From the cheap seats

The Republicans say it's philosophical, that their obstructionism comes solely from a belief in bedrock conservative principles. But, honestly, it doesn't feel that way.

It feels like something else and has for a long time: snarky, angry and perpetually mean-spirited.

Instead of acknowledging that the country is in deep crisis, where the currency for comparison is 1929, where some economists have signaled that there is a 30 percent chance of another Great Depression, the Red Dogs have decided to be the party of "No," content to sit in the cheap seats, playing their brand of hardball politics while insisting that President Obama is pursuing a great socialistic revolution.

It feels like these ideologues, in all their self-righteousness, would rather take the country down in hopes of prevailing in the next election than put their collective oar in and row.

Their alternative plan to the stimulus bill: "A federal spending freeze." So said John Boehner, Republican House minority leader, with a straight face. In other words, do nothing.

Suddenly these august Republicans, who signed off on trillions for two wars (the embassy in Iraq alone will cost $1 billion) while simultaneously giving a huge tax break as a garnish to those folks residing at the top of the earning pyramid, have become fiscal conservatives with all the religious fervor of the newly ordained.

Where is the Republican healthcare plan that addresses the 50 million who have, for the last eight years, lived without an insurance safety net? And not to forget those citizens who think they have adequate healthcare and discover that when push comes to shove, "adequate" is open to interpretation.

The party of Lincoln has morphed into the party of Grover Norquist, the anti-tax fanatic who said, "Our goal is to shrink the government to the size where you can drown it in the bathtub."

Starve the beast, aka government, is now the Republican rallying cry. This from the party who gave us Homeland Security while strangling the FDA (care for a peanut?).

And who is their newly found spokesman? Not an elected member of Congress but a rapacious conservative radio show talk show host who looks like a clean-shaven Orson Wells: Rush Limbaugh. Or, as he refers to himself, "El Rushbo." Nice cross-cultural touch.

Recall that it was Rush who, with great delight, aired the racist ditty, "Obama the Magic Negro," to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon."

And it was El Rushbo who recently stood before a conservative political action committee, dressed in black, looking tanned and well-heeled and delivered the keynote address wherein he repeated, unequivocally, that it was his wish that President Obama fail.

Why wish failure? According to Rush, Obama is in the process of dismantling America and turning it into, well, France. You know, one of those old European welfare countries where people are known to linger in open-air cafes, sipping absinthe or strong coffee, riding to their long vacations on sleek bullet trains, and free from worry about being forced into bankruptcy by an unexpected health issue.

Last week El Rushbo waxed sincere on the air, suggesting (not implying) that Obama was a Manchurian candidate who has been sent here by some nefarious power to oversee the takedown of America, Obama's intent made manifest in the stimulus package and the budget.

You can't make this stuff up. It is insidious, irresponsible and conspiracy-mongering drivel and has nothing to do with solving America's fiscal crisis. But there it is. Coming from the cheap seats. Coming from a man whom the Republicans fear offending.

Keep in mind that Obama has only been in office for some 60 days. It took eight years for the Republicans to dismantle governmental oversight and regulations and thus construct our current fiscal nightmare (4.4 million jobs have been lost since December 2007). And still, at every turn, the GOP's anger and perpetual ire is visible. With every gyration of the stock market, Obama is faulted. Why the banking crisis hasn't been sorted and solved by now is a complete puzzle to the GOP and fodder for criticism, even rage. Home foreclosure dilemma? Still not solved. Earmarks? Why, they're everywhere (in reality, they comprise 1 percent of the budget).

For the Republicans: If you love your country more than your ideology and winning the next election, then help this administration work the problem. This is not the time to sit in the cheap seats; get on the field. Offer up constructive alternatives. You would be amazed what good will could be engendered were you to do this.

Of course you won't. You're still mired in the old Washington. But it's a thought.

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