Thursday January 31, 2013

Alden Graves

House Speaker John Boehner, whose popularity according to a recent national poll has finally edged up past Leona Helmsley, seems fairly certain the President Obama can’t do a lot of damage to the country during his second term. The Republican-controlled House will put a damper on any outrageous legislation that the administration proposes that might move the country forward. Where would we be without our status quo guardians?

Boehner likes to give the impression that he could actually do anything about the intransigent extremists within his own party whose idea of responsible governing is doing things their way or no way. The extent of the Speaker’s fantasy was revealed during the so-called fiscal cliff crisis, when Tea Party stalwarts handed Mr. Boehner back his own proposal with a great big "F" at the top.

Having created the mess that Mr. Obama inherited, one would almost think that to do something to alleviate the misery it caused in millions of American lives would betray some unspoken GOP principle that they can instigate and perpetuate bad policy, but as long as they never admit to it, they can dodge any responsibility. Still claiming that the Bush tax cuts make sense is like arguing that the Edsel was a great idea.

Their desperation to restore some semblance of credibility was on display when Secretary of State Hilary Clinton testified before Senate and House committees investigating the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.


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Having graciously conceded that Mrs. Clinton probably did suffer actual injury when she fell and it wasn’t a transparent ploy to dodge the Wrath of the Truly Just, GOP members on the committees had their knives especially sharpened for the occasion. As often happens in these situations, the former First Lady only proved that, having raised a daughter, she was used to dealing with children and sometimes they can be exasperating.

The straw at which the GOP was tenaciously grasping had to do with the conflicting reports as to what instigated the attack on the consulate that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The proponents of the Weapons of Mass Destruction fantasy were highly indignant that the State Department appeared to be shifting its own culpability for the assault by publicly blaming an incendiary video demonizing Islam that was shot by a loony racist in California. That turned out not to be true and the Republican members of the committee were shocked to their collective cores that attempts to pass the buck still exist in Washington. Pacino couldn’t have done a more convincing job of feigning concern for what the public has a right to know.

Second generation senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, told Mrs. Clinton that, if he was the chief executive, he would have fired her. It was a blunt statement to be sure, but the most chilling aspect of it was the vision of Paul as president, a prospect that casts a warm perspective on anything Freddy Krueger ever conjured up for residents on Elm Street.

When Hillary Clinton emerged from the hearings, she looked decidedly more presidential than humbled and I couldn’t help but wonder why members of Congress, like lemmings over the cliff, are so eager to question people who are so much smarter than they will ever be. For further edification, watch the wild bunch tangle with Elizabeth Warren.

The GOP also claimed victory when a triumvirate of Republican-appointed federal judges ruled that the president couldn’t select people to fill important vacancies within the government when Congress is not in session, unless it is during a real recess, as opposed, I guess, to one of their innumerable phony recesses. The judges chose to overlook the fact that the decision left many of the agencies leaderless for an indeterminate amount of time because Republican legislators refuse to approve of anyone offered by Mr. Obama.

The president will appeal the decision and the Supreme Court has surprised us before. (See: Health Care; Obama administration; constitutionality of).

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal didn’t mince words at the Republican Nation Committee’s Winter Meeting on Jan. 24. "We have to stop being the stupid party," Jindal told the group, referring to a number of vote-alienating comments made by candidates during the 2012 election. If the GOP insists upon clinging to its retrograde agendas, it may well follow the passenger pigeon and the dodo bird into extinction. The party’s latest slick maneuver to give an inflated influence to areas that tend to vote Republican doesn’t bode well for the notion that they have learned anything from the mistakes of the past. A fair playing field is still anathema to them.

In one of his more bizarre pieces in the New York Times, David Brooks recently castigated the president for proposing legislation especially designed to make Republican opposition look foolish. Mr. Boehner believes that, with all the time the president is going to have on his hands while Congress digs in for another four years of deadlock, Mr. Obama may spend his time trying to "annihilate" the Republican Party. There have been less worthy goals to be sure, but if there ever was something that the GOP needed absolutely no help in accomplishing, it is that.

Alden Graves is a Banner columnist and reviewer.