Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a conservative who keeps a bust of Reagan on his desk, surprised me by declaring that the Reagan era is over. "Marginal tax rates are the lowest they've been in generations, and all we can talk about is tax cuts," he said. "The people's desires have changed, but we're still stuck in our old issue set."That's so 1990's.
Now, the Republicans are the party of torture. The Republicans used to talk about taxes, gay sex, and terrorism, but now it's "total torture talk"--"the triple t"-- all the time. Last week, it was Karl Rove explaining that everybody tortured people, but that only "banana republics" prosecuted their torturers. He was joined by Condoleeza Rice who explained to Stanford undergrads that George Bush was right to say that torture was legal because he went to both Yale (undergrad) and Harvard (MBA).
Apparently, Stanford has a big inferiority complex when it comes to Ivy League colleges.
Ok, I exaggerate.
There's also been a steady drip, drip of GOP torture talk this week. Yesterday, it was Ann Coulter and John Bolton. Bolton seemed to be concerned that Spanish judges would be using Inquisition torture techniques on American torturers to gain confessions. Coulter showed a little conservative "manpride" by calling American torturers "wussified" for not coming up to the level of the Japanese torturers we executed after WWII.
And that's not all. Today, Dick Cheney was on North Dakota talk radio saying that American interrogators only torture as a last resort when they got really bored. People say Dick Cheney looks bad with his crooked mouth and Voldemort Avada Kedavra stare, but Cheney looks a lot better than Arlen Specter when he talks about making "Torture today . . . Torture tomorrow . . . Torture forever" the catchy new slogan of the Republican Party.
Ok, I'm still exaggerating.
But these exaggerations come close to capturing how momentously weird and stupid the compulsive GOP defense of torture is beginning to sound.
Identifying yourselves as the "party of torture" is one of the surest ways to lose elections in any kind of democratic country. You can almost feel people start to cover their mouths in fear when Republicans go on and on about waterboarding.
Ultimately, I think Patrick McHenry is wrong. The Republicans should stick to cutting taxes. It's better to sound simple-minded and out of date than to come off as monsters.