It's not true that Republicans never learn from their mistakes. It's just that they don't most of the time.
True enough that House Republicans have voted 61 times to repeal Obamacare, bringing fresh meaning to the cliche that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. True enough that John Boehner announced a new partisan farce, the Select Committee on Planned Parenthood, the very day after the Benghazi Witch Hunt Committee rained on its own parade. Perhaps Boehner was sleeping off a hangover in a tanning booth somewhere and missed what even the conservative media concedes was a debacle in kicking off a new one.
But out in Old Nevady, Republicans have wised up and are doing everything they can short of strangulation to not repeat another big misteak . . . er, mistake by allowing Sharron Angle to again run for Harry Reid's Senate seat.
Angle, you might recall, plucked defeat from the jaws of victory in 2010, when Reid was viewed as weakened, vulnerable and unpopular, in conducting a campaign in sync with Republican family values but with positions otherwise nuttier than a fruitcake. This included admonitions to women that they shouldn't work if their husbands do, repeated claims that abortion leads to breast cancer, and a ferocious conviction that abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape.
"You know, I'm a Christian," Angle explained at the time, "and I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives and that he can intercede in all kinds of situations and we need to have a little faith in many things." In other words, a rape victim who gets pregnant shouldn't want or need an abortion because God would really like her to have that beautiful baby.
TELL ME WHY
Remember the childhood playmate down the street who insisted that you play by his rules, no matter how ridiculous they were, when you visited his house? This is reminiscent of why Republicans typically don't learn from their mistakes: They're takers and not givers, and determinedly secure in the belief that they should get their own way.
The party's blood lust vendetta against Planned Parenthood is an excellent example. Trying to strangle the organization by refusing to fund it is a losing issue except for one teensy reason.
One fifth of all American women have used Planned Parenthood's facilities, the vast majority for contraception and health services. In 2013, its affiliated clinics provided nearly 10.6 million services to 2.7 million women and men, including contraception, abortions, and other women's health services, including 900,000 cancer screenings and millions of tests for sexually-transmitted infections. But abortion services -- the target of Republican wrath -- make up just three percent of its activities, and federal law already prevents any federal funding from going toward this minuscule portion of their work.
The teensy reason is the fact that right-wing Republicans are held hostage -- willingly, mind you -- by a voter base opposed to just about anything good for women, including leveling the playing field, and they reliably curtsy to their base even if it means further diminishing the support of a demographic the GOP must attract if it is to remain a national contender -- women who can think for themselves and don't want their lives micromanaged by a bunch of neolithic white men with prescriptions for Viagra.
THE STRAWBERRY SMOOTHIE MADE HIM DO IT
This brings us to our favorite presidential wannabe governator, Chris Christie of New Jersey.
Christie is nearly out of cash and stuck in the low single digits in every poll (he's in 11th place in Iowa and New Hampshire) mainly because he keeps getting in the way of himself. No, not because of his sizable girth. You see, the headlines he generates are not about his latest bold declaration of conservative goombahood, but his but his abjectly corrupt conduct as governor, his penchant for self-inflicted irony, and his bullying and anger management issues.
He barely made the cutoff for the third debate on Wednesday night and didn't so much shine as glower, seemingly more intent on being a tough guy by criticizing the moderators, who did happen to lose control of the proceedings, than showing why he would be good president. The debate was ostensibly about the economy, about which Christie has shown knows painfully little as New Jersey, one of the per-capita richest states in the nation, has become one of the biggest laggards in economic growth, resulting in repeated credit downgrades on his "watch." He did succeed in one thing -- scaring old people by declaring that "the government lied to you and stole your money [and you'll] never see it again." (And how about that Jeb Bush death spiral?)
Christie might as well make one of those bright orange traffic cones his campaign symbol because the long-running fallout from the Bridgegate scandal keeps churning up victims -- most notably his own presidential campaign.
There are, of course, the folks under federal indictment for the public safety mess resulting from the closing of several lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee in September 2013 in retaliation for the mayor of that fair burg not backing Christie in his re-election bid. There also is a parallel lawsuit against his administration, the timing of which could not be worse. Then there are the two United Airlines execs who were axed after being caught in a Bridgegate tentacle, the failure of a New Jersey state lottery privatization scheme that benefited Christie cronies, including a Bridgegate person of interest who screwed the pooch in the United flap, and the sudden dismissal of Christie's transportation chief, who had been gifted the job by Christie although he was a walking conflict of interest, including being a top lobbyist for the airline. And we're just scratching the surface here.
Then there's Christie's penchant for self-inflicted irony.
He claimed on Face the Nation the other day that Hillary Clinton was "unaccountable" because she left the Benghazi compound's security arrangements to lower-ranking State Department professionals. Host John Dickerson then pointed out that Christie gave a similar explanation to try to exonerate himself in Bridgegate. Oops!
Meanwhile, Christie's bullying and intemperance -- shouting down citizens at town hall meetings, declaring that public school teachers are worthless slugs, screaming "Keep walking, keep walking!" when he was stopped by a man on a Jersey shore boardwalk who wanted to talk about his lousy response to Superstorm Sandy -- was seen as an asset when he first climbed aboard the Republican clown car. But it has become an obstacle because Christie is unable to control himself.
Over the weekend, Christie was kicked out of an Amtrak quiet car en route to New Jersey from Washington when he yelled at his bodyguards, ignored requests for him to tone it down, and then, with a strawberry smoothie in one hand and a cell phone in the other, bellowed into the phone.
SHED A TEAR FOR POOR MITTENS
There was a time when Mitt Romney could boast openly of his greatest accomplishment, establishing a successful state-regulated health insurance system in Massachusetts that became the model for the Affordable Care Act, which has provided access to health care for 16 million or so Americans who couldn't afford health insurance and prompted other much-needed reforms that otherwise never would have occurred if good old profit-driven market forces continued to determine who would get care, get healthy and perhaps even stay alive.
"Without Romneycare, we wouldn't have had Obamacare," Romney boasted to the Boston Globe the other day, and without it "a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance."
Romney quickly tried to walk back his lapse into candor by saying that the plan he promulgated as a moderate Massachusetts governor willing to work with a Democratic legislature was very different than Obama's plan, which he said has been a failure.
While not perfect, Obamacare has in fact been enormously successful despite tireless Republican efforts to kill it, including those 61 House repeal votes. Romney indeed has the right to boast, but belongs to a political party that believes that health care is a privilege and that conservative political correctness trumps suffering.
THE COWARDS GET THEIR DUE
The Freedom Caucus, that bloc of 40 or so ultra-conservative House Republicans who are expert at never learning from their mistakes, have had Americans by the short and curlies because of their refusal to help govern while repeatedly threatening to shut down Washington. But they got a triple dose of their own medicine this week.
The conservative media and hard-right constituents are calling caucus members sellouts for:
* Not standing in the way of Paul Ryan's bid to be the next House speaker because he's not right wing enough. The caucus thought it could skate by not actually endorsing Ryan, who is the biggest sellout of the bunch. As one pundit put it: "Ryan's transformation from safety-net-obliterating, Ayn Rand-worshipping conservative hero to RINO squish Obummer-enabling sellout is complete."
* Rolling over on a budget deal struck by John Boehner, the outgoing speaker, and the White House to avert another government shutdown by modestly increasing spending, raising the debt limit, and making vague promises to cut social programs. This was a huge victory for the economy and the caucus's arch enemy -- Barack Obama -- and a crushing defeat for fiscal reality deniers who believe raising the debt limit invites an apocalypse but advocate tax cuts that would as much as $10 trillion in the next decade.
* Being insulted by Boehner, who in a parting shot gave the caucus the middle finger in saying he needed to "clean up the barn" in doing the budget deal before handing the gavel to Ryan. Translation: Process is sometimes more important than policy, guys. Ryan did not sound especially grateful as he set out to attempt the feat of walking on so many conservative eggs without cracking them.And so these poor babies are confronted with defending themselves against the very people who empowered them. Waa!
Politix Update is an irregular compendium written by veteran journalist Shaun Mullen, for whom the 2016 presidential campaign is his (gasp!) 12th since 1968. Click here for an index of previous Politix Updates.
IMAGE FROM DONKEYHOTEY/FLICKR. USED WITH PERMISSION.