Driving away talent: A new Senatorial low.

After an election which raised the number of women in the Senate to a historical peak of 20, freshman Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) effectively cooked her own goose playing a third rate Ann-Margaret understudy in the latest Republican remake of Grumpy Old Men to block a highly qualified Susan Rice from a conjectural Secretary of State nomination to make political points. We don’t elect women to the Senate to be cheerleaders.

In all fairness, the junior Senator from the Granite State ought to have picked a better team to cheer for. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) may have been a hero and statesman long ago, but he’s just a grandstanding old grouch today. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.)’s hapless macho bluster reminds me of sashaying Marcus Bachmann auditioning for a lead in a Hollywood spoof of Rambo. Hardly the Senate’s finest hour.

Ambassador Rice was a victim of political character assassination unseen since the hoary days of Red-baiting lush Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisc.). We expect vetting for America’s top diplomat, not vivisection.

Bottom Line: Susan Rice was far more qualified for Secretary of State than Ayotte is for her gig. Ayotte’s Villanova Juris Doctor sheepskin is no slouch, but it’s not a Rhodes scholar Master’s and Doctorate from the spires of Oxford. The Grand Old Party of Sore Losers are grasping at straws even after the reelection of the President and an expanded Democratic Senate majority. “Mitt who?” lost. Get over it. We have a country to govern.

Let’s take a moment ro recall who Republicans favor as diplomats. Six years ago, there was Bush U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton, a recess appointment who turned out to be a proverbial “bull in a china shop.” Atilla the Hun wasn’t available. Then there was former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who did a fine job parroting the Cheney saber-rattling party line often without worrysome “facts.”.

So much for “fair play.”

While I tend to prefer to leave conspiracy theories to the muddled backwaters of Glennbeckistan, the next probable choice to succeed current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is Sen. John Kerry (R-Mass.). Despite Kerry’s obvious qualifications and likely bipartisan support, Republicans have an ulterior political incentive. Defeated Sen. Scott “Beefcake” Brown (R-Mass.) is still smarting from his November defeat by Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and would welcome another shot at actually serving an entire Senate term. He’s hoping for a far less formidable Democratic opponent in a low turnout special election. Massachusetts voters clearly elected the best qualified candidate, particularly given the lows in Brown’s campaigning style. The state should not be giving him an unwarranted second chance.

Cement-shoed Congressional productivity and public opinion have sunk to historic lows, particularly with chronic G.O.P. filibuster abuse and the tea-drunk circus rabble in the House warning of “Muslims” under our beds. The “Party of No”’s Founding Fathers fetish forgets that Congress was designed as a body built on the art of compromise, not an insistence on extreme Right-wing orthodoxy more at home with the Taliban.

In this country’s legislative varsity team, the Senate needs women as leaders and lawmakers, not vapid cheerleaders. We’ve suffered enough from “boys club” buffoonery.