Tough times for the GOP:
Senate Republicans, scrambling to head off GOP defections to a resolution opposing President Bush’s war policy, are considering their own resolution demanding benchmarks to measure progress in Iraq and possibly a new diplomatic effort to end the war, senators said yesterday.
Senators from both parties began preparing for a showdown with President Bush over his plan to increase troop levels in Iraq, although that showdown may be pushed back to the week of Feb. 5. Two rival camps opposed to the additional troop deployments continued to dicker over the wording of a resolution expressing the Senate’s opposition, while GOP leaders and White House loyalists plotted a response.
Evidently the party has become fractured, rudderless and terrified of the war from which they can’t seem to get unstuck. “Scared spitless,” in the words of Sen. John Thune. For some reason I keep thinking of Austin Powers.
It’s hard to feel sorry for the GOP. They fought like hell to own this war and fought even harder to stifle adult supervision. Given how Rove’s Republicans cynically manipulated every aspect of this war for political gain it seems perfectly, inescapably appropriate to watch them suffer exactly the fate that they hoped to inflict on the hated Democrat party.
Reflect a bit more on the inept decisionmaking that led to the GOP’s sorry state. I can understand that many on the right thought that war was a good idea, even necessary. I can also get why a particularly craven group of leaders would try to tie the war to their own political fate. Hey, if everything came out as advertised (by, cough, Chalabi) the GOP-as-Churchill and Dems-as-Chamberlain narrative practically writes itself. Politicizing war is revolting, craven, practically subhuman, but a respectable decision when it comes to looking out for your tribe.
What baffles me is that once the GOP owned the war lock stock and barrel, someone (say, Pat Roberts) thought it would be a good idea to kill off the faintest hint of oversight. In free market terms that’s the same as a business sinking its resources and reputation into a project and then taking off to Maui for a few months while the contractor does his thing unsupervised. That suggests an awful lot of confidence in the contractor, n’est-ce pas? It suggests that Republicans considered their leader practically infallible, incapable of the quotidian failures that characterize ordinary humans, not unlike the leader cult barbs (Dear Leader etc) half-jokingly brought up by lefties like me. After all, assuming that the GOP Congress were rational beings with some vestigial interest in their political future, what other explanation makes any sense?
In fact, the endless Christmas morning that is the Scooter Libby trial shows that top ranks might have acted in their own interest if not for relentless pressure from the office of Dick Cheney. That provides an excuse of sorts for the Congressional leadership, after all Cheney has shot people for less. What about the rest of the party? It must have occurred to the rank-and file rightwingers that hitching their wagon to a war and then killing accountability was a recipe for trouble. Or maybe it didn’t occur to them at all. For Republicans who don’t have darth Cheney as an alibi it seems to me that we’re right back to either an infallible Leader complex or else not enough wattage to see the conflict.
The Libby schadenfreud-a-rama has left me feeling charitable, so here’s some free advice for the next generation of Republicans. Responsible oversight does more than just uncover occasional political embarrassments. It also makes sure that the things you try to do actually work. That helps because when you try something that fails you look bad. Keep that in mind while you’re trying to stem the hemorrhage in ’08.