So this is what Bobby Jindal was talking about. The Louisiana governor, one of the Republican Party's best hopes for 2016, beseeched his brethren at last month's Republican National Committee winter meeting to stop being the "stupid party" and seek ways to convey their message of fiscal conservatism in measured, dignified ways.
"We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this (past) year with offensive and bizarre comments," he said. "I'm here to say we've had enough of that."
Steve Stockman, R-Texas, apparently has not. What else are we to make of him inviting Ted Nugent, the 1970s rock star turned loose cannon, to President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night? This is the same Ted Nugent who got the attention of the Secret Service by telling attendees at a National Rifle Association convention in April 2012 that if President Obama is re-elected, "I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year." Offensive? Bizarre? Yep, the GOP is certainly off to a good start by trotting out this guy.
The State of the Union address has turned into a sideshow with all the bells and whistles of a campaign event, so we probably shouldn't be surprised that fringe members of the out-of-power party should want to steal some of the spotlight from Obama's meticulously crafted message. Aligning themselves with a buffoon wasn't the way to do it, though. Nugent might have deflected some of the attention away from Obama and his newly unveiled recipe for job growth, but he also deflected attention from the official Republican response -- a response some, such as Jindal, surely regarded as Republicans' first postelection opportunity to unveil a retooled, refocused message to a national audience. Instead, these more sober Republicans found themselves competing with the man who gave us "Cat Scratch Fever."
There is much to digest in Obama's speech: the planned withdrawal of 34,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan over the next year, an overhaul of the immigration system, investments in infrastructure, and the $85 billion "sequester" set to take effect March 1. And, of course, gun violence.
Republicans can and should have much to say about those issues. As soon as the clown leaves the gallery, maybe America will stop and listen.