If you enjoyed watching the new spirit of bipartisan cooperation on display in the House chamber during Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech, make sure you save the online video because those days – or perhaps it was just a day – may already be at an end.
President Obama’s clarion call to set aside political differences and get to work on the critical issues of our day was barely delivered when the long political knives were drawn, but this is an internecine battle that is far more interesting for the media to cover and ultimately more destructive to the GOP than any fight they could have with the Democrats.
House Republicans, enjoying their largest majority status in more than 60 years, had to fend off questions about the alternative-alternative-response to the President’s State of the Union by Minnesota Republican and Tea Party stalwart Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who followed the “official” minority party response delivered by Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan. Those competing responses left political pundits asking how Republican House Speaker John Boehner will control a faction in his majority that revels in not belonging to any organized party – including their own.
And then comes the news (on the first anniversary of Scott Brown’s historic Senate win last year) that many on the Republican right who helped organize and finance his victory are now organizing against him. What unspeakable offenses has he committed in one year? He gave a speech on Martin Luther King Day suggesting that people should ignore the “R” after his name – and the “D” after the name of his Democratic colleagues – and just work together for the common good of Massachusetts and the economic recovery.
As if that wasn’t treasonous enough, Brown poured salt into offense by crossing the political aisle on Tuesday night for the State of the Union to sit next to a Democrat! After the speech, Brown then went on to cut his own political throat in a statement where he appears not only to be praising the President, but then adding: “The President is right that our focus needs to be on fixing the economy. I look forward to finding common ground with him on policies that will put people back to work.”
Common Ground? Sitting next to an actual Democrat? Praising something that President Obama said? What’s next, Scott, rooting for the Yankees?
The attack from Brown’s right appears to be both organized and familiar. Eric Wheeler, executive director of the National Republican Trust, a PAC in Washington, D.C., took to the airwaves Wednesday morning to announce he is formally searching for a candidate who will take Brown on or perhaps threaten his political future sufficiently to make him move to the right. The National Republican Trust donated tens of thousands of dollars to Brown’s campaign for 2010, according to a WBUR story which quoted a frothy Wheeler.
But Brown has been laying this track almost from the moment he was elected last January. He made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing to do with the tea party when he declined an invitation from Sarah Palin to join a tea party rally on the Boston Common. Palin then blasted him publicly in August for his political “antics” and said something to the effect that in Alaska you “dance with the one who brought you to the dance.”
In a state where all ten congressmen are Democrats, Wheeler’s threat to finance a candidate who can beat Brown from the right is exactly the music he wants to dance to in 2012.