Jonathan Strong, writing at National Review Online, explains that the Republicans are wary of doing anything that might distract people from their campaign against the Affordable Care Act. Therefore, Mitch McConnell doesn’t intend to engage in any high-profile retaliatory procedural actions in the Senate. That’s fine with me, but it calls to mind McConnell’s immediate response to the invocation of the Nuclear Option. He took to the Senate floor and declared not that Harry Reid had just done something historical or significant or even abominable, but that Reid was merely trying to distract people from ObamaCare.

I thought that was the oddest response in the world. I expected fire and brimstone and steaming wrath and promises of vengeance, or even impeachment. And I got a mild complaint about Reid trying to change the narrative.

This makes me think that the Republicans are truly on another one of their Moby Dick adventures, like Whitewater, like the White House Travel Office, like Vince Foster, like l’affaire Lewinsky, like Saddam’s WMD, like Fast and Furious, like Solyndra, like the New Black Panther Party, like Benghazi, and like the most recent government shutdown. More than anything, it reminds me of when they convinced themselves not that the presidential polling numbers could be oversampling blacks, but that they were oversampling blacks. It’s like their theory that systematically trying to make it harder for blacks to vote would result in reduced black turnout rather than a black community more determined than ever to cast their ballots.

It’s some variation of stupidity and delusion, with a little evil sprinkled into the mix. And this really is the only area where I find the Republicans unpredictable. I know what they won’t agree to, which makes it easy to offer it to them without fear that they will accept it. “Have some Chained CPI, boys, really, all we need in return is some revenue.”

What I have trouble predicting is their next obsession, and how absurdly far they will take it. These people are still talking about Benghazi. As long as I’ve watched them, I still have to admit that I didn’t see that coming.

Still, their greatest weakness is their predictability. They do not know how to adapt to changing circumstances, nor how to trim their sails when it would be to their advantage. As a result, they march into one well-prepared crossfire after another.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at