Sound and Fury Signifying Ambition

Forty-seven Republican Senators made haste to sign on to a freshman’s ill-considered letter and some are now repenting at leisure. Why did they do it? They have said they wanted to stop the president from letting the Iranians get a bomb. Or they wanted to warn the Iranians that they would undo the deal once Obama is out of office. They wanted to have a say in the deal.

Well, maybe. But very little of their discussion (and little in the letter) concerned what was wrong with the deal, how to make it better and, failing any such deal, by what other means we can stop Iran from going nuclear. I suspect many signed without thinking because they were afraid not to.

The affair of the letter suggests the Republicans don’t actually want to govern, they want to play politics. The letter is simply one more sign that the election of 2016 is in full swing. Operatives and their elected manikins may pretend they are acting on principle or following the dictates of their conscience or the wishes of their constituents, but really they are playing either ‘Look at Me’ or ‘Gotcha!’

Every vote, every act, every remark for the next 18 months will be calculated for its ability to enhance the pol’s electability or diminish that of his rivals. They ask themselves, “If I vote yes, will it make me safer from a primary challenge by a more zealous challenger or increase the risk one will get in the race? Could this vote show up in a TV ad making me look weak, or like a flip-flopper? Will my fat cat donors be in favor of this move and send more checks or dislike it and take their marbles elsewhere?

Ordinarily if some freshman got the bright idea to meddle in nuclear negotiations, cooler heads might have paused to wonder if signing on might come back to bite them. But since this freshman unseated a Democrat with heavy funding from the Dark Lords of the Koch and the Cabal for Growth, no thought was required.

Not signing could mean you wouldn’t be able to drink at those fountains of money. You might get primaried, called soft on terrorism, accused of kowtowing to Obama, the Voldemort of presidents, characterized as weak or (the worst insult possible), a compromiser. In a primary fight with an opponent from the red meat, talk radio wing of the party that could be fatal. So they rushed to drink the Kool-Aid.

Every Senator even thinking of running for President had no choice, so Cruz, Rubio, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham were quick to sign. Potential candidates not in the Senate, like Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry, also galloped to the nearest microphone to say they thought the letter was a great idea. So did Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Rick Santorum. Behind closed doors, many probably raked their campaign operatives over the coals for letting some nobody from Arkansas beat them to the draw.

Of the 24 Republican Senators up for reelection in 2016, 21 also hurried to sign the Cotton letter. The other three may live to regret it, but all are such fixtures in their states – Murkowski of Alaska, Coats of Indiana, and Alexander of Tennessee – that they may not feel quite as compelled to follow the lemmings of the right off every cliff.

To no one’s surprise Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden immediately blasted the Republicans. Anything that’s a red litmus test for one party becomes a blue litmus test for the other. You say yes, I have to say no. As noted, nothing in this kneejerk politicking has addressed the actual issue: How best to prevent Iran form getting the bomb. It’s not as if a nasty letter is going to do it.

And speaking of Hillary, if she were just a 67-year-old, out-of-work grandma, instead of the presumptive Democratic front runner, would the Republicans have the slightest interest in her email habits, her secret server or be able to find Benghazi on a map? Highly unlikely. In theory, Congress has better things to do than comb the records of a former Secretary of State. Even if they really want to reform government standards and practices, email archiving would seem pretty far down the list of issues in need of fixing.

Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but couldn’t our elected representative devote their energy to repairing our infrastructure, improving education, reforming our tax system, reducing our deficit, creating more economic opportunity and protecting our citizens?

You know, all the stuff in that Constitution that they pretend to revere, like “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare.” Unfortunately the members are too busy damning opponents and concocting holier-than-thou litmus tests to be bothered with creating a more perfect union. Probably because they are against all unions. Their donors insist.

Comments are closed.