Same Old Party
BY Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, and Ryan PowersLast week, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the Republican Party is in deep trouble because it is getting smaller and being led by far-right polarizing figures. Specifically, he said that right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh "diminishes the party and intrudes or inserts into our public life a kind of nastiness that we would be better to do without." Limbaugh then responded that Powell ought to close the loop and leave the Republican Party instead of claiming to be interested in reforming it.
Yesterday on CBS's Face the Nation, Vice President Cheney said that if he had to choose a model Republican, he would choose Limbaugh over Powell. The episode underscored an unexpected result of the 2008 election: Though a significant majority of Americans continue to reject the policy prescriptions and political rancor of old guard Republicans like Limbaugh and Cheney, the Republican establishment is now turning to those same conservative ring leaders to guide them out of the political wilderness.
DOUBLING DOWN ON THE PAST: In an interview last week with a conservative North Dakota talk radio host, Cheney said that "some of the older folks" in the Republican Party "who've been around a long time (like yours truly) need to move on, and make room for that young talent that's coming along." In the same week, congressional Republicans launched a "listening tour" in an attempt to rebrand their party, and in House Minority Whip Eric Cantor's (R-VA) words, "[R]econnect and make sure that our policy prescriptions are relevant to the challenges that people." Yesterday, however, there was little sign that the Republican Party of 2009 is any different than in years past, as three of the four major Sunday talk shows were dominated by old guard Republican voices.
On Face the Nation, Cheney declared that his roll in authorizing the use of torture saved "hundreds of thousands of lives" while reiterating his view that Obama's national security policy is making Americans less safe. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) appeared on ABC's This Week, where he defended barring gays from openly serving in the military and claimed the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is "working well."
On Fox News Sunday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) claimed that President Obama wanted to put "alleged terrorists on welfare," railed against Obama's budget (which the American public supports), and reminisced about former President Reagan. The trifecta of rejected Republican leaders seemed to verify former Florida Republican governor Jeb Bush's observation last week that his party is consumed by "nostalgia" for the era of Reagan and relies almost completely on "good old days" rhetoric to push the Republican message.
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