Friday, September 10, 2010

A Republican Legacy

By the end of 2008, the Republicans in the White House and in the RNC were already thinking ahead to the midterm elections of 2010 and the next presidential election of 2012 as George W. Bush’s last, miserable year was winding down. Here’s what they were thinking.

First, the major recession brought on by Bush’s wartime tax cuts, his unfunded Medicare Part D program, and the debacle created by an under-regulated financial sector would saddle the new Democratic Administration with a severely damaged economy.

Second, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would drag on, since Bush and his neocon cohorts never planned an exit strategy, even though they were planning to invade Iraq before 9/11 even happened.

And third, they bet that America’s instant-gratification, memory-challenged populace would forget where the responsibility lay for the country’s problems. Americans would grow weary of the wars, angry at how long it was taking to right the foundering ship of state, and fearful about their job prospects in the dismal economy. Then, looking around the capital grounds, people would blame the new administration and Democratic majority for all their woes. Republicans subscribed to the thinking of Henry Mencken, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

In order to take advantage of their legacy, the Republican leadership decided to “just say no,” and use the threat of filibuster to oppose every piece of legislation proposed by the democrats to improve the economy and pull the country from the brink of another Great Depression. To bolster the chances of this craven strategy working, they played on the fears of the public by labeling the Administration’s attempts to prop up financial institutions, “socialism.” Republicans threw this term around so much it was almost funny. Everything from creating laws against texting while driving to improving the conditions in egg farms to prevent salmonella poisoning was socialism.

Of course the Republican minority’s most shameful episode and one that continues to this day was their reaction to president Obama’s program to improve healthcare and stem the tide of exponentially increasing healthcare costs. Here again, their strategy was supremely simple and supremely dishonest:
  • propose nothing substantive of their own
  • lie about what was in or intended by the bill moving through congress
  • scare some of the most vulnerable members of society, claiming their fate would be decided by “death panels”
  • vote “no, no, no” as one, over and over again.

In his book, What Happened, Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” Scott McClellan, former White House Press secretary, said that under Karl Rove’s influence, governing the country became a continuous political campaign characterized by whatever deception was necessary. Richard A. Clarke, Bush’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism, in his book, Against All Enemies,” lamenting the then president's meager understanding of al'Qaeda, stated that Bush wasn’t much on reading. Well, let’s hope most Americans read more than their former president, because if they do, they’ll understand how little today’s Republicans really care about America.

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