Last month, the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives refused to disapprove a Republican congressman's comparison of Democrats to Joseph Goebbels. Arkansas's three Republican representatives — Rick Crawford, Tim Griffin and Steve Womack — aided and abetted their trash-talking colleague from New York, much as getaway drivers aid stickup men. They would have supported him if he'd compared Democrats to Satan.

The Republicans have stopped being a political party, in the way that term has historically been used in America. They're a gang now, unbound by the rules of common courtesy and contemptuous of those who still follow them, concerned only with personal and political advantage. Womack has taken to publicly belittling his own constituents. He'll be putting out contracts on them before long.

This degeneration has occurred over a number of years, influenced by a number of degenerates, but nobody sped it along more than Newt Gingrich. In 1989, Representative Gingrich said of congressional Democrats, "These people are sick. They are so consumed by their own power, by a Mussolini-like ego, that their willingness to run over normal human beings and to destroy honest institutions is unending." A year later, Gingrich's political action committee sent out a memo that included words Republican candidates were to use on Democrats: "Traitors, corrupt, intolerant, cheat, anti-flag, anti-family, anti-child, anti-jobs."

Gingrich eventually resigned his seat after he was caught violating House ethics rules — and you have work hard to violate those — but now he's back, seeking the Republican presidential nomination. He probably won't get it, dogged as he is by personal scandal of the sort that's hard to overlook when there are candidates without it. But he'll still be Mr. (Modern) Republican. Mitt Romney has a ways to sink before he can challenge for that title.

(But he's trying. Now he's boasting of making a road trip with his dog strapped to the roof of the car. That's pretty Newtonian, although Newt probably puts his wives up there.)


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