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'Real Housewives of the GOP' — Wannabe reality show narcissists commandeer the party

'Real Housewives of the GOP' — Wannabe reality show narcissists commandeer the party
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Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGOP-led Maricopa County board decries election recount a 'sham' Analysis: Arpaio immigration patrol lawsuit to cost Arizona county at least 2 million Conservatives launch 'anti-cancel culture' advocacy organization MORE has proven to be a loser — and a sore one at that — but he has won something. He managed to transform the GOP into a party in his own image: an outsized, narcissistic cast of mini-me sycophants. Just like the maestro, none of them appears to care about actual governing. They’re building their brand first, then following fame and the money.

This has transformed the GOP from a party that once had ideas and credibility into a lame variation on the “Real Housewives” reality TV franchise. Forget the red hats. The real mantra of this new GOP isn’t “America First” — it’s “Me First.”

Like the TV “Housewives,” these new Republicans seek attention, fame and fortune, ignoring credibility.  Their success is sometimes short-lived, and often ends in relationship troubles, legal troubles, and worse. 

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The most obvious recent example is Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzTroubles grow for Gaetz as former associate flips Gaetz associate pleads guilty Gaetz compares allegations against him to earmarks: 'Everybody knows that that's the corruption' MORE (R-Fla.).

TV Insider ran a piece recently detailing the troubles of seven of the TV “Housewives” from various cities. Fame and money are intoxicants. Add a bit of power and the realization that there are people “out there” who buy your special brand of assininity, and the tragedy begins to unfold.

The one thing all “Housewives” have in common is performative outrage.

In one corner, there’s Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court sides with oil companies in Baltimore case| White House environmental justice advisers express opposition to nuclear, carbon capture projects | Biden administration to develop performance standards for federal buildings Sunday shows - Cheney removal, CDC guidance reverberate Ron Johnson calls cyber attacks an 'existential' threat following Colonial Pipeline shutdown MORE (R-Wis.). It seems as if he’s never heard a conspiracy to which he wouldn’t subscribe: Remember the FBI Secret Society out to get Trump? Maybe the Congressional committee hearing he conducted on the already disproven effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19? Or maybe the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol? Johnson says those were Leftists pretending to be Trump supporters. The other things Johnson says about Jan. 6 are simply despicable. He puts QAnon star Marjorie Taylor-Greene to shame.     

But Johnson has pledged not to run for a third term.

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Then there’s Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP resistance to campaign finance reforms shows disregard for US voters Bipartisanship has become a partisan weapon Former OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden MORE (R-Texas), who would out-flank and out-maneuver Sen. Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerSenators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate Pro-tax millionaires protesting in front of Bezos's homes Student debt cancellation advocates encouraged by Biden, others remain skeptical MORE (D-N.Y.) eight ways til Sunday to get in front of a TV camera. To create a distraction after his Cancun skedaddle, Cruz went down to the Mexican border – “Broadcast News” style – allegedly spotting members of an immigrant-trafficking cartel who taunted him from across the Rio Grande, down which — allegedly — a dead body floated past. Cruz was mocked.

Ken Burns he’s not. But this Housewife has his eye on the Oval Office.

Traveling with Cruz on the border junket was Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: 'I accept the results of the election' Juan Williams: The GOP's losing bet on Trump Pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood causes headache for GOP in key S.C. race MORE (R-S.C.), who — it’s abundantly clear — really has no compass. The former “best friend” of the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainWill the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? Republicans have dumped Reagan for Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting MORE now gushes about Trump’s “magic.” Ideas, vision and credibility be damned — Just give me votes. That’s where Graham would take the party.

Chris Whipple got it exactly right in his most recent book “The Gatekeepers”: There is a stark contrast between politicking and governing. The difference is that governing needs credibility, whereas politicking does not.

Credibility has long been the currency in Washington that defeats swampian politics.

The new GOP wouldn’t understand this distinction if it waddled up and nipped them in the backside.  That’s the legacy of the Trump administration – all politics and no governing. In another era it was called “All hat and no cattle.” Trump and his Housewives replaced credibility with a counterfeit currency. Instead of draining the swamp, they’ve put it on steroids.

Arguably, this is all the result of a right-wing alt media echo-chamber run amock, in which self-aggrandizement replaces ideas as the political holy grail.

While these new “GOP Housewives” may provide entertainment of sorts, I fear they bode ill for the country overall.

Thoughtful, responsible GOP lawmakers are leaving public service in droves — or will be driven out. Many of them knew when to leave politics at the door and get into governing mode. With their departure, there will be no “marketplace of ideas.” It’ll just be Democrats talking to themselves — rarely a good thing.

Kris Kolesnik is a 34-year veteran of federal government oversight. He spent 19 years as senior counselor and director of investigations for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Kolesnik then became executive director of the National Whistleblower Center. Finally, he spent 10 years working with the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General as the associate inspector general for external affairs.