The country’s dire straits could present the Obama administration with an opportunity to achieve much needed reforms of health care, financial markets and the environment. At the same time the Republican spin machine is busy spitting out alternative do-nothing proposals disguised as actual ideas. In the face of unusual economic stress conservatives have been pitching the old familiar refrains about tax-and-spend Democrats, the need to assert budgetary controls, cut the deficit and ensure our national security.

Unusually virulent partisan rhetoric accuses President Obama of everything from the development of fascist-socialist programs to pursuit of a hidden traitorous agenda in support of ‘the other side’ whoever that might be. The farcical approach of right-wing media pundits isn’t all that unusual; what is passing strange, however, is the willingness of party regulars to accept dangerous nonsense as if it were part of a serious debate. Apparently their idea of a big tent is a mixture of traditional ideology and gibberish.