Mr. Speaker

Excitement is hardly in short supply this year when it comes to politics, but the Republican Party, apparently committed to its position as a third-place network who will throw absolutely anything at the viewing audience just to see what sticks, is offering us fare like those overstuffed modern dramas where something utterly over-the-top happens every ten minutes just to make sure we aren’t bored.  Lacking the high self-seriousness of House of Cards or the absurdity of Scandal, the Grand Old Party is giving us the trumped-up camp of Empire, only without any stakes, or black people.

The long-running “Benghazi” subplot seems to be petering out even faster than did 2014’s briefly exciting “Is ObamaCare unconstitutional?” gimmick, with viewers tuning out in droves rather than stick around to see if Hillary Clinton — seeming no less bored than the people attempting for the 22nd time to find her guilty of personally overseeing the murder of a U.S. ambassador — is going to get written off the show.  Benghazi never really had any legs; Ronald Reagan was far more personally culpable for the mass slaughter of Marines in Lebanon, and the country responded to those accusations with a collective shrug, so they certainly weren’t going to crucify Clinton for this one.  (Well, some of them did, but they’re the ones who already mentally sent her to the gas chamber for whacking Vince Foster.)  It didn’t help the cause any that Jeb Bush, who’s been crowing about Hillary’s guilt in the affair, stammered like the butler in a Marx Brothers movie when asked on national television why she should be to blame for Benghazi if his father wasn’t to blame for 9/11.

Speaking of Jeb, he’s beginning to feel like one of those characters the producers of a show are just sure you’re going to love, so they keep sticking him in front of the camera over and over again no matter how often you make that face.  It’s a disgrace to us as a nation that any candidate for political office has to be asked their opinion about superhero shows, but Jeb answered that question by wildly flailing at three pitches: first, he expressed a Romneyesque bafflement at who these people are, exactly; second, he expressed the Perotvian desire to purchase the Marvel brand, seeing as how they’re so profitable and all; and finally, he closed out by expressing his Trumpoid opinion that the actress playing Supergirl, a woman 35 years his junior, “looks pretty hot”.  Well done, Jeb:  you took a stab at aping three failed candidates who all polled better than you, and you failed every time.

Jeb’s best friend in the Middle East, Benjamin Netanyahu, had some fun this week when he appeared to blame a Palestinian mufti for giving Adolf Hitler the idea for the Holocaust.  Bibi is a fool and a clown, true, but this was pretty shameful even by his standards.  You would think that if anyone could be counted upon to not fuck up a Holocaust analogy, especially in such a way that it lets Hitler off the hook, it would be the political leader of Israel, but Bibi is no ordinary politician.  So remarkable were his comments that it fell to Germany, the country that started pretty much every world war in human history, to remind him that in fact it was they who were to blame for the mass slaughter of Jews during World War II, and not the reputedly imaginary nation of Palestine.  Still, this is a pretty big get for Holocaust deniers, having one of their own acting as chairman of the Likud Party.

America’s own Likud party might be shaken up a little these days, as their counterparts in the rest of the English-speaking world have been handed some severe blows of late.  The Labor Party in Great Britain has turned away from centrism and Canada’s leftist wing won a huge victory with the election of Justin Trudeau; subsequent threats from plutocrats to take their money and sit on it were met with eye-rolling rather than pants-wetting, and the possibility that, if the economy is going to go to shit anyway, we might as well have a few years of the government actually helping people is ruining all the good work they did building those austerity scarecrows.

Which brings us, of course, to the race for Speaker of the House.  The position that’s two heartbeats away from the presidency, while it’s often been filled with colorful characters, isn’t really one that grips the public imagination, but now, tainted as it is with the Republican Party’s seemingly total inability to get its shit together, it’s turned into political theater of the lowest order.  What looked like an orderly and boring transition was plunged into chaos after former speaker John Boehner announced he would be going home to pout because everybody kept making jokes about his name.  A seamless transition to fellow inept timeserver Kevin McCarthy was expected until he freaked everyone’s shit right the fuck out by withdrawing his nomination, either because of some hidden scandal, or because he felt his influence amongst the party’s burgeoning far-right wing decreasing, or some combination of the two thing plus his complete incompetence.

This triggered a massive reverse stampede, as anyone who was anything in the Republican Party announced that yeah, thanks but no thanks, they actually had way too much going on this weekend to be speaker of the house and hey, if you could leave your number with their girl on your way out they’d be happy to call you the second Hell freezes over.  Another mad rush of people who did want to be Speaker was choked at the entry point when it was decided by everyone on the planet that nobody else wanted them to do it.  This week, the job finally fell to amateur weightlifter/granny-starver Paul Ryan announced that he’d be willing to do the job for a new Ferrari and a three-week trip to Rome.  Ryan, whose political experience consists of looking at a list of all the tasks government is expected to perform and saying “nope”, may soon discover that acting as the spokesman for a group of intransigent lunatics may be less of a dream job than he seems to think it will be.  But if he proves even slightly as popular as Speaker as he did when he was running for Vice-President, I eagerly look forward to writing this same column next year.

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