Conspiracy theories likely

Published 11:21 am Friday, January 2, 2015

What happens when the dog catches the car? Now that the Republicans control the Senate, will they continue to be the party of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories?

It’s no mystery how they got here. As Robert Draper documented in his criminally underappreciated book “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives,” the Republican strategy was to wrest power from Democrats by obstructing them every step of the way. If Republicans stalled Obama’s agenda, it would make the President look weak. Economic growth would crawl. Jobs would trickle. And his poll numbers would tank.

Boy, did it work. They won the House of Representatives in 2010, but it took them six years to learn how not to say stupid stuff about immigrants, women, and immigrant women long enough to win back the Senate. As Hannibal from TV’s A-Team liked to say, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

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But… there’s a plan, right?

First they tried the birther nonsense, but that was so patently idiotic that they couldn’t fan those flames without getting burned. Still, they took that model (creating something out of nothing) and kept at it. After all, what were they supposed to do, govern?

Remember Benghazi? Congress is holding its 10th hearing despite a recent report released by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee after an 18-month investigation. They found no evidence of a cover up or “stand down” order.

The Benghazi scandal was not just politically motivated but wholly constructed out of the toxic political byproducts of a morally bankrupt party. Their morally bankrupt nominee (Go ahead, name one thing Mitt Romney really believes.) held a press conference to blame Obama for Benghazi before the bodies were counted, much less buried.

That the scandal turned out to be all smoke and no fire isn’t the point. The scandal hurt Obama politically, and the Republicans profited from the murder of four Americans by terrorists. That was the point.

The same thing happened with the IRS scandal, except not only was no one murdered but—read this one slowly, folks—not one single Republican non-profit was denied non-profit status. That’s right. All the IRS did was make sure that these obviously political non-profits were conforming to a new part of the tax code. Liberal groups were investigated too, but there were fewer of them.

Yet Republicans in Washington screamed persecution. No one believed that the IRS acted independently. People assumed that Obama’s henchmen were orchestrating political dirty tricks from the White House, so when the Republican-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s turned up no evidence that the White House did anything wrong, they released the report shortly before Christmas. (Didn’t hear about it? That was the point. Republicans did the same thing with the Benghazi report around Thanksgiving.)

It doesn’t matter if there was no stand down order or that the IRS was acting not only independently but properly. It doesn’t matter that the infamous $3 million shrimp treadmill really only cost $47, and the scientist paid for it himself. It doesn’t matter that the “hey, hey, look over here!” diversionary tactics largely absolved Republicans while they obstructed Obama’s every turn. They hurt Obama and finally won the House and Senate.

But you can’t keep a good country down. The economy is growing faster than it has for a decade. The Dow is up, and unemployment is down, and no one is complaining about cheap gas except Texas. Obamacare is even working. And after acting alone on immigration and Cuba, Obama looks strong, and his poll numbers are approaching sea level.

Republicans have caught the car just as Obama has figured out how to drive a stick, so what do they have planned? Oh, you’re going to like this one: dynamic scoring, a method of estimating the budgetary effect of tax cuts that includes uncertain and speculative assumptions about economic growth. They’re going to start making rosy assumptions that cutting taxes for the rich make the middle class richer, thinner, and better looking to the opposite sex.

Confused? Think of it like an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about economics. Is it a scientifically valid theory? No. But hey, at least it’s a plan.


Jason Stanford is a regular contributor to the Austin American-Statesman, a Democratic consultant and a Truman National Security Project partner. You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @JasStanford.