Hobbled by the Hobbits

    If our self-inflicted fiscal crisis wasn’t so serious, the current intramural Republican bloodletting would be hilarious to behold.During the past 48 hours, and oh so inevitably, the adults who understand that governance requires compromise have been verbally warring with the radical toddlers who want to crash the economy in the name of naive ideological purity. When even John Boehner, John McCain, and the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board come off as eminently sane – simply because they believe that Uncle Sam should be allowed to pay its bills – the only conclusion one can draw is that the tea-partyers must be doubling down on crazy.Yes, folks, House Speaker Boehner is way too liberal for the crash-and-burn crowd. Today he’s trying to pass his own plan to hike the debt ceiling – despite the fact that 59 of his 240 Republicans have already vowed not to vote for a debt-ceiling hike. You read that right; 59 elected Republicans want to drive America into default and make us the laughingstock of the western world. And Boehner didn’t sound too pleased about this state of affairs yesterday, when he complained on a conservative radio show that “a lot” of House members seem intent on creating “chaos.”That kind of talk has roiled the tea-partyers – many of whom now want him ousted as Speaker. You read that right, too. The same guy who has been talking up a deficit-reduction plan that would slash government spending without raising any taxes…is now being derided by the radicals as some kind of surrender monkey. Here’s an email, posted yesterday morning by the Tea Party Nation, one of the more vocal groups operating outside the American mainstream:”Boehner is a big government Republican. He worships at the altar of massive spending. We need a Speaker who is a leader. We need someone with courage and vision. Boehner has none of those qualities. He is not a leader. The Daily Caller today quoted a senior GOP staffer who compared John Boehner to a used car salesman. John Boehner simply wishes to be the manager in chief of the welfare state. His vision of the GOP and the Speakership involves golfing, drinking and not rocking the boat.”That kind of talk has now roiled John McCain; apparently, it has even nudged him back into maverick mode, however briefly. The ’08 Republican standard-bearer went to the Senate floor yesterday and denounced the tea-partyers’ reality-challenged tactics as “worse than foolish,” as “unfair,” as “deceiving, even bizarro.” To buttress his points, he quoted from a Wall Street Journal editorial, published yesterday, that derided the tea-partyers as Hobbits.To understand why the WSJ putdown is so important, one must remember that the paper’s editorial page has long been traditional conservative turf. The editorial page abhors Barack Obama. And yet it argued yesterday that the tea-party extremists are essentially out of their minds:The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against Barack Obama (and that the) Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into GOP Senate nominees.Exactly. The Journal – and John McCain, citing The Journal – well remember that Angle and O’Donnell, having surfed to their 2010 nominations on waves of tea-party insurgency, were predictably laughable candidates who lost Nevada and Delaware races that were otherwise eminently winnable. (Their laughworthiness was obvious long before they won their primaries.) McCain’s point yesterday was that the uncompromising Hobbits are seriously hobbling the conservative cause they profess to care about most.But more fun soon ensued. After McCain finished, the aforementioned Sharron Angle swiftly resurfaced to blast him via Twitter (the ideal vehicle for those who are incapable of cognitive and grammatical communication). She said that McCain “tosses Tea Party in the harbor.” She said, “Never actually saw a Leopard change it spots, but I know of a ‘Maverick’ that does!” She said that McCain was “sucking up for Obama the Lord of the Rings.” She was soon seconded by a tea-party leader who assailed McCain for being “corrupted by the ring of power.”Elsewhere on Capitol Hill yesterday, staffers on the tea party-infested Republican Study Committee were caught sending emails that urged conservative activists to pressure Republican lawmakers into voting against Boehner’s debt-ceiling plan – the plan that’s up for a vote today, sponsored by their own House leader. One of the emails said, “We need statements coming up to the Hill every hour of the day in mounting opposition to the plan.”That kind of disloyalty didn’t sit well with Boehner’s loyalists. The executive director of the Republican Study Committee was duly forced to attend an angry meeting, during which many of his fellow Republicans chanted, “Fire him! Fire him!”Yeesh. When you weigh all these incidents, you can’t help but wonder: Whatever happened to Ronald Reagan’s sainted admonition that no Republican shall ever speak ill of another? Apparently, that advice died with him – as did his warning to fellow Republicans about the dire consequences of a default (“the nation can ill afford such a result”). No doubt the Hobbits would dismiss the guy as so 30 years ago.

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    Perhaps only absurdism can truly capture the moment. Hence this headline in The Onion:

    Congress Continues Debate Over Whether Or Not Nation Should Be Economically Ruined

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