The Republican leaders in Washington would be laughable if they weren’t so pathetically inept, self-serving, sinister and harmful to this country.Their showdown over the shutdown of the government, in the name of saving the nation from the evil Affordable Care Act, has been an exercise in macabre theatrics. And they are orchestrating even more drama by threatening to hold Obamacare and the nation’s economy hostage in the impending fight to raise the debt limit, which, if they don’t, is sure to throw the country into recession.As I watched them during the waning days of September bicker among themselves and then finally settle on a strategy to disrupt the government, they appeared to be a strange collection of characters planning a wake for a dying patient, namely healthcare. But in this case, instead of killing Obamacare, they killed a continuing resolution that would have kept all of government operating for a while.Every time House Speaker John Boehner and Co. approached a podium to announce some other challenge or revised proposal to chip away at healthcare, they looked like a group of funeral directors about to present a body for public viewing.No offense to funeral directors, as some of my best friends are undertakers. Really.But more than once I had the thought that these political morticians were turning the nation’s Capitol into a funeral parlor or mausoleum. Every time I tried to get that image out of my head, the group would reappear, feigning disappointment and despair with their long, mournful faces. The sophomoric stunt they pulled the day the government shut down was truly sad. The House appointed Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and six others as its conferees for a conference committee to meet with Senate Democrats, who already had said that idea was a nonstarter. There would be no conference committee and they knew it.The eight Republicans did create their photo op by sitting together on one side of a long table with empty chairs on the other side. Their point was that the arrogant, noncompromising Democrats refused to negotiate, so they should get the blame for the government paralysis.Dressed in their white shirts and ties, this time these “leaders” looked more like a set of pallbearers preparing to escort a coffin to a waiting hearse.Another group of Republican lawmakers who have medical backgrounds appeared at a news conference wearing white lab coats — one complete with a stethoscope around his neck, a la TV doctor — to denounce Obamacare. It was just one more ridiculous scene coming out of Washington during a very bizarre week.As the GOP leaders postured, pointed fingers and continued to hold the nation hostage, they didn’t realize it was they who were the hostages, held captive by the right-wing, Tea Party zealots who made it known before they ever got to Washington that they were willing to shut down the government to get their way.Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and his merry band of revolutionaries had become the real leaders of the Republican Party and quickly proceeded to lead their confused followers over a cliff.While they preached about the dangers of Obamacare and why Americans should fear this government health plan, what they really feared was that once the program was in effect, people would like it and Republicans would never be able to get rid of it.So they continued a fight they couldn’t possibly win.I kept wondering why someone in the party would not adhere to the old adage, “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.”But then I realized that these funereal politicians were digging their own graves.
Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. 817-390-7775 Twitter: @BobRaySanders