Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Patenting Their Reinvention

By Rich Miles

November 15, 2005

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), the architect of the 1994 GOP victory, said Republicans must take the initiative or risk serious losses next year. "If we regroup and reclaim the mantle of reform and change, we are likely to win '06 and '08," he said. "If we do not regroup, we are likely to have a very difficult '06 and '08."

- From a Nov. 6, 2005 Washington Post article, “Voter Anger Might Mean an Electoral Shift in ‘06”

As Radar O’Reilly (no relation to Bill) used to say on “M.A.S.H.”, wait for it. The reinvention of the Republican Party is surely coming.

After either 5 years, or depending on your perspective 11 years of misgoverning, of saying one thing and doing another on almost every issue, of spending huge amounts of time and money on distractions like gay marriage while our soldiers die in a mismanaged and unnecessary war, people are starting to notice that the Republican party as represented by George W. Bush is just way out of the mainstream of what Americans want America to be.

But the real 9 days’ wonder of this observation is that the Republicans are actually, finally starting to notice that we’re noticing, and that they’re going to have to change tactics.

Not change what they do, mind you, or change the direction of the government or the nation – just change tactics. As Mr. Gingrich says above, “reclaim the mantle of reform and change”, LOOK like they’re doing something different. Like Brownie, roll up their sleeves.

So – wait for it. The Republicans are going to tell us that every good thing that happens in the next year is their doing, and everything bad is the Democrats’ fault. Let’s start with

Gas and petroleum prices:

Here in rural north-central Kentucky, where I live, regular unleaded was selling for $3.09 a gallon about a month ago. Today, the best price in my neighborhood was $2.04. This is a reduction of 33% in one month, after a rise of almost 50% in the 4 months prior to that. When the prices were going up daily, the Republican and White House (and oil company) explanation was that “market forces” were causing the rise, along with Katrina and Rita, and our own selfish failure to conserve fuel and energy. Now that the prices are going down, expect some Republican, probably from the White House one way or the other, to tell us somehow that it’s their splendid leadership that has caused it.***

Also, please don’t fail to note the two-steps-up-one-step-down nature of fuel prices – it’s been going on since at least 2000, when gas in my area was selling for 77 cents a gallon, and it arguably has been happening since about 1974 – but let’s not get into that just now.

Fiscal Responsibility:

Did you know that the Republican Party is the party of fiscal responsibility? If so, do you know WHY you know that? It’s because the Republican Party has told you that it’s so for the past 40+ years.

However, did you also know that the largest federal deficits ever incurred, both in dollar amounts and in percentage of GDP, have been accrued during Republican presidencies, and most especially since both the White House and Congress have been controlled by the Republicans – since January of 2001? Reagan did his part to spend far more than we had, but Bush 43 and his pals in Congress have just left everyone in the dust. And they’ve been doing their best to set new deficit records every year.

But a funny thing happened on the way to gutting the federal coffers: someone noticed that there was a little storm in Louisiana, and that we are about to sell the entire country to the Chinese, and that we had better try some REAL fiscal responsibility instead of just talking about it. And here’s what is happening as a result:

So far, the Senate has passed a $35 billion budget cutting package that is almost entirely made up of cuts to programs for the poor and the elderly. Not to be outdone, the House has added 50% to that total, and is trying to cut even MORE from the programs which help Americans in need. One poor soul, Tom Coburn (R-Okla) who in other ways I consider a total nutcase (he’s the doctor-senator who says that abortion providers should be executed), actually suggested that some of the pork projects in recent appropriations be given back to help Katrina victims, and New Orleans’ reconstruction and by the way maybe reduce the deficit a little, and Ted Stevens of Alaska literally shouted the idea down on the Senate floor. No one’s going to gore HIS ox – not while there are poor people to rob in the lower 48! And repealing the tax cuts for the rich? Fuggeddaboudit!


Let me be # 432,168 in line to point out yet again that Bush campaigned in 2000 on, among other things, a promise to bring ethics and righteousness back to the White House (as if it had ever been there in abundance). Yet numerous polls since the 1st of September have shown that a significant and growing majority of Americans think a) that the level of honesty and ethics in government has gone down since Bush became president, b) that they don’t believe Bush is an honest person, and c) there is a good possibility that Bush lied to make a case for attacking Iraq. Those opinions are almost certainly reflective of reports in the media, liberal or otherwise, but that doesn’t make the reports wrong. The one thing Bush has consistently done in the face of bad news is to assume that the American people are just overweeningly stupid, and will believe what he says just because he’s him, rather than what dozens or hundreds of others in the media, on both sides of the aisle in Congress, in the international community, in the military say to the contrary. Sadly, he has been right in this assumption far too many times.

But on the rare occasions when he or his henchmen get caught in a lie, they go on the attack. It never even occurs to them to either apologize for the lies or perhaps explain why what appears to be a lie might not be – the first instinct is to attack the person making the accusation on some other issue. Witness among others the Joseph Wilson-Valerie Plame debacle, which has led so far to one high-level White House official’s indictment.

So what does the White House do in the face of one of its own getting caught? They mandate “ethics refresher courses” for all WH staff, to be led by the office of “the most qualified candidate for the Supreme Court”, WH counsel Harriet Miers.

But it’s not a renewed interest in good governance – it’s part of the reinvention. Implied in the whole charade is that they’re basically nice ethical people, one of whom may or may not have strayed, and the rest of them just need a little reminder not to endanger national security or individual lives by revealing top-secret info or the identities of our spies.

I mean, aren’t they supposed to already know this stuff?

And finally, there is….


This is the issue that, along with the Iraq War and all that it entails, will haunt us long after Bush is no longer in office, in fact likely long after he has gone to his eternal reward, which, if there is any justice in the afterlife, will involve copious amounts of fire and flame.

Put aside for a moment the argument over whether the actions at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo and the secret ‘black sites’ in the old Soviet republics really amount to torture. I happen to believe that they do, but let’s look at the underlying issue: our government in the persons of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush and 9 US senators and a so-far-uncounted number of US representatives are actually advocating that we put it into law that we CAN torture people if we want to.

And that is going to hurt America for generations to come, whether the law comes to be or not – that we not only did it, but that we stood up and said that we were proud we did it, and want to do it again. Serial abusers, that’s us!

And while to some this may seem only like more macho posturing by the draft-dodgers and other-priorities bunch, it’s actually part of the reinvention: we’ve been too soft on the bad guys, we have to get really tough and let them know that if they screw with us, they’ll get what’s good for them. The Bushites are reinventing themselves as even bigger badasses than before. Bush et al. tell us that this is good for America, and gives the president powers that he needs to protect us. But what is really frightening about this is that there are more than a few people who agree with this line of thinking, which means that the damage being done by it will be even farther-reaching.

I’m sitting here typing this, trying to figure out how to end it, and realizing that there really is no end to this column or this line of thought – perhaps what really needs to be done is to write a book. Yeah, that’s it! No one has thought of doing that, I’ll bet!

But seriously: the above are only a few examples of what we’re going to see between now and November 2006, so watch for it. And if we add up all the schizo directions in which the Republicans are trying to go now, and here’s what we get: kinder, gentler fascists.

Just what we need.

*** This prediction has already come true since I wrote that paragraph.

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