Professional comics have an old saw that says, “Never go on after a kid or an animal.” But this week I have no choice. America’s hog and pony show dragged on for more than a year, and we’ll be scooping up the steaming piles it left behind for decades. The cleanup won’t be over till the last Supreme Court Justice appointed by President Obama keels over dead and plummets to the depths of Hell—probably in the same year that the pope flees to Manila, and St. Peter’s Basilica reopens as the Mosque of Victorious Jihad. In the meantime, let’s stock up on those little pine-tree air fresheners and review just how we got here. I’m feeling a teensy tad bitter this week, so I apologize in advance if my reflections seem unduly… candid. I promise not to let it happen again.
Let’s lay out the turning points in the self-destruction of the conservative movement and the Republican Party in reverse chronological order, providing handy Spark Notes for lazy college students of the future.
March 4, 2008: John McCain Clinches Republican Nomination.
Okay, this happened by accident. Nobody liked him, apart from D.C. journalists and his animatronic second wife (did you catch her in Terminator 3?). Just a year before he clinched the nomination, Sen. McCain was drained of cash, playing to half-empty AA meetings in church basements across New Hampshire. He wasn’t so much seeking the Republican nomination as stalking it. (I’ve a hazy memory of one McCain rally where he turned up in nothing but white socks, black shoes, and a raincoat.) Rightly scorned as the author of a half-baked plan to legalize and register to vote millions of illegal Mexicans for the Democratic Party, McCain seemed just plain sad. I felt like baking him some cookies and taking him out for bingo. Any one of the other major candidates would have been stronger in the general election than the Ghost of Vietnam Past:
Mike Huckabee possessed a manic glee and a populist appeal that would have roused the base and stolen blue-collar Democrats. He was one of only two candidates, in retrospect, who could have turned the Wall Street crash to his advantage—laying into the “big-city bankers” who’d made a pile on the backs of the taxpayers with a gleeful meat-axe like Huey Long. And he could have done all of that in a blues song he wrote himself, something like “Every Man a B.B. King.” Now it’s true that Huckabee had little patience for free market principles, unlike…
Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to choke up laughing and spray my PC monitor with coffee. Okay, apart from Ron Paul, none of the Republicans supported anything like free market principles. But they were true to their party’s heritage of “trickle-up” economics—which harness the power of the government to boost the portfolios of America’s investor class. We tighten bankruptcy laws for ordinary deadbeats, to squeeze out more gold to line corporate parachutes. That’s what we stand for dammit, and we won’t have uppity redneck preachers trying to use Big Government on behalf of the little guy. That’s how you get labeled a “socialist” on the Rush Limbaugh show.
Mitt Romney had more money than God—apparently he was printing it himself—and was good at managing soul-crushing bureaucracies (large corporations, the U.S. Olympic Committee, Massachusetts) in an economical fashion. A Republican who’d gotten elected in the Northeast, he was a much more plausible candidate than McCain. The problem was that he ran his campaign like a very long corporate HR meeting, and every time he spoke, you found yourself unconsciously looking behind him for the Powerpoint. He was also a Mormon, which scared the kind of Evangelical Christian voter who finds John Hagee comforting. All in all, a decent guy. I hope he does get a planet to run, in the next life if not in this one.
Rudolph Giuliani did a fine job of running for Knesset (R-Fla.)
Fred Thompson was a cartoon bear who wandered off the lot from Looney Tunes, then sleepwalked around on TV for a few weeks, growling at being stirred prematurely from hibernation. All of which sounded promising—finally, a president with a record as a community inactivist. And his policies were quite good. He was tougher on immigration than anyone but Tom Tancredo, and his long record of fighting crime on NBC gave us hope he could bring Bin Laden to justice. Sen. Thompson’s chances were doomed when Sam Waterston refused to serve as his proxy for every campaign appearance.
Ron Paul had the most intellectually coherent platform, one based in the principles of the U.S. founding and our country’s Constitution. But he still could have won. Had his speaking style seemed a little less like Jimmy Stewart on Quaaludes, had his campaign employed fewer crackpots, had the right-wing media establishment not been dominated by sneering twerps like Jonah Goldberg and barroom thugs like Sean Hannity, had the Spanish Armada landed, and had Our Lady of Fatima appeared over Washington, D.C., on the Fourth of July strumming a banjo. That’s really all it would have taken.
March 20, 2003: U.S. Annexes Republic of Iraq.
No, it doesn’t matter that Hussein didn’t have any of those weapons that had little old ladies all across America hiding under their beds. (“Oh look, honey—I found that old marital aid from our honeymoon. Don’t you remember?”) Or that the whole thing cost trillions more than its proponents predicted. Or that we managed to invade a Middle Eastern country and kill tens of thousands of people without even stealing their oil. Or that we tried to police the entire country with an occupation force that could barely keep down the Swedes. Or that every word which came forth from the mouth of the neocons was perjury, including “and” & “the.” None of this had any effect on the prospects of the Republican Party in 2008. That was all the fault of the Christian Right. Okay? And none of us here in the conservative movement are being tortured in any way. Our captors are treating us with great humanity, in accord with the Geneva Conventions. We are never, never beaten with rubber hoses, or starved for days at a time. That never happens, and any reports to the contrary are extremist propaganda. Blink, blink, blinkety-blink.
September 11, 2001: Minimum Wage Employees Let Armed Terrorists Through Security
I’m going on break. Union rules say I get to go on break, so I’m going on break. Wave them sand-n*****s through, I don’t give a damn. See you in 20 minutes, bro.
August 2, 2000: Smuggest White A**hole in America Clinches Republican Nomination.
Seriously, people. Whatever Obama does to us, we pretty much deserve it. Picking this broke-down dry-drunk draft-dodging drooling ex-cheerleader to shove down the party’s and then the country’s throat. Come on. Let’s admit it. We were showing off.
I’m convinced the whole idea of nominating the stupidest, laziest, smuggest Yale graduate in history (and that’s saying something), then packaging him as some kind of cowboy must have originated as a bet. P.J. O’Rourke was snorting coke with Karl Rove on a Gulfstream full of hookers flying back from Vegas, and they cooked this whole thing up just to see if they could pull it off. I’m not sure what P.J. won, but I hope it was worth it.
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