October 13, 2013


The Kurtz Republicans (ROSS DOUTHAT, October 12, 2013, NY Times)

"THEY told me," Martin Sheen's Willard says to Marlon Brando's Kurtz in "Apocalypse Now," at the end of a long journey up the river, "that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound."

His baldness bathed in gold, his body pooled in shadow, Kurtz murmurs: "Are my methods unsound?"

And Willard -- filthy, hollow-eyed, stunned by what he's seen -- replies: "I don't see any method at all, sir."

This is basically how reasonable people should feel about the recent conduct of the House Republicans.

Politics is a hard business, and failure is normal enough. It's not unusual for political parties to embrace misguided ideas, pursue poorly thought-out strategies, persist in old errors and embrace new ones eagerly.

So we shouldn't overstate the gravity of what's been happening in Washington. There are many policies in American history, pursued in good faith by liberals or conservatives, that have been more damaging to the country than the Republican decision to shut down the government this month, and many gambits that have reaped bigger political disasters than most House Republicans are likely to face as a result.

But there is still something well-nigh-unprecedented about how Republicans have conducted themselves of late. It's not the scale of their mistake, or the kind of damage that it's caused, but the fact that their strategy was such self-evident folly, so transparently devoid of any method whatsoever.

If the GOP used the crisis in order to get further budget balancing and some more Third Way reforms to Obamacare then there would really be no difference from a usual policy dust-up.  The problem is that many seem to believe they can actually return the country to the First Way.  

The folly of that belief would be evident if they just told the Tea Party that they were going to take away Medicare because it too is socialist. The older, whiter, wealthier membership of these groups just wants to prevent government spending on others so that it is there for themselves.  Those within the Beltway demanding ideological purity represent groups whose raison d'etre is impure.

Posted by at October 13, 2013 9:00 AM

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