House Republicans thrash in search of a new leadership team. Sam Alito stands before the fully armed Judiciary Committee firing squad, with a trembling Leader Bill Frist in the wings, fearing a direct hit and the offensive of a filibuster he cannot break. Meanwhile the natural successor to the lame duck President Bush, Dick Cheney, spends more hours in the hospital, suggesting a crisis even before the nasty battle for succession in the winter spring of 2008.
All told, Republicans appear to be in turmoil and doubt. And does this translate to Democrat triumph? Negative. The reason the Republican Party is so much in the news with its intricate adjustments to the needs of the country is because the Republican Party is the news. The Republican Party has become a surrogate nation state in wartime. The Republican Party’s rude manners, strange choices, char-broiled tastes, deep bench talent, Henry V fate, is all the excitement the Republic can imagine. Jettisoning DeLay was good corporate governance. Sending an exceedingly well-built Alito machine into the lion’s den is the same as sending a carrier battle group into harm’s way; it is power-projection. And questioning the health of the VPOTUS, like that of the POTUS, is a moment to look ahead, to sort out the next brood of Republican leaders for the CINC job.
Where are the Democrats? In the same bottle-fed, undemanding, ceremonial position the Republicans endured during the long struggle against fascism in FDR’s years: coat-holders, hostesses, ushers, protesters, whiners, commentators and my favorite, voices of conscience.