Two years ago, Bobby Jindal, the Republican Governor of Louisiana notably, and wisely, observed that Republicans had to “stop being the Stupid Party.” Since then Republicans have reminded themselves of Jindal’s advice from time to time, but more often have chosen to forget or ignore it. Recent days are replete with examples.
At the head of the list is the matter of immigration and the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. Republicans have returned from the recess unchastened, and perhaps even emboldened by the dreaded “base” to maintain their intransigent stand. As we have previously pointed out more than once, this is a posture that cannot succeed as either policy or politics. We have been accustomed to comparing the more conservative members of Congress to the legendary Oozlum, but there may be another, less exotic, member of the animal kingdom that is almost as similar.
At the moment, the ostrich caucus appears to be in control. A hopeful sign however, may lie in a frantic email we received from the irrepressible Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots. Her message carried the dour news that, on the advice of Senator John McCain, “Senate Republicans are about to cave in to President Obama.” If that report is more accurate than others from Ms. Martin have been in the past, it is good news indeed. On the other hand, it may just have been a convenient peg on which to hang her latest fund-raising plea. We shall see. (Just how we got on Ms. Martin’s mailing list is something of a mystery, but we find it a continuing source of amusement and, occasionally, information.)
Far less important substantively, but still claiming its space in the media spotlight, was Rudy Giuliani’s foolish and intemperate remark at a fund raiser for Scott Walkerthat “I don’t believe the President loves America.” Faced with withering criticism, Giuliani held his ground but several days later attempted something of an explanation from the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal: “My blunt language suggesting that the president doesn’t love America notwithstanding, I didn’t intend to question President Obama’s motives or the content of his heart.” Without knowing Giuliani’s motives or the contents of Giuliani’s heart, perhaps one should accept his claim. On the other hand, his words spoke for themselves: they did question the President’s motives and the content of his heart. In short, Giuliani’s “explanation” was woefully inadequate and other Republicans, including Walker, should not hesitate to say so. Although we have been sharply critical of the President on many issues, and expect to be in the future, rhetoric that descends from the blunt to the ugly simply has no place in the discussion.
Drawing less attention, but still embarrassing was the response of Scott Walker in London when asked about his view on evolution. Walker attempted an awkward dodge, “I’m going to punt on that one.” As George Will, an impeccable conservative, has pointed out, the only possible response to the question “Do you believe in evolution?” (like the response to the question “Do you believe the President is patriotic?”) is to say “Yes,” and move on to other subjects. Nevertheless, The New York Times pointed out, squeamishness about evolution among Republican politicians is not unique to Scott Walker:
The theory of evolution may be supported by a consensus of scientists, but none of the likely Republican candidates for 2016 seem to be convinced. Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida said it should not be taught in schools. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas is an outright skeptic. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas will not talk about it. When asked, in 2001, what he thought of the theory, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said, “None of your business.”
We find it dismaying to think that Jeb Bush, a champion of education and Common Core, could have said that evolution should not be taught in schools. Numerous sources on the internet attribute such a statement to him, but none do so with an exact quote or time and place. We are hopeful of a clarification at some point.
While it may seem unfortunate, or even absurd, for a belief in evolution to become a litmus test for presidential candidates, it could easily become something of the sort. In Blog No. 38, we raised the specter of all the Republican candidates on a debate stage raising their hands to reject a belief in climate change caused by human activity. Could such a scene be possible with respect to a belief in evolution? We hope not.
Finally, The New York Times reported on Monday that, with a view to appealing to primary voters who are Christian conservatives, Scott Walker had taken an abruptly more conservative stance in speaking about abortion and same sex marriage. Whether Walker has done enough to satisfy such voters, or will move further to the right, remains to be seen. As the Times put it, “The question for Mr. Walker is whether social conservatives, who demand authenticity and detailed answers on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and immigration, can view him as one of their own. For our part, we have accepted the reality that our views on those matters may differ from those of most Republican candidates. But if candidates choose to pander to a narrow segment of the party, by emphasizing controversial social issues issues, they risk losing not only our support but that of many moderate Republicans and Independents.
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Political Notes: A Reflection on Pandering
“How I love it,” honked the goose,
“When for me you stoop to pander.”
“Yes, dear,” said the eager gander
And slipped his neck into the noose.