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posted: 2/20/2014 5:01 AM

Republicans getting to yes

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Republicans have excelled at concealing their brilliance in recent years and Democrats have exalted in their own good fortune.

Whether discussing women's reproductive systems or offering up unelectable candidates -- "I am not a witch" might have been a tipoff -- Republicans couldn't stop handing gifts to their opponents. As for tactics, a GOP Trojan horse is ... a horse. And an Orca project is a whale-fishing expedition.

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Meanwhile, Democrats successfully labeled the GOP as the "party of no," assisted by Republicans' consistent opposition to everything, and always flogging their own in an endless war between the party's wacko birds (Sen. John McCain's term) and establishment players who were variously referred to as RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) or Republicrats.

Democrats weren't wrong.

But then one day, President Obama apparently lost his magic ring. The sun broke through the pall of Republican despair, the fires of Mordor ceased and the spell of buffoonery and pettifoggery that had plagued the elephant herd was miraculously lifted.

Congress raised the debt limit without drama; Republican leaders shelved divisive issues such as comprehensive immigration and tax reform, and shifted the focus to unifying messages about which RINOs and Tea Partyers can agree and lock pinkies: Obamacare is a failure and Barack Obama is an imperial president.

In essence, Republicans destroyed the Democrats' sharpest weapon and absconded with their slogan. No more the party of no, the GOP suddenly is the party of "Yes we can!"

Quite a transformation, that. And all along the message of House Speaker John Boehner, even though his Tea Party colleagues, gladiators armed with certitude, couldn't hear him. Rather than listen to reason, they heard only the whispers of their beloved Wormtongue, whose identity I leave to you, dear reader, in hopes you have read J.R.R. Tolkien.

While some may view this strategy as another Boehner capitulation to the crazy caucus, others recognize its brilliance. Boehner is quieting down the elephant herd. This doesn't mean Republicans are making a run on canvas to build a bigger tent. At least not this congressional crowd. But party leadership doesn't hold all the cards anymore. Outsiders -- widely known as billionaires -- have their own agendas, which are not uniformly consistent with the GOP base's. Nor are they necessarily sinister, though this most likely will be the spin from Democrats.

Wherever billionaires gather, something must be up. Politico suggested as much with its exclusive story earlier this week about mega-donors planning a GOP war council that will be meeting soon at "a swanky Colorado resort." Do wealthy Democrats meet in abandoned warehouses?

This gathering of Republican swanks is being hosted by New York billionaire Paul Singer, who wants to help shape the party's direction leading up to the midterms. Dum-de-dum-dum. Singer, who gives generously to humanitarian groups, including wounded warriors, also supports same-sex marriage, immigration reform and pro-Israel policies. He is, in other words, a New/Old Republican -- moderate on social issues, passionate about human rights, practical about demographic change and election realities, hawkish about defense and loyalty to allies.

These positions are largely consistent with a sizable chunk of the American people, if not so much with the GOP's libertarians, who increasingly lean toward isolationist, bootstrap policies. Hence the emerging narrative of yet another internal war within the GOP. Cue Darth Vader breathing sound, if I may mix my movies, and enter the Koch brothers -- those heartless, free-market avatars with libertarian tendencies.

The same Politico story described the Koch brothers as bringing together "hand-picked operatives and politicians twice a year at tony resorts." Hand-picked implies "special" while "tony" is a word only used by 1 percenters. (I don't think I've ever heard -- not even in movies -- a diamond-laden debutante belaboring restaurant choices say: "Oh, Capers, let's do pick some place tony.")

And they say Republicans use dog whistles.

Democrats love to demonize these groups even though they have a couple of their own billionaire bundling operations. But the emerging narrative of the billionaire war within the party is both incorrect and an obvious attempt to revive the idea that Republicans can't lead because they can't even get along with each other.

It worked for a while, but no more. Within the party, the Koch brothers and Singer might best be described as co-belligerents. Picture them as set A and B in a Venn diagram. The overlap is the story -- and the war isn't internal.

Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

© 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

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