"Twenty funny felt-crowned fools, poster for Forepaugh & Sells Brothers, 1899" by Strobridge Lithographic Co., Cincinnati.
If it were under the big top, it would be a hilarious clown show – with pratfalls, wild posturing, tumbling, juggling, and a cacophony of comic chaos.
But, alas, this show was under the Capitol dome, so it was just the Republican congressional caucus – bumbling, stumbling, and crashing into each other in clownish acts of ideological zaniness, political incoherence, and pathetic ineptitude. Last month’s bedlam on The Hill was prompted by House Speaker John Boehner abrupt September decision to Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah out of office, having finally given up on corralling his caucus of clowns.
Sadly, his withdrawal only intensified the buffoonery, generating a slapstick intramural contest over which group of far-out right-wingers will replace him. Boehner's contingent of anti-government, corporate-hugging extremists wanted one of their own, while assorted groupings of even fringier, farther-out packs of mad-dog tea party Republicans wanted someone who'll howl at the moon and literally shut down the government.
Representative Kevin McCarthy dropped out after letting it slip that the House Benghazi hearings were held just to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and really had nothing to do with national security.
Then, Representative Paul Ryan appeared as the Republicans’ best solution, except for two problems: One, he didn’t really want the thankless task of clown-herding, unless he could get all factions of Republicans to a level of consensus (good luck with that!); and two, even though he’s an Ayn Rand-worshipping, Koch-hugging, laissez-fairyland ideologue dedicated to killing everything from Social Security to Obamacare, Ryan was just not right-wingy enough for the howlers. He won enough support to overcome the opposition within his own party, but getting the job is only the beginning. The spectacle will continue.
The amusing irony in Ryan's predicament is that he helped create his own mess! He was chief architect of the 2010 Republican scheme to take over Congress by recruiting and electing the mad dogs who are now biting him on the butt – and turning the U.S. House of Representatives into the House of Ridiculousness. As Representative Peter King put it: “We look absolutely crazy.”
And King is right. What's at work here is the Crazy Caucus. At one level or another, nearly all Republican House members belong, but the caucus is driven by about forty hypercrazies who believe that the greatest problems facing our country are Hillary Clinton's emails, Planned Parenthood, the existence of public services, and the "hordes" of Mexicans who sneak into our country so they can vote for Democrats. It's the job of the House Speaker to try "leading" these mad-dogs to an occasional bit of sanity. Who really wants to do that—or even thinks it's possible?
Several of the mad dogs themselves said they should be put in charge. Daniel Webster says he was available (not the smart guy who compiled the dictionary, but a tea party bozo from Florida). Bill Flores, a little known tea party know-nothing from Texas, said he would unite the House by getting all the members to "spend enough time on our knees praying for each other." That's silly, but the idea of keeping lawmakers on their knees is appealing. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, a prince of right-wing pomposity who was elected by the billionaire Koch brothers to be their personal representative in Washington, said he was ready to lead the House toward a Koch-headed plutocracy.
That's pathetic. But wait – we have another surprising choice. It's a little known fact, but the Speaker of our House of Representatives does not actually have to be a member of Congress. Why not a kindergarten teacher, a minimum wage worker, an organic farmer, or a circus ringmaster to run the show? Or maybe a group psychologist is what the place really needs.