America and the middle class -- while tempering its Kurtzian streak with prudence, realism, and savoir-faire.
Wow, that's delusional. I'm sorry, but the crazies don't have "hostility to K Street and Wall Street." The teabag base cheered when Citizens United came down. Baggers in and out of office sing the praises of Ayn Rand. They're not anti-corporate, they just regard themselves as more pro-corporate than the corporate popes, as it were.

And the "new populism" may seem to "speak on behalf of Middle America and the middle class," but only Middle Americans and members of the middle class who have no needs whatsoever that can be filled by the government (Medicare and Social Security recipients excepted), or by unions. Unemployed? Disabled? Laid off because you were a teacher or a firefighter? Forced to take big benefit cuts because you're in the latter categories? Then, to these so-called new populists, you're a leech, a "taker." The teabag crazies may have eyed Mitt Romney warily, but when he talked about "the 47 percent," they thought he was speaking truth to power.
Think of the way that Barack Obama, in his post-2004 ascent, managed to channel the zeal of the antiwar left without being defined by its paranoid excesses, and you can see a recent model for how this kind of integration might work.

But then imagine an alternate reality in which figures like Joe Lieberman and John Kerry were stuck trying to lead a Democratic Party whose backbenchers were mostly net-roots-funded fans of Michael Moore, and you have a decent analog for where the post-Bush Republicans have ended up.
Oh, yeah, right -- remember the insane, over-the-top radicalism of "net-roots-funded" candidates like ... er, Ned Lamont? Wow, he was almost as crazy as Cruz, wasn't he? And Howard Dean, whose point was that ... um, the Iraq War was bad? And that all the problems Americans faced in Iraq wouldn't instantly vanish once Saddam Hussein died? What an extremist!

I'm not sure where I'm going with all this. I guess I'm still having trouble seeing current events as likely to lead to a good end. And I guess I still think Ross Douthat is frequently kind of an idiot.


debg said...

Sing it, brother! I think your analysis of Douthat is spot on, and I'm reduced to hoping your predictions about the current impasse are wrong.

Victor said...

Yeah, Douthat really sucks.

But he sucks a lot less than Bill Kristol - who sucks more than this Universes largest Black Hole - who inherited "The William Lewis Safire Honorary NY Time Conservative Op-ed Douche-canoe" seat.

And say what you will about Safire - and I was never any fan of his inept and insipid political analyses - but his "On Language" column was pretty damn good!

I'm just happy - so far - the President Obama and the Congressional Democrats haven't caved yet.

Maybe this is why Conservatives were so against stem-cell research - they were afraid that the Democrats might get a spine!!!

Cirze said...

Don't-Know-That is always a great pretender.

Some of us think it's undoubtedly all show leading up to the adoption of the non-Grand Bargain of the chained-CPI Social Security/Medicare permanent cuts as the only solution to both the shutdown and the sequester.

If the righties refuse any deal, put your bets down on that being the end game that pleases everyone.

Except the 99%, of course.

But they have no votes in Congress.


White Hat said...

What a scream!

"...tempering its Kurtzian streak with prudence, realism, and savoir-faire..."

Tempering it's Kurtzians? What does that mean, stapling doilies on the corpses?

Slather on some savoir faire, you mean like De Sade?

What a card!

Never Ben Better said...

OT, and yet somehow relevant, I think:

Remember aimai's wonderful pinch-hitting essay, "The Punishers Want to Run the Country or We Are All Tipped Waitstaff Now":

She boiled her thesis down to "Shorter: Republicans are the dissatisfied and angry diners at the table of life." The entire essay is magnificent as a dissection of the angry right's mindset, with a broader implication that they see government as their employees, and a lazy, underworked, overpaid, useless lot at that.

I was reading a story at about an angry mob of TPer's busting through barricades in Washington:

Nasty stuff those loons were yelling, as you might expect. Then I came upon this passage, near the end:

"Later on, some people from the rally walked over to Pennsylvania Avenue carrying the barricades and dumped them in front of the White House. While they gathered peacefully for the most part, some were more vocal and shouted at police on horseback. 'You work for us,' some chanted."

And I thought immediately of aimai's essay -- how spot on it was.

Steve M. said...

Some of us think it's undoubtedly all show leading up to the adoption of the non-Grand Bargain of the chained-CPI Social Security/Medicare permanent cuts as the only solution to both the shutdown and the sequester.

Republicans could have this instantly -- all they'd have to do is accept a slight increase in rich people's taxes, which is Obama's only precondition.

But that's a dealbreaker for them, so it never happens.

Soccer Dad said...

thousands of veterans ??

the WaPo, which is the home town paper, says hundreds
it is in the local news section, at the following url

Unknown said...

I think this is going to end just fine and the reason is Boehner won't take the Senate proposal to the TPers. Rather he'll go hat in hand to Nancy Pelosi and ask her to deliver the votes. That's precisely why the Republicans will be forced to accept a deal they really don't want. There's a price for Democratic votes.