Monday, October 12, 2015


This morning, in her weekly NPR conversation on politics, Cokie Roberts was fine for the first couple of minutes. The main topic in the chat with Morning Edition's David Greene was the chaos among House Republicans, and she had intelligent things to say about the reasons that rule changes proposed by GOP zealots would further gum up the works in Washington. There was an amusing anecdote involving the War of 1812 and a spittoon. Up to that point, more or less unobjectionable.

But then Roberts said this about House Republican crazies and the possibility that Paul Ryan will run for Speaker of the House:
I went into the weekend thinking that Paul Ryan would bend to the will of the people in his party telling him he has to do it. But now I'm not so sure, because a lot of the feisty Republicans are saying, well, they're not so sure either. And they're being driven by the presidential candidates. You know, what is the mileage, David, in being a Speaker trying to get something done when you have a field of Republican presidential candidates out there saying, "If you get anything done, you're a sellout"?
(Emphasis added.)

Oh, so that's the latest excuse for Republican extremism: It's just a momentary spasm that would never have happened if it weren't for a few loudmouth presidential candidates. Sure, that makes sense -- after all, congressional Republicans have been models of decorum up till now, as we saw in 2013, when they shut down the government even though there was no presidential campaign going on.

To Beltway journalists and pundits, GOP extremism is always a puzzling temporary anomaly. The Trump moment was supposed to pass in a fortnight, or maybe a month, or at worst a summer, then give way to a dull campaign in which sober-sided voters united around a Bush-Kasich or Rubio-Kasich ticket that, if elected, would surely get legislation passed, probably in a mood of comity lubricated by frequent after-work drinks with Democratic leaders, in the spirit of the sainted Tip and Ronnie. It's not clear why the peasants are still revolting, but surely this Trump thing will end any day now, oh, and the Carson thing, too. And before that we were told that, yes, the Tea Party moment in 2009 and 2010 was a tad unpleasant, but cooler Establishment heads prevailed in the 2014 midterms, and after that Republicans were undoubtedly determined to show they were " ready to govern."

The Beltway never accepts that the Republican rot is pervasive. It's always localized. It's always an exception to the rule. It's always the result of extenuating circumstances. Things will be back to normal any day now -- trust us.


Never Ben Better said...

Have you considered whether this insistence on "just an anomaly" is rooted in fear? Posit, for a moment, that the Beltway punditocracy actually recognized the GOP's radical insanity for what it is, and understood the implications should they gain total control of the federal government. Wouldn't they feel a sphincter-tightening stab of dread, a terrifying vision of hell unleashed that would spook them into shutting their eyes and whistling desperately past the graveyard?

They may show flashes of recognition, but the grim prospect is too alarming to allow into full consciousness and must be ruthlessly buried under business-as-usual and misty memories of a bygone era of (relative) comity.

BKT said...

Ben may be correct, though it doesn't explain their continued reticence to point out the obvious after so many years. Surely, even beltway media figures are smart enough to understand that their own denial IS enabling the lunacy.



Yeah, I know-- establishment insider "journalism" is a constant, ongoing profile in cowardice. Even if they do recognize their culpability in creating this dysfunction, they'll never admit to it.

Ten Bears said...

No Ben, I don't think so. They're too far gone.

If they realize anything at all, it's their culpability in the crime, the consequence of that culpability, and so have no choice but to continue as they have as the alternative is to accept responsibility for what they've done. They say Marie Antoinette had no idea what was coming but, come on, they had only been chopping people's heads off outside the garden gate for weeks.

Blackstone said...

Cookie is only partly wrong. Its not just the Republican presidential candidates who are out there saying "If you get anything done, you're a sellout". Its most of the base. Obstruction is a lot easier than governing.

The other problem is I dont think they have a clue as to what they want to do as a party other than lowering taxes and cutting spending in the abstract. Its when you get out of the absract that you get into that governing thing and well... obstruction is a lot easier than governing.

petrilli said...

Like a lichens infested tin of Powder Milk Biscuits in your pantry from 1982, NPR just can't let go of stale product. They're still running Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers every Saturday and one of them has been dead for a year. Extrapolate from there and one can expect NPR to be serving up Cokie's senile privileged musings for another 30-40 years.

retiredeng said...

The dirty little secret is that the DC press corps knows where all the bodies are buried. But they play the game to keep their cushy jobs.