Friday, March 30, 2012

Paul Ryan Gets In Touch With His Inner Toff

Paul Ryan Gets In Touch With His Inner Toff

Over the last few days, I have had this intense desire to articulate some profundities about the train wreck that is soon to become Obamacare.  But I’m absolutely stymied.  I think it might be the shock and awe of watching an exterminator and pool supply salesman  decked out in a three corner hat proclaim himself a Constitutional law expert. 

I admit, I am off my game.  Fortunately, ours is a moment in history where the irony is so thick that there is always something to fortify me for the task ahead.  Paul Ryan, and George Osborne, have come to the rescue.

Paul Ryan, as most people know, is the brave and brilliant Congressman and resident intellectual muse of the GOP. He’s the man who makes the numbers sing-who can conjure up increasing tax revenues on the one hand by reducing the  tax burden on the wealthy to zero, while encouraging everyone else to work harder for less, thus giving them the positive vibe that can only come from true altruism.  Rumor has it that he’s the inspiration for the Wall Street Journal’s annual “Remember the Not-Neediest” charity drive. 

George Osborne is a little more obscure to most Americans, but I’m happy to report that, if an unfortunate accident should ever befall Ryan, Osborne would be more than ready to step in.  Osborne is Great Britain’s exceedingly well-groomed Chancellor of the Exchequer, and whether he knows it or not, a true soul mate of his American cousin. 

There’s a delicious piece in today’s New York Times about Osborne’s grand plan to right the British economy through the shared sacrifice of all but the wealthy.  He wants to impose a 20% tax on pasties. What’s a pasty, I hear you cry?  When I first read it, I wasn’t wearing my glasses, and I thought he wanted to tax “pastries”, which seemed a bit odd, but you could understand why a Brit would want to tax the sale of Napoleons and Petit Fours.  But I was wrong.  A “pasty” is not some foo-foo confection, but a savory British bulldog of a meat pie.  It is apparently a favorite food of the working and middle classes looking for an inexpensive mid-day meal. A pasty goes for somewhere between $1.50 and $2.00, depending on the haute cuisine of the filling.  Throw in a 20 percent Osborne Tax, and you get a lot less pasty for your Pound, or pence.

I think the Brits have more fun than we do. Mr. Osborne works for Mr. David Cameron, the current PM, who is also quite the gentleman.  Both are well educated, both Oxford graduates.  Mr. Osborne, however, one-ups his boss, as he will inherit from his father the title of “baronet”.  Mr. Cameron, no doubt, will be given the K, or perhaps some life peerage, but nothing is quite like an inherited title, I think we would all agree. 

That distinction, no doubt, is why Mr. Cameron at least made a heroic attempt at showing his one-ness with the people by saying he, too, liked the odd pasty.  Mr. Osborne was a bit more truthful, admitting that he does not frequent Greggs, the nationwide pasty chain beloved by all (or, at least those without landed estates.)

Where does Paul Ryan fit in as a luminary in the culinary universe?  Mr. Ryan is the Congressman from Wisconsin’s First Congressional District, which according to his website, “is a land of rolling fields and pastures and a multitude of fine lakes and streams.”  That’s not unlike the “green and pleasant land” of  William Blake’s “Jerusalem” .

A kinship is born.  From those strands of commonality between the righteous among the nations, the same zealous desire to protect the patriarchy springs.  Paul Ryan is ready to sacrifice.  His new budget projects a balanced budget-by 2040 (no, that’s not a typo).  The Ryan Plan extends and makes permanent the Bush Tax cuts and reduces the tax rates for the highest earners and corporations. It also puts Medicare on the road to its inevitable extinction, and makes deep cuts in a wide swathe of domestic programs. When fully implemented, domestic spending will be a tiny fraction of what it is today.

The reaction from conservatives and their sympathizers in the press, has been nothing short of rhapsodic.  It’s bold and brave and farsighted and essential and just absolutely phenomenal.  Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, sums it up in the Washington Post “It averts a fiscal calamity that would be an economic catastrophe”.   The brave man himself (that would be Ryan) takes credit for doing the “morally right” thing.

And who could disagree?  Certainly not David Cameron and George Osborn.  My mind wandered to a state dinner where those two worthies would visit with President Ryan. What might be served?  Ryan is a man of his roots, not corrupted by the dissolute elite of Washington.  He’d want to show that.  So, I visited the Wisconsin Blue Book for hints.  There would be an appetizer, muskellunge, a fish prized by anglers for their ferocious fight and large bodies.  Deer and dairy cows are also state animals, so perhaps a venison entrée with a wide variety of cheeses.  Honeybees will gratefully provide their secretions to adorn a cranberry-based dessert. Rather predictably, milk is the state beverage, so some allowances will need to be made.

Not a pasty in sight! With proper tailoring, I think it could work out between these three.

I feel myself comforted.  Maybe I will make a run at Obamacare.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Silver Alert-Ron Paul Goes Missing

Silver Alert-Ron Paul Goes Missing

I grew up in a working/middle class garden apartment complex.  Many of the men worked in factories, drove trucks or heavy equipment.  Women stayed home with the kids, many others were librarians, bank tellers, or teachers.  Except for a few salesmen and middle managers, if you saw an adult in dress clothes, it was either for a religious service, a wedding or funeral.  These were plain folk.

One day, when I was perhaps six or seven at most, one of the men came home wearing a toupee.  Dozens of people, adults and children, came out to see it.  I remember him standing there with his wife-he was all decked out in a suit and tie.  A strand fell onto his forehead and he proudly pushed it back.

As a small child I knew very little about hair, other than there was some sort of state law that required males in our family to have a buzz-cut.  This toupee seemed an odd thing to me.  While actors might wear wigs, real people either had hair or they didn’t. Yesterday he didn’t have hair, today he did. He didn’t look at all like himself, and I wondered if he was well. I asked my parents afterwards, who just shook their heads.

For some odd reason, this incident, which I hadn’t thought about for close to fifty years, occurred to me upon reading of the recent disappearance of Ron Paul. 

Where is Ron Paul? He hasn’t withdrawn from the race, he still is drawing some votes in the primaries, although in ever diminishing numbers.  His son, Rand, has been seen in public many times, and shows no outward signs of grief.  The media seems to have moved on, more captivated by the spectacle of Newt making a spectacle of himself, and Santorum channeling his favorite professional wrestler.

Without Ron Paul in the debates, a different voice has been stilled, and we are back to the two major parties and their entirely predicable positions.  On the economy, Democrats tend to look to government as a protector of the powerless.  There’s no problem that can’t be cured by a program. Republicans see government as tool to further the interests of big business, so unlimited tax cuts, subsidies as far as the eye can see, and special interest legislation are the guiding principle.  Both sides see paying for things as unnecessary. On social issues, Democrats seem loathe to ask people to set personal limits.  The GOP, on the other hand, has a playbook right out of Cotton Mather.

If you are a moderate, or have principles that don’t fit precisely into narrow categories, you are out of luck.  We used to have practical people in both parties looking to solve problems in a non-ideological way.  Now, only rigidity is prized, and you have the Grover Norquists of the world seeking out victims in the same way the French Generals in World War I did-shooting a few of their own soldiers “to encourage the others.”

And that, inevitably, brings me back to Ron Paul, because Libertarianism seemed to be a respite from the two major parties vision of government as an all-powerful tool to benefit their respective constituencies.  I liked listening to him.

And, Ron Paul appeals to younger voters.  The bipartisan reality of bloated, intrusive, sloppy Washington filled with cynical blowhards turns them off.   A few months ago, my son reported that while many of the students in his dorm were lukewarm towards President Obama, they were very intrigued by Ron Paul.  He explained that Obama had disappointed people, and Paul, with his caution about using the military, and his truth telling on things like Social Security (which few of them expect to get) excited them.  In my middle-aged sagacity (cynicism?) I tried to explain about the poetry of campaigning and the prose of governing, but I don’t think I made much of a dent.  Maybe my son and his friends were right?

So, when Ron Paul went silent, I found I missed him.  I went to his website, which touts him as “America's leading voice for limited, constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, honest money, and a pro-America foreign policy.”  I read through his policy positions.  And I found myself disappointed.  Other than his distinctly non-neocon approach to foreign policy, and his trademark opposition to the Federal Reserve, the website was essentially indistinguishable from all the rest of the GOP candidates, past and present.  It is as if his consultants have plopped a big black Rick Perry toupee on his greying head so as to appeal to the Republican primary voter.

That’s sad.  What happened to the Ron Paul of big ideas?  The one who emphasized the poetry of freedom, limited government and personal responsibility?  Are his handlers and prose-meisters holding him hostage?  

Elections, at their best, are a renewal-a chance to look again at tired thoughts and to force change in the best way possible-through the ballot box. Do we really need seven more months of stale ideas and strident spin?  Doesn't anyone have anything different to say?

I’m ready for a Silver Alert. Find Ron Paul and free him.  Please.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Apocalypse Soon And What David Brooks Knows About Obama And The GOP

Apocalypse Soon And What David Brooks Knows About Obama And The GOP

There’s a global crisis coming.  It is of epic scale, and may threaten the very foundation of Western Civilization.  All that has been created, all that has been accomplished-art, literature, majestic architecture, the fruits of the efforts of a freedom-loving people, the spiritual elevation that comes from leading exemplary and moral lives, all is at risk, all may be swept away.  As J. Robert Oppenheimer observed after the first test of the atomic bomb, quoting the words from the Bhagavad Gita, “now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

What is this scourge of humanity?  The story of Exodus comes to mind, a proud and cruel Pharaoh oppressing the enslaved Hebrews until an angered Almighty brings down the plagues.  Whether Exodus was literal truth or simply allegorical, none is so terrible, so awful in consequence, as the threat we face today.

I refer, of course, to the possible re-election of Barack (Hussein) Obama.

In truth, Mr. Obama’s chances are fair to middling at best.  The powerful anger of the Right, the motivated Teas, the Billion Buck March on Washington to seize control (and anything else that can’t be welded to the floor) makes Obama’s sinister quest for re-election a dim possibility. But forewarned is forearmed (literally, given the surge in guns and ammo sales) and already survivalists are building safe rooms, buying generators, and stocking up on water and dried beans.  There are also reports of local shortages of books and DVD’s featuring O’Reilly and Hannity; after Obama seizes Fox, many may be forced to be like the Marranos, the Spanish Jews who were forced to convert during the Inquisition, but continued to worship their original faith in secret.

In watching our political discourse, one sometimes feels the hidden hand of the marketplace (or perhaps Karl Rove.)  So much coordination by the GOP, their aligned special interest groups, and their media organs repeating this “imagine what he would do if he didn’t have to seek re-election!!!” trope. Wayne LaPierre of the NRA took this to an extreme when, at CPAC, he admitted that Obama had done absolutely nothing in three years to the rights of gun owners.  Ah ha!  Smoked him out!

We know the re-election of Obama could bring about Armageddon (Mitt mentioned that with regard to the Iranian situation.)  But what of the brave men willing to sacrifice themselves to spare the nation this horror? As the candidates dash from state to state, the GOP primary campaign has been interesting exercise in self-definition.  Naturally, wherever they go, they try to be natives, whether that’s wearing a work shirt and jeans, or flinging themselves on mounds of grits. But they all seem to be possessed of the uncontrollable urge not merely to say to their fans “I’m just like you and we are great!!!!” but also to tell everyone else “you stink.”  Just last week we had Santorum lecturing the Puerto Ricans on bilingualism.  Then Romney one-upped him; he showed his conservative credentials by (twice) gratuitously trashing Justice Sotomayor, the first Puerto Rican Supreme Court Justice and a source of immense bipartisan pride in the community.

This odd desire among Republicans to play schoolyard games of friend or foe oddly leads us to David Brooks, the conservative columnist for The Times. Mr. Brooks is someone who regularly indulges his yearning for change in the GOP by lecturing Mr. Obama on what he (Obama) should be doing better.  But this time, in "The Cagey Phase" Brooks has a very good point to make; to face the systemic problems the country has; we need to go big.  “Leading the country…will require a fearless champion who will fight all the interests that love the tax code the way it is. It will require a fervent crusader to rally the country behind shared sacrifice. It will take an impervious leader willing to spread spending cuts everywhere and offend everybody all at once.”

That is a fascinating comment-an implicit acknowledgement that Obama has to be that “impervious leader” who will “offend everybody all at once” because Brook’s own Republicans won’t.  The GOP’s version of “big” has emerged with greater clarity over the last few days: the plan to end Medicare advanced by four GOP Senators led by Tea Party Godfather Jim DeMint, and Paul Ryan’s gift to those not in need, tied up in a “tax reform” ribbon.  Modern Republican orthodoxy has some win big, and “offends” the rest.  And Brooks knows that’s a recipe for a spoils system, and continuing political upheaval, not one for enduring structural reform. 

Can Obama fit the bill?  I have my doubts.  He’s actually an incrementalist, “cagey” in Brook’s phrase. And there’s no trust-the GOP is already looking to renege on the budget deal (and sequesters) they struck last year.  So, it may seem pointless for Obama to bargain with them, since they have no intention of compromising and can’t be trusted to keep their word anyway even if they did. 

But I think Brooks has it right.  If, Mr. Obama, you somehow manage to get re-elected, go big, show leadership, buck the ideologues in both parties, lay out a vision and stick to it.  Clean the stables and get the job done.  You might just find a lot of people willing to be offended.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Rick Santorum and Barack Obama Don't Know

What Rick Santorum and Barack Obama Don’t Know

Rick Santorum won the Mississippi and Alabama primaries yesterday, increasing the possibility that he will be the Republican nominee and the next President.

I’m trying to integrate that information, both intellectually and emotionally.  For months I’ve used Mitt as a crutch.  I assumed he would get the nomination, I fully understood that President Obama was unpopular, and, I thought I could see two alternate realities.  I wouldn’t particularly relish a Romney Presidency, but, best-case scenario, it would resemble that of George Herbert Walker Bush-a bit patrician, a bit aloof from the concerns of everyday life, a bit clubby, but no craziness. Santorum is an order of magnitude of difference.

There is a terrific piece by Thomas Friedman in this week’s Sunday Times, “Pass the Books, Hold The Oil”.  He talks about his favorite foreign country, Taiwan.

Why Taiwan?  Because a little piece of rock with only 23 million citizens and with virtually no natural resources (it literally has to import sand and gravel for construction) has managed to amass the world’s fourth-largest financial reserves. How?  Through channeling the enormous creativity, intelligence, and effort of the people who live there.  Education through all levels of society is the vehicle for social mobility and success. 

Obama gets that, and I think Romney does as well.  Santorum-not so much.

To Santorum, higher education (and even public grade schooling) is the purview of “snobs.” Colleges are places to send your child to be indoctrinated by left-wing professors.  They have no other value or even purpose.

Of course, Santorum is playing to the base-and the GOP these days is becoming increasingly defined as blue collar, white, older, evangelical, and Southern/Southwestern.  This is a group that sees itself as hardworking, observant, steeped in patriotism, family, and home.  Santorum is stroking them, and feeding into the continuous trope of Obama as an “other” who, along with the coastal “elites” want to take away their way of life.   Clearly, they hear that message, and he hears them.

But he closed his ears to everyone else. Santorum views government as a tool to enforce his personal moral code. That makes him as much of a statist as Romney or Obama. And his anti-intellectualism is aimed directly at me and people I care about.  I wonder how welcome my family and my friends will be in Santorum’s world.  And I worry about his evident contempt for me and mine.  Without knowing us at all, without knowing our values, our lifestyles, our work ethic, even how we bring our kids up, Santorum doesn’t like us.  What’s worse, he makes a virtue out of that dislike.

That’s troubling, and causes you to reflect on your place in the world.  Are we really so polarized that we have nothing in common with people on the other side of the political divide? 

The other day, I came across some clips of “The Straight Story” David Lynch’s small, beautiful film about an old man driving a tractor across Iowa to Wisconsin to reunite and reconcile with his ailing brother.  Watching, I realized how little I know about the world outside my little corner of it.  And I’m afraid that President Obama suffers from the same deficiency.   My provincialism is regrettable, but his, more a benign neglect than an active animus, is a serious flaw both as a candidate, and a leader. He needs to understand them, whether they vote for him or not.

Not a lot happens in The Straight Story. It stars Richard Farnsworth, who spent decades as a stunt man and extra before getting the lead in “The Grey Fox”, and his face is a glorious canvass of wrinkles, sun, and living.  Farnsworth plays Alvin Straight, who walks with a pair of canes and can no longer pass the eye test for his driver’s license.  Hearing his brother has had a stroke, Alvin buys a small John Deere tractor, no bigger than a lawn mower, and hooks up a little trailer to sleep in, and sets off, at five miles an hour. 

Up and down hills he goes, over country roads past endless fields filled with farm machinery and hay and wheat and corn.  He sleeps under the stars, the darkness of the night untouched by ambient city light. Sometimes, Lynch just lets the camera speak.  Along the way, he meets plain folk in small towns. Little bits of his life come out in conversation, some sweet, some harsh.  The movie is filmed with short, quiet vignettes of simple living, of common courtesy, of people looking after each other.  He spends a night in a church graveyard, and the priest comes out to talk. There’s a moment of exquisite intimacy with middle-aged woman telling her husband he’s a softie, and she’s glad she married him-despite what her mother said.  There’s a pregnant runaway teen scared to go back to her family, and a pair of feuding brothers.  There’s two old men in a bar sharing long-buried memories from WWII-a scene so extraordinary you can’t take your eyes off the screen even while they sting.    

And everywhere, there’s competence, of people doing little things well, making do and moving forward.  Lynch treats everyone with respect-there are no rubes and no fools.  Alvin is old and ill, but driven and self-reliant-he can handle a welding torch as well as his tractor.  There’s no wealth, no ostentation, no museums or fancy cars, or elite universities.   And no politics, no sermons, no witty op-eds or blog posts.

Are these really Rick Santorum folk?   Are they so different from my people that there’s no common ground?  I can’t imagine that.  Neither should the next President.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rush Limbaugh Makes The Hall Of Fame

Rush Limbaugh Makes The Hall Of Fame

Spring training!  Nothing can warm the heart of a baseball fan more than the excitement of pitchers and catchers, the breathless reporting from Florida or Arizona about the latest phenom, the tape measure shots through the warm air, the battles for the last roster spots.

After a long and grim winter filled only with hot stove league news and hot air emanating from Washington,  baseball takes us back to the place where we are eternally young.  It’s a sunny summer afternoon, and I’m sitting in Yankee Stadium with my mother (a die-hard Joe D. fan) munching on a salami sandwich wrapped in foil and hooting and cheering to my heart’s content. Or, with friends, on a sweltering 4th of July watching the impossible-Dave Righetti tossing the first no hitter since Don Larsen’s perfect game, and the old stadium literally vibrating with joy and disbelief, with complete strangers hugging each other.

Spring Training, and everything is possible (except, perhaps for the Mets, but that’s a different story.)  Everyone has a clean slate.  There are even green shoots of hope in Washington, where the National’s owner has spent for some free-agent stars, and the farm system has developed some stupendous talents.  The first Washington team, the Senators (with, perhaps, some cosmic foreshadowing) were not so good.  “First in war, first in peace, last in the American League.”  But the Nats could make the playoffs.

The GOP, of course, is still in spring training, and Super Tuesday didn’t do much to clarify the rotation.  Old Doc Paul is spinning his screwballs, and veteran Newt is back for another year, though he’s becoming more erratic.   But the real battle is for the opening day start, between the good-looking guy with the big contract and the scrappy career minor-leaguer from the sandlots of a hardscrabble section of Pennsylvania who leads the chapel services.

But, there have been a lot of clubhouse distractions this year.  The boys aren’t really getting along.  Yesterday, Mitt demanded everyone else stand down and let him be staff ace. Needless to say, no one went along.  Mitt apparently has difficulty pitching on the road, especially in older stadiums without luxury boxes, and the coaching staff thinks it might be psychological.  Ron’s absolutely fearless out there on the mound, but his arm isn’t what it used to be, and he has a hard time winning games. Newt has turned into a sort of Luis Tiant (English speaking version, of course) tossing up every type of pitch from every angle, but his effectiveness is waning, and there’s a concern that at this stage of his career, he’s only a warm weather pitcher.  And Rick has anger management issues-he tends to be a headhunter with a real proclivity for throwing high and tight to left-handed batters while quoting scripture.  That makes him wildly popular with a portion of the fan base, but doesn’t always lead to the best results. 

The front office is a little dysfunctional as well.  There’s some real star talent in the minors, but they aren’t ready.  Last season’s telegenic number 2 took her bonus, created the first political-themed reality series, then retired to an ashram in Alaska from which she occasionally emerges with some malapropism that is greeted with ecstatic rhapsodies by her considerable fan base.  Her agent indicates she’s keeping in shape in case she’s needed later in the year.

In the owner’s box, there’s a lot of strife.  The blue-blooded family that had owned the team for several generations decided to diversify their holdings into polo ponies and strip-mines in right to work states, but the heirs to the tea fortune they brought in have been making a lot of noise.  First it was a demand that wine and cheese be banished from the clubhouse and the stadium.  Then they had maintenance remove every hot water faucet when one of them noticed that “hot” was on the left and had clear sexual overtones.

And, finally, there’s been PR problems with one of the minority owners, a raffish, teddy bear type named Rush, who occasionally shows a little too much wit with his wisdom.

Somehow, I think this is all going to work out.  Mitt’s agents have been working the numbers, and his Super Pac’s been buying up tickets in every field that has a game between now and the time they break camp.  When the team comes to town, the local media will beat the drums for him and run unflattering stories about the rest of the staff.  The blue bloods and the tea folk will sit down for a simple repast of duck l’orange and brats, and carve out a solution-less government when it comes to private property, and more government when it comes to private behavior.   

And Rush?  Have no fear.  He’s about to do something that even Yogi Berra couldn’t.  He’s going to the (Missouri) Hall of Fame.  A rendition of Rush, in bronze, will be added to the collection of several dozen busts in the Capitol rotunda. 

Steven Tilley, the Republican speaker of the Missouri House, who enjoys sole discretion on whom to honor, said he had no intention of changing his mind “in my part of the state we’re proud of him.”

Mr. Limbaugh is to be added along with Dred Scott, a slave who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom in a landmark Supreme Court case. 

It’s hard to imagine anything more fitting.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Olympia Snowe, Possum Republicans and Park Avenue Pinks

Olympia Snowe, Possum Republicans and Park Avenue Pinks

An older friend of my uses the phrase “Park Avenue Pinks” which is so charmingly anachronistic that a Google search turned up only nine matches-the second from a May 26, 1954 Rome-Tribune article by Westbrook Pegler. A Park Avenue Pink was not a wealthy gay person, rather he or she was a distant cousin to a Ferrari Socialist; someone who can afford to be a soft on socialism, softhearted (and presumably soft-headed) liberal.

I don’t know if there are any Park Avenue Pinks extant, but according to the conservative columnist David Brooks, there are “Possum Republicans.”   In an op-ed piece published earlier this week he writes about how the mainstream conservative and “professional politicians” in the GOP have been relegated to a “possum” posture, hoping not to be noticed by the “wingers” who have relentlessly been purging “tribal heresies.”  Even reliably conservative but respected Senators Lugar and Hatch, who could build bridges, are now moving sharply to the right to fend off primary challenges-and the party leadership is not there to help them.  And now Olympia Snowe, the moderate three-term Senator from Maine, announced she would not run for reelection. 

I can understand Brooks’ angst.  He is a William F. Buckley acolyte who would be happy to see Obama gone, but clearly is feeling the odd-man out. Even if the tea-infused GOP were to sweep in November, there would be no place for his type of mainstream conservatism.  What’s more, as Santorum doubles down on the anti-intellectual anti-elite scourge-of-the-sinful-secular persona he’s presently hawking, he is starting to dominate the descriptions of just what it means to be a Republican in the 21st Century.  On Wednesday, in the course of just a few hours, Mitt Romney gave a human, instinctive, tempered reaction to a question on whether he would support a Republican-sponsored Senate bill that would allow all employers to stop covering contraception in their health care plans.  He said he didn’t want to get between a man and a woman in the privacy of their marriage.  Sounded sensible.  By sundown, he had frantically reversed himself. 

Santorum may be the current spear-tip for the seething resentment and demand for purity, but, whether he’s aware of it or not, he isn’t leading.  And rage might carry any election cycle, including this one, but it isn’t a recipe for building a sustainable governing majority.  Brooks knows that, and so do the Possum Republicans.  They just haven’t done anything about it.

Senator Snowe knows that as well, and chose to walk away, citing the increased partisanship.  People close to her indicated that votes like contraception bill, where she was being pressured to get in line (and give cover to Scott Brown) against her better judgment, were a major motivation.  I wonder whether fine folk like Mitch McConnell ever had her back. 

Why did Brooks and so many of his mainstream conservative buddies and professionals stay silent as the tea was brewing?  Well, not to be too cynical, but as Henry Kissinger once said in a different context, power is the greatest aphrodisiac. 

So, when the Tea Party and the social vigilantes were willing to march to the polls, like some giant column of African Army ants, leaving nothing but the stripped skeletons of Democrats along the way, why not hop on board?  If, on occasion, the ants cut out one of their own from the herd, or even devour the odd elephant (former Utah Senator Bennett comes to mind) well, that’s a modest price to pay for all that power. 

Yet, somehow I think even that is too facile.  The party pros and intellectuals who looked past (or thought they could harness) the dark anger on the extreme right were no different than the Park Avenue Pinks who ignored that nasty Stalin mustache behind the curtain.   Neither was capable of fully grasping the danger to them, because they were so used to being the masters. 

That applies to rest of us as well, even though we know we are (individually) powerless.  Each election, we either vote our principles, our piqué, or our self-interest-and very often that varies depending on the circumstances. That has worked for a long time, as the two major parties have rotated around a center “consensus” axis.  Neither party was entirely homogeneous, so legislation could be reflective of a diversity of ideas and compromises-less edgy, less one-sided.  Elections tended to be about performance rather than strictly about ideology, and sometimes we just voted the bums out, assuming that the next guy we handed the keys to would be better at the job-not a motivated ideologue with an agenda, and (in Mitt’s surprisingly felicitous turn of a phrase) his hair on fire. 

Buyer’s remorse can be a hard thing. The Park Avenue Pinks long ago disappeared into a fog of well-meaning disillusionment.  The Possum Republicans hold on, clinging to the illusion that this shall pass, and the natural order of the world shall be restored.  David Brooks’ moment has apparently come; he’s being forced to stand outside the candy store, watching vandals wearing “I’m A True Conservative” T-shirts turn all his favorites into spoiled marzipan.  He ends his piece with a variation on the famous Martin Niemoller quote, “first they went after the Rockefeller Republicans, but I was not a Rockefeller Republican…”

It’s a strange turn of events when, on Wednesday night, waiting for the Michigan primary results to come in, I found myself rooting for Mitt Romney.  I’m pretty sure it will pass.