Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – But then imagine an alternate reality in which figures like Joe Lieberman and John Kerry were stuck trying to lead a Democratic Party whose backbenchers were mostly net-roots-funded fans of Michael Moore, and you have a decent analog for where the post-Bush Republicans have ended up. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: I mentioned Ross Douthat’s Kurtz Republicans piece earlier today.
“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.
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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.
Every sensible person, most Republican politicians included, could recognize that the shutdown fever would blow up in the party’s face. Even the shutdown’s ardent champions never advanced a remotely compelling story for how it would deliver its objectives. And everything that’s transpired since, from the party’s polling nose dive to the frantic efforts to save face, was entirely predictable in advance.
It’s clear, right now, that the populists can’t be trusted not to drive their party into a ditch. But neither can Republican leaders just declare war on their own base, as some moderates and liberals would have them do.
Instead, Republicans need to seek a kind of integration, which embraces the positive aspects of the new populism — its hostility to K Street and Wall Street, its relative openness to policy innovation, its desire to speak on behalf of Middle America and the middle class — while tempering its Kurtzian streak with prudence, realism, and savoir-faire.
Think of the way that Barack Obama, in his post-2004 ascent, managed to channel the zeal of the antiwar left without being defined by its paranoid excesses, and you can see a recent model for how this kind of integration might work.
But then imagine an alternate reality in which figures like Joe Lieberman and John Kerry were stuck trying to lead a Democratic Party whose backbenchers were mostly net-roots-funded fans of Michael Moore, and you have a decent analog for where the post-Bush Republicans have ended up.
Mike: In other words, the criticism and the knock is that the MoveOn.org, Air America, Michael Moore hysterical left-wing lunatic ramblings of 2000 to 2008, and the people that rambled and promoted said ramblings, where are they now? Douthat’s point is: Are they governing? Are they making war? Or in the case of Michael Moore, are they making very bad movies while increasing the size of their waistline? Where’s MoveOn.org now? Where’s ScAir America? We know where one person on ScAir American is. He’s in the United States Senate, Al Franken. His point is that the net-root nutjob, left-wing extremists of that part of the movement were steamrolled by the practical application Obama-types that instead sought to rule and not to rabble and complain. The ramblings of Ted Cruz — I’m using their terminology — and of Sarah Palin and all the others gathered on the Mall for the big protest on Sunday last. You have to divorce yourself from these people, otherwise there is doom and calamity just around the corner. These people are unhinged and they don’t have principles upon which they base the things they say. Instead, it is just a party of opposition. In other words, that answer is no, no, no, no, no, and how about no?
Is there a point to be made here? This is the same point that James Antle III makes in The American Conservative Magazine at The Daily Caller today. This is the point that David Frum is making at the Clinton News Network, that the Tea Party types have to go. They are never going to be the type that you can build a governing coalition around, and therefore more temperance and more moderation are called for. But what if at least some of the things that the Tea Partiers are desiring and are trying to bring about, what if some of them are actually necessary, needed in too short of a supply? Does that not then necessitate or require that the John Boehners or the — I’m trying to think who the archetypal “we’ll work this out and be great statesmen” Republican is that Douthat has in mind. AG, do you have an archetype, stereotype? Who is he talking about? I’m just trying to think who fits the stereotype or description of the GOP legislator that he’s talking about?
AG: Paul Ryan maybe.
Mike: I thought Paul Ryan for a minute. Possibly. People think of him as moderate. People think of Paul Ryan as very erudite, intelligent, smart, savvy when it comes to the game of big-stakes politics, have the whole Ryan budget plan, which was moderate by all estimations, even though he pushed grandma off a cliff. He’s talking about an army filled with Paul Ryans. Does that then equal or does that rise to the level of being able to or of solving or even attempting to solve the myriad of problems that have been created by the previous incarnations of Paul Ryans? I think that’s the key question, don’t you?
End Mike Church Show Transcript