The Octopus With a Thousand Tentacles

At NRO, Jim Geraghty has an unintentionally hilarious interview with RNC chairman Reince Priebus in which the party chief pledges a frantic effort to look everywhere for ways to improve the party’s appeal–everywhere, that is, other than ideology, the Big Taboo no one is supposed to address.

In an especially creepy metaphor, Priebus calls the new party-fixing Growth and Opportunity Project (composed of such deep thinkers as Ari Fleischer and Henry Barbour) as “an octopus with a thousand tentacles.”

There’s not going to be any stone left unturned. There’s not going to be any group or people that we don’t try to reach out to in order to, at the end of the day, develop the best possible two- and four-year plan moving forward. That will incorporate everything. That includes the best of all data, the best of all state-party-operations ideas: GOTV, digital, campaign infrastructure — everything you can put together to be the best possible party. That’s what it’s going to include. We want something that we are going to be able to implement, that the grassroots are going to buy into, and that the donors are ultimately going to want to invest in.

Hate to call out ol’ Reince on this, but yeah, I feel quite sure there are going to be a lot of stones left unturned: the GOP’s relationship with a Christian Right activist base that inevitably leads to candidates talking about the spiritual benefits of rape; the power of large individual donors who skew the party message and keep less-than-appealing national figures like Newt Gingrich afloat; the fact that the entire GOP elected official base is having to undertake a herculean struggle to free itself from bondage to an obscure man named Grover Norquist, etc., etc. I could go on and on, but you get the point: the Octopus With a Thousand Tentacles isn’t going to extend its inky reach into those questions.

Now it’s understandable that Priebus wants to look frantically busy, insofar as some voices have been raised (as noted by Geraghty) suggesting that the chairman who presided over the supposed slam-dunk of 2012 might himself be expendable. He goes so far in this interview as to remind people of his predecessor, the now-openly-treacherous Michael Steele:

We started from a standing start, basically, or even worse. We couldn’t make payroll, we were $25 million in debt. One story I haven’t told too much is that when we got here, both of the committee’s credit cards were suspended when we walked in the door. We began paying for [staff] flights and expenses on my credit card.

Well, money’s not really the problem any more. Nor, one could argue, are all the other mechanical and process issues Priebus talks about in this interview. But even as the Octopus moves across the bottom-feeding wastes of party operations, the GOP is at least another election defeat or two away from dealing with its ideological delusions.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.