For years they've lived among us, hiding in plain sight. For years they've gone about their business, leading seemingly all-American lives, while burrowing deep inside bedrock institutions here in this land we love.
But now, as we digest the latest news, we can avoid the questions no longer:
Are John Boehner and Joe Barton really who they seem to be? Or are they something else altogether? Could they really be...
Russian spies? Who said anything about Russian spies?
The question is: Could John Boehner and Joe Barton really be undercover Democrats?
Just consider the evidence -- the accumulating evidence. At a time when the Republican Party -- the supposed home of these two gentlemen for decades -- should be poised for massive gains in November's midterm elections, gains that could elevate the two of them and their "fellow" Republicans to even greater influence in setting the country's direction, suddenly they're both behaving in ways that threaten to totally undermine their party's efforts.
That is, if it really is their party. If they're not secret Democrats, that is, sent behind enemy lines, biding their time and awaiting the perfect moment to detonate for maximum mayhem.
Now, for instance.
Consider the evidence: The economy still struggling to emerge from recession. A war in Afghanistan with no end in sight. Discontent with a White House accused of overreaching on health-care reform, on financial reform. Discontent with a White House accused of inaction in the face of environmental calamity in the Gulf of Mexico.
And beyond all that, the clear historical precedents: The party that captures the White House almost always loses congressional seats in the next election.
So everything was set up -- or so it appeared -- for major GOP triumphs this fall. But then John Boehner and Joe Barton swung into action.
Barton first. With tens of thousands of barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf every day, with incalculable damage being done to the water and to those who rely on it for habitat, for livelihood, Joe Barton makes a public show of apologizing to the spewers. He's "ashamed," he announces to the cameras, that the Obama White House has secured a commitment from BP to set aside 20 billion dollars to help make the region whole again.
A "shakedown," Joe Barton calls it, as Republican strategists cringe. Who in his right mind -- or even his far-right mind -- would say such a thing? Would align his party with the spewers, and against the victims?
And then comes Boehner. With the jobless rate still high, with the economic recovery still faltering, with people coast to coast desperate for help, John Boehner weighs in. John Boehner sits before a camera and compares the financial-reform legislation nearing passage in Congress to "killing an ant with a nuclear weapon."
"An ant." That's how John Boehner characterizes the financial meltdown, as Republican strategists start popping Valium by the fistful. Who in his right mind -- or even his far-right mind -- would say such a thing? Would align his party with Wall Street, and against Main Street?
If it really is his party.
If, that is, John Boehner and Joe Barton -- and who-knows-how-many-more ostensible Republicans still lurking in the shadows -- aren't mere pawns in some devilishly clever Democratic scheme.
Because actual Republicans couldn't be that stupid, could they? That clueless? That tone-deaf?
It has to be a plot.
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Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at email@example.com.
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