Bobo Brooks as Admiral Akbar: “It’s A Trap!”
Jonathan Chait, who awarded Mitt Romney the “sneering plutocrat” Oscar for his groundbreaking performance in the infamous 47% Video, deserves an award of his own for nailing the fundamental psychological contradiction that besets today’s fractured GOP.
In two New York mag articles this week, David Brooks Now Totally Pathological, and Bush Speechwriter Michael Gerson Exposes Obama’s Sinister Being-Reasonable Ploy, Chait highlights the problem that the traditional GOP establishment is having with its radical, wingnut base. While both share many of the same goals like bigger tax cuts and government deregulation, the former, with its roots in the deal making business world, is amenable to compromise with the Democrats; while the latter, driven by an ideological narrative rooted in the extremist right wing talk radio and Fux News propaganda, isn’t.
Despite attempts by establishment hacks like Brooks and Gerson to bridge the divide, the results have been mixed, with a slight edge going to the corporatists. Earlier this month they prevailed on the issue of personal income taxes, and yesterday managed to avoid another self-inflicted political disaster by delaying for three months a fight over the debt ceiling. The latter would throw the country into another deep recession, and possibly destroy the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, bringing with it skyrocketing interest rates.
The problem with Bobo‘s bipartisanship thesis is two-fold. First, you can’t fly the GOP plane with two right wings. Notwithstanding a general tolerance on social issues, the corporatists are overwhelmingly conservative on fiscal issues. In the end, that’s what rocks their world and they will sign on to any domestic agenda the Teabaggers demand as the price for not starting their own third party, an extremist agenda on everything from women’s rights to gun control that no sane Democrat would ever embrace.
Secondly, the thrill that runs up Bobo’s leg when he thinks he’s huffing bipartisan pheromones is predicated on reaching a compromise with a moderate to liberal leaning Democratic president. But as any progressive can tell you, Obama only plays one on tv. Historically speaking, Obama is at best a moderate Republican. Ditching single payer health care, or even settling for a public option; making permanent the Bush tax cuts for everyone but the richest .001; his willingness to cut Medicare and Social Security; and his expansion of the national security state beyond anything that even Bush had dared are only the most obvious of his anti-progressive stances. Thus, Bobo Republicans find themselves in the same sort of trap that Obama did during his first term. On any number of issues, they are essentially negotiating with themselves, in substance if not in form.
Chait surveys the damage:
In 2011, Obama offered an astonishingly generous budget deal to House Republicans, and Brooks argued at the time that if the GOP turned the deal down, it would prove their “fanaticism.” Naturally, they turned it down. Obama continues to offer a bargain including higher revenue through tax reform in return for lower spending on retirement programs, but Republicans refuse to consider higher taxes. So, in summary, this proves “the political class” is to blame.
What Obama should be doing in response, Brooks argues, is push for policies that provoke no opposition even from the craziest of the Republicans…
Brooks’s proposed alternative agenda consists of either empty list-filler or actual policies that Obama has proposed and Republicans have killed. But instead of this happy term of modest accomplishment, Obama is pursuing a nasty, partisan agenda. Step one of this devious ploy is to, as Brooks puts it, “invite a series of confrontations with Republicans over things like the debt ceiling — make them look like wackos willing to endanger the entire global economy.”
Right – Obama is the one inviting confrontations over the debt ceiling. Never mind that, before 2011, the debt ceiling was just an occasion for routine posturing, and Republicans insisted on turning it into a showdown with real, dangerous stakes. Also never mind that Obama offered to sign the plan — proposed by Mitch McConnell! — to permanently defuse the debt ceiling and let Republicans use it to posture against him rather than actually threatening a global meltdown. And never mind as well that, by refusing to cave in to extortion, Obama seems to actually be defusing the real danger to the world economy.
This is all Obama’s fault because it makes Republicans “look like whackos willing to endanger the entire global economy.” Brooks displays an almost surreal lack of interest in the underlying reality that Republicans actually are whackos willing to endanger the entire global economy. It is his responsibility to conceal this reality from America.
Worse, argues Brooks, Obama is nastily choosing an agenda intended only to harm Republicans. Obama’s proposals on gun safety and immigration, he writes, are “wedge issues meant to divide Southerners from Midwesterners, the Tea Party/Talk Radio base from the less ideological corporate and managerial class.”
Brooks asserts, but does not actually explain, that Obama chose these issues for the purpose of dividing the opposition — as opposed to trying to cut down on mass murders and fix a huge field of broken policy. Brooks concedes that Obama’s proposals here are moderate, but believes that the moderation is what makes them so nasty. By appealing to mainstream Republicans, he is splitting them from the most extreme Republicans!
You would think proposing policies that large numbers of Republicans agree with would qualify as the kind of centrism and bipartisanship Brooks has spent the entire Obama presidency calling for, but now that it’s here, it turns out to prove just the opposite to him.
Bobo is the yapping dog that latches onto the bumper of what he only thinks is a moving car. And now he doesn’t know what to do with it. Oh, that nasty taste of bumper and broken teeth that no amount of gargling can dispel.
As for the Wingnut Caucus in the House, they have more in common with the symphorophiliacs found in J.G. Ballard‘s classic 1973 sci-fi novel, Crash.