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Friday, May 01, 2009

Hang on Tight, Things are Going to Get Stupid

David SouterI generally have my morning post planned the night before. I find the story I want to write about, bookmark all the sources and citations I want to use, and I'm done. All that's left is to arrange it all into a cohesive and logical statement of some kind. Sometimes, while I'm doing this, the news landscape completely changes and what I was planning on writing about gets blown out of the water by new information. At other times, most of the information I've gathered still works, but the focus of the post changes. The news that Supreme Court Justice David Souter is going to retire is an example of the latter. In this case, I was going to write about how screwed Republicans are. Souter's retirement changed that slightly -- now I'm writing about how much more screwed they're going to be.

First off, what I was originally planning to write about; internal polling shows the Republican party is losing every argument. Partial polling results leaked to the Associated Press shows that the GOP is "widely viewed by the public as less competent than Democrats to handle issue ranging from health care to education and energy." AP says the polling was "presented to top GOP officials in Congress." The poll also shows that Obama has been making significant gains among "self-described conservative, independent voters."

The Associated Press obtained partial results of the survey, which was conducted in late March by New Models, a firm with close ties to Republicans. GOP lawmakers in Congress have generally opposed Obama's early legislative agenda, voting with near unanimity against economic stimulus legislation and unanimously against a White House-backed budget that cleared Congress on Wednesday.

The survey found the public holds greater confidence in Democrats than in Republicans in handling most of the issues that are involved in Obama's legislative agenda.

Democrats were favored by a margin of 61 percent to 29 percent on education; 59 percent to 30 percent on health care and 59 percent to 31 percent on energy. Congress is expected to consider major legislation later this year in all three areas.

The only issue that Democrats didn't lead Republicans on was the "war on terror." And even there they weren't ahead, the poll put both parties at a tie on the issue. The Republican party has no advantages, only disadvantages.

Worse, the defection of Arlen Specter to the Democratic party has moderate Republicans complaining that many their party are out to get them -- and they're right.

The solution to all of this is to put together a "panel of experts" and send them on a big PR tour. "Experts at what?" would be a good question, since the panel is made up of former Republican National Committee head Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

So basically four right wing ideologues and John McCain -- who I guess is still supposed to be some kind of "maverick." To give you an idea of how wrongheaded this whole idea is, Sarah Palin is reportedly also being considered.

These people will go around the country holding townhall events and report back to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. Still, give them points for trying. The best thing they could possibly take away from these things is that everyone thinks they're crazy. And the best and most constructive thing they could do in response would be to spend most of their energy putting bags over the heads of party members like Michele Bachmann and downplaying the influence of the base -- who are crazy.

So the news that David Souter is going to retire must've come as bad news to any Republican interested in actually rebranding the party and thinking two or three moves ahead. There's nothing on Earth that brings the crazies out of the woodwork like a Supreme Court nomination. I can practically guarantee that someone's out there, writing a chain-email claiming that Barack Obama is going to appoint a radical Islamist to the court in order to bring Sharia law to the United States, right now, as you read this.

The craziness is already starting to seep in. In a press release, Americans United for Life pretty much demands that Barack Obama, the pro-choice president, nominate a pro-life judge. And they seem to think this is reasonable. Over at the conservative National Review, legal pundit Ed Whelan warns that Barack Obama "should be made to pay a high price for appointing a liberal judicial activist who will do his dirty work for him."

When you're going to try to convince everyone that you're not crazy, it's probably a little counterproductive to have the base engaging in shrieking, hyperbolic insanity. And the sad fact -- sad for Republicans anyway -- is that there's absolutely no way to stop that from happening. The religious right is going to lose it, the gun lobby are going to lose it, the people who see socialism everywhere are going to lose it, the people who think Obama's a terrorist mole are going to... well, the people who think Obama's a terrorist mole are going to lose it even more. You think those teabaggers made for bad PR? Imagine them doing that as a fulltime job.

This new Republican PR push is probably doomed now. Souter's retirement will shine a spotlight on the insanity of the movement conservatives. If you're trying to convince everyone you're not crazy, it's not helpful to have all your lunatic friends vouching for you.


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