I'm old enough to remember a time the Bush administration's prediction that we'd be greeted as liberators in Iraq, complete with roses and chocolates, was indicative of how badly GOP policies had careened off the rails. Sadly, it was a mere prologue to the cartoonish ridiculousness that's being passed off as legitimate policymaking 12 years later. At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, it used to be that Republican platform planks were simply untenable and mostly wrong. Earnest, but wrong. Today, the pendulum has swung from being wrong to being hilariously silly.
Since the ascendancy of Donald Trump and, to a lesser though not insignificant extent, Dr. Ben Carson, Republican policies continue to have roots in a xenophobic, nearsighted and regressive worldview, but more than anything else, they’re genuinely screwy. There are myriad reasons why it's happened, ranging from Obama Derangement Syndrome to cynical pandering to badly uninformed, kneejerk yokels who don't know any better. Or both. Regarding the latter, what's quite clear is that at some point, GOP operatives decided to go "Moneyball" with policy ideas. Specifically, campaign and RNC apparatchiks determined that it's more politically expedient to deal in easy-to-digest abstractions. No complicated wonkery or any sense of realism. The loonier the better. Cheap but powerful.
And it seems to be working. Let's do the list.
• Trump's Muslim-American Database. Most of Trump's policy proposals are the consequence of his tendency to blurt whatever nincompoopery pops into his bewigged head. His Muslim database, emerging as a thoughtless, totalitarian reaction to the Paris attacks, makes the Bush administration's menu of post-9/11 policies appear relatively tame and constitutionally sound. The fact that Trump continues to lead in the polls after floating an idea that's nothing more than creepy, throwback fascism is evidence that we've passed through a looking glass and into self-destructive self-satire.
• Deporting 12 Million Immigrants. In addition to blowing up the free exercise clause of the First Amendment while running for the nomination of the "religious freedom" party, Trump also wants to overturn the 14th Amendment. Anyone who thinks deporting 12 million men, women and children is practical and physically possible should be banned from operating heavy machinery because they're probably suffering from a massive head injury. And yet roughly 59 percent of Americans agree. Sure, old-school Republicans like Lindsey Graham and Charles Krauthammer have referred to the idea as "gibberish" and "morally obscene," the folks seem to love it. And Trump calculated a long time ago that as long as the people love it, he'll keeping making more.
• Big Beautiful Everything. By now, we all know about Trump's border wall and the "big beautiful door" he plans to install. But lost in the mix of awfulness and lunacy was Trump's announcement that, if elected, he'd build a "big beautiful safe zone" in Syria. What the hell does that even mean? And how has he not been yanked off the stage and hauled away on an old-timey rail? The very fact that he's describing structures he'd build as "big" and "beautiful" proves to any thinking human that he's nothing more than a sideshow chicken-geeker.
• Waterboarding. While we're here, it's worth noting that Trump vowed to bring back waterboarding: one of the most horrendous practices of the Bush administration -- so horrendous that the Bush-era CIA discontinued it because it not only didn't work, but it also made us look like dark ages monsters. And as long as half the country continues to act like cats terrified of cucumbers in the face of the ISIS threat, the more political capital Trump and the GOP will accumulate to resurrect torture, preemptive wars or worse.
But Trump's definitely not the only one playing this game.
• Tax Reform and Biblical Tithing. During Ben Carson's tastefully brief 15 minutes as a potential frontrunner, we were treated to a variety of cartoony policy proposals in addition to observations that could only be explained by chronic Ambien sleepwalking episodes. One of the most comical was Carson's plan to base the tax code on biblical tithing in which we're all required to pay 10 percent of our income to the government. While the flat tax itself is regressive and punitive to lower incomes who are far less capable of giving up 10 percent of their annual salaries than the super-wealthy, the fact that he's drawing tax policy from the Bible should, in a better world, be a punchline to every joke ever.
• Abolishing the IRS. While it's not a new idea, everything old is new again in Ted Cruz Land. The slimy door-to-door huckster and Texas senator wants to abolish the IRS, along with other federal agencies. At the same time, he wants to simplify tax returns so that we only have to file a post-card sized 1040. Of course, Cruz has failed to elaborate on which agency would collect the cards and tax payments while enforcing compliance. I seriously doubt he'll do it himself at a card table inside the Oval Office. Perhaps he'll propose a new federal agency for doing so. He could call it, I don't know, the IRS?
• Thwarting the End Times. Back to the man who's licensed to cut into human brains for a living. Ben Carson also has a policy for preventing the End Times. That's right. Ben Carson is more powerful than God and his four horsemen. “I think we have a chance to certainly ameliorate the situation,” Carson said. Yes, if the GOP nomination process had take place this past month, there would've been a solid chance Ben Carson would've been the guy, not despite crapola like this but because of it.
• The Army vs Pregnant Women. Mike Huckabee once suggested he'd employ the U.S. military and the FBI to prevent women from having a safe and heretofore legal abortion procedure. Screw posse comitatus.
• Re-invading Iraq. See also the definition of insanity. Most of the GOP candidates, minus Rand Paul, wants to reintroduce combat troops to Iraq and Syria because it clearly worked out so well the first two times. What could possibly go wrong?
Is it me or do all of these proposals sound like ideas from a screwball parody of American politics. It's difficult to accept why and how any of these ideas are taken seriously by anyone with functional gray matter.
In Ben Carson's case, he sounds like a 10th grader who didn't do his homework and has to subsequently bullshit his way through an oral exam. Trump's and Cruz's ideas are eerily similar to the machinations of an evil character from an episode of "The Simpsons" -- a Lionel Hutz flimflam artist who swings into town and sells a rickety monorail to the easily-led residents of Springfield. Indeed, if the song and dance is catchy enough, the people will buy it. And they're inexplicably buying into these shit sandwiches and scarfing them down like potato chips. Frankly, I long for the days of the "Clear Skies Initiative" and being "greeted as liberators." Compared with hooey like Trump's "big beautiful safe zone," Bush-era doublespeak sounds like the New Deal to me now.