Geof Stone: "The Republican Struggle for 'Ascendency'"
They scorned "any idea of moderation" and greeted with contempt any effort "to understand a question from all sides." Their primary goal was "to acquire power" by frustrating those in authority at every turn. If the President "made a reasonable speech," they "took every precaution to see that it had no practical effect." Although "professing to serve the public interest," they in fact "were seeking to win" power "for themselves." In "their struggles for ascendency, nothing was barred."
A description of today's GOP by an outraged blogger? No. This voice of despair speaks across the millennia. It was written more than 2,400 years ago by the Greek scholar Thucydides in his brilliant history of the Peloponnesian War. But it does sound familiar, doesn't it?
Several weeks ago I had dinner with a friend who lamented what he termed the "blatant obstructionism" of congressional Republicans. He said they reminded him "of the Southern Democrats during the civil rights era, because they too used every means at their disposal to block change."
At first, I accepted this analogy, but then I realized it was wrong. The Southern Democrats did, indeed, use every means at their disposal to block civil rights legislation. But they sincerely believed that such legislation was bad public policy and was especially bad public policy for the South. No one doubted the sincerity of their opposition, even if many found it abhorrent. The congressional Republicans of today, however, seem determined to do everything possible to frustrate the President on all issues. Their goal seems less to be to enact legislation that serves the public interest than to make the President seem weak and ineffectual, and to thereby gain political "ascendency" for themselves.
This is not to say that congressional Republicans don't have sincere public policy differences with the President over health care, Afghanistan, the economy, climate control, energy policy, judicial nominations, and taxes. No doubt they do. It is to say, however, that they don't seem at all interested in finding common ground in order to further the public interest, even when the President offers compromises that alienate his own supporters.