A month ago, congressional Republicans were so desperate to avoid discussing the substance of U.S. policy towards Iraq, they decided a newspaper ad from MoveOn.org was the single biggest threat to Western Civilization in recent history. The coordinated hissy fit was a transparent effort to distract attention from the issue at hand, but it was also a largely successful sham -- Republicans stopped talking about Bush's failed policy and started talking about the NYT's
This month, those same congressional Republicans are so desperate to avoid discussing the substance of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), they've decided Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) has replaced MoveOn as Public Enemy #1. (For reasons that defy logic, CNN has decided that the GOP's feigned outrage is a really important story
Far be it for me to give Republicans advice, but I don't think they've thought this one through.
For the record, what did Stark say to send the right into high dudgeon? During the debate on overriding the president's veto for children's healthcare, Stark said, "You don't have money to fund the war or children, but you're gonna spend it blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their head blown off for the president's amusement."
Intemperate? Sure. But the coordinated hysteria we've seen over the last few days is more than misguided; it's silly.
There's just no reason for apoplexy here. Stark said something mean about Bush during a congressional debate. The president is a big boy; I think he can handle it. But by throwing a tantrum, congressional Republicans are suggesting that they can't
handle it. They're not
grown-ups. Random, intemperate criticism of Bush is just too much for the fragile, virgin ears.
In other words, by throwing a fit, Republicans end up looking weak and hysterical. Indeed, it reinforces the least flattering GOP caricature of all -- these guys can't govern, but they can fall onto a fainting couch like nobody's business.
For years, Republicans worked to create the opposite
reputation. They're tough. This is the macho "daddy party." They don't care about "political correctness" and wussies who cry over words that rub people the wrong way. This is a crowd that calls it like they see it, and doesn't look bad or apologize.
And yet, they've now spent the better part of a year trembling over mild rebukes from liberals. If Democrats were smart, they'd look at this as an opportunity to rebrand the GOP as pathetic cry-babies who can barely go a week without throwing a hissy fit over one manufactured outrage or another. Alas, it doesn't look like
Dems are smart at all.