Thursday, May 31, 2012

Late Bill

So Bill Clinton will be visiting Wisconsin to lend a helping hand to Tom Barrett's campaign.  To quote a line from the movie The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, "Terrific, tell him we'll hold the crowd till he gets here."

Really now, at the risk of being a smart ass - who me? - why not wait a little longer, say October?  A week to go before the single biggest state-wide election in quite some time and Bubba is just now making it out there.  Only the Democrats could screw up this kind of opportunity.

It's bad enough the DNC has done squat since Barrett won the Democratic primary, but to get a visit from the former 42nd President at this late stage, with most of the voters already in the decided column, now that's what I call rubbing it in.

The time to do all this and more was three weeks ago, when there was still enough time to make a difference.  You want a definition for political suicide?  Look up the election results for this state a week from now.


Idiots' Delight

This month, it’s a five-way tie for first place.  After racking my brains out I finally decided that any meaningful differences between the “nominees” just wasn’t worth parsing out, so I thought I’d go in alphabetical order and let the chips fall where they may.  Fair warning, both Left and Right are getting it this month, so hold your noses and get set to swallow some medicine.

Joe Biden for outing the President on gay marriage.  Old motor mouth was at it again.  The gift that keeps on giving just couldn’t help himself the other week on Meet the Press.  Okay, I get it.  It was hardly a secret that Obama was in favor of gay marriage – evolving my ass.  And I understand that the Republican Party as a whole is on the wrong side of history with respect to this issue.  That’s not the point.  With less than six months to go before a general election, and with one of the largest swing states having just passed an anti-gay marriage law, you don’t harpoon your boss on national television.  Period!
While progressives applauded Biden’s moment of clarity and welcomed Obama’s long-overdue concurrence, the simple fact of the matter is that, electorally speaking, this little stunt by the VP could well end up costing Democrats the White House in November, not to mention a senate seat or two.  It isn’t just social conservatives who are frothing at the mouth at their recent good fortune.  The simple truth is that once you step outside of the Northeast and West coast, the issue of gay marriage is at best a toss-up, at worst not well received by a plurality of voters.  In what promises to be an extremely tight election, where some states could be decided by as little as a single percentage point, it is the height of arrogance and stupidity to risk alienating even one voter.

One of the best wedge issues the Obama Administration has going for it this fall is the fact that the other side is filled with extremists.  Independents typically shy away from such elements.  Thanks to Joe Biden, those same extremists will now attempt to turn the tables and paint the President as the extremist.  Obama’s the president who wants your son and daughter to be taught by a homosexual teacher.  That’s what they’ll say both privately and now publicly to as many undecided voters as possible.  They don’t have to turn them all, just enough to win.

For his next trick, Smokin’ Joe will go on Face the Nation and announce he’s for legalized pot.  What harm could that do?

The Catholic Church for their war on the Girl Scouts of America.  They’ve been pretty busy over there at the Vatican, what with dealing with sex abuse scandals and declining membership – particularly in America – so naturally the Catholic Church needed to launch another offensive in its all-out assault on common sense and decency to try and alienate the last of its disillusioned flock.  If you thought the whining about contraception was contrived – and it is – this one will knock you off your feet.  The Church has its tassels all in an uproar over the Girl Scouts America.  Their crime?  They’ve been associating with the wrong people, it seems.

According to a story in The Huffington Post, the Girl Scouts of America have had the audacity of “accepting into a Colorado troop a 7-year-old transgender child who was born a boy but was being raised as a girl.” As if that wasn’t enough red meat for the bishops to chew on, there’s the never ending – and baseless – charge that there is a connection between the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood.  And, from the sublime to the ridiculous, there’s always that nasty “L” word.  Seems there are way too many liberals within its ranks for the Church’s tastes.

Actually, as sad as this might seem, this war is nothing new, according to the Huff-Po piece.  The Girl Scouts have been on the radar of social conservatives ever since the 1970s when feminism began to seep its way into its ranks.  It seems teaching young women to be empowered and able to lead successful lives on their own runs counter to the dogma that Rome has been peddling for centuries.

You’d think an organization that portends to know a thing or two about charity and loving your enemy and tending to the needy would be embarrassed to pick a fight with little girls, but then the Church has seen fit to harbor pedophiles, so go figure.

Here’s a suggestion for the Vatican: You want to really rescue the Girl Scouts of America?  Do something about those terrible cookies.  Otherwise pick on someone your own size.  I grew up reading the story about David and Goliath.  I just never thought I’d live to see the day when the Church became the latter.

MSNBC and the Left for piling on Mitt Romney for bullying a gay kid when he was in high school.  There are a variety of reasons not to vote for Mitt Romney.  No soul, no spine, no principles, no values, wrong positions, etc… One of them is most assuredly not that as a teenager he bullied a gay kid. Yes, it was stupid.  If I had a dollar for every stupid thing I did between the ages of twelve and eighteen I could take my whole department out to lunch at one of the best restaurants in Manhattan.  For the record, there are more than fifty people in my department, so that’s a lot of mistakes.

The Left needs to know how and when to pick a fight. The Romney bashing, as it pertains to this particular topic, is not only ineffective; it makes the whole damn movement seem petty.  Yes, bullying, especially gays, is a serious problem that has led to serious consequences, and the sooner we as a society move away from it the healthier all of us will be.  But to conclude that what someone did when he was a teenager allows us to “extrapolate” how he might feel as a sixty year-old man is reaching to say the least, and makes about as much sense as the Right going after Obama because he smoked pot when he was a high school student.

This is the kind of shit that turns voters off, especially independent voters.  I hate to keep harping on it, but there’s this little thing that happens every four years.  Maybe you’ve heard about it.  It’s called a general election and I would really like to win it if that’s alright with you.  So, I’m begging you, Rachel, Chris, Ed and all the rest of you out there in Lib Land, give it a rest. Let’s keep it simple.  Try and find some dirt on Romney that doesn’t date back to his pimple days.

Bristol Palin for her critical comments after Obama came out in support of gay marriage.  So let me see if I get this straight.  The woman who had a kid out of wedlock is preaching to the President about morality?


I know the air gets a little thin up there in Alaska, or whatever planet Bristol Palin must be living on, but for a supposed Christian not to know by heart the famous Bible verse, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” only confirms what everyone has known for quite some time: that she’s as clueless as her mother.  In fact, she’s the spittin’ image of her, right down to that deer in a headlight, know nothing stare.  Boy, the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it?

Ann Romney for milking the stay at home mommy bit.  Memo to Ann Romney:  I’m sure you’re a good mother and you worked your butt off setting a good example for your kids, while old Mitt went off and “earned” all those millions. And I’m equally sure you will make a much better wife on the campaign trail than Tipper was for Al Gore.

So, please, now that you’ve made it abundantly clear to everyone in the universe that motherhood is THE TOUGHEST JOB IN THE WHOLE-WIDE WORLD, it’s time to give it a rest.  The only reason you had your five minutes of fame – which you proceeded to turn into an hour and a half – is because Hilary Rosen had her head so far up her ass she could’ve given herself a tonsillectomy.

You’ve had your fun and now it’s time for your husband and Michelle Obama’s husband to present their case to the American people.  On behalf of all the sons out there, a belated Happy Mother’s Day.

Okay? Are we done now?


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tip of the Hat

Sometimes, less is more.  David Frum - a frequent flyer to this column - sums up last year's national nightmare both succinctly and accurately.  No need to add my two cents.  That would only defeat the purpose wouldn't it?

2011's Debt Ceiling Debacle

Tea Party Protests Raising the Debt Ceiling
Tea Party activists gathered on Capitol Hill on July 27 for a "Hold the Line" rally to protest raising the debt ceiling. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

How much harm did it do? It nearly wrecked the recovery, Wharton profs Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson argue in today's Bloomberg View:

High-frequency data on consumer confidence from the research company Gallup, based on surveys of 500 Americans daily, provide a good picture of the debt-ceiling debate’s impact (see chart). Confidence began falling right around May 11, when Boehner first announced he would not support increasing the debt limit. It went into freefall as the political stalemate worsened through July. Over the entire episode, confidence declined more than it did following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008. After July 31, when the deal to break the impasse was announced, consumer confidence stabilized and began a long, slow climb that brought it back to its starting point almost a year later.

Let's go to their charts.

Consumer confidence first:


The effect on employment next:


Let's never, ever do anything like this again, please.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cory Booker’s Shot Across Obama’s Bow

The fallout over Cory Booker going off the reservation over the attack ads against Mitt Romney and his Bain Capital days continues to mount.  The GOP, ever Johnny on the spot, have run the now infamous Meet the Press moment over and over in their own ads in an obvious attempt to undermine any potential traction the Obama Administration might have had with their strategy.  Booker himself has gone out of his way to backtrack from the comments and has condemned the Republicans for taking his words out of context.  Progressives are understandably perturbed over Booker’s perceived betrayal of the President.

At the risk of once more upsetting the apple cart, my take on this is that Booker might have been doing Obama a huge favor with his obvious brain fart.  Like it or not, the Bain attack ads, though accurate, are not going to be all that effective against Mitt Romney.  You don’t have to take my word for it.  Just ask the now former Republican candidates who tried, unsuccessfully I might add, to brand Romney as a vulture capitalist.  Newt Gingrich spent a considerable part of his campaign blasting the former Massachusetts governor, to no avail.  It didn’t work during the Republican primaries; it isn’t going to work in the general election.

Yes Bain Capital gutted many companies they bought; yes they sold off most of the assets of those companies and, in the process, fired a good many people.  But, as they say in New York, that and a subway token will get you a ride on the 7th Avenue Express.  At the end of the day, Romney made a considerable fortune for his investors and he can point out, perhaps with some degree of accuracy, that many of those companies that were broken apart would’ve eventually failed anyway.  Anyone who has a 401k – and that includes the majority of the country – knows full well that the only thing that matters to investors is the stock price of a company.  Yes people want jobs, but they also want to protect their retirement accounts.  If Romney can make the case that he was simply protecting his investors’ earnings – in other words being a good steward – this whole thing could boomerang on Obama in a hurry.

Attack ads that strike at the heart of accomplishments, no matter how underhanded and nefarious those accomplishments might seem, simply don’t poll well with independent voters.  Sure they gin up the base, but, in the end, they can prove costly.  What the Obama Administration should be doing is going after Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts, which is hardly spectacular, and pounce on his flip-flopping, which goes to the heart of leadership, or lack thereof.  Real leaders don’t change their positions like the weather in Florida.  And Romney has had enough changes of heart to have a four-man debate all by himself.

So, if I’m President Obama, here’s what I would do.  I would sit down with my campaign staff and draw up another blueprint for how to combat and defeat Mitt Romney that refrains from ever mentioning Bain Capital; then I’d sit down and write a nice thank you letter to Cory Booker.  He might just have saved your bacon.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Trouble in the Badger State

Don’t look now but ever since forcing a recall election on Scott Walker things have not been going all that well for the Democrats.  According to a story in Politico, the “embattled” governor has raised more than $25 million since January, while his opponent – Tom Barrett – hasn’t even cracked the million dollar mark. 

While it is true that Barrett didn’t even win his party’s nomination till May 8th – hence the huge disadvantage – the real story here is the complete lack of support by the DNC for its challenger.  Given the stakes, this decision amounts to nothing less than gross negligence.  Even worse, when Wisconsin Democrats asked – more like pleaded with – the DNC for $500,000 for its ground game, the response was mind-numbing.  President Obama’s campaign deputy manager said she didn’t know if the DNC would “pony up” the cash to help with the recall.

Once more the Democratic Party is pulling defeat from the jaws of victory.  An opportunity to unseat a sitting governor doesn’t come along very often.  In fact in the last hundred years, only two governors have been successfully recalled: Gray Davis of California in 2003 and Lynn Frazier of North Dakota in 1921.  How the DNC could allow the state party to go toe to toe against an avalanche of money from the RNC without so much as an I.O.U. is beyond me.

As I wrote back in January, when the recall was triggered, the Republicans will throw in the proverbial kitchen sink to protect Walker. In the four months that have elapsed, the Democrats have done virtually nothing, while the Republicans have amassed a war chest. The real crime here is that even with a considerable edge in money – not to mention brains, apparently – Walker is only ahead by 6 points according to an RCP poll.  Imagine where the polls would be if Barrett had the necessary funds to mount an aggressive campaign.

It’s time for someone in the DNC to wake up and get moving.  If Walker survives this recall, the whole state will be up for grabs come November. Obama will have his hands full defending Ohio, Florida, Colorado and the middle-Atlantic states.  The last thing he needs is to worry about a state that hasn’t gone red since 1984.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Tree Grows at CNN: Fareed Zakaria and the quest for journalistic integrity

Those of you who have followed my blog over the years – yes, all seven of you – no doubt are aware of my utter contempt for Ted Turner’s love child to the cable industry. Next to Fox News, I can’t think of any other network that has been so utterly disappointing and unworthy of even being called a news outlet, so lame have they been.  I once referred to CNN as the place where news goes to die.  For the most part I have seen nothing that would change my overall opinion.

That is until quite recently.  Not that long ago, while standing on line at a local bagel shop, I happened to look up at the flat-panel TV, which on this particular Sunday morning was tuned into CNN.  It was a round-panel discussion of various guests, some conservative, some liberal (you know the usual Meet the Press and Face the Nation entourage where everybody has their two to three minutes and the “moderator” pretends to be “fair and balanced”).  I don’t remember what the particular discussion was about – it does tend to get quite loud in a bagel store at 10:00 A.M. – but I was intrigued enough to tune in when I returned home.

It was then that I noticed something rather unusual and, sadly, unique.  Far from just asking the typical pointless questions, the moderator, Fareed Zakaria, was attempting to get a dialogue of ideas flowing between the guests.  While the discussion was passionate, it never devolved into what passes for the typical “I’m right, you’re wrong” diatribe.  And that’s because Zakaria never allowed it to devolve.  Whenever the train seemed on the verge of jumping the tracks he would step in and steer it back on course like a good moderator is supposed to do – hello, David Gregory.

But the best part of his hour show – GPS – ironically comes after the panel discussion.  That’s when Zakaria interviews a guest at great length about important topics of the day.  His questions are intelligent, well thought out and allow the guest an opportunity to present a coherent, cogent argument.  Unlike the other Sunday-morning hosts, Zakarie eschews political candidates and pundits.  Instead he opts for a more diverse and broader assortment of guests, from heads of state like China’s Premier Wen Jiabao, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Israeli President Shimon Peres to heads of corporations like George Soros, Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein.  The result is a truly dynamic, stimulating half hour in which the viewer is left more informed about a subject after the program than before. 

That’s because Fareed Zakaria is an actual journalist.  He is both editor-at-large and a columnist for Time magazine, as well as The Washington Post.  As recently as 2010, he was a columnist for Newsweek and editor of its international division.  He is no stranger to the field, even if, after all these years, he is still not a household name.

In all the time I have watched Meet the Press or Face the Nation, not once have I ever felt as though I learned something new.  And that’s because the modus operandi of these shows is not – contrary to their stated purpose – to inform their viewers but to reinforce narratives of right / left to perpetuate a sense of fair play.  In other words there is no right or wrong; there’s just opinion / conjecture.  I can hear Edward R. Murrow screaming from the grave, “Pinch me, I must be dreaming.”  When there is no absolute right or wrong, when the only thing left is an opinion, there is no journalism taking place.  What you’re left with is an hour-long infomercial.  This, sadly, is the state of cable and network news today.  It’s all about titillating certain demographics that need their allotment of fresh meat to chew on.

And that’s what makes Fareed Zakaria’s GPS program so special.  It avoids that pitfall and instead looks to generate an exchange of real ideas; ideas that can challenge accepted norms and maybe even reach new conclusions, and, above all else, educate the viewer.  Next to watching the News Hour on PBS, I can think of no other news program that both informs and entertains at the same time.  Over the last few weeks, it has become the best part of my Sunday morning.  The other aforementioned “news” programs pale in comparison.

CNN has captured lightning in a bottle here, albeit quite by accident.  The hope is that they don’t screw it up like everything else they touch.  Given what passes for news journalism these days, Fareed Zakaria is the perfect tonic for an ailing profession.  Not since the days of Huntley and Brinkley has a news program ventured out of the comfort zone of an industry that professes to want integrity, yet more often than not opts for ratings.

Back in the 1960s the networks knew their news divisions were loss leaders.   They viewed it as their solemn duty to keep those divisions separate from the rest of the network as a public trust to the nation.  Nowadays, the networks are owned by entertainment companies whose only goal is profit, pure and simple. The problem is they want their cake and eat it too.  It’s clear that in a medium that bows to shows like American Idol and Celebrity Apprentice, substance is a quality in short supply.

Only time will tell if CNN will succumb to the above tenet and pull GPS off the air for a more “entertaining” and predictably lame show.  History clearly suggests this will be the case.  For now, I intend on enjoying the moment while it lasts.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Wright Stuff: The right-wing obsession with Jeremiah Wright

Know this about the Right; if Jeremiah Wright had been a dog or a cat, they would’ve been brought up on animal cruelty charges for the way in which they have viciously and relentlessly beaten him over the last four years.

Never mind that the excerpt that was run repeatedly, not only by Fox News and the entire A.M. dial, but by the lame-stream media, in which Wright says the now infamous “God damn America” line was taken completely out of context and that the entire sermon – available even then on youtube – clearly indicated he was quoting someone else.  Never mind that then candidate Barack Obama distanced himself from the remarks and ostensibly threw his former pastor under the bus in a very lengthy repudiation, which did not sit too well with many African Americans.  Never mind that the strategy of the Right – to somehow link Obama to some radical interpretation of Christianity that Wright was espousing – failed miserably at the ballot box in the fall of ’08. 

Never mind all that. The wingnuts apparently have decided to have at it again and this time they’re pulling out all the stops – as if they held back last time around.  “Author” Ed Klein, whose claim to fame is an upcoming unauthorized biography of Obama, interviewed Wright for three hours and then appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program to gloat about his superb journalistic acumen.

I’ll spare you the gory details and cut to the chase.  Wright, still feeling the stings of betrayal, repaid his former congregant by throwing him under the bus.  The moral of the story is never piss off your pastor, especially one with a very long memory.  The simple truth is that Obama had no choice back in ’08.  He was being hounded by the Clintons and his nomination was at stake.  Wright should’ve known that then, as well as now.

Yes, Barack Obama, in condemning his former pastor’s fiery brand of pulpit preaching, showed he was a politician after all and, yes, he did change once he got into the White House – a fact that every progressive has had to painfully accept going all the way back to JFK.  So what?

What was the supposed purpose of Klein’s interview?  To prove that there are still disenchanted progressives out there who feel that Obama has been a big disappointment?  Stop the presses!  To steal a line from Casablanca: I’m shocked to discover that gambling is going on here.  Really now, progressives have been disappointed ever since Dwight Eisenhower beat Adlai Stevenson, not once but twice. They’ve always managed to get over it somehow.

No, the real reason behind the Klein interview had nothing to do with Wright’s perceived disappointment in or betrayal of the President.  [To the minions on the Right, anything remotely to the left of their private myopic Idaho might as well be the Soviet Union for all they know or care.]  The sole motive of Klein and Hannity was to pick a four-year old scab and get it bloody enough so that conservative evangelicals, who have always loathed the brand of liberation theology Wright preached from his pulpit and publicly doubted Obama’s Christianity from day one, will get all ginned up and come out to the polls this November.

Of course what Klein, Hannity and now Joe Ricketts, the billionaire who funds a super PAC that is thinking of running the Wright footage in campaign ads this fall, are forgetting is this: the target market of such ads hardly needs motivation to vote against the President.  As I have said on several occasions, these people would vote for a pet rock over Obama.  Ginning them up is the definition of superfluous.

In fact, it was the incessant beating of this dead horse that ended up driving away many independent voters in ’08.  You don’t win in politics by preaching to the choir; you win by persuading the undecided.  Virtually every poll conducted that fall indicated that most voters did not think the issue was all that important to them.

And that’s why Mitt Romney was quick to denounce the plan to revisit Waterloo.  “I want to make it very clear, I repudiate that effort.  I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I hope that our campaigns can be respectively about the future and about issues and about vision for America.”

Whatever else you might say about Romney – he’s spineless, has no principles, will say or do anything to get elected, made his money off other people’s misfortune, and is a phony – know this much: he’s no idiot.  In fact he’s a quick study.  After playing crazy to the loony tunes in the Tea Party to ostensibly wipe the floor with his opponents, no doubt he will pivot back over to the center and attempt to portray himself as more adult than Obama. 

Note the high road he took after Obama came out in support of gay marriage.  Romney knows a failed strategy when he sees one and he will avoid it like the plague.  Why?  Because John McCain couldn’t.  He picked Sarah Palin for his VP and then allowed her to go rogue and the result was he got his assed kicked.  Mitt Romney has no intention of getting his ass kicked, especially by his own party.  Look for one theme – and one theme only – for the next five and a half months: the economy, the economy, the economy!

Unfortunately for him, the people who have hijacked the Republican Party have a different view on things. They earnestly believe that the problem isn’t that voters don’t give a rat’s ass about things like Reverend Wright or Bill Ayers or birth certificates or what kind of dog meat Obama ate when he was a kid; it’s that they haven’t done a good enough job of articulating it to them.  If only the voters really knew the “truth” about the President then they could be turned around.  In other words, they weren’t tough enough on Obama.  They gave him a free pass.

Of course we’re also talking about people who believe that the Great Recession of 2008 was brought about by over regulation and excessive government spending, so things like reason, facts and logic are not real high on the agenda, if you know what I mean.  That’s what happens when you spike the punch with acid.  You start believing your own hallucinations.

If you thought the last two election cycles were tough to watch, as Bachman-Turner Overdrive once sang, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  Last time, the Right threw the kitchen sink at the electorate.  This time it’ll be the septic tank.

So roll up your pants legs and hold your noses, folks.  It’s gonna get knee deep this summer.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Death of the “Moderate” Politician

What do Jon Huntsman and Richard Lugar have in common?  If you said both are Republicans, you’d be wrong, so far as being a Republican goes these days.  The correct answer is unemployed and unemployable, at least by any meaningful or measurable statistic I can think of.

It must be tough for Jon Huntsman, what being one of the few remaining sane Republicans in the country.  Considering the field of presidential nominees his party trotted out for all the world to see this election year, the man might as well have been Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower all wrapped up in one.  Though clearly conservative fiscally – his proposals would’ve called for the elimination of ALL itemized deductions – his rejection of his party’s anti-global warming rhetoric and his embracing of evolution made him the political equivalent of a leper.  He also had the temerity to work for the dread Pirate Roberts (President Obama).  In the GOP of today that’s called three up, three down.

And now the man without a party has apparently had enough of the insanity.  He is hinting at the unthinkable: leaving the Republican Party altogether.  So says Jeff Greenfield.  In an op-ed piece he wrote for Yahoo, called “Why Jon Huntsman is leaving the GOP,” the former Utah governor expresses his frustration at his party’s positions, which he describes as “unsustainable.” 

As for his party’s recent success in the 2010 midterms, Huntsman is skeptical about its long-term viability.  “It can’t last more than a cycle or two.  With the political center hollowed out, the American people are going to say, who’s going to populate the center where you’ll get things done?”  Of course the question was meant to be rhetorical.

And while he did mention the “duopoly” of both parties, don’t kid yourself.  The main target of his angst was his fellow comrades and their current “orthodoxy;” an orthodoxy that would preclude even Ronald Reagan from being nominated.  In another interview he did with MSNBC, Huntsman practically threw his party under the bus:

Gone are the days when the Republican Party used to put forward big, bold, visionary stuff.  I think we're going to have problems politically until we get some sort of third-party movement or some alternative voice out there that can put forward new ideas.”

Unlike the other Republican candidates in the GOP field, Huntsman had not only an impressive resume but a genuineness about him that was unique.  He could be both conservative but respectful.  While he was critical of Obama he never crossed the line his contemporaries did.  And he was the only candidate to show a willingness to work with Democrats to solve the nation’s problems.

The same can also be said of Dick Lugar.  Like Huntsman, he was no moderate – he did after all vote “no” on the Violence Against Women Act – but he also showed a willingness to reach across the aisle and work with his fellow Democratic senators when he felt it was called for, which as it turns out wasn’t that often.  Apparently the few times he did – TARP, the auto bailout and the START Treaty – were all the Tea Party needed to challenge him in a primary.  They ran Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock against the six-term incumbent and Lugar was routed by 20 points.

Old Dick was understandably upset and had a few choice words for his opponent.

“If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican Party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.” 

True, Lugar ran a lousy campaign, and it didn’t exactly help matters that he resided in another state which, while legal in Indiana, hardly made him look good to his constituents. The point is that another seeming voice of reason will be gone from the Senate next year. With Olympia Snowe, Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad, Jim Webb and (gulp) Joe Lieberman all calling it quits rather than run for reelection, the class of 2013 will be vastly different and far more polarized than the current class, if that’s even possible.  When you factor in that both Claire McCaskill and Jon Tester are in for the fight of their lives this year, the term moderate may soon be synonymous with words like dinosaur and ice age.

Short term, the defeat of Lugar and the dismissal of Huntsman as a serious candidate will give the forces of intransigence yet another reason to crow over their supposed good fortune; long term, it will have profound consequences for a legislative branch that has earned its deplorably low approval ratings.  The prospects for bipartisanship are slowly disappearing into that long goodnight along with, perhaps, the very future of the Republic itself.