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Thursday, October 19, 2017

If it were under the big top, it would be a hilarious clown show — with pratfalls, wild posturing, tumbling, juggling and a cacophony of comic chaos.

But alas, it’s under the Capitol dome, so it’s just the Republican congressional caucus — bumbling, stumbling, and crashing into each other in clownish acts of ideological zaniness, political incoherence and pathetic ineptitude. The present bedlam on the Hill was prompted by House Speaker John Boehner abruptly deciding to zip-a-dee-doo-dah out of office, having finally given up on corralling his caucus of clowns.

Sadly, his withdrawal has only intensified the buffoonery, generating a slapstick intramural contest over which group of far-out right-wingers gets their pick to replace him. Boehner’s contingent of anti-government, corporate-hugging extremists want one of their own, while assorted groupings of even fringier, farther-out packs of mad-dog tea party Republicans want someone who’ll howl at the moon and literally shut down the government.

When Speaker Boehner gave up his position because he couldn’t stand running the show anymore, next in line was Rep. Kevin McCarthy. He started campaigning for the job, but quickly backed off after he let it slip that the House Benghazi hearings were held just to damage Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and really had nothing to do with national security.

For the moment, Rep. Paul Ryan appears to be the most likely pick, except for two problems: One, he doesn’t really want the thankless task of clown-herding, unless he can get all factions of Republicans to a level of consensus (good luck with that!); and two, even though he is an Ayn Rand-worshipping, Koch-hugging, laissez-fairyland ideologue dedicated to killing everything from Social Security to Obamacare, Ryan is just not right-wing enough for the howlers. He’s considering whether to run for the job, but even if he does — and wins — the spectacle will continue.

The amusing irony in Ryan’s predicament is he helped create his own mess! He was chief architect of the 2010 Republican scheme to take over Congress by recruiting and electing the mad dogs who are now biting him on the butt — and turning the U.S. House of Representatives into the House of Ridiculousness. As Rep. Peter King put it: “We look absolutely crazy.”

And Rep. King is right. What’s at work here is the Crazy Caucus. At one level or another, nearly all Republican House members belong, but the caucus is driven by about 40 hyper-crazies who believe that the greatest problems facing our country are Hillary Clinton’s emails, Planned Parenthood, the existence of public services and the “hordes” of Mexicans who sneak into our country so they can vote for Democrats. It’s the job of the House speaker to try “leading” these mad dogs to an occasional bit of sanity. Who really wants to do that — or even thinks it’s possible?

Well, several of the mad dogs themselves say they should be put in charge. Daniel Webster says he’s available (not the smart guy who compiled the dictionary, but a tea party bozo from Florida). Bill Flores, a little-known tea party know-nothing from Texas, says he would unite the House by getting all the members to “spend enough time on our knees praying for each other.” That’s silly, but the idea of keeping lawmakers on their knees is appealing. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, a prince of right-wing pomposity who was elected by the billionaire Koch brothers to be their personal representative in Washington, says he’s ready to lead the House toward a Koch-headed plutocracy.

That’s pathetic. But wait — we have another surprising choice. It’s a little-known fact, but the speaker of our House of Representatives does not actually have to be a member of Congress. So why don’t we choose someone like a kindergarten teacher, a minimum-wage worker, an organic farmer or a circus ringmaster to run the show? Or maybe a group psychologist is what the place really needs.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) speaks at his weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington July 9, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (L) laughs as he addresses questions about his bid to replace retiring House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (R) during a news conference after their closed Republican House caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst