Given where he lines up on the political spectrum, hardly would James Baker, the onetime secretary of state, be among my favorite people. Baker served under President Reagan and the first President Bush and seems to be as loyal to the Bush clan as they could desire. He was in the forefront of that hijacking of the democratic process in the disputed 2000 election, leading the charge to have the Florida vote re-count stopped by a right-tilted high court to hand the presidency to George W. Bush. And these days he’s extolling Jeb Bush as the Republicans’ top gun for 2016. All of that notwithstanding, Baker does seem capable of a level of stand-up behavior that puts him poles apart from most of the classless bunch, in Congress and elsewhere, with whom he shares fealty to the GOP brand.
Prior to that farce in Washington the other day, when John Boehner invited Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to join him onstage for a Capitol Hill follies performance, Baker was asked about the propriety of the Boehner stunt. He minced no words in terming it absolutely wrong and disrespectful of the Oval Office. We suspect that Baker would respond similarly to a query about the most recent bad-taste episode sprouted by Congressional Republicans, the shameful letter signed by 47 of them to the leadership in Iran, blatantly with the intent of making a mockery of the presidency, while Barack Obama holds that office.
The most bizarre aspect of the Republicans’ latest theater-of-the-absurd chapter is not only that it was mounted by an upstart named Tom Cotton who, after displaying his wing-nut ways in the House for a short while, was chosen by the people of Arkansas to represent them in the Senate. But that 46 others joined the 37-year-old firebrand wannabe in the exercise that, far from belittling the president, as was its design, succeeded only in disgracing the lot of them. President Obama’s reaction, that he felt embarrassed for them, was probably the most fittingly presidential manner of dealing with the treachery.
But as the GOP’s orgy of indifference to this White House rolls on, we must of necessity wonder what other contemptible conduct is yet to be unleashed before this frightful interlude reaches its nadir. This last bout would seem well enough qualified to be the ugliest display they could come up with. I mean, was there some irrepressible urge on the part of the GOP Senate caucus to one-up Boehner’s Netanyahu shtick? Are the Senate Republicans so bereft of leadership or any sense of purpose that such a politically incorrect rant from a guy just two months a senator gets a hefty majority of them playing ball? Or is their resentment of where Obama sits so lethal that lining up behind a character who gives every indication of being a hard-line kook is something they can effortlessly do?
The majority leader, Mitch McConnell, upon gaining that status dared to regale whoever chose to listen with chatter about embracing the opportunity to “govern” given him and his colleagues in last year’s mid-terms. McConnell would say of the controversial letter that he signed it and he had no regrets. Governing or leadership does not include, for McConnell, discouraging a rookie senator’s effort to undermine, for the benefit of an adversarial foreign state, the power of the American presidency. Or discouraging more senior colleagues from supporting such utterly reckless action. In the alternate GOP universe, leadership and governance mean being cheerleaders for all things anti-Obama. Period.
There have been hints that some of the jokers who went along with the madness have come to realize that maybe doing so wasn’t all that smart. Some strong media condemnation, for one, as was the case here, would tend to billboard for miscreants the folly or evil of their ways. Heaven only knows why, once the predictable right-wing screamers are removed from the equation, there wouldn’t be howls of negative reaction among responsible mainstream media to yet another flagrant foul by Congressional Republicans. Sen. Rand Paul offered some gibberish about signing the letter because he thought it would strengthen the president’s hand. Yeah right! Sen. Lindsey Graham said his signature was in retaliation for some perceived presidential slight. Sounds like kids playing adult games, doesn’t it?
Republicans’ being incapable of anything resembling serious governance looks to be one of the main bones of contention going forward. Today’s stock surely doesn’t invite confidence that they will turn around their governance shortcomings anytime soon. And if the 37-year-old from Arkansas is typical of what’s in the pipeline, the GOP problem could well be long-term.