Friday, January 15, 2016

Last night's GOP "debate and the Washington Post: The GOP's dysfunction all started with Sarah Palin ... by gimleteye

A Washington Post OPED by former Obama chief of staff, William Daley, notes how John McCain's legacy was tarnished by his 2008 selection of Palin as his running mate. McCain reflects the GOP dysfunction in another important way: a willingness to be elected at any cost including abandoning sound conservative judgment to the architects of right-wing radical extremism.

John McCain didn't come to select Sarah Palin as his running mate, alone. He had plenty of help from inside and out; Republican consultants like Ralph Reed and Karl Rove whose careers advanced by eliminating moderates from party leadership. Sarah Palin met all the GOP qualifications for a time.

To a majority of American voters, Palin never rose above a caricature. The indelible mistake in McCain's political career turned out to be an advantage for whom, exactly? To start, the Rupert Murdoch/Fox News juggernaut. Do Republicans always lose when Fox News and Rupert Murdoch win? Obviously not. The Fox News advertiser / editorial base, politically motivated outfits like the Koch Brothers, have succeeded in their "50 State Strategy" -- as noted by NJ Gov. Chris Christie in last night's debate (and detailed in an outstanding NY Times OPED by Thomas Edsall.)

The GOP success is grounded in stirring up hatreds, racial and otherwise, and fear. Great for gluing eyes to Fox News, great for Sarah Palin's net worth (and others who will cash in with Fox after they lose in the primary) but lousy for electing presidents.

In this season's echo chamber, the amplitude of all the GOP candidates is like a sine wave, careening from peak to valley, from "everything is bad!" to "we can fix this!". That sine wave has grown tighter and tighter, shorter and shorter, more and more desperate so that, finally, all American voters are hearing from the GOP is fury and no sound. Consider how Marco Rubio's constant shrillness in last night's debate presents as a "wake up call"; but it is not the ring of a bell so much as a jackhammer biting into a listener's shoulder.

Watching the GOP fright fest, you want to say, "Please! Someone! Call the ambulances!"

The GOP’s dysfunction all started with Sarah Palin
By William M. Daley October 25, 2015

(William M. Daley was White House chief of staff from 2011 to 2012.) When The Post’s front page declares: “Republicans are on the verge of ceasing to function as a national party,” it’s time to ask: How did this come to pass?

You can choose from a litany of insurrections, government shutdowns and other self-inflicted wounds. But this year’s carnival-like GOP presidential primary makes one event, in retrospect, stand out as a crucial turning point on the road to upheaval: the 2008 embrace of then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be a heartbeat from the presidency.

Palin’s blatant lack of competence and preparedness needs no belaboring. What’s critical is that substantive, serious Republican leaders either wouldn’t or couldn’t declare, before or after the election: “This is not what our party stands for. We can and must do better.”

By the campaign’s end, GOP operatives were shielding Palin from even the simplest questions. (She had flunked “what newspapers do you read?”). Barack Obama cruised to victory.

Palin became a Fox News fixture, reinforcing the newly formed tea party’s “never compromise” demands. Bombast, not reason, reigned. Now the “settle for flash” aura of Palin’s candidacy looks like a warning that the party was prizing glib, red-meat rhetoric over reasoned solutions.

Sadly, Palin owes her fame to 2008 presidential nominee John McCain, who is generally one of the party’s more thoughtful and substantive veterans. He has championed reforms to immigration and campaign finance. He denounced “wacko birds” who stymie Congress to pursue hard-right agendas with no chance of passage. Whether McCain actively sought Palin in 2008 or passively yielded to aides’ pressure, he set a new standard for GOP candidates who rely on lots of sizzle and little substance.

Once McCain put Palin on the ticket, Republican “grown-ups,” who presumably knew better, had to bite their tongues. But after the election, when they were free to speak their minds, they either remained quiet or abetted the dumbing-down of the party. They stood by as Donald Trump and others noisily pushed claims that Obama was born in Kenya. And they gladly rode the tea party tiger to sweeping victories in 2010 and 2014.

Now that tiger is devouring the GOP establishment. Party elders had hoped new presidential debate rules would give them greater control. But they are watching helplessly as Trump leads the pack and House Republicans engage in fratricide.

It’s hard to feel much sympathy. The Republican establishment’s 2008 embrace of Palin set an irresponsibly low bar. Coincidence or not, a batch of nonsense-spewing, hard-right candidates quickly followed, often to disastrous effect.

In Delaware, the utterly unprepared Christine O’Donnell promised “I’m not a witch,” but it didn’t save a Senate seat that popular, centrist Republican representative Mike Castle would have won, had he been the nominee.

In 2012, Missouri Republicans hoped to oust Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). Those hopes died when GOP nominee Todd Akin opined that “the female body” could somehow prevent pregnancy from “a legitimate rape.”

Party leaders aren’t responsible for every candidate’s gaffe. And Republican primary voters, not party honchos, choose nominees. But it’s easy to draw ideological lines from Palin to O’Donnell to Akin and so on to some of the far-from-mainstream presidential contenders of 2012 and today.

Then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) was rising fast in Republican presidential polls in July 2011. Pizza company executive Herman Cain led the polls three months later. Does anyone now think Bachmann and Cain had the skills, experience and temperament to be president?

True, the party eventually settled on Mitt Romney. But for months, Americans wondered, “Is this party serious?” Now the Republicans’ leading presidential contenders are Trump — who vows to make Mexico pay for a “great, great wall” on the U.S. side of the border — and Ben Carson, who questions evolution and asks why victims of the latest mass shooting didn’t “attack the gunman.”

This isn’t to heap new scorn on Palin. But let’s not diminish the recklessness of those who championed her vice presidential candidacy. It was well known that McCain, 72 at the time of his nomination, had undergone surgery for skin cancer. It wasn’t preposterous to think Palin could become president.

Now Republicans ask Americans to give them full control of the government, adding the presidency to their House and Senate majorities. This comes as Trump and Carson consistently top the GOP polls. Republican leaders brought this on themselves. Trump calls Palin “a special person” he’d like in his Cabinet. That seems only fair, because he’s thriving in the same cynical value system that puts opportunistic soundbites above seriousness, preparedness and intellectual heft.


Geniusofdespair said...

I never heard such demonizing of a prior administration. Especially by Cristy and Rubio but they all did it. Man, if they couldn't find anything positive about the State of the Union and the hopeful message delivered they are indeed the twits I thought them to be. Bush was the most presidential of the bunch.

Gimleteye said...

South Carolina is Jeb's last stand. All the candidates knew that, last night. Jeb had to look presidential. And you got an inkling of the tag team performance that will emerge between Rubio and Jeb if the political hatchet is buried in Donald Trump's back in South Carolina. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

I read this post and the news article in agreement and dismay. Then I pondered, why are there educated, fairly reasonable people still proud to consider themselves followers of the hijacked Republican Party?

Anonymous said...

Answer to above Anon:
Because the Democratic Party has been hijacked by left-wing,
Socialist/Commumist extremists.

Anonymous said...

Communists? Democrats? Get real, didn't you read the letter to the editor today:

Kudos to Leonard Pitts for calling out the parallels between Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump in his Jan. 13 column, Standing up the language of hatred.

Pundits and media analysts have tiptoed around the obvious similarities by classifying Trump as a “showman” rather than the narcissistic and fearsome hate peddler who threatens America’s very soul. It’s time to sound the alarm and call Trump’s ascent what it is — horrifying, like Hitler’s.

Rosemary Ravinal,

Read more here: