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updated: 2/14/2011 10:39 AM

GOP establishment the odd man out

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I'm told sociologists discovered that when three people are together that two of the three will bond -- leaving the third person as the "odd man out." When three people get together, one will always be the "third wheel."

So, when the newly elected Congress ended up being composed of three distinct groupings (The Democrats, The Republican establishment, and tea party Republicans), naturally, I suspected the Democrats would be the "odd man out."

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Was I wrong.

Instead, with the 112th Congress barely a month old, the Republican Establishment clearly has become the "odd party out" in this town.

Consider last week's headline in The New York Times: "Republicans in House Battle Turmoil in Their Ranks." Please forgive me . . . but may I take a very brief moment to quote Jackie Gleason and say, "How sweet it is!"

The Republican differences are sweet karma for no other reason than, for 24 months, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Eric Cantor whipped their members into lock-step voting.

We recall that in 2009, Republicans chose to oppose (purely as election strategy) every single Obama proposal, no exceptions allowed. Their tactic resulted in taking positions so twisted that, by comparison, they made a corkscrew look like a nail.

For heaven's sake, they even voted against helping 9/11 responders.

Well, guess what? Their strategy worked. They gained members in the Senate and captured the House. Ironically, in the process of inciting their base into thinking every Democrat was a Joseph Stalin, they encouraged the tea party movement. Today, those newly elected members oppose them.

This would be sweet if we didn't need every elected public servant behaving like one, pulling together to get our economy on solid footing; standing "as one" on foreign policy, "letting our differences," as the saying goes, "end at the water's edge."

What was the Republican turmoil? For instance, Boehner used the same "fast track" method he had labeled "ramming" when the Democrats passed health care with it, to renew sections of the "Patriot Act."

But liberal Democrats and tea party Republicans formed a bipartisan alliance and defeated it by seven votes. They became instant heroes to civil libertarians who unanimously say the defeated sections posed serious threats to individual liberty. Republican leaders lost by their own votes.

Strike one.

Now comes the Trade Assistance Bill. For two years, Republican leaders could count on heels clicking in unison as Republicans voted a straight party line. Not this week. Conservative Republicans bolted and the leadership had to pull back the bill or face a second defeat at the hands of their own members.

Strike two.

What to do? Well, surely the Republicans could rally around moral issues. The Republicans brought up a bill to stop women whose lives are endangered by a pregnancy from seeking an abortion. That vote would unify them as the "Party of Family Values."

Unfortunately, Rep. Christopher Lee capped the week of "Republican Unity and Family Values" with his abrupt resignation. Lee, a second-term upstate New York Republican, photographed himself bare-chested with his cell phone. He then e-mailed the picture of his pecs to someone he met on Craigslist.

Strike three.

Except that we have work to do. What about the budget, and excessive spending?

Let's get down to serious work and frame the debate. I want to quote directly, without comment, Jacob Lew, who was Clinton's Director of the Budget, writing in the Feb. 5 New York Times:

"When I left the Office of Management and Budget in January 2001," Lew writes, "the country had a projected surplus of $5.6 trillion over the next decade. When I returned last November, decisions to make two large tax cuts without offsetting them and to create a Medicare prescription drug benefit without paying for it, combined with the effects of the recession, meant that the nation faced projected deficits of $10.4 trillion over the next decade."

President Obama had lunch with Sen. Mitch McConnell this week. He reached out to House Republicans as well, breaking bread and seeking fellowship with Speaker John Boehner and other House leaders. Is it working?

I finally figured out that the Republicans have a formula that they closely follow -- I call it the "Teenage Strategy" -- 1) always blame the Democrats; 2) always have an excuse; and 3) always have the last word.

"We've been in the majority four weeks," Boehner told reporters Wednesday morning. "We're not going to be perfect every day. If the Democrats who voted for these same provisions last year would've voted for them this year, it would've passed."

It seems like only yesterday that Boehner was saying that if the Democrats would hold their own votes together, they could pass things over Republican obstructionism.

Now, that's the last word.

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2011, United Feature Syndicate Inc.

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