Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Dying elephants

Can you see it?  The GOP appears to be in its death throes. But unlike the elephant in Hemingway's Garden of Eden there is no majesty nor dignity in the demise of this pachyderm.  Only a withering, wasting rot, both ugly and debased.  The party is in the death grip of a crisis, incubated by political defeat and public rejection, amplified by hysterical, seditious rhetoric from the nutty redneck base, and prolonged by the Bush-era legacy of disregard for law and decency.

Senator Ensign continues his slow burn

According to the Las Vegas Sun, Nevada Senator John Ensign could very soon be on the receiving end of a Justice Department indictment for "structuring."  Structuring, as I understand it, is a form of money-laundering that attempts to conceal pay-offs and hush money.

The situation has its genesis in Senator Ensign's admission, in June of 2009, to having an extra-marital affair with the wife of his chief of staff and close friend.  (That's how Republicans do their friends.)  Ensign, of course, is a "family values" man.  So outraged was he, during the Lewinsky scandal that he called on President Clinton to resign.  But, hey, hypocrisy is no crime.  (If it were, the entirety of the GOP caucus would be behind bars!)

Ensign's legal problems stem from a series of actions he took to conceal his hypocrisy. 

Allegedly the Senator used his influence as a United States Senator to land a job with a Washington lobbying firm for his former friend, the cuckold.  Further, the Senator's in-laws, the parents of his aggrieved wife, made a payment of $96,000 in one lump sum to Mr. Hampton after discovery of the affair.  Both of these acts were in exchange for his silence, according to Mr. Hampton.  The Senator claims the money had nothing at all to do with keeping Mr. Hampton quiet, that it was merely a "gift."  (If that's the case, can someone please tell me how to get on the Senator's Christmas list?)

If this were an isolated incident, the GOP could write Ensign off as a bad apple.  But taken in conjunction with other scandals involving Senator David Vitter and all the other Republican hypocrites, the word "Republican" is becoming synonymous with "rot" or "corruption."

RNC Chairman Michael Steele points at the cliff and stomps on the gas pedal

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee is dissolving before our very eyes.  The latest resignation is that of "unpaid advisor" Alex Castellanos, who appends himself to the growing list of Republicans who have lost faith in Chairman Michael Steele.  Castellanos' resignation comes on the heels of revelations about RNC expenditures (of donor money) at a fetish nightclub in Los Angeles, and the abandonment of the committee by top donors.

The RNC has done nothing but stumble since Steele took the helm in a hotly contested party election last year.  Since that time, the RNC has burned through its cash faster than it can sucker donations out of its misguided adherents.  According to The Hill, Steele's RNC spent $15 million more than it took in last year, including an $18,500 expenditure to redecorate Steele's personal office.  Further, Steele appears to be cashing in on his status as chairman.  He's been flying around the country giving speeches and charging fees. 

What I found to be particularly rich, however, was Steele's response to George Stephanopoulos when the latter asked if Steele's race (he is, after all, African-American) gave him a "slimmer margin of error."  Steele made the mistake of telling the truth:  "The honest answer is 'yes,'" said he.

Well, no sh*t, Mr. Chairman.  As the father of former African-American Congressman JC Watts (Republican) once said:  "A black man voting for the Republicans makes about as much sense as a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders."

Senator Coburn makes his Moses bid

Just as darkness descends on the Grand Ol' Party, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn made what some might call a chivalrous and brave gesture at a recent town hall meeting.  Not only did the Senator criticize Fox News, but he defended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and corrected right-wing distortions about the recently-enacted Health Care Reform bill!

Here's how the Portland Examiner reported it:
However last week at a town hall Senator Coburn warned his constituents about Fox News and urged them to consult other sources of information.  The incident occurred after one constituent asked if it was true that citizens could be put in jail for not complying with the new health care law.  This myth was spread in part by Fox News who warned of a mysterious provision in the health care bill in which people could be put in jail for not buying health insurance.  In fact no such provision exists.  The health care reform bill expressly prohibits the government from imposing prison time, or even liens in order to enforce the bill.  Senator Coburn stated as much when he told the constituent, "The intention is not to put anybody in jail.  That makes for good TV news on Fox, but that isn't the intention."

Later Senator Coburn returned to the subject of Fox News when the crowd booed a the mere mention of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Senator Coburn urged the crowd to be civil and stated, "Don't catch yourself being biased by Fox News that somebody's no good,"  Finally Coburn urged audience members to consult both sides of the issue.  In addition to watching Fox News he urged constituents to also watch CNN and read The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
Startling! My take on it is that Senator Coburn recognizes the need for the Republican party to move back toward the middle of the American political spectrum and away from the hysteria and public histrionics of the tea-baggers.  With his impeccable conservative credentials, the Senator is in a position to actually do something to make it happen.  (Now if he can just avoid implication in the brewing "C Street" scandal.)

The Republicans are being exiled into the political wilderness.  Perhaps Senator Coburn hopes to be their "Moses," the figure who will lead them through their time of tribulation.  Well, Tom, get ya a pair of Birkenstocks, a loose-fitting robe, a shepherd's staff, let your hair grow out and go for it!

Will it really die?

The (Junior) Bush era marked the ascendancy of the Know-Nothing nativist faction within the Republican party.  Their xenophobic, paranoid and fanatical nature now threatens to kill off what was once a noble party.  Political parties in the United States have certainly died before.  But it is not clear that the GOP will actually expire, or if it will be reborn.  I'm hoping for the latter.  Really.

Our country needs a strong two-party system to keep both parties honest.  The GOP of my grandparents, the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and Ike and even Dick Nixon was a party of moderate conservatism.  Does such a party even exist anymore?

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