A spectre is haunting America--the spectre of a clownish demagoguery.
The polished ghosts of the profession's yesteryears--the Joe McCarthys, the James Michael Curleys, the Huey Longs and the 'Pitchfork' Ben Tillmans--are surely convening somewhere in Hell to mourn what Dana Milbank calls this "charmingly futile" turn of amateurish vents. I pray God they might rematerialize for at least an hour or two, with Hell's special dispensation, to conduct for these charmlessly living GOPers an advanced seminar in the delicate art of rabble-rousing.
McCarthy possessed a Luciferian amiability that was mesmerizing; Curley a swashbuckling, picaresque sense of humor; Long a wicked intelligence; and Tillman a truly frightening sincerity. Alas, and quite sadly, House Republicans harbor neither amiability nor humor nor smarts nor sincerity. Matched against the pros, they're batting .000 in the sporting American pastime of Appealing Demagoguery.
In fact they're so disagreeable, so humorless, so bloody insincere and so unspeakably dumb they don't seem to understand that demagoguery is supposed to be appealing.
What they--those they, anyway, on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform--are actually practicing is less demagoguery and more of the "show trial" techniques of the nakedly brutal Joe Stalin. Brutality needs no finesse; indeed it is often resorted to only when finesse just isn't a capable option. Yet because we as a people have to date managed to fundamentally preserve ourselves as a nation of laws--notwithstanding the fundamental lawlessness of the George W. Bush administration--these brutal House clowns can go only so far; blindfolds, stakes, fetters and last cigarettes are but happy elements of their goofy imaginations.
Hence we get down to the real choice of 2012. No, not that of the class, grace, supreme intelligence, extraordinary abilities and remarkable accomplishments of Barack Obama versus the plain oafishness of Mitt Romney. That choice was decided when non-politician Romney began his awkward, overwrought political career nearly twenty years ago. The towering choice facing the American electorate, rather, is whether they really want to keep such an able president in office while saddling him with such a House full of clowns.