John Kass | Commentary
With the Iowa presidential caucuses just a few days away, the Republican establishment is busy with some frightening new themes, like:
What happens in Iowa stays in Iowa.
Who cares what happens in Iowa — if anything — anyway?
My personal favorite comes direct from the unyielding mind of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican who insists that American voters don't care which candidate wins the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3.
"People are going to look at who comes in second and who comes in third," said Branstad. "If (Mitt) Romney comes in a strong second, it definitely helps him going into New Hampshire and other states."
Losing Iowa helps in New Hampshire? So it's not winning that counts, it's losing? What the?
Is he high?
Just what the devil is wrong with the Republican bigwigs these days? Their minds can't be besotted by Hopium. That's a liberal Democratic leaf for Democratic pipes depressed that Chicago's City Hall has run the country into the ground. So Republicans must be smoking something else, something just as potent: Dopium, a leaf so powerful that it allowed many Republicans to call themselves "conservatives" while embracing a series of big government programs and federal bailouts from the Bush administration, not to mention two wars.
These days, Gov. Branstad isn't alone. The entire Republican establishment is babbling similar nonsense about the importance of being earnest and a loser in Iowa.
Meanwhile, the Republican-media high priests — yes, the GOP has its own hierarchs — are now in full-throated roar. From the secular pulpits they predict unending torment and Obamanation for anyone foolish enough to embrace the current heretical teachings.
And the name of this heretic?
Ron Paul, the Texas congressman and libertarian who is leading most polls in Iowa with a message of cutting government, including the defense budget, and staying out of wars.
The problem isn't that he's saying it. Paul has been consistent for years. The problem for the GOP establishment is that the American people are now listening. And this threatens the coalition that can put Karl Rove and Wall Street and the Religious Right at the same table to slice the pie of power.
The fact that voters, particularly younger voters, are edging toward Paul has sent the GOP into a panic.
"His supporters are younger and more likely to (use) a cellphone, so he's probably going to perform better than his polling suggests," Iowa State associate professor Dave Peterson told cbsnews.com. "His supporters are also dedicated and will likely turn out on caucus night and not change their minds."
Republicans sure changed their minds about Mitt Romney, a moderate who yearns to be conservative during party primaries. Republicans pegged him for what he is, a corporate stiff, every hair in place, who'll run left the second he secures the nomination. Tim Pawlenty? Just another can of Spam. Rick Perry stuck both boots in his mouth and kept them there. It's a wonder he has any lips left.
Michele Bachmann had her troubles with American history, and Rick Santorum seems ready to punch anyone who won't let him attack Iran tomorrow morning. And Herman Cain? With so many "girlfriend" stories buzzing around him, he was tagged on the Internet with an M.C. Hammer-type parody theme song: "Cain Touched This."
Now it's Newt Gingrich's turn to drop his blossoms. What was it exactly? Was it that $1.6 million chunk that his consulting firm took from federal mortgage giant Freddie Mac as it was getting a massive federal bailout? Or that pledge of marital fidelity he signed the other day, suggesting that his oath to his third wife wasn't nearly enough?
And as he inked it, his campaign was infected by a terrible political virus, Newtonian Ego Interruptus.
Since August, the media has desperately avoided mentioning Paul, a fact noted during the summer in a hilarious rip by liberal comic Jon Stewart and a few days ago by the conservative journalist Neil Cavuto, proving that intellectual honesty is not and never has been a partisan affair. Yet for every Stewart or Cavuto there are dozens of eager clerics of the Church of Common Wisdom, desperate to become bishops.
I'm not endorsing Paul here. But you'd have to be blind not to see Republican bosses in panic. Because if Paul wins Iowa, his ideas might catch fire. And then the bosses won't be able to feed as easily.
Once there was no more amusing sight for me than watching Democratic mouthpieces appearing on TV, claiming then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Rezko, — backed by all those guys from Chicago's City Hall — would bring hope and change as he transcended the broken politics of America's past.
The journalistic high priests, their brains swollen by several bowls of Hopium, chattered and repeated the slogans of City Hall's favorite mouthpiece, David Axelrod. So Americans never quite realized that the man they were electing president had been an earnest but inexperienced back-bencher in the Illinois Legislature who spent his entire career taking orders from machine bosses while trying to get ahead.
Hopium was bad enough. But what worries me are all those clouds of Dopium wafting across Iowa, where the Republican establishment remains in Ron Paul denial.
Iowa: where winning isn't as important as losing.
ABOUT THE WRITER
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.