By Richard Reeves
Dana Milbank of The Washington Post reported on a meeting recently at the Heritage Foundation, the very conservative "think tank" in Washington, to discuss the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans on Sept. 11, 2012.
"The lunacy began," wrote Milbank, "when Cliff Kincaid, a leader of Accuracy in Media, the group holding the gathering, suggested that the Obama administration is covering up events regarding Benghazi because the CIA operation there was secretly arming the enemy: ‘This administration has a policy of supporting al-Qaida, the same people behind the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.’"
The point was driven home by a former CIA officer, Clare Lopez, who asked rhetorically: "Are we placing the power, the influence, the might, diplomatic assets, military assets, intelligence assets, financial assets, at the service of al-Qaida in the Middle East to bring to power forces of Islamic jihad?"
Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, nodded in agreement, saying, "Clare has a very good point." Wrote Milbank: "Sorry, Congressman. I’ve got an appointment back on Earth."
"Washington," said the late Art Hoppe, a San Francisco Chronicle humor columnist, "is several miles square and about as tall as, say, the Washington Monument. It is surrounded on all four sides by reality."
That was in the 1970s. Things have gotten crazier since then. Now Washington is bordered, on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, by Rep. Wolf’s district.
And as Republicans escalate their attacks on their own government, the dialogue of governance, or commentary on governance, is getting wilder and crazier, too. The old words of political debate are not wild enough to describe or rationally analyze Republican tactics of threat and bluster. More the former than the later, I’m afraid.
"The Republican Party is destroying America," wrote Kirsten Powers in the Daily Beast. "Harsh words, yes. But inescapably true. It’s a bit of a murder-suicide. House Republicans’ willingness to lay waste to the country to satisfy their fringiest faction will ultimately guarantee the GOP irrelevancy as a national party, unless they change their ways. In the meantime, they seem determined to take us all down with them. ...
"In what has become a recurring nightmare, House Republicans are using budget negotiations to play chicken with the stability of the American economy. This time, they want President Obama to agree to defund his signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act. If he refuses to strangle his own baby in the crib, Republicans are happy to retaliate. They’ll shut down the government. These are not people with whom one can work."
Ms. Powers used to be a Democratic operative, but that does not mean she’s wrong. Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, a moderate, I’d say, uses somewhat more elevated language, pointing out "the bizarreness of this monomaniacal focus on Obamacare, given that it is fundamentally a Republican program from the 1990s mixed in with Romneycare. Obamacare relies on the private sector; there is no public option. That you are willing to bring the country to its knees to sabotage it ... just shows this is a party (the Republicans) that has gone off the rails."
Or gone nuts!
The word "insanity" is now popping up all over the place. The Washington Post has headlined: "The GOP’s Debt Ceiling Insanity." Allen Clifton of ForwardProgressives.com runs a quotation game in which readers are asked to guess whether wacko words come from "a Republican or an insane person," using quotations from Michele Bachmann and Rush Limbaugh mixed with the rantings of bad guys from Hitler to the Unibomber. For example, this one from Rep. Michele Bachmann:
"Our children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal and natural and that perhaps they should try it, and that’ll be very soon in our public schools all across the state, beginning in kindergarten."
How will this end? Badly. Ornstein and Thomas Mann, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, offered this conclusion in a paper they jointly wrote. Using the sequester as an example, they said: "It’s a terrible situation. No matter how much (Republicans) talk about how it was Obama’s idea ... the whole idea was to create such awful consequences that no sane person would accept it. But these aren’t sane people."
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