Juan Williams: The GOP is now the party of grifters and kooks

William F. Buckley once interviewed me. And I covered President Reagan for The Washington Post.

Now imagine how those conservative heroes might react to the latest news about today’s Republican leaders.

First, the Trump 2020 campaign ripped off its small donors last year by nudging them into authorizing repeat donations from their credit cards, according to The New York Times.

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Then the main Republican House campaign group followed up by brazenly threatening any small donor who wanted to just make a one-time donation.

“If you UNCHECK this box [for recurring donations], we will have to tell Trump you’re a DEFECTOR & sided with the Dems,” says the National Republican Congressional Committee’s donation page on WinRed, the key platform for conservative online fundraising.

Also last week, conservatives who thought they were sending money to support Second Amendment gun rights found out they, too, had been ripped off.

According to depositions made public at a National Rifle Association (NRA) bankruptcy hearing last week, NRA President Wayne LaPierre hid on a 108-foot yacht after school children died in mass shootings. The boat’s owner is tied to a fundraising firm paid $11.5 million by the NRA in 2019.

LaPierre said he thought to himself: “Thank God I’m safe, nobody can get me here.”

What hypocrisy for a man who raised hundreds of millions by telling conservatives to buy lots of guns to be safe. Despite an endless gun supply, he fled to sea for safety.

He previously admitted to using his donors’ money to buy expensive suits. He is also alleged to have given no-show contracts to his pals and written a $17 million post-employment contract for himself.

At this point, Buckley and Reagan must realize their conservative movement has become a circus of grifters and con men.

But don’t take my word on their disgust. 

Former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFeehery: The next Republican wave is coming Rift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power MORE (R-Ohio) agrees.

The best known Republicans on Capitol Hill today, BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFeehery: The next Republican wave is coming Rift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power MORE writes in a new book, are not conservatives. Instead, the front rank of the party is filled by loudmouths willing to voice the wildest conspiracy theories.

These pretend conservatives rake in money by being stars in what Boehner calls “Looneyville,” the echo chamber of right-wing radio hosts and even further right websites.

In “On the House: A Washington Memoir,” Boehner said the conservative heritage of the Republican Party has been sunk by the power of “fawning right-wing media and outrage-driven fundraising.”

As for actually working to pass legislation in the tradition of Reagan, today’s Republicans dismiss such efforts. They get more attention by slamming anyone on their side of the aisle trying to make deals with Democrats as a “traitor,” Boehner said.

“Reagan used to say something to the effect that if I get 80 or 90 percent of what I want, that’s a win. These guys [the ‘Tea Party’ vintage Republicans who came to Congress after the 2010 midterm elections] ... didn’t really want legislative victories. They wanted wedge issues and conspiracies and crusades,” Boehner writes.

The former Speaker’s description of the Tea Party class of 2010 is even more true of Reps. Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneGOP efforts to downplay danger of Capitol riot increase The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she's meeting with Trump 'soon' in Florida MORE (R-Ga.) and Lauren BoebertLauren BoebertGOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips Boebert apologizes to Muslims as Democrats call for 'real action to confront racism' Omar calls out Boebert over anti-Muslim remarks, denies Capitol incident took place MORE (R-Colo.), the best-known of what might be called the Trump/QAnon class of 2020.

Boehner’s conclusion is that Republicans in Congress are now in the grips of “the crazy caucus,” a group he defines as encompassing “garden-variety whack jobs to insurrectionists.”

Their lack of conservative principles, Boehner explains, led to the acceptance of Trump’s endless conspiracy theories, beginning with the lie that former President Obama was not born in the United States.

And that led to acceptance of the “Big Lie” about the 2020 election being stolen from Trump and, incredibly, Trump’s supporters rioting at the Capitol.

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Trump “incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons, perpetuated by the bullshit he’d been shoveling since he lost a fair election,” Boehner explained.

The riot should have been “a wake-up call for a return to Republican sanity,” Boehner warns. He wants conservatives to revolt and take control of the GOP away from self-promoters who stop both parties from getting anything done in Congress.

The Biden White House has concluded — correctly, I believe — that there is no longer anything to be gained from trying to reason and negotiate with what remains of conservative Republicans.

The right-wing media that Boehner describes as controlling the GOP give Republicans no incentive to work with Biden and applauds them every time they obstruct him.

So why bother wasting time and energy and political capital trying to reason with them when Biden already knows the outcome?

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (Ky.) gave the game away last week when he said there would be no Senate Republican votes for the infrastructure bill. Full stop.

So Biden is going it alone on the business of governing from COVID-19 relief to infrastructure to voting rights.

Back in February, I wrote in this column that America needs two healthy political parties:

“In fact, it pains me to see the cancerous gang of grifters, white supremacists and conspiracy-theory mad hatters who are killing the party of conservative principles.”

The grifters will always find suckers to give them money.

But when it comes to the GOP as a legitimate conservative, governing party, well, the party’s over.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.