Thursday, June 18, 2009

Conservatives: Stuck on stupid

Is there some idiotic ingredient in the water that conservatives drink, some special dumb molecule in the air that’s only inhaled by members of the GOP? It’s otherwise hard to understand the recent parade of monstrously foolish stunts by the Republican right against the Obama administration. Three in particular form this week’s conservative Stupidity Trifecta. You can decide the order of win, place or show.

These pearls of anything but wisdom either happened or have been disclosed in such rapid-fire fashion, it suggests this is some strategy on the part of Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele to return the Republicans to power through the use of comedy and shock. Considering the source, what three of them did recently wasn’t especially shocking. It wasn’t even funny.

On May 28, Sherri Goforth, an administrative assistant to state Sen. Diane Black of Tennessee, posted to the Internet a collage containing images of the portraits of the previous 43 U.S. presidents, and, in place of the image of President Obama, a pair of cartoonish white eyes against a jet-black background.

Goforth, who admitted she sent the e-mail titled “Historical Keepsake Photo,” said she sent it “to the wrong list of people” by accident. Which necessarily begs the question of what the right list of people would be.

Black, leader of the state’s Senate Republican Caucus, insisted that Goforth would not be fired, issuing a ”strongly worded reprimand” that would make a slap on the wrist seem Draconian by comparison.

State Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester weighed in, in a statement posted on the party's Web site: “Unfortunately, Sherri Goforth's e-mail joins the list of shameful episodes by Tennessee Republicans, from the infamous ‘Birds of a Feather’ direct-mail piece that featured black crows with the heads of Barack Obama and [African-American] Rep. Nathan Vaughn, to the “Barack the Magic Negro” song that former Tennessee GOP Party Chairman Chip Saltsman sent to RNC members during his failed campaign for RNC chair.”

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Not to be outdone by his colleague in Tennessee, former South Carolina Election Commission chairman and Republican activist Rusty DePass got uglier still.

On Sunday, June 14, DePass suggested in a posting on Facebook that a gorilla that escaped from the Columbia, S.C., zoo earlier that weekend was an ancestor of first lady Michelle Obama.

Shortly after the western lowland gorilla’s escape from the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden was reported, DePass responded to a post about zoo incident written by an aide to the state attorney general. DePass posted: “I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors — probably harmless.”

DePass later told WIS-TV, a Columbia station, that the posting, on a South Carolina politics blog, was a joke. “I am as sorry as I can be if I offended anyone. The comment was clearly in jest.”

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But of course it wouldn’t be a day, or a week, without something from Rush Limbaugh, the tireless conservative gasbag and former recreational pharmaceutical enthusiast. On Wednesday, Limbaugh revisited a favorite target of opportunity: Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the president’s choice for a soon-to-be-vacant seat on the Supreme Court — again took her to task, this time for her membership in the Belizean Grove, an exclusive women’s social club based in New York City.

Referencing her membership, Limbaugh said on the air: “I think I’m going to send Sotomayor and her club a bunch of vacuum cleaners, to help them clean up after their meetings.”

It’s tempting, of course, to look at these in isolation, to see them as the whacked-out musing of malcontents whose actions don’t reflect on the party they work for or support. But of course they do and they should. They’re the lagging indicators of a party gone off the rails, apparently indifferent to having any role in the new American order beyond that of complainers, obstructionists and — to go from these examples — bigots.

And in the current vacuum of leadership within the Republican Party, it shouldn’t be surprising. With no one of any credibility around to speak as the GOP’s guiding voice, any yahoo with a bad sense of humor and an Internet connection gets to step up to the mike. In the absence of a principled leader, any blowhard with a radio audience can offer a sermon on the mount, and make it stick.

The GOP has made big noises recently about minority outreach, loudly launching various initiatives meant to restore the party’s prospects with minority voters. But the comments of these three chowderheads aren’t anything new; they just reflect what blacks and minorities, and millions of other Americans, have long believed to be true about Republicans, symbolized in the acts of three people obviously stuck on stupid.

With no one to lead it, the GOP is a rudderless ship. With apparently no one in it to take seriously, the Republican Party is clearly in jest.
Image credits: Goforth e-mail: Via CNN, but widely available online. Michelle Obama: From WIS-TV feed. Sonia Sotomayor: Stacey Ilys Photography.

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