Colbert I. King
Colbert I. King
Opinion Writer

The Republican pity party

Conservative behavior since President Obama’s reelection in November has evoked, at least in me, a keen sense of sadness. Hardly a day goes by without weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth by the likes of Rush Limbaugh on talk radio and Sean Hannity on Fox News over Obama’s return to the White House. Similar whining is heard among Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Simply put, conservatives are in agony over the president’s smashing victory. Their pain is hard to watch. Only small-minded Democrats would gloat.

Colbert I. King

King writes a column -- sometimes about D.C., sometimes about politics -- that runs on Saturdays.

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What we’re seeing is the impact of losing when you believed with all your heart, soul and mind, buttressed by the predictions of pollsters and pundits, that you would win handily.

The reaction is, for me, heart-rending.

Consider the feeble attempt by House Republicans to recover political ground by threatening Obama over the debt limit.

The poor things, crazed by their defeat, didn’t realize that they had no leverage. They had to back down with a face-saving gimmick to suspend through May enforcement of the limit on federal borrowing.

Consider some Republicans’ return to the issue of what happened in Benghazi, Libya. Did they really think that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would traipse up to the Hill this week, prostrate herself before Congress and confess to something that she knew wasn’t true?

They so wanted her to say that there was mendacity and attempts by the administration to cover up malfeasance in the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility. Some seemed truly distressed that Clinton wouldn’t give them what they wanted. They were so desperate. It was so sad.

And so it has gone since election night. The lamentations abound:

●Obama’s nominations of Jack Lew as Treasury secretary and Chuck Hagel as defense secretary are confrontational; woe unto us.

●“I would have liked to have seen some outreach” in Obama’s inaugural address, complained Sen. John McCain, who, with his Republican cohorts, did everything they could to kick Barack Obama out of the White House.

●The Obama administration will “attempt to annihilate the Republican Party . . . to just shove us into the dustbin of history,” House Speaker John Boehner wailed this week.

And so it goes: one big conservative pity party.

Imagine how hard it must have been to lose.

For four long years they hit Obama with everything they had, assailing him at every turn. No insult was too offensive to be hurled; no abuse too outrageous to be tried; no name too abusive to call.

From Day One, destruction of the Obama administration and preventing his reelection was top priority; the second item too far down the list to remember.

Four years of blame, blame, blame. Blah, blah, blah.

Conservatives on Capitol Hill and right-wing commentators left nothing on the field.

They gave it their all — and came up empty.

What an emotional letdown. How not to feel at least a little sorry for them?

So where do they go from here?

This should be a time for introspection, for conservatives to examine their thoughts and look inside for answers as to why they lost when, at first blush, they had so much going for them. And why were they so dead set on not just defeating but breaking this president?

Hard-liners, of course, will take exception to my characterization of their behavior. What I might call abusive or mean they would probably describe as passionate: their passionate defense of liberty, the Constitution, smaller government, free enterprise and the individual — all things they see Obama as opposing.

The conservative wing regards itself as all that stands between freedom and tyranny, between order and chaos, between values and licentiousness.

And perhaps that self-view explains why they are taking their loss so hard.

It also may help explain why their conduct is so, well, touching.

Conservatives yakking it up in House and Senate chambers and on the airwaves these days are delusional, in much the way that the South deluded itself into thinking it was in the right during the Civil War or that Republicans held fast to the misguided belief that the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was wrong for the country.

American principles endure. But America is changing, just as it evolved during the Lincoln era and just as it emerged from the Great Depression under FDR’s leadership.

What makes this so excruciatingly sad is that some forces on the right are too far gone to see the truth.

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