How the GOP Weathered the Fourth
By Emily Theroux
When it rains on the Republicans’ Fourth of July parade, it’s a monsoon!
I doubt seriously that the stars will ever again align against the GOP in the precise configuration they’ve achieved since the Supreme Court ruled that the individual health care mandate in the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. The deluge of dashed hopes, mixed messages, and wrong turns that has flooded the vast conservative echo chamber has expanded the right wing’s Independence Day celebration into a “terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week,” to borrow a phrase from author Judith Viorst (and a meme from the Internet).
Never mind that “the mandate” was an idea that Republicans originally proposed but which they detest now against all reason and with vehement intensity. (President Obama is equally intent on furthering his inevitable goal of “bipartisan compromise,” which never gets him anywhere with these people.) Once Obama looks favorably upon such brainstorms of the right-wing think tanks and thereby gives them cooties, conservatives metamorphose into their own doctrines’ most fervent critics.
How many things went wrong for the Republicans in the short span of a week? I counted a dirty dozen:
1. The Supremes ruled against them, and “heads exploded,” as Dick Cheney once said, all over Washington.
2. Fox and CNN (trying to outfox Fox) both got the story horribly wrong at first, because whoever skimmed that ruling was either in too big a hurry for a scoop to read past the first paragraph or too “simple” to fathom what the ruling meant. They saw “individual mandate unconstitutional” and ran with it. (Even worse, Obama was tuned in to both channels and, at first, believed what he was hearing!)
3. The entire wingnut populace spent days massively freaking out, denouncing the treachery of Chief Justice John Roberts (who is supposed to be “an impartial guardian of the law,” not a right-wing tool), and proclaiming that “Obamacare” included “the biggest tax increase in the history of the world.” Roberts’ new critics invaded his Wikipedia biography and symbolically “repealed” him by “replacing” the title “Chief Justice” with “Chief Traitor.”
Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage all tried to outdo each other’s bombast. “Our freedom of choice just met its death panel,” Limbaugh raged about SCOTUS. Beck hawked T-shirts depicting Roberts as a coward. Savage suggested that Roberts’ epilepsy meds had caused “cognitive disassociation (sic)” that affected his judgment. And Troy Newman of the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue compared the day the decision was announced to 9/11 and, appallingly, referenced Nazi Germany as well, warning that “we are all moving down the road toward complete annihilation.”
4. Some nut-job even proposed one of Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle’s “Second Amendment remedies.” In Michigan, former state GOP spokesman Matt Davis asked in a mass email whether “armed rebellion” might now be justified. An anonymous commenter responded to an online article about it: “I will not submit I will not buy something I don’t want I will not pay the fine (sic). And I will not be arrested peacefully. Your move Feds (double sic: punctuation needed desperately).”
5. Mitch McConnell appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” expecting his usual softball interview. Chris Wallace, however, grilled him relentlessly about the Republicans’ plan to “replace” Obamacare once they’ve repealed it. After Wallace asked him three times how the GOP planned to cover some 30 million uninsured Americans, McConnell finally blurted out in exasperation, “That’s not the issue!” Then, realizing what he was admitting, he clarified that the Republicans didn’t have a replacement plan for Obamacare’s most important provision.
6. After Republicans were proven wrong on how big the tax increase would be (the Great God Reagan passed a higher one), Romney’s campaign stooge, Eric Fehrnstrom the Etch a Sketch guy, made it clear that Romney didn’t consider the fine that “free riders” would have to pay for ignoring the mandate a “tax” but rather an “unconstitutional penalty.” If Romney were to call it a tax, it would mean that he had also “raised taxes” when Massachusetts passed Romneycare. Much wingnuttery ensued, including a snide tweet from Rupert Murdoch saying Mitt should “hire some real pros” for his campaign team.
On the “penalty” side of the debate were conservative think-tank analysts, The Wall Street Journal editorial board, and the four dissenting justices – all of whom warned that accepting as a tax what was written into law as a penalty would give big-government advocates “unlimited power to impose new purchase mandates.” The government could “legally tax our every breath,” Sen. Rand Paul warned.
7. Individual GOP lawmakers have a personal stake in one facet of the law they so fervently want to repeal: the provision that allows their own adult children to remain on their health insurance policies. Tea Party blowhard Joe Walsh (who also recently tried to “swiftboat” his Democratic opponent, a former Black Hawk pilot and double amputee, for “politicizing” her military service) explained that, while his 24-year-old son is covered by his mother’s plan, the freshman congressman doesn’t really support keeping the provision. “I don’t know where I am on that, and that’s a lousy thing to say,” he observed. “That doesn’t matter to me, though, irregardless (sic) of that.” (It’s “lousy” indeed, given that Walsh’s ex-wife has sued him for more than $100,000 in child support arrears that she claims he owes.)
8. Mother Jones magazine updated a story about Mitt and the Fabulous Bain Boys investing $75 million in Stericycle, a medical waste firm that disposed of aborted fetuses. This time, Mitt couldn’t weasel out of it by claiming he no longer worked there when the Stericycle deal went down. According to writer David Corn, an SEC document revealed that Mitt had held sole “voting and dispositive power” over Bain’s Stericycle shares when the investment was made. One pro-life blogger, along with Dan Primack of CNN Money, challenged Corn’s conclusion. Primack acknowledged that Bain asked Mitt to continue signing Stericycle fund documents after he “left” in February 1999 to salvage the Olympics in Utah. (Mitt had taken an earlier leave in 1994 to run for the Senate.) “Romney said he will stay on as a part-timer with Bain, providing input on investment and key personnel decisions,” The Boston Herald stated at the time. A July 1999 press release said Romney was “currently on a part-time leave of absence” and quoted him speaking for Bain Capital.
9. In a surprise move, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed three voter suppression bills. Needless to say, Republicans weren’t too happy about this unprecedented defection from their nationwide plot to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters.
10. Jonathan Krohn, the erstwhile wunderkind of CPAC’s 2009 conference as a precocious 13-year-old, has now emerged at 17 to denounce conservatism – and his own naivete. Movement bigwigs who once revered him are now calling him vile names and sniffing that they secretly thought all along that he was annoying, condescending, and mindless.
11. On the Fourth, Mittens caved to intense pressure from his puppeteers by revising his views on the “penalty vs. tax” issue yet again, now calling it “a tax” but offering no elaboration. Then a Wall Street Journal op-ed blasted Mitt and his bumbling campaign strategy for “slowly squandering an historic opportunity” by vacillating and obfuscating on issues like health care reform. Flip-Flopper-in-Chief, anyone?
12. And for the grand finale, the right’s wackiest characters genuinely “brought the crazy” during America’s 236th birthday week. El Rushbo dropped another misogynistic bombshell when he replied to a caller opining on the youth vote: “When women got the right to vote is when it all went downhill. Because that’s when votes started being cast with emotion and maternal instinct that government ought to reflect.” (Worry not, dittoheads: Beck’s got his back. The Blaze, Beck’s website, insisted that Rush was merely baiting liberal critics with an old saw written by Ann Coulter – who probably really believes it.) Meanwhile Florida’s favorite Mad Hatter, Rep. Allen “Wild, Wild” West, said at a campaign rally: “I have a great idea. I believe, for personal security, every American should have to go out and buy a Glock 9mm” – an obvious applause line, gun humor for the ideologically challenged. “And if you don’t do it, we’ll tax you,” he added, after his curtain call. (Col. West is not amused by the federal income tax.) “Now I wonder how the liberals will feel about that one.”
I have to hand it to him: That’s one hell of an “individual mandate.” The problem is that it’s about as thoughtless a possible provocation to trigger-happy whack jobs as Dubya jeering, “Bring ‘em on!” at the citizens of a nation we had just occupied in a preemptive war. Or Sarah Palin exhorting the Tea Party faithful, “Don’t retreat, RELOAD!” and using a U.S. map festooned with figurative gun sights to target the districts of congressional Democrats who had voted for the Affordable Care Act – like Arizona’s Gabby Giffords, later shot and gravely injured by a deranged gunman who killed six other people during the same attack.
I’m not implying that the shooter had ever seen Palin’s provocative map; we have no way of knowing what set off his crazed shooting spree. But all we need in this polarized country is more wildly irresponsible NRA rhetoric – or everybody and his grandma packing heat.