Republicans would need a promotion to be 'paper tigers'

Republicans would need a promotion to be 'paper tigers'
© Greg Nash

Raise your hand if you believed Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine Senate eyes plan B amid defense bill standoff To counter China, the Senate must confirm US ambassadors MORE (R-Fla.) was blowing smoke last month when he demanded that President Biden fire Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for allegedly contemplating “treasonous” acts.

Milley’s supposed treasonous acts came to light after Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reported in their new book, “Peril,” that Milley reached out to Chinese officials in the final weeks of the Trump administration to assure China that the United States was under control after the Jan. 6 incursion into the U.S. Capitol.

Rubio, apparently outraged, said in part in his letter to Biden: “I write with grave concern regarding recent reporting that General Mark MilleyMark MilleyTrump calls Milley a 'f---ing idiot' over Afghanistan withdrawal The bully who pulls the levers of Trump's mind never learns Overnight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine MORE … worked to actively undermine the sitting Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces and contemplated a treasonous leak of classified information to the Chinese Communist Party in advance of a potential armed conflict with the People’s Republic of China. These actions by General Milley demonstrate a clear lack of sound judgement [sic], and I urge you to dismiss him immediately.”

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Gee, remind me how that turned out.

While the hyperbole that Rubio rolled out can be effective when trying to raise campaign funds — and Rubio did raise about $6 million in the third quarter for his 2022 reelection bid — it can make the eyes of those who see it for what it is glaze over: another empty threat by a Republican politician.

To be sure, both political parties fire up the Outrage Machine to separate hyper-partisans from their money. The main difference usually is that Democrats generally are who they say they are and are seeking to implement the policies they say they are pushing. However, Republicans — at least to many conservatives and those in the party’s more traditional wing — are gaining a reputation for saying one thing while intending to do the other. They roar loudly for the cameras and the check-writers and then roll over when Democrats or the media accuse them of something negative.

Merriam-Webster defines a “paper tiger” as “one that is outwardly powerful or dangerous but inwardly weak or ineffectual.” But, of late, many Republicans would need a promotion just to reach the level of “paper tigers.” For years they came across as cotton-candy kittens who would melt under the first drop of organized political opposition.

What does the Republican Party truly stand for in 2021? What is its legitimate identity?

When President BidenJoe BidenChina eyes military base on Africa's Atlantic coast: report Biden orders flags be flown at half-staff through Dec. 9 to honor Dole Biden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package MORE and Vice President Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden cannot allow his domestic fumbles to transfer to the world stage Joe Manchin should embrace paid leave — now The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden defends disappointing jobs report MORE took office, Republican politicians and political action committees began warning Americans — especially those in their donor base — of the imminent collapse of the United States because of the White House leadership. (Okay, you had us with “Biden” at that one.)

But criticizing the president is not a policy initiative. It’s a soundbite, a bumper sticker, maybe a topic for a therapy session. What Republican leaders, fundraisers and party members often fail to offer are the actual policies they intend to enact once they regain control of the White House and Congress, restoring goodness and light to the land.

They are good at spouting off about building walls to stop unchecked immigration, or stopping the Biden administration from threatening individual rights, or about their love for the rule of law and our police and military, but then the wind changes and Americans who are counting on Republicans to be a natural check-and-balance to the Democrats see that there is not much beyond the rhetoric.

With Rubio’s empty threat against Gen. Milley, a growing number of Americans are probably convinced that the GOP now excels at three things: Telling the nation how dangerous the Democrats are, doing nothing once they are in charge, and blaming everyone but themselves for their failures. To that I say, “Meow.”

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.