Wednesday, April 8, 2009

GOP's problem? Sights set too low


By PAT MURPHY

Republicans have been fretting about their party's future. They mainly wonder what must be done to appeal to those beyond its predictable "base" of 26 to 30 percent of U.S. voters so it can roar back and retake the White House in 2012.

There's a line in the 1970 film, "Patton," attributed to cantankerous World War II Gen. George S. Patton and spoken by actor George C. Scott, that comes close to explaining why Republicans are in decline. Substitute the word Republicans in place of soldiers in the Patton quote.

"You want to know why this outfit (substitute GOP) got the hell kicked out of it," Patton (Scott) asked about a U.S. battle defeat, a question easily posed after the GOP's licking in 2008. "A blind man could spot it. They don't act like Republicans; they don't look like Republicans. Why should they be expected to fight like Republicans?"

Today's Republicans—versus yesteryear's statesmanlike GOP giants—act, look and fight like losers. Their sights are set too low. Their idea of candidates shows an acceptance of mediocrity or less.

Look at the Republicans occupying center stage week after week as GOP torchbearers.

Sarah Palin, the low-achieving current frontrunner for Republican presidential candidate whose family lately keeps her in headlines—a sister-in-law arrested for two felony burglaries, her unwed single-mother daughter Bristol ditched by her groom-to-be boyfriend and father of the baby.

Joe the Plumber Wurzelbacher, the skinhead buffoon that Republican Sen. John McCain anointed as an economic seer, who began a recent speech to Republicans saying he felt "horny."

The erratic GOP party chairman, Michael Steele, who boasts that his oddball gaffes and blunders are part of a grand strategy.

Hissy-fit radio hatemonger Rush Limbaugh, who wants President Obama to "fail."

And, finally, serial adulterer Newt Gingrich, who's hinting cryptically about an improbable comeback.

Throw in former Vice President Cheney's attempts to sabotage the Obama presidency—Obama is "pro-Palestinian," Cheney whispers to the Israelis—and the lockstep "No!" voting by congressional Republicans on Obama legislation, and the GOP comes across as a party eager to pop cyanide pills with a nitroglycerine chaser.

Republicans who fall short also suffer by comparison to President Obama's bearing, his "intellectual elegance" (a European commentator's phrase), his spontaneous command of so many heavy topics, his rock star appeal to audiences of any language and, perhaps just as important, his wife Michelle's star quality.

The "new direction" GOP leaders claimed they'd take to win back Americans obviously isn't the right direction.




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