Good Cop Bad Cop
Don't be fooled. This is a tag team effort:
Newt Gingrich does not seem to be deterred by the new message of the Republican leadership, such as Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), that he and Rush Limbaugh should stop calling Sonia Sotomayor a racist.
Gingrich has now sent out a fundraising e-mail, asking for help to send blast faxes to every member of the Senate demanding that the Sotomayor nomination be defeated. He even says that she shouldn't even get a vote in the Senate, but should just have to withdraw.
Gingrich warns that all of American civilization is at stake here. "If Civil War, suffrage, and Civil Rights are to mean anything, we cannot accept that conclusion," he writes. "It is simply un-American. There is no room on the bench of the United States Supreme Court for this worldview."
He is throwing red meat to the base and the pompous Senatorial windbags will, meanwhile, play the role of statesmen and "lower the temperature," trying to keep the Latino vote from abandoning the party completely. But they are each playing a role --- they aren't really in contention.
Nobody expects that she will not be confirmed. At the end of the day, most of the Republican Senators will probably "reluctantly" vote against her for a variety of bogus reasons, but with the filibuster off the table, it doesn't matter. They hope to preserve some semblance of credibility with Latinos while giving the base what it craves.(And I would assume they want to leave the door open for something juicy to come along that would shake the whole thing up --- an Anita Hill for wingnuts.)It's all kabuki.
But Newt cut his teeth as a bomb throwing back bencher and understands better than anyone how you build power in the GOP from the outside in. (In fact, it's really his only gift.) And every GOP Senator, most of whom came out of the same school, understands how this works as well. They are following their own playbook. Whether it will work again or not is anyone's guess, but there's nothing unusual about it.
*This is not to say that the GOP isn't in disarray and fighting among themselves. But this little pageant is familiar and I think it indicates that they are starting to get themselves together and organize around being a minority party. And they are pretty good at that.