When Republicans suffered a disastrous beating in November's election, it would have been fair to assume that things could not get worse for them: the-most-liberal-Senator was to be president, Nancy-Pelosi-from-San-Francisco was going to lead a massive Democratic majority in the House, and assorted socialists were going to run things. That was bad, yes, but this week, just like the stock market (funny how that goes), Republicans hit yet a new low. In recent days, Republican leaders were called cheesy, off-putting, disastrous, untrustworthy, and inconsequential, not by Democrats, but by their party's own members, from high-profile commentators to Governors.
The highlight of the GOP week was, of course, Governor Bobby Jindal's response to Barack Obama's Congressional address. The best that can be said for Jindal's performance is that it channeled Kenneth the Page from 30 Rock, presumably not the objective, even for someone who willingly changed his name to "Bobby." But the past seven days have offered so many moments of breathtaking inanity by the GOP that our head spins at trying to organize them cohesively. With the country on the verge of being swallowed up in its entirety by the spiraling economy, Republicans obsessed over Obama's citizenship, gay people, pregnant women with HIV, helicopters, primary challenges to their own Senators from porn stars and Christian fundamentalists, registration forms, hopeless recounts, and assorted variations on the 1981 theme of "Government Is The Problem."
In Alabama, Senator Richard Shelby took it upon himself to try to fan the fires set by Republican psychopaths, including Clarence Thomas: Obama is not really American because, Shelby said, he had "not seen any birth certificate." It is quite understandable that Shelby would want to detract our attention from the fact that he chaired the Senate Committee on Banking (!), Housing (!!) and Urban Affairs from 2003 to 2007, but in the end it only serves to increase the focus on the tragic consequences of his ineptitude. On the subject, John McCain this week became preoccupied with the order for a new presidential helicopter fleet, ordered by George W. Bush and, no surprise, dreadfully mismanaged. And, since McCain still can't chew gum and walk, this is now his sole obsession, a "good idea" that would "cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money," making it sound as if building Marine One was somehow akin to, say, the New Deal. Or perhaps akin to testing pregnant women for HIV or extending health care benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian government workers, both of which were decried this week by Republicans in the Colorado Senate because: a) pregnant women with HIV (or is just pregnant women?) are promiscuous and their unborn children should not be protected "from the negative consequences of their actions;" b) homosexuality is murder.
Other Republican nut jobs, convinced that the party lost power because it was too rational, moderate and accommodating, are circling like vultures. In Louisiana, Senator David Vitter, himself a right-wing madman, realized this week that he will likely face a dual primary challenge: by porn star Stormy Daniels (it is still unclear whether she -and we assume it is a she-- was involved in Vitter's pay for sex diaper play, but let's not rule it out); and by Family Research Council Tony Perkins, who is as sexually obsessed as Vitter, and is probably even more insane. Another barmy Republican, Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky, whom his Republican colleagues are desperate to get rid of (yes, he is that cuckoo), has threatened to sue his own National Republican Senatorial Committee if they do not support his reelection in 2010. This week, he also said of the head of the Committee: "I don't believe anything John Cornyn says."
The ostensible new leader of the Republican National Committee, Michael "Hip Hop" Steele, also thinks that the party has veered way too far left, this week leaving open the possibility that the three moderate GOP Senators who voted for the Obama stimulus package could face retribution. "Oh, yes, I'm always open to everything, baby, absolutely," he told an interviewer when asked whether he may withdraw funds from those Commie Republicans ("Baby?" It was on Fox News, but still). Is it any wonder that moderates everywhere are mulling party changes? Mortified by his Republican colleagues, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this week made sure we realized that he had recently considered leaving the party, although why he did not is unclear. At the same time, New York City Republicans (sounds weird, no?) also took steps to remain out of power forever by refusing to support Mayor Michael Bloomberg's bid for a third term, unless he becomes a card-carrying Republican. Again.
Other GOP members don't bother leaving the Party, they just assault it from the inside. Some do it subtly, such as once-lifelong bachelor Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, who said this week that there is "a national leader, his name is President Obama," clearly meaning there are no Republican leaders. Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah also gave us a sense of how low his GOP has sunk, saying of the party's Congressional leaders: "I don't listen or read whatever it is they say because it is inconsequential -- completely." This is not from a strange leftover Vermont Republican, it is from the Governor of the most consistently Republican state in the country. In New Hampshire, former Senator Bob Smith, an early victim of the state's leftward tilt, is also intent on destroying any comeback for his Republican party in the state. This week, he appeared to threaten to move back from Florida to New Hampshire (one more sign of his madness if any was needed) to challenge his Republican nemesis, former Sen. John Sununu, himself humiliated just this November in his reelection effort (all very complicated for a small party in a small state.) Not even their favorite cheerleader/pundit Stuart Rothenberg's irrational prediction that "2009 and 2010 could be the beginning of a rebound for the party in the Northeast" (ha!) is likely to save Republicans from their cannibalistic instinct.
That said, Republicans are not only molesting one another. Yes, they are powerless against Obama or Pelosi, but they have shifted their time and money to a Democratic threat even bigger, or at least one they think they have a shot at: Al Franken, who won his challenge to Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman by a slim margin. Coleman, who has already taken a new job but actually seems to want to remain a Republican, this week called for a do-over, and Republicans everywhere are throwing money at his challenge to the November election. From an electoral perspective, it is not entirely clear why, however. Republicans are busy trying to kick out the three Northeastern GOP moderate Judases from the Senate (and surely they know they don't have a shot at replacing them with anything but a Democrat, whatever Rothenberg may hope for), but they are fighting tooth and nail to keep the Minnesota moderate? The truth is, of course, that the GOP's Minnesota focus has to do with the fact that Franken is the author of Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and that Limbaugh, besides being a big fat drug-addled idiot, is also the actual leader of the Republican Party in 2009. Presumably this would explain why Republicans, to their dying breath, are fighting the slanderous Franken. In return, they can expect various favors to be bestowed by the head big fat idiot, and even be saved from political death. "I love Bobby Jindal [...] he's brilliant," Limbaugh said this week, in what is sure to be the Republicans' determining verdict on Jindal's very Bobby-ish performance.
With the sweet smell of defeat lingering in Republican Washington, three of the party's biggest losers are back. Tom DeLay, run out of the capital because even by its standards he was woefully corrupt, called Obama's Congressional address "the most irresponsible, hypocritical speech I have ever witnessed." This from the man who blamed the Columbine shootings on "school systems [teaching] our children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized [sic] out of some primordial soup of mud." Speaking of irresponsible, hypocritical, primordial and muddy, Newt Gingrich is also back and you will be stunned to hear that he is "disappointed" with Obama's performance so far. Mitt "Who Let The Dogs Out" Romney, who drained $100 million on a creepy presidential campaign, this week decided to come to the financial rescue of embattled Republicans who are "standing up for fiscal responsibility and saying no to spending abuse" (ie, the stimulus package). Yes, that's right, the man who spent $400,000 per delegate in the Republican primary is proudly lecturing others about fiscal responsibility. Any moment now, we expect Rudy Giuliani, who outdid Romney by spending $59 million for just one delegate, to share some of his own financial wisdom, probably spicing it up with his usual light-handed touch of 9/11 doomsday.
In just seven days, Republicans have offered up more amusement and fodder for an election campaign than even the most hopeful among us could have expected. What is especially thrilling is that it comes at little expense: Obama is competently in charge, as are, by and large, Democrats elsewhere, and change is happening at a mind-blowing pace. In the long run, yes, there should be concern that having buffoons in opposition is not healthy, but for now let's enjoy the moment. Of course, you ask, what about Sarah Palin, one of the likely buffoons-in-chief in 2012? Well, her very serious documentarian took charge of her faltering public relations this week. He went on national television to tell us emphatically that she is not a "moron."