SCOTUS: Smear and Loathing in the GOP

From hurling labels of racism to claims of Sonia Sotomayor being an "affirmative action hire," it’s been a show of dismal stupidity the last day and a half from far too many in the GOP.

That the contradiction between the two epithets isn’t patently obvious makes it all the more ludicrous.

Rachel Maddow lined out some of the more egregious malarky in yesterday’s show.

And she asked: when the common Beltway wisdom, even among GOP politicos, is that Sotomayor will almost certainly be confirmed to SCOTUS, why oppose her in this way?

The media thrives on conflict. And, sadly, will give air time to anyone who gives it to them.

As exhibit A, I give you NPR’s Mike Pesca, who interviewed a high school academic rival of Sotomayor so that she could whine about affirmative action denying her the valedictory speech…at a private Catholic high school which wasn’t forced into integration busing or anything making her go to school with "those people," one of whom just happened to get slightly better grades.

Really, high school rivals? That’s what you have stooped to for a pretend controversy story?!? Beyond sad.

Exhibit B ought to be the comic stylings of Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton, whose objections to Sotomayor come down to "Obama nominated her." Brilliant, that one. But, alas, there are now far too many instances of just slapping someone on teevee (*cough* Coulter *cough*) to spew venom and discord to have "the other side." If you are willing to make an ass of yourself, then you, too, can get time on camera or in print. Heaven forbid a sane person be allowed to present the other side in a rational way, I suppose.

Nothing like a pretend controversy and some screaming for the ratings. News Heathers at 11.

But, as Rachel also asks, the more pertinent question is the political ramifications of being dubbed "the clip" from a seeming "Biggest Asshole" contest on Sotomayor comments.

Why do this? And what kind of Republican party encourages and rewards this?

A few thoughts:

It’s pre-2010 election cycle fundraising season. At a time when donations are tough to come by, the group with the biggest publicity buzz has a better shot of being the big cash dawg. The recent admission from Richard Vigeurie on fundraising mailers stands out as a glaring example on this:

It’s an immense opportunity to build the conservative movement and identify the troops out there,” said Richard A. Viguerie, a conservative fund-raiser. “It’s a massive teaching moment for America. We’ve got the packages written. We’re waiting right now to put a name in. (emphasis mine)

Note that whomever the nominee might have been, whatever their qualifications and character and legal acumen, their name would have been written into the fundraising package. It isn’t about justice, it’s about politics. Money is power in politics, plain and simple.

And that takes us back to the "Biggest Asshole" contest. Take Newt Gingrich. It’s pretty clear that Newtie wants another try at the Presidential brass ring. But he’s got a hefty load of toxic baggage.

How does he overcome that within the GOP? By fundraising for candidates, collecting chits and putting other politicos in his debt for favors he’s been able to do them so they’ll overlook his past indiscretions and declare him a born-again political phenom.

To do that, Newt has to raise his profile.

What’s the best way to raise your profile? Get in the news, make yourself a celebrity politician, a headliner, a diva who can fundraise on demand…but for a price down the road that everyone knows will be called in at some point. Because that’s the way it works.

You make yourself a big draw by being the guy who will say anything, and people want to come and see you because you might make headlines — even though you make them for being a putrid, hate-filled ass, it’s still a headline. And publicity sells your political brand.

The next time some politico spews forth idiocy or writes crap so foul you wouldn’t wrap old fish in it, ask yourself this question: "what’s in it for them?" And you’ll have your answer on the why.

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