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The GOP’s Self-Mutilating Panic | The Nation

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Leslie Savan

Politics, media and the politics of media.

The GOP’s Self-Mutilating Panic

The Republican Party is counting down its own "127 Hours," and it’s getting ready to cut off one of its arms with a dull blade. As poll numbers rise for Obama and other Democrats down-ballot, it’s sinking in that the victory the GOP thought it would achieve with obstruction and falsehoods will probably turn into a defeat for both the presidency and the Senate.

Here are three headlines from just this morning that sound to me like desperate self-mutilation (and none of this is to even mention the Romney campaign’s complete meltdown over events in the Mideast):
Kansas Goes Birther: State Board Considers Removing Obama From Ballot
House GOP Bill Would Actually End Welfare Reform Work Requirements
Romney predicts Obama will lie in debates
Each of these actions is more likely to hurt than help the politicians in question. But it’s panic time for the GOP and they can’t help it.

In Kansas, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an informal adviser to Romney and author of Arizona’s and other states’ harsh immigration laws, says he needs more proof that Obama is a natural-born citizen before he’ll let Kansans vote for him. (Even though Obama’s mother and grandparents hail from Kansas.) A similar birther block briefly threatened to keep the president of the United States off the Arizona ballot last spring, but it got laughed off the national stage, and one of the more conservative Republicans in Kansas has already said the same fate awaits any attempt by Kobach to block Obama. But even winking at birthers at this late date has got to signal to voters that the GOP has lost touch with reality.

In the welfare case, we have Mitt Romney running a series of racially tinged ads based on the lie that Obama is “gutting” welfare’s work requirements only to have House Republicans pass through committee a proposal that, remarkably, would gut those same work rules. The legislation, as Talking Points Memo explains, would slash funds for one welfare program with work requirements and fold it into another program without them, effectively abolishing the reforms that Romney falsely insists Obama is so eager to ax. This isn’t just incoherent and hypocritical—it’s a form of self-cannibalism.

The last of the three headlines, in which Romney predicts Obama will lie in the upcoming debates, highlights the sterling businessman’s political incompetence. “I think the challenge that I’ll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren’t true,” Romney told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. Coming from a campaign that refuses to “be dictated by fact-checkers,” not only is this a painfully obvious psychological projection but it puts Romney in a weak position for ever winning the debates. Romney went on: “It’s difficult to say, Well, am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren’t quite accurate? Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?” Mitt even gives Barack a tip: he said he’s tempted to use the old Reagan line “There you go again.” “But you know,” added Romney, “I doubt we’re going to pull something from Ronald Reagan. He’s one of a kind.” Likewise, Reagan might tell him.

There was a time when the GOP’s more out-there moves made Democrats stop and wonder if there were some sort of hidden genius in their gambits, so bold they were at manipulating facts and rewriting reality. But maybe they never were that smart, and, in a country that’s seen their show before, their wedge-issue snarks are beginning to backfire.

Republicans may like to fire people, but whom do they hire to make up for the series of self-destructive moves from Clint Eastwood’s upstaging Romney at the RNC to Romney’s blathering on about the Egyptian embassy and Obama’s “disgrace.” Laura Ingraham’s advice—"If you can't beat Barack Obama with this record, then shut down the party. Shut it down. Start new, with new people"—sounds all tough, but it begs the question: Who they gonna call?

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