Liberally Speaking (7/9/09)

Death throes of the GOP

July 9, 2009
By Steve Mount

As Mark Twain is famous for saying, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” So it may be for the reports of the death of the Republican Party. There are plenty of signs, however, of potentially terminal illness.

From the outset, let me make it clear that I am well aware of the Democratic Party’s rogues gallery. Just to name a few, in chronological order: Gary Hart, Dan Rostenkowski, Bill Clinton, Gary Condit, William Jefferson, Eliot Spitzer and Rod Blagojevich.

This rogues gallery was populated over the course of two decades, and it is nothing to be proud of. From marital infidelities to outright graft and bribery, some of the violations were of trust and others of the law; prices were paid, political, personal and legal.

The Republican Party, a party usually noted for its toeing of the “family values” line, is not the first place one would think to look to find infidelities, improprieties, political cowardice and outright craziness. But in just the past couple of years, indeed the past couple of months, plenty of examples have sunk to the bottom of the swamp.

I mention older cases by name only — you can look each of them up on the Internet to get the sordid details: Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, Rep. Mark Foley of Florida, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons and New York Rep. Vito Fossella.

More recently, the fourth-ranked Republican in the Senate, John Ensign of Nevada, announced in June that from December 2007 to August 2008, he had been engaged in an extramarital affair. Ensign, who is active in the ironically-named Promise Keepers, stepped down from his leadership post on the Republican Policy Committee. Ensign’s wife Darlene said that she and Ensign were working on a reconciliation. Perhaps she should forego getting him to promise, and put him on a leash instead.

Just two weeks ago, a name mentioned frequently as a 2012 presidential hopeful, Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, was mixed up in a bizarre adultery scandal. Sanford, who ran some of his last campaign on a family values platform, has been keeping a mistress in Argentina since 2008. The affair cost Sanford his job as head of the Republican Governor’s Association and some cash (as he reimbursed the state for some expenses incurred during one of his trysts). Still unsure are his job as governor, his marriage and any hope of a run in 2012.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has developed a penchant for her idiotic utterances, including her seditious call for Minnesotans to become “armed and dangerous” to fight President Barack Obama’s plan to limit greenhouse gases. Her latest craziness involves the decennial census. She vows to only answer the question about how many people live in her home, because the Constitution does not authorize any other questions. What Bachmann fails to recognize is that the Congress has the power to ask any demographic question it needs to help set policy. Even the first census in 1790 collected more data than a straight count, and Congress has authorized a $5,000 fine for failing to complete the census forms.

Bachmann also has said she fears the census data will be used when the government decides to begin to intern citizens in concentration camps. The foundation of concentration camps is a favorite lark of the extreme right, one that any person of sound mind dismisses out of hand.

Finally, just last week we heard of a fine example of political cowardice. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, formerly John McCain’s vice presidential candidate, announced that she is not going to finish out her term as governor; she will resign at the end of July. Palin’s ambition to be the Republican nominee for president in 2012 is widely reported, and some say that she is quitting to concentrate on that run. Palin herself said that with her decision not to run for governor again in 2010, she did not want to be a lame duck for 18 months. Imagine the precedent she could be setting — aside from cowardly, this could even be considered Bachmann-crazy.

The Republican Party is not dead yet, but it seems ill. As a liberal, I watch it all with a healthy dose of schadenfreude, hoping for the time being that their weakness can add to our strength, helping the Congress and the president actually get some good things done.

Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at or read his blog at