Donald Trump continues to be the lead dog in the race for the Republican nomination. Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson are keeping pace. Three “outsiders” dominating the field. Each tapping in to a palpable frustration within the Party. A frustration over politics as usual coupled with a burning desire to show the world that same old same old is no longer good enough.
Into this vortex of discontent steps the Republican leadership. On one hand eager to harness the passion and frustration of the base and direct it toward a White House victory. At the same time fearful that left to its own devices the frustration on the fringe could destroy the Party from within and with it any chance for an electoral victory.
Republicans understand that they have a real opportunity in 2016 to control the House, the Senate and place one of their own in the Oval Office. All they have to do is learn from the mistakes of the past, control the crazies and put forth a conservative plan to re-kindle the American dream.
Unfortunately, in spite of all their promises of reform and inclusion all we have seen of late is yet another example of how to lose a general election. This time it’s not the crazies like Trump Cruz, King and Ghomert leading the charge to electoral ruin…it’s the Party leadership.
Things were going along so well.
The House Special Committee on Benghazi had spent the past eighteen months successfully painting Hillary Clinton, the Democrat frontrunner, as complicit in the tragic deaths of four Americans at the Benghazi mission.
Clinton herself then “emailed” Republicans and unexpected gift. Her use of a personal email account and private server while serving as the nation’s top diplomat, her mishandling of confidential documents and her botched attempts to explain it all away were like manna from heaven. The FBI was investigating. The server was subpoenaed. The emails thought to have been destroyed were recovered and would be released in a slow steady drip for months to come; forcing Clinton to address the issue over and over again. The firestorm had grown so bad that Clinton had finally agreed to testify before the committee on October 22. The nation would be watching as the committee would expose her for the liar Republicans believed her to be.
There were victories to be had on other fronts as well.
Republicans have been obsessed with the issue of abortion. Over the past two years the Republican led House had passed 48 ant-abortion bills only to watch each of them die a slow death in the Democrat led Senate. Suddenly a clandestine video has gone viral. A Planned Parenthood employee is caught discussing in callous terms the disposal and illegal sale of harvested fetal tissue. The nation is horrified and Republicans are giddy. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards is subpoenaed to testify before the House Oversight Committee…where she and her organization will be torn to shreds.
Suddenly, Speaker John Boehner announces his resignation. The man who could never bridge the factions within the party was leaving. The opportunity existed to find a new leader. Someone who could unite the moderates and the right wing fringe in pursuit of one common goal…winning the White House.
Things were going well. Republicans were on a role.
And then the wheels fell off.
The presumptive new Speaker, Kevin McCarthy proudly announces that the Select Committee on Benghazi had accomplished its goal…Clinton’s poll numbers were plummeting. With one undisciplined remark McCarthy had exposed eighteen months of assertions that the committee was only seeking the truth. A witch-hunt is exposed. McCarthy’s presumptive rise to
Speaker no longer certain. Outrage and chaos swell within the Party ranks. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz announces that he will challenge McCarthy for the Speakership.
Then Chaffetz creates a controversy of his own.
During his committee’s long awaited grilling of Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Chaffetz introduces a slide which he asserts shows evidence that claims of abortions making up only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services are false. Richards refutes the accuracy of the evidence. Chaffetz believes he has Richards in his crosshairs. He believes he has the proof that will ultimately destroy Planned Parenthood and propel him to the Speakership. He smugly states: “I got the information right off of Planned Parenthood’s corporate reports.”
Richards retorts that Chaffetz assertions are false. She tells him that slide he is showing was produced by Americans United for Life; an antiabortion activist group. Americans United for Life is clearly listed as the source on the bottom of the slide. “You should check your sources.” Richards says. Chaffetz, clearly humiliated and speechless, yields his remaining time and turns off his mic. The lie exposed. The advantage lost.
In one weeks’ time Republicans managed to toss away golden opportunities to take down two of their most despised ideological opponents: Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood. Once again their lack of discipline and unfiltered ideological dialogue has resulted in a self-inflicted wound. Politics as usual. Same plan…same result.
But this time it’s not the un-tethered crazies on the fringe pulling the trigger. It’s the Republican leadership.