Michael Kinsley defined a gaffe as a politician accidentally speaking the truth.  The Republicans have had some gaffe problems lately.

One example is Rep. Joe Barton’s apology to BP, echoing the views of 115 representatives in the “Republican Study Committee” as well as the Heritage Foundation.  Barton’s kowtow was to the ultimate loyalty of the party: to big business and its ability to do whatever the hell it wants.  Making BP pay for spilling millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf would be a bad precedent; what if other corporations had to pay for their mistakes?

Then there’s the kerfuffle over the NAACP calling out Tea Party racists, and Andrew Breitbart’s disgusting smear of Shirley Sherrod.  This isn’t Breitbart’s first foray into selective editing to fan racial fears; he was also behind sending fake pimps to ACORN.  Put this together with racist smears at Obama and Arizona’s demonization of immigrants (the governor thinks they’re all drug mules); sadly, racism and race-baiting have not disappeared just because the rest of us elected a black president.

But in the latter controversies, not everyone played along.  One Tea Party faction disowned another for the racism of its leader, and many conservatives criticized Breitbart.  It’s not really a schism, but it’s interesting to see a little pushback against the extremists, who usually terrorize the rest of the party.   Still, losing a news cycle means very little; the GOP won’t really change till it loses elections.  

Andrew Sullivan likes to contrast the frothing Republicans with the newly triumphant Conservatives in Britain; David Cameron’s victory required moving away from Thatcherism.  It’s nice to know that a rational conservative party is possible; it’s going to take many years, though, before we have one here.

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