- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2000

The Republicans ought to retire the noble elephant as the emblem of the Gooey Old Party. Jumbo deserves a lot better.

Besides, the authentic icon of the Republicans in this Congress is Jubilation T. Cornpone, the brave and famous general from Dogpatch.

You remember General Cornpone, Li'l Abner's beau ideal: The hero of Cornpone's Humiliation. The designer of Cornpone's Disaster. The man who led Cornpone's Retreat. There's a statue of him in downtown Dogpatch. This Congress of Republican Nancies ought to move the Jubilation T. Cornpone marble into Statuary Hall.

The Southerners among the Republicans are among the wussiest. The mark of Lee's miserables, the Army of Northern Virginia being the fiercest army America ever put on a battlefield, was a selfless eagerness to march toward the sound of the guns. The chief characteristic of the Republicans in Congress is to straggle toward the sight of the PX. The Marlboro Man vowed to fight rather than switch. Some of these guys stomp around in cowboy boots several sizes too big looking for a place to hide.

Usually you'll find them hiding out behind the pollster they say they detest. Over and over they make fools of themselves by letting their mouths write checks they know their butts can't cash.

Here's Tom DeLay, the majority whip, on what to do about Janet Reno's storm troopers on the morning after they trashed an innocent private home in the middle of the night: "You bet there will be congressional hearings. I was outraged. I was sickened, and afterwards I was ashamed."

Strong stuff, and in the mouth of anyone but a congressional Republican, impressive stuff. But Master Tom made a quick recovery from his sickness. Here he is a week later, after aides took the polls to him: "We've got to wait and see what we can get before calling hearings."

Here's J.C. Watts, the man we all once had such high hopes for, on the morning after Miss Reno's brave men shoved a submachinegun in the face of a terrified 6-year-old: "As a father and a minister, I strongly believe in the bond between a father and a child, but several questions need to be answered by the Clinton-Gore administration."

A week later, J.C. discovered that he had miscounted the questions: "Let's find out why we're having hearings, what is our mission, what's our purpose. I don't think we have to predetermine at the beginning that we're going to have hearings."

Trent Lott, the majority leader, breathed fire at the sight of masked men speeding into the night with the 6-year-old bundled in a blanket like a hostage of Arab terrorists: "I think that Congress has to look at the institutional questions about what happened there. Was it a legal act? Even Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, who is not exactly your basic conservative Republican, raised serious questions about that."

A week later, here's the man Gene McCarthy once described as someone born to be a senator's aide, not a senator, always looking for someone from whom to seek permission: "I don't think there was very much momentum to begin with."

Now 68 percent of us in the new polls so persuasive to the Republicans in Congress have decided that a 6-year-old boy is expendable ("get away, boy, you bother me") and besides, there's lots of 6-year-old boys where Elian came from ("and please pass the biscuits").

The Republicans in Congress are turning their bluster and bombast to other things. They've told the Russians that the United States will build a missile-defense system no matter what, and the Russians can lump it or leave it. Or something like that. Says Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona with blunt defiance: "There will be a deployment of a national missile defense by the United States."

Well, maybe. Perhaps. Possibly. Could be. We've only got the word of the Republicans, and the Russians are foolish if they take this as the last word. "I completely agree with my American colleagues that we should never hurry in this matter," says Konstantin Kosachev, the deputy chairman of the Russian parliament's foreign-relations committee. And why not? The Russians can afford to wait for the retreat that always follows Republican bluster and blubber.

Can this majority be saved? Should this majority be saved? Ronald Reagan governed very well with a Democratic Congress, and Americans seem content perhaps even wise in their judgment to keep a divided government. George W. might actually accomplish more with a Democratic Congress. The congressional Republicans think they've come up with a winning slogan for November: Vote Republican. We're not as bad as you think. That won't inspire many of us, but they're already celebrating in Dogpatch. Jubilation T. Cornpone is working on his concession speech.

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