Last week, the Republican National Committee released an irreverent video satirizing the president. It ridiculed him for reading his speeches. And once knowing Professor William Ayers. Shaking hands with political leaders. Ending torture. Breathtaking knee-slappers like that.
After receiving much derision, the RNC insisted that this version wasn't supposed to have been made public. "The concept you saw lacked substantiation," their spokesman told Sam Stein of the Huffington Post. As if verifying substance has been a big concern of Republicans in the past.
("Is that a terrorist fist bump?")
They are going to try again, though, with "better editing and citations." This is the equivalent of a comic getting booed off the stage, but rushing back to tell the same joke, only adding, "No, really, this is a true story."
It is difficult to fathom the depth of tone deafness by the Republican Party.
For starters, while trying to frighten the country about its president, you get the sense that the GOP has blocked out that America lived through eight years of George Bush. A nation that was attacked by terrorists, went to war on a lie, had the economy crash, tortured prisoners, wiretapped its citizens without warrants, and had a city wiped off the map - that nation isn't going to be terribly bothered if its new president greets a democratically-elected foreign leader politely. They might even find it a refreshing alternative.
Further, tone deafness makes the GOP appear as if it doesn't recall the results of the last election and wants to keep running the same campaign it lost. William Ayers, meeting enemy leaders, Commander-in-Chief experience. Americans didn't care about any of this then, and Barack Obama won the election.
Yet the RNC is trying it again. All of it. Again. The same losing campaign. At best, it only serves to remind the public why they voted for the president.
Republicans even tried the same "He's a Socialist" gambit 75 years ago with Franklin Roosevelt. And it didn't work then either. And so, America got out of another Depression caused by a Republican president. Worse, they called Roosevelt a dictator, comparing him to Hitler and Stalin. And that didn't work, too - the country elected FDR president four times.
And yet, here, once again, Republicans are raising the same horrified alarms of "one party rule." What the GOP misses in its tone deafness is that every time they decry Democratic "one party rule," not only does this not horrify Americans - it's what they voted for in free elections. As a refreshing alternative.
How tone deaf is the Republican Party? House Republicans just released their own video, showing the Pentagon in flames on September 11th. The only thing missing is a narrator saying, "See what happened when we were in charge?!"
The tone deafness is unimaginable in its scope. The GOP promoted Tea Bag Parties in hopes of convincing the public to protest higher taxes for the very wealthiest 5-percent of Americans. Worse, though: if anything symbolized Republicans as a party of the past, it was the sight of its members wearing 18th century garb and fondly invoking history of 230 years ago when black people weren't even counted as full citizens.
And that only touches the surface of a tone deaf party. Within the past week alone -Republicans in Congress gave zero votes for the federal budget, RNC chairman Michael Steele repeated the slur that Barack Obama is a "magic Negro," and Republicans actually blasted the president for wanting the next Supreme Court judge to have "empathy."
(Forget for a moment the matter of qualifications or imagined code words. Just consider the tone deafness of this as a message - "We're the Republican Party. We don't want our courts to empathize with your problems.")
And worse, still only last week - Arlen Specter left the Republican Party. And became a Democrat.
Arlen Freaking Specter. This isn't Jim Jeffords leaving the GOP, or Lincoln Chafee. This is Arlen Specter. The man who, for years, fought Alan Simpson and Orrin Hatch for the title of Senate Republican Hatchet Man of the Year. Only in a party this tone deaf could Arlen Specter have no future in it and be seen as "liberal." Or even moderate.
In trying to block everything during a national crisis, it's said that the Republican Party has now become the "Party of No." But that's not true. It has been the "Party of No" for the past 100 years.
Stop briefly to consider the achievements of the Democratic Party, flaws and all.
In the past century, Democrats have authored Social Security, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, women's suffrage, federal deposit insurance, unemployment compensation, rural electrification, child labor laws, minimum wages and the 40-hour work week. Americans of both parties would rise in arms together if any of these were removed from their lives.
I challenge Republicans to present their list of Congressional accomplishments over the past 100 years. And no, supporting Joseph McCarthy's efforts to blacklist Americans doesn't count.
But it's not just that Republicans don't have legislative programs to compare to all these of Democrats, it's that they fought each of these advances that Americans everywhere now take as their birthright.
As Republicans are reduced to sniping at President Barack Obama over meaningless trivialities like using a teleprompter and shaking hands (forgetting that even Richard Nixon shook hands with Mao Tse Tong), perhaps the greatest tone deafness of the party is that it didn't even learn its own lesson that brought it dominant success:
Americans want to love their president.
It takes a lot for Americans to turn on their president. Even after no WMDs were found - even after warrantless wiretapping of citizens was exposed - even after the Iraq War turned into a disaster, Americans still re-elected George Bush. It took the continued spiral of Iraq, Katrina, the public intrusion into Teri Schiavo's privacy, and the collapse of the U.S. economy, and more, before Americans finally gave up on George Bush.
But it took all of that - because Americans want to love their president.
And despite riding on that flying carpet for seven years, tone deaf Republicans forgot this lesson.
With Barack Obama having won the presidential election only three months ago - with his approval ratings soaring - with First Lady Michelle Obama reaching even higher approval - with having two, adorable, young daughters - with having a new puppy...
...tone deaf Republicans continue to forget their own lesson and attack the President of the United States as their sole platform issue in a time of national crisis. Forgetting Americans want to love their president.
In the end, it's clear how Republicans got so tone deaf: they believe they need to play to their base. Yet, blocking out other notes ignores that it was this very strategy that lost them the presidency and last two elections of the Senate and House.
Today, only 21-percent of Americans consider themselves Republicans. Playing to that base is what drove everyone else away. And so "the base" has become the Republican Party. A religious sect. You cannot be a viable party in America with just 21-percent.
The Republican Party will eventually find a new ear. It happened after the 1964 Johnson-Goldwater landslide when the GOP was declared dead. Yet it revitalized itself. But how long that will take this time? And how very different will the Republican Party have to be for that to occur?
Because until then, all that remains is a tone deaf party whose members think it would be rapturous to live in 1775, wear tri-corner hats, throw tea bags in the river, exist in a cocoon, and not have any magic Negroes around, making their lives happy amid economic collapse, war and torture that their party brought about.
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