So, Republicans are asking their party to cool it with the attacks on Obama. That's nice, but don't be fooled, for while the GOP is pretending to be statesmanlike, the Tea Party is vowing revenge on the Democrats for the selective scrutiny that the IRS gave them during the elections.
It's nothing but good cop, bad cop, and the Democrats are being played... again.
Let's rewind a little. At the height of Mitt Romney's campaign for president, he had veered far right to garner the votes of his conservative base, including that of the Tea Party. But as the election progressed and it became apparent that his right-wing platform could alienate independent voters in swing states, the Tea Party magically receded into the background, supportive but not too vocal. It was clear that some private message had come down from the top of the Republican pyramid to muzzle the Sarah Palin brigade in order to avoid scaring independents.
On the face of it, the Tea Party seems autonomous and even a thorn in the side of the GOP. After all, the self-professed libertarians have just as cheerfully disrupted Republican challengers in Congressional races as they have Democratic ones. But that façade masks the real truth about the Tea Party, which is that ultimately it is less a political organization than a contract killer working for the Republicans. When their masters need them, they show up to do the dirty work, so that the Republican establishment can keep its hands clean.
That is precisely what is happening now. The Republicans have not changed their stripes. They have been relentless in their obstructionism of Obama since he was first elected, including on Obamacare, the debt ceiling, and the fiscal cliff, and are willing to be reckless in their politicking to hurt the other side, so why would they suddenly put on the brakes?
Their efforts to ensnare Obama in multiple scandals at once was not a coincidence but a tactical move calculated to weaken the White House so that when real issues -- like immigration and budget cuts -- come up, the Republicans have an edge. That is also why it is a safe bet that they will not stop attacking the president; only now they will use their hired guns -- the Tea Partiers -- to do it, so that the GOP itself doesn't incur the wrath of a public fed up of smear campaigns and political sabotage.
The Democrats should be smart enough not to be taken in by this cheap routine, and remain vigilant. As the Red Riding Hood fairytale goes, if grandma's teeth look a little too big, it's because there is a wolf inside.
SANJAY SANGHOEE is a political and business commentator. He is a banker, has an MBA from Columbia Business School, and is the author of a new thriller titled "Killing Wall Street". For more information, please visit www.killingwallstreet.com