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ROBINSON: For GOP, storm has already gathered

Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson

WASHINGTON -- The uninvited participation of a hurricane at next week's Republican convention would be superfluous. Buffeted by powerful internal winds, the party may be flooded with cash, but it's already kind of a debris-strewn mess.

Who would have imagined that Topic A, in the days before GOP delegates gather in Tampa, would be abortion? Certainly the thought never crossed the minds of the convention planners who intended this four-day infomercial to be a nonstop indictment of President Obama's performance on the economy. But the old line about the relationship between the political parties and their candidates -- "Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line" -- is so last century.

Party leaders will blame Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., for airing his appalling views about "legitimate rape." But if you discount Akin's bizarre notions about female reproduction, he was only stating official Republican policy on abortion as laid out in the platform that delegates will be asked to approve on Monday: "The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed."

Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who once was pro-choice, now says he is against abortion except in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother's life is endangered. But his party claims to believe, as Akin does, that there should be no exceptions. Romney's chosen running mate, Paul Ryan, agrees with Akin but now has switched into "whatever Mitt says" mode.

There is no way to tidy up these contradictions. For decades, since the Ronald Reagan era, the Republican playbook has been to patronize social conservatives in the primaries and the party platform on issues such as abortion -- and then, upon taking office, do little or nothing for the cause. But social conservatives turned their frustration into activism and eventually gained a measure of power within the party that the GOP establishment finds highly inconvenient.

Anti-abortion crusaders expect the party to practice what it preaches, even though abortion rights are guaranteed under Roe v. Wade and public opinion is strongly opposed to an absolute ban.

Similarly, evangelicals expect GOP action on their belief that the wall between church and state should be demolished. All right, that's my phrasing, not theirs. But I don't know how else to interpret the aim of office-holders such as Akin, who has spent his 12-year career in Congress fighting to increase the role of religion in government. "At the heart of liberalism," he once said, "really is a hatred for God."

The Republican Party also welcomed the energy, enthusiasm and votes of the tea party movement. Was the GOP establishment ever really serious about staging a "second American revolution" or slashing the federal government back to what it was in 1789? Not on your life. The recent pattern is that government grows much faster under Republican presidents than under Democrats. You can look it up.

Patronizing the tea party and enlisting many of its adherents as candidates helped the GOP win an impressive string of victories in 2010 and take control of the House of Representatives. But Speaker John Boehner has been struggling ever since to control unruly freshmen to whom the unthinkable -- triggering a catastrophic default on U.S. government debt, for example -- sounds like a plan.

Tension between idealists and pragmatists is inevitable in politics, but the struggle taking place within today's Republican Party is extreme. The GOP believes in limited government that stays out of our business and lets us live our lives -- but also wants to police every pregnancy in the land. The party says it wants to cut wasteful federal spending -- but also insists on showering the Pentagon with billions for weapons systems the generals don't even want. The party says it wants to balance the budget -- but endorses a plan, authored by Ryan, that cuts taxes for the wealthy without specifying the offsetting budget cuts that would be required to keep deficits from ballooning out of control.

Being a "big tent" party is never easy. The GOP, for all its divisions, is full of energy and passion. What unites the various factions is the task of defeating Obama, and on this point there will be no dissent in Tampa.

But why does the Republican Party seek power? What does it really stand for? What does it hope to accomplish? What kind of America does it envision?

Keep an eye on that storm track as Isaac plows toward Florida. Maybe the elusive answers to those questions are blowin' in the wind.

Eugene Robinson's email address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com.

Comments

notblind 1 year, 8 months ago

Any time an Obama cheerleader asks why a Republican wants power I just have to laugh. There is no bigger climber than Barrack Hussein Obama [ well, maybe the Clintons are his equals in power grabbing ]. When he was elected to the US Senate did he settle in, start learning the ropes, start seeking committee assignments ??? No, he immediately started campaigning for President. That is a power hungry person.

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Say_that_again 1 year, 8 months ago

WOW! As if Romney wasn't power hungry! Romney has made a career of having power over people. Remember that Romney said "I enjoy firing people". He thinks his wealth has earned him the right to be president. His wife even said that it was their turn! You really should check the history of former presidents - all start campaigning for president as soon as they thought it was within their reach. Remember George W Bush? He was campaigning for president before he started his run for governor of Texas. I know, you just think people born poor should not have any aspirations of being president. Will you equally condemn Abe Lincoln?

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notblind 1 year, 8 months ago

Nothing you have said is an endorsement of Obama's qualifications.

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kevin 1 year, 8 months ago

The best candidate at least has a plan to get us out of socialism trillions of debt. That man is Romney. Why haven't you took the time, Mr. Robinson, to print Obama's plan to get us out of "his" own mess? Why not Mr. Robinson? Talk is so cheap. With Obama talk is also nothing but lies. Obama says he needs 4 more years. That is right. If we are stupid enough to give him 4 more years to destroy our Constitution and government, then so be it. Obama figured on destroying us in just 4 years. The Dems will also be losing the Senate in Nov as well. I say Obama and his assistant joke, Valerie Garret, will lose big time. Her childhood is made up of known Communist family members, just like Obama has had a Communist past church affiliation. You knock the Mormons, we knock the Muslims. What's the difference? Both have free speech Mr. Robinson, except we have facts, you print fiction and dream of a socialist government for all.

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Say_that_again 1 year, 8 months ago

Now try to support the charge. What socialist program did Obama create that is costing trillions? Can't be the war, that was Bush. Can't be TARP, that was the first Bush. Can't be all the special subsidies to oil companies, he has tried to block them with no cooperation from Republicans. Can't be the Health Care bill, that is still in the hands of private insurance companies. If you have facts, then support them. You have only shown accusations. You accuse Obama of wanting to destroy the Constitution but offer no evidence. And then you really go off the deep end with your Mormon/Muslim claim. No one should "knock" another persons religion as long as they do not try to force their religious belief onto others. We have Ryan proposing anti-women legislation, trying to outlaw most forms of birth control and even forcing women that were raped to submit to a second rape by the state by being forced to carry the baby. Such has been in the platform of the Republicans in the past. They have also put anti same sex agenda in previous platforms because of their religious beliefs.

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JV 1 year, 7 months ago

Well we certainly know why Obama seeks power, what he really stands for, what he hopes to accomplish and what kind of America he envisions. And here are just a few.

Touts a Green Energy Company as exemplary that fails a year later.

Denying the notion of American Exceptionalism.

Promising to close Gitmo — failing to do so.

Naming numerous Communists/Socialists/Progressives to his various Czar positions.

Prediction that stimulus would ensure that unemployment doesn’t exceed 8%.

Proposing amnesty for illegal aliens to increase the population of voters for Democrat elections.

Obama to Medvedev…give me space I will have more flexibility after my election.

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Say_that_again 1 year, 7 months ago

Your adherence to Republican talking points that obviously warp the facts only demonstrates your blind partisanship. I started to rebut your points then, as I examined them, realized that any intelligent person that has been following the facts will see the absurdity of your claims bearing any merit as reasons to vote against President Obama. With Republican candidates that sidestep the issues, refusing to be interviewed unless the interviewer agrees to limit questions to very narrow topics. With Republican candidates that support a budget that would increase taxes on the middle class while drastically lowering taxes for the wealthy. Romney's effective tax rate would drop from around 13% to less than 1% under their plan. Why would you want to vote for anyone that will use their power to get a big slice of the pie? Someone that is driven more by greed? Someone that puts investments in foreign banks to avoid paying taxes, money taken out of the America economy? Someone that has supported a plan to shrink Medicare and start a process that would slowly shrink it to insignificance? Someone that will not give concrete policies, just "trust me, I know business" while not realizing running a country is not like running a for profit business. Why vote for someone that does not want you to know the techniques, possibly illegal, that he has used to skirt tax laws and avoid his fair share of taxes? Why vote for someone that is constanly jumping from one side to the other on issues based on his current audience? Give me a break!

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JV 1 year, 7 months ago

Wow! Talk about blind partisanship.

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FordGalaxy 1 year, 7 months ago

Say_that_again - You know that Obama is the only one in this race that has actually cut Medicare, right? You accuse Romney of switching positions on issues to suit his bae, but Obama does the same thing. The only difference is that the media says Obama is evolving and not flip-flopping. Maybe Romney does limit the interviewers, I don't know, but obama does the same thing, when he even bothers to be interviewed. If Obama grants an interview, it's usually to a leftist publication that won't ask the tough questions, or will ask questions already slanted against the right.

And at least Romney has business experience, unlike Obama, who only spent a few months in the private sector, and then referred to that time as "time spent behind enemy lines."

One other questions for you: Is Obama patriotic? Per his definition of patriotism I'd say no. He called George Bush unpatriotic for seeing $4.7 Trillion added to the debt in eight years. Yet Obama has seen $5.3 Trillon added in just over three years. Is that not worse than Bush?

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Say_that_again 1 year, 7 months ago

Though I have seen you are unable to accept facts in the past, I will take a moment to respond to your leading question. Fact, The health plan actually increased the coverage of Medicare. To clarify for those that have difficulty in accepting information contrary to what they hear on FOX. Everyone that has Medicare has reduced out of pocket expenses with additional coverage for preventive medicine. Most of the savings, as has been pointed out previously on other discussions at GDP, is a reduction in the payments to private insurance companies for the medicare advantage program which still remains about 15% higher than the cost of coverage for the straight medicare program.

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FordGalaxy 1 year, 7 months ago

ObamaCare will cut Medicare by $716 Billion over the course of time until 2022 or so. The Ryan plan would repeal Obamacare but keeps those cuts in place. Both parties are intent on making cuts to Medicare, but only the Democrats are saying that Republicans want to take away your healthcare.

By the way, I don't watch FoxNews. Nor do I watch CNN, MSNBC, or any of the networks. I typically gather my news from online sources.

And I can't help but notice that you didn't answer my question. It's okay. I understand that your blind devotion to Obama keeps you from using logic and common sense when discussing political issues. You accuse me of parroting GOP talking points, and yet it seems all of your items are Democrat talking points. So either you also are a parrot, or you are actually Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

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Say_that_again 1 year, 7 months ago

Obviously right wing sources. The Ryan plan would cut the extra benefits for seniors and set back the higher payments to private companies for those opting into the Medicare Advantage program. The Ryan plan forces everyone into the more expensive Medicare Advantage program without the minimum coverage standards that the current program requires so the only way his plan can save money is by freezing any increases in the payments to private companies which will result in even further reduction in services or higher premiums portion paid by the consumer. This is the erosion of Medicare under the Ryan plan. Your question is based on a false premise. To help you understand a false premise question, if I ask, "Why did you beat your wife this morning?", and you say "I didn't" I could also accuse you of not answering my question. Now my explanation shows how the cost of medicare was cut while services were not cut, but actually improved.

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JV 1 year, 7 months ago

Biden-esque parroting of Democrat Party talking points. Please go back to Huffington Post and Daily Kos where falsehoods of your depth are celebrated.

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news2me 1 year, 7 months ago

@ FordGalaxy I know very few Republicans that watch Fox News or listen to Hannity, etc. However, liberals are the ones that pubically announce how they are all "offended" on what the heard from listening to the Right - they can't get enough! Fox and Hannity get their viewers and listeners from the Left. This is why they are always bringing up the Right Wing powerhouses, the Left is the reason why ratings are so high.

Obama hasn't really done anything that his followers can brag about, so they do nothing but attack. Obama has been ineffective in his reign. It is going to take Romney a long time to clean this mess. I can't wait to use that line for the next 8 years.

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FordGalaxy 1 year, 7 months ago

I was a history minor in college. I've always loved studying history. It's far more compelling then fiction. Along those lines, I've studied President Reagan. From my studies, I don't see where he spent his entire first term blaming Jimmy Carter.

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Jan 1 year, 7 months ago

I lived through the history. Ronald Reagan did many things wrong during his presidency but he did have character. He said "The buck stops here". When he saw he was to blame, he took the blame. He did know that it was his tax cuts that had harmed the economy and tried to fix it by raising taxes 11 times. He knew that Jimmy Carter's policies were beginning to improve the economy. He knew that the bad economy during President Carter's term was a direct results of policies of Nixon (Ford's big problem was doing nothing about it). It is unfortunate that today's republican party leaders are nothing like Ronald Reagan. Reagan would never consider taking away the rights of women. He would not have supported the bigotry against gays and lesbians. He would have condemned the birthers racist based false claims of citizenship and religion, just as McCain did.

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FordGalaxy 1 year, 7 months ago

Wow, that is almost every Democrat talking point from the last ten years rolled into one comment. I'm proud of you, Jan. All kidding aside...

George Bush was being blamed for stuff less than a year into his presidency. Now, nearly at the end of an entire term for Obama, we still get the blame being shifted to the previous administration. We've even been told that the blaming of Bush will go on forever (I'm sure this was a joke, but you never know, given the eccentricities of our mainstream media).

Carter maintained double-digit inflation. At what point does a president take responsibility for the economy? Obama has had nearly four years. He had a totally Democrat controlled Congress for the first two years. We've seen nearly $4 Trillion added to the debt since the last time the still Democrat-controlled Senate passed a budget. But of course, it's all the fault of Obstructionist Republicans. Well, each party obstructs the other. That's why we have things like the filibuster, so the majority party doesn't run rough-shod over the minority party. Of course, both parties try to eliminate the filibuster when they gain control. Or they do things like using reconciliation after saying they weren't going to use reconciliation.

But I forget, the Republicans are racists bigots who hate women and gays. I love how, when one Republican says something, the left always projects those statements on all Republicans. But if a Democrat does something similar, it's just one person. Jeez, the hypocrisy astounds me.

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Jan 1 year, 7 months ago

Points you obviously don't understand - The Bush Tax Cuts coupled with deregulation and reduced enforcement were the main causes of our current economic problems - Through the greatest exercise of the filibuster in history, the Republicans have blocked attempts to correct this problem - Romney/Ryan not only want to make this problem worse by extending Bush Tax cuts, they want to even decrease the taxes on the wealthiest - the ones that already enjoy a lower effective percentage rate than the middle class. This will only make our economic problem worse. If you cannot understand the devastation caused by supply side economics, then you must be reminded of the devastation it caused and the difficulty of improving the economy without getting rid of the main cause.

I never said that Republicans are all racists. I do not know how racist Romney and Ryan are. The problem arises from their inability to condemn such outrageous behavior. Romney wouldn't even condemn the idiotic statement about "Legitimate Rape" until he had taken time to consult his advisers and then only a mediocre statement of not fully agreeing with it. Hypocrisy is doing one thing and saying another like Romney passing and touting his fabulous health plan as governor but condemning basically the same plan formed under President Obama. It is changing sides on issues as the polls change, as Romney did on abortion and other issues several times. You can't have an "Etch-A-Sketch" moment without being hypocritical. I do condemn Democrats that demonstrate hypocrisy. Look at how fast Democrats deserted John Edwards for his affair but notice how Republicans teamed behind Newt Gingrich with his history of affairs and divorces. Though any political party will demonstrate some hypocrisy, Republicans are definitely the greater artisans of the craft.

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