It’s finally sinking in.
Republicans are getting queasy at the gruesome sight of their party eating itself alive, savaging the brand in ways that will long resonate.
The contenders in the Hester Prynne primaries are tripping over one another trying to be the most radical, unreasonable and insane candidate they can be. They pounce on any traces of sanity in the other candidates—be it humanity toward women, compassion toward immigrants or the willingness to make the rich pay a nickel more in taxes—and try to destroy them with it.
President Barack Obama has deranged conservatives just as W. deranged liberals.
Newt Gingrich, a war wimp in Vietnam who supported W.’s trumped-up invasion of Iraq, had the gall to tell a crowd at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., that defeating Obama—“the most dangerous president in modern American history”—was “a duty of national security” because “he is incapable of defending the United States” and because he “wants to unilaterally weaken the United States.” Who killed Osama again?
How can the warm, nurturing Catholic Church of my youth now be represented in the public arena by uncharitable nasties like Gingrich and Rick Santorum?
“It makes the party look like it isn’t a modern party,” Rudy Giuliani told CNN’s Erin Burnett, fretting about the candidates’ Cotton Mather attitude about women and gays.
After a speech in Dallas last month, Jeb Bush also recoiled: “I used to be a conservative, and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective.”
Alan Simpson, the former Republican senator from Wyoming, recently called Santorum “rigid and homophobic.” Arlen Specter, who quit the Republicans to become a Democrat three years ago before Pennsylvania voters sent him home from the Senate, told MSNBC: “Where you have Sen. Santorum’s views, so far to the right, with his attitude on women in the work place and gays and the bestiality comments and birth control, I do not think it is realistic for Rick Santorum to represent America.” That from the man who accused Anita Hill of perjury.
Republicans have a growing panic at the thought of going down the drain with a loser, missing their chance at capturing the Senate and giving back all those House seats won in 2010. More and more, they openly yearn for a fresh candidate, including Jeb Bush.
Their jitters increased exponentially as they watched Mitt belly-flop in his hometown, giving a dreadful rehash of his economic ideas in a virtually empty Ford Field in Detroit, babbling again about the “right height” of Michigan trees and blurting out that Ann “drives a couple of Cadillacs.”
Santorum, whose name aptly comes from the same Latin root as sanctimonious, went on Glenn Beck’s Web-based show with his family and offered this lunacy: “I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college,” because colleges are “indoctrination mills” that “harm” the country. He evidently wants home university schooling, which will cut down on keggers.
The barking-mad Republicans of Virginia are helping to make the party look foolish and creepy. A video went viral recently in which Delegate Dave Albo comically regaled his fellow lawmakers on the floor of the Statehouse with his own Old Dominion version of “Lysistrata:” He suggested that he was denied sex with his wife because of a Republican-sponsored bill that would have made ultrasounds, often with a vaginal probe, mandatory for women seeking abortions.
With music, red wine and a big-screen TV, he made a move on his wife, Rita, while she was watching a news report about the bill. “And she looks at me and goes, ‘I’ve got to go to bed,’” Albo said as his colleagues guffawed.
The Republicans, with their crazed Reagan fixation, are a last-gasp party, living posthumously, fighting battles on sex, race, immigration and public education long ago won by the other side.•
Dowd is a New York Times columnist. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.