You have to hand it to the Republicans. They may be lousy at governing -- put them in power and they run up the debt, torpedo the economy and drift aimlessly into wars -- but when they are in the opposition they are stone killers.
Do the Democrats have a "bullet-proof" majority in the Senate? Pshaw. The Republicans have armor-piercing bullets. They know that all they have to do is stick together, pick off one or two frightened Democrats and things will grind to a halt, which is the way the Republicans like it.
If they can't have a smaller government, they'll settle for one unable to solve a single problem.
Take, for example, global warming. Ask Republicans what we should do about it and they say: "What global warming?" Then they produce a parade of cranks, contrarians and industry shills who testify that global warming is either a hoax, a hysterical reaction to a temporary phenomenon (after all, weren't scientists a few years ago warning us about a new Ice Age?) or a cyclical phenomenon which we didn't start and have no power to stop. And anyway, it would cost too much to do something about it, given the fact it's so "controversial."
Let me say this about that: It's really not all that controversial. There is now a virtual consensus among the world's climate scientists that the Earth is warming at an alarming rate and that we, the human race, are part of the cause. They agree that if we allow this to go unchecked, we will reap catastrophic results by the end of this century.
To which Republicans reply, "By the end of this century? Buddy, I'm on a two-year term here. Tell me something that matters."
And they have taken a good share of the public along with them. People fear that doing something about global warming will be expensive, that it will cost them some freedom, that it will be inconvenient. So they prefer to believe it doesn't exist.
But if the efforts of conservatives to delegitimize global warming research (efforts helped by a bunch of dumb scientists at East Anglia University who dressed up their results, then bragged about it to each other) have been distressingly effective, their labors on behalf of strangling universal health care in its crib border on the heroic.
How can you be against national health insurance? Tell me. A Harvard University study recently estimated 45,000 Americans die every year for want of health insurance.
Virtually every developed country in the world (and many undeveloped ones too) has some form of national health care. Except us, land of the free, home of the brave.
Yet our politicians stand up there and say we've got the best health care system on Earth and we shouldn't change it.
And the Republicans are adamant that we won't have it. Virtually all 40 of the Republicans in the Senate did vote against it, and had the odious Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut followed suit, it would have been end of health care reform.
(It hasn't been pointed out often enough that Connecticut is a state with a lot of insurance companies. It's so rife with them that Ralph Nader gave Lieberman the nickname "the senator from Aetna.")
We're letting people like Lieberman and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa (another insurance company-heavy state), both tools of the insurance industry, dictate our national health policy.
That's like letting the Taliban dictate our national security policy.
And it couldn't happen but for the fact that Republicans operate with the precision of a West Point drill team in opposition to everything President Obama wants to do.
They are aided in this by the Rupert Murdoch media empire -- Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, etc. -- and a collection of braying yahoos on AM radio and cable television, some of whom have written more books than they've read.
They've managed to convince a goodly number of people that Obama is the anti-Christ, to be opposed at all costs.
Unfortunately, it's the rest of us who bear most of the cost. It's depressing.
Minuteman Media and retired Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.