Friday, December 30, 2011

Idiots’ Delight: The Annual Edition

Well, kids, here it is: the first annual Idiots’ Delight year-end awards.  Yes, I know it was hard waiting, but hopefully your patience will be rewarded.  I held nothing back. If you had it coming, you got it. And, in keeping with my commitment to be even handed, there will be a winner from the Left.  Somebody has to be fair and balanced.

The envelope, please.

John Boehner: Not since the Ford Motor Company decided it would be a good idea to name a car after the son of its founder, has more misfortune befallen one individual.  Yes, he has had to deal with the worst bunch of delinquents ever to hit Washington in the form of the Tea Party freshmen, and yes he has had a dearth of reliable and loyal (hello, Eric Cantor) leaders with whom he could form a unified consensus, but the simple truth is that from day one the Speaker of the House has done a lousy job of leading his caucus.  He has, to put it succinctly, been his own worst enemy.

From the debt ceiling fiasco where he pouted that Obama moved the goalposts on him, to the payroll tax deal where he crossed up his own colleagues in the Senate (particularly Mitch McConnell) and handed the President a gift-wrapped political win just in time for Christmas, Boehner’s list of follies would fill a Dave Letterman Top Ten List. 

But his greatest flaw has been an inability to set a tone that would’ve allowed his party to effectively utilize the leverage it won in last year’s midterms.  Rather than channeling the energy of the Tea Party, he allowed it to ostensibly run roughshod over the entire House of Representatives, thus tying his hands and rendering his “leadership” abilities moot.  His predecessor would never have allowed that to happen.  Nancy Pelosi had her hands full dealing with progressives and blue dogs alike in her caucus.  Not once did she lose control and cede her authority.  By contrast John Boehner looks like the proverbial rudderless ship lost in a storm.    

Whether he can survive through this congressional term remains to be seen.  What is certain is that the political firestorm that is the House of Representatives will be a sore spot for the GOP throughout the 2012 campaign and for that, Republicans – and Democrats, as well – have John Boehner to thank.

Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Rick Perry: Or, as I prefer to call them, Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest.  Bachmann, Cain and Perry epitomize the very worst of a polarized and paralyzed political process that has made them the laughing stock of most voters and severely damaged their own party. 

The dumbing down technique is nothing new in American politics.  Many effective politicians have used it successfully to achieve victory.  But what sets these three dim bulbs apart is how thoroughly they have immersed themselves in it.  They not only dispense the Kool-Aid to their minions, they swim in it.  It’s like that hair club for men commercial, where the speaker says, “I’m not just the president, I’m also a client.”  It’s hard to know who’s more stupid: these three idiots or their target audience.

Let’s see, there was Michele Bachmann’s foray into that wonderful world where geography and history meet where she didn’t know that the Battle of Lexington and Concord was fought in Massachusetts and not New Hampshire.  Then there was Herman Cain’s brain freeze in the now infamous Libyan War interview.  Can you really imagine this guy in the Situation Room in the White House?  But who can forget Rick Perry’s finest moment during a debate when he couldn’t even remember which three departments he would eliminate if he became President.

Thankfully, none of these bozos has a shot at the White House.  Bachmann’s campaign is imploding – one of her top aides recently defected to Ron Paul; Cain has all but disappeared into political oblivion; and Perry is now trailing Rick Santorum of all people.  Proof positive that there is a God after all.

Anthony Weiner: And now we come to the greatest shame and waste of 2011.  The former Democratic representative from New York was one of the Party’s most articulate, passionate and effective leaders until his fall this past spring.  In a piece, titled “The Last Word on Weinergate,” I wrote the following:

The loss of Anthony Weiner will have profound consequences for the Democrats, not only in next year's election, but in the years to follow…What he brought to the floor of the House was a rare commodity.  A fearless proponent of progressive causes is almost a dying breed these days.  For Anthony Weiner, it was a calling.  That he has now deprived his Party of that calling is the thing which disappoints and angers me the most.  He should've known better, and because of his poor judgment, millions may well pay the price.   

In a House of Representatives that desperately needs sensible alternatives to the madness of the Tea Party infestation, Democrats are still searching for their voice.  Weiner’s departure has left a political vacuum that the Party must fill somehow or risk further collateral damage in 2012.

As I said at the time, nice goin’, putz!

The Agents of Intolerance: Whether it was Fox News, or much of the A.M. radio dial, or the Tea Party Express, or some pretend evangelical spewing hate as scriptural doctrine, 2011 was yet another painful reminder of just how far the nation has been dragged into the mud and how much farther it still needs to go to recover; assuming that’s even possible.

But as deplorable as the Right has been, the Left has had some rather embarrassing moments of its own.  Sure the latter’s faux pas weren’t nearly as plentiful or colorful as the former’s, but that is hardly the point.  Both ideological extremes must share the responsibility and burden for the intransigence, which has all but crippled Washington and threatens the very future of the Republic.  No, Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow are not the moral equivalent of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh; that should be painfully obvious.  But the constant retching it up by both sides has so thoroughly poisoned the well that for millions of independent and moderate voters they seem to be one in the same.

And that is exactly what the Right is hoping for: that a majority of the electorate will see this as nothing more than a pissing contest between two extremes.  And if they are able to frame it that way, you can kiss 2012 – not to mention 2014 and 2016 – goodbye.  Tit for tat not only isn’t the smart play politically for the Left, it’s just flat out wrong.

I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again.  The only way the Left can persevere is to resist the urge to one up the Right.  Succumbing to its lesser angels not only undermines its moral high ground, it elevates that which it purports to hate the most to the status of equal.

And can there be any more revolting a concept as that?   

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