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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, Republican Saxby Chambliss, Georgia’s senior senator, was considered a steadfast conservative. The American Conservative Union has given him a lifetime score of 92, while the Club for Growth has scored him at 83. He earns an A from the National Rifle Association.

But a couple of years ago, Chambliss embarked upon an exercise that would merely have cemented his stature as a power broker as recently as the administration of George W. Bush: He joined Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, to form a bipartisan group of senators working to come up with a deal to whittle down the deficit. In other words, he considered compromise with Democrats.

In our current warped political universe, that was enough to earn Chambliss a potential challenger from the right, and he decided not to seek re-election. Chastened by Chambliss’ experience, none of the Georgia Republicans running for his vacant seat wants to occupy the same ZIP code with the words “compromise” and “bipartisan.”

This is what the Grand Old Party has come to: It’s now led by nihilists whose only politics are those of destruction and whose only values are those of zealots. There may be reasonable Republicans remaining in office, but they’ve been bullied into compliance and cowed into silence.

If you don’t believe that, listen to the growing drumbeat for the impeachment of President Obama — despite the glaring lack of evidence that he has committed impeachable offenses. (Having the temerity to win a second term is not an impeachable crime.) While such talk was once restricted to the nutters — men like U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI), who has said the president’s impeachment would “be a dream come true” — it has leaked into the GOP’s water supply.

Witness the recent off-the-cuff remarks of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who, though a standard-bearer for the hard right, has been considered a thoughtful and rational man. At a recent meeting with constituents, Coburn declared that the president was coming “perilously close” to the standards for impeachment.