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Burnt toast

Have Republicans en masse gone insane? Or is it only that the sane ones are keeping very quiet, hoping not to be noticed while those who are cracking up dominate the news? A Republican Congresswoman in Minnesota suggested on national television that Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi harbor "anti-American" views and called for an expose of the entire Democratic contingent in the House of Representatives. (Now she keeps saying that her words have been "misinterpreted," but...well...she's all over YouTube, and it's pretty clear what she said.) In North Carolina, a Congressman declared that "liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God." (For a while he categorically denied saying it. Then the audio tapes began to surface.) Then there was the McCain advisor who announced that the northern part of Virginia was not "the real Virginia," which dovetailed nicely with John McCain's brother referring to the same area as "communist country." Of course there was the Republican vice-presidential nominee describing small towns as "these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America...very patriotic, very pro-American areas of this great nation." And the presidential nominee himself, the man who always used to be known as a smart pragmatist who saw beyond party cant, calling Barack Obama's economic policies "socialism" and telling us we risk nuclear war if we vote Democratic.

These, of course, are politicians in the heat of battle, trying to fire up their true believers. Things get said. But a similar madness has gripped the conservative analysts and journalists who have always asked us to believe that, though they have their strong political beliefs, they will ultimately choose intellectual honesty over partisan rhetoric. There was John Podhoretz, next editor of Commentary and a veritable mascot of neoconservative intellectualism, claiming that criticisms of Sarah Palin's lack of experience were "un-American." Un-American! I thought the right wing had learned to lay off that word around the time Joe McCarthy was censured by the Senate. Just a couple of days ago Thomas Sowell, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and an award-winning economist, compared Barack Obama to Lenin, Hitler, Mao, and Jim Jones. When Christopher Buckley, one of the most popular and persuasive conservative columnists out there, responded to this increasing madness by endorsing Obama, The National Review basically fired him. That's the magazine that Christopher's father, William F. Buckley, founded. William F. Buckley, who once described his career with, "I've spent my life trying to separate the right from the kooks."

I'm kind of glad old Bill didn't live to see this election, because the kooks have surely taken over the party. And since the polls now show Obama widening his lead again and the Democrats with an ever-more-realistic shot at a "perfect 60" in the Senate, I'm expecting the next two weeks to get even kookier.