Posted tagged ‘Republicans’

Steele Crazy After All This Year

February 8, 2009

First they came for me, because I had made fun of Sarah Palin. And they said, “Well, yeah, she’s a congenital liar who can’t give a coherent answer to a simple question even with the aid of a TelePrompter and a ventriloquist–but she’s not representative of the new era of Republican leadership.”

And then I said, “Oh, yeah? Well, how about Michael Steele, the new GOP chairman, who believes that ‘work’ for the government isn’t ‘a job’ (even though it rewards labor with wages, which are spent by the worker on food, clothing, shelter, and health, which payments go back out into the private economy and provide income for fooders, clothers, shelterers, and healthers), plus this clown Steele says that, while government contracts are temporary, private sector jobs (for some magical reason) aren’t.”

And they said, “Oh, yeah? Well who is more likely to pay taxes: a private business owner, or the government?”

And I said, “Oh, yeah? Well who is more likely to be in business a year from now: most new private business owners, or the government?”

And they said, “Shut up.”

Then they came for me because I reminded them that this Michael Steele, who proves you don’t have to be a rich white man to be an idiot Republican, said, “a job is something a business-owner creates, it’s going to be long-term,” but when told that private sector jobs have disappeared in the millions, replied “But they come back, though, George. That’s the point. They’ve gone away before, but they come back!” (Exclamation point added.)

And they said, “What’s wrong with coming back? Jesus is going to come back. And when he does he’ll be a small business owner, a one-(Son of) Man entrepreneur employing himself as Messiah looking to grow his business and thrive the economy and flourish the righteous.”

So I said, “Okay, but wait. That’s when the private sector jobs are going to come back? With the Second Coming, as thoroughly described in a highly amusing manner here? What if he never comes? And even if he does, eventually, what if The American People can’t wait that long?”

And they said, “He’ll come. He has to come, and he’ll bring those jobs back with him. This is a Judeo-Christian nation. The Founding Fathers were all Judeo-Christians and the Founding Mothers were all virgins before they were married. The American People will wait as long as the Republican Party tells them they have to.”

Watch Steele’s interview with George Stephanopoulos, from which one emerges as from a dream, with two questions:

1. What’s with George’s hair? Is he auditioning to be Treat Williams’ stand-in? (You Want: Kurt Russell. You’ll Take: Treat Williams. You Get: George Stephanopoulos.)

2. That’s it? That’s the wisdom of the new (and black!) leader of the GOP? Some yakkity-yak double-talk about “work” vs. “jobs,” and a plea–as though this were 1993–to eliminate rules which “have hindered and frustrated the banking process”? When everyone, from Judeos to Christians, agrees that the banking process hasn’t been hindered and frustrated enough, that it’s been the lack of rules (or of their enforcement) that led us to the edge of this economic cliff?

And then I asked them, “Hey. Where does Michael Steele think the Interstate Highway System, the TVA, NASA, and the beloved sex education film Where The Girls Are: VD in Southeast Asia came from? Didn’t the poor shmucks who built, engineered, key-gripped and associate-produced those projects have ‘jobs’?”

And they said, “Shut up” again and left me alone. For now.

We are witnessing, not so much the collapse of the Republican Party, as its slide into insanity. Granted, some (like my wife) believe it’s already collapsed. Now that the Democrats have stopped shooting themselves in their various feet, it’s the Republicans’ turn, and they’re going after all pedal extremities with every available sidearm–as exemplified by the appointment of Steele, for whom a chair is still a chair, even when there’s no one sitting there, but chair is not a house, and a house is not a home, and “work” is not “a job.”

Collapse, or craziness? I have my personal opinion. For truly: What was the GOP’s great accomplishment last week, about which they openly admitted they felt good? A show of “unity” enough to block the first stimulus package. That’s what put a spring back in their step: obstructing a desperately-needed solution to a problem rooted in their political philosophy. “Yes, we helped cover your house with gasoline, and we paid private contractors to shoot flaming arrows at it, yes. But we don’t believe in Socialism, so we got the gang together–which wasn’t easy!–and had everyone stand in the street to keep the fire trucks away. Yay us! We feel good!”

There are now articles seriously discussing whether–or even why–Rush “America’s Favorite Saloon Loudmouth” Limbaugh is the most influential Republican gracing us with his wisdom (“I hope Obama fails”) here in Freedom’s land. Meanwhile, back at the turkey ranch, “a majority (55%) of Republicans and a plurality (46%) of unaffiliated voters think the GOP should follow Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in the future.” (Cf., to your disbelief, here. )

What can that mean, apart from reading “all” newspapers, shoving $160,000 worth of couture into garbage bags, and looking to Joe The Plumber, whose name isn’t Joe and who isn’t a plumber, for advice? We don’t know. We can’t know. For all of our personal and political failings, we are still blessed with half a brain, ten percent of which we proudly use on a daily basis. We simply cannot conceive of what the world looks like to whomever is left still calling themselves a Republican.

Sadly, if hilariously, it may be that the usual modalities–psychoanalysis; pharmaceuticals; electro-convulsive therapy; imprisonment in the public stockade subject to shaming, shunning, and the throwing of vegetables–will prove to be of only partial efficacy. In the end, or by this Wednesday, the Republican Party may very well have become an out-and-out cult: self-fulfillingly isolated in its delusions; self-defeatingly exclusive in its narrow insistence on ideological purity; increasingly cut off from the most generous conceptions of reality; and swellingly fervid in its members’ imagined threats and grandiose in their fantasy accomplishments. Don’t believe me? Read their blogs. Can we bear to witness such a metamorphosis?

You bet. With popcorn. And when even Michael Steele is purged as not being krazee enough for the Sarah-Palinized party, and returns to government employment in the state of Maryland, we’ll have just one piece of advice for him: “Dude–enough with the work. Get a job.”


Free Levi Johnston

September 29, 2008

Get this:

Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”

NOW are we having fun yet? You bet. A shotgun wedding–it’s like a commercial for a breakfast cereal–with real shotguns! Only this time the biggest gun of all will be brandished, not, as is usually the case, by the outraged father of the bride as he drags her, in her knock-ed-up state of blushing pride and soul-baking embarrassment, down what passes for “the aisle,” no, this time it’ll be handled by the mother. Who is Governor of the sovereign state in which the nuptials are taking place in! And–no, seriously–is also the Republican candidate for Vice-President of the whole U.S. of god-damn A.

(While everyone thinks, “Wait–are we sure this is her first?” I know someone who squired Sarah Palin around for a day last March–one month before Trig’s delivery–who swears that woman was not pregnant. Well, “whatever.” Mary and Joseph had a controversial pregnancy, too, and look how that kid turned out.)

It’s not that “you can’t make this stuff up.” You can. But then your head would fall off. Now, however, you don’t have to run that risk. The Republican Party, with the straight face of the salesman lending you his pen to sign the purchase order for the world’s most horrible vacuum cleaner, has done it for you.

Mencken, thou shouldst be living at this hour. And you too, Twain. And, what the hell, all you guys and gals from ages past (Norman Mailer, Hunter Thompson, P.T. Barnum, Sinclair Lewis, Robert Altman, Sophie Tucker, Nathaniel West, Billy Wilder, John Dos Passos, etc.) who knew that America was (and still is, God damn it) that place of places where nothing is too brazen, nothing is too ludicrous or inane or mendacious or nakedly meretricious, that we can’t at least try it.

Deep-fried Twinkies? It’s what’s for dinner! Polygamous marriages to teenagers in “frontier” dresses? Where are they registered? Possible President who believes humans and dinosaurs existed–living, loving, making it work–at the same time, 4,000 years ago? Join me in welcoming her now. And if nobody told Sarah Palin that The Flintstones was fiction, whose fault is that? (Of course we can tell her now. But it’s too late. The damage is done. She’s a person of “faith” and her mind, to the extent that she has one, is made up.)

“America is a mistake,” Freud told Ernest Jones. “A gigantic mistake, it is true, but none the less a mistake.” But who cares? He was Freud! Didn’t he know that Freud is like totally over?

Besides, what’s wrong with bread and circuses? Everybody loves bread (except certain Jews during Passover–and–may we speak frankly?–if they don’t like it, they can go back to Russia). As for circuses, don’t be so literal. It’s politics; it’s “the culture wars;” it’s The Will to Power and the survival struggle of memes (you can’t spell “meme” without “Me! Me!”)…it’s what Preston Sturges (with uncharacteristic sentimentality) called “this cockeyed caravan,” yes, it’s Election Year Two Thousand And Fucking Eight: a Hieronymus Bosch triptych with computers.

Commenters on a blog I read talk about investing in popcorn futures–that’s how rollicking this whole election deal has become. John McCain, claiming to “suspend” a campaign which is in no way suspended, threatens to ignore one of only three national debates as he plops himself down at the table in the emergency conference meant to solve the most gigantic financial crisis of our lifetime, and then says nothing, gets up and leaves, attends the debate after all, and takes credit for the financial plan three days later. You say “that’s irresponsible”? I say, That’s Entertainment.

Meanwhile, what we are all laughingly calling “the Bush legacy” continues metastasizing. Two-front war on terrorism grinding into its sixth year? Check. Entire financial system on life-support because guys raking in 8-figure bonuses made a boo-boo? Check. Record deficits C.O.D. from the party of “prudence”? Gotcha. Stagnant-income-households paying for four-dollar gas? Done and done. Put-them-all-together, they spell: Let’s have a wedding!

Although first, let’s confirm paternity.

KATIE COURIC: Governor, if there were to be a public outcry for Bristol to take a DNA test, how would you respond?

SARAH PALIN: Like any good mahm, Katie. I would say, “Hey, Briss, let’s do this, and I’ll stay up all night helping you study if that’s what it takes.”

Which is to say, how do we know poor Levi Johnston (The Sexiest Chump Alive) is the real dad? Because the mother-to-be says so? Please. We may be idiots, but we weren’t born yesterday. Somebody do an amnio, or a papal nuncio, or a hi-def video, or whatever it is House’s team of ethnic geniuses and drop-dead gorgeous gals does, and let’s be certain. (Fun Fact: Olivia Wilde, who plays “13” or whatever her character’s name is on House, is the niece of ALEXANDER COCKBURN. Of Counterpunch! Could you die? I could. I did! I digress.) What if Levi isn’t The One?

Or, as someone wisely asked, “If McCain loses the election, can Levi get a divorce?”

(Memo to the lad: DON’T SIGN ANYTHING. Pre-nup schmee-nup. YOU’RE in the driver’s seat, d00d. Make ’em pay.)

But ain’t that America? Where the clever work for the unscrupulous to deceive the poor in the service of the rich.

And it’s not even October.

CORRECTION: An earlier draft of this said, wrongly, that Olivia Wilde is the daughter of Alexander Cockburn.  She is his niece.  Her father is Alexander Cockburn’s brother, Andrew.  I regret the error.

Every Day a Little Death: The Five Stages of Democratic Grief

September 21, 2008

1. Acceptance: Okay, fine. Whatever. They win. It’s inevitable, really. A complicated or qualified truth is never as arousing as a good hate-charged lie. It’s not that you can’t make people be intelligent; it’s that you can’t make people care about things they don’t care about. And half the country consists of people who don’t care about the truth.

Maybe it’s rooted in the universal denial of death: we all come equipped with a mechanism to ignore the unpleasantly true and embrace the preferable fantasy. In any case, half the country sees “hero” and “spunky mom” instead of “confused sellout desperately saying anything” and “lying, ambitious religious nut.” It doesn’t matter if it’s “fair.” It doesn’t matter if it’s “insane.” A machine dedicated to exploiting the worst in people will always triumph against a movement asking for the best in people. Meanwhile, since the wall you beat your head against is not going to go away, it’s up to you to stop, take your head with you, and walk away from the wall. I’m outa here.

2. Depression: Who am I kidding? This is a nightmare and the one thing you can’t do in a nightmare is “accept” it. What am I doing to do–leave the country? Ridiculous. Meanwhile, greed and vanity, using lies and fear, will once again manipulate ignorance and resentment. Biden’s decent-man’s sense of modesty and proportion is no match for the turbo-charged ego and effortless mendacity of Palin. The worst people in our public life will win again, and they’ll do it using a secret weapon that’s the most obvious weapon of all: their shamelessness. A hundred rabid sociopaths are salivating in anticipation of taking Rush Limbaugh’s place because that’s what America has become.

And so the “ordinary people” applaud for and collude in their own manipulation. And even if Obama ends up getting more votes, it’s futile to hope that he’ll really “win,” because the machines are rigged and the voter rolls are trashed. There’s nothing we can do about it and there’s no use in even trying. We want a society of justice, fairness, freedom, and common sense, and we’re doomed.

3. Bargaining: All right, look. Maybe it’s not all either/or. Say McCain wins. We’ve still got Congress. Yes, they’re spineless, ass-covering careerists who spend half their time selling their principles to raise money and the other half defending the system that requires them to do it–but even they have some pride. Maybe it won’t be so bad. McCain will surround himself with war mongers and thieves, but even Congress may have had enough of war and theft (and everyone will believe them if they say “we can’t afford it”). So the two branches battle each other to a standstill. Nothing good happens and nothing too terribly bad happens. Then he dies, Palin steps in, and in two months our national life is a cross between Seven Days in May and The Beverly Hillbillies. Couldn’t that be fun?

4. Anger: No. Bullshit. There can be no accommodating these complete and total imbeciles. That mob of credulous people, the teeming throng of decent, self-satisfied, naïve dodos who actually cheered that freak show in Minneapolis, the ones who chant “U.S.A.” as though rooting for a college football team, the “patriots” who think “patriotism” means voting for the guy who tells you that his opponent isn’t “patriotic,” the people who every day live in a fantasy world of made-up “heroes,” superstitious “faith,” self-contradicting “values,” invented “facts,” and proud, defiant obliviousness of history, human nature, science, and common sense: How stupid can people be?

“Well, I don’t really know Obama.” Guess what, Mrs. Sixpack? You don’t know your fucking spouse. You don’t know your fucking self. If you did–if, at the breakfast table, you had the tiniest capacity for honest introspection, and the basic grownup skepticism even you bring to the task of buying a used car–you’d see how you’ve been played. First by Bush and by Rove, and now by their successors. The contempt they have for you is obvious in everything they openly say to you. Giuliani, McCain, even the self-parodying Romney all deserve Emmys for staying in character and resisting the temptation to turn to each other, point to the crowd, and say, “Can you believe these suckers?”

Because that’s what you are: Dupes. Rubes. Marks. You deserve what you get. But we don’t. So, memo to Dems: Fuck it. It’s war. Call every lie a lie. Tell Palin it’s cute that she admits she has the brains of a pit bull but it’s not enough to qualify for the office. Shame McCain, over and over, for betraying literally everything he has ever stood for, and for inflicting that trailer-trash Rapture-ready mediocrity on the United States of America. Tell the morons that whoever tells you that someone else is an “elitist” is really telling you that you’re an idiot. Take off the gloves, then put them back on, then take them off in slow-motion and throw them in McCain’s face. Swift Boat his POW history. Criticize her adequacy as a mother. Ask him why sitting in a cell thirty years ago makes anyone qualified to lead the U.S. in the 21st century. Ask her if she believes in the Rapture and who she thinks will qualify. Ask her if she knows what the Fed does. Ask him if he knows what a server farm is. Are we men, or we moose? Do it.

5. Denial: Calm down. It can’t be as bad as I think. The world doesn’t really work that way. There are too many intelligent, fair-minded people to allow this grotesque possibility to come to pass. Bush in 2000, Bush in 2004: an affront, a crime, yes, but it’s understandable that it was close enough to steal. But this? This fumfering old moral has-been, who no longer knows what he believes, and his provincial beauty pageant runner-up who thinks gall is the same thing as intelligence? People can’t, when all is said and done, be that stupid. Some, yes. But not all, and not most. And the voting machine problem, the vote caging, all that? People are aware of it and dealing with it. It’ll be okay. I really believe that.

(Repeat from #1)

Let My GOOPers Go

September 1, 2008

Arianna Huffington writes:

So read Borosage’s post and let us know what you think the Republican Party should be doing to save itself. Electing McCain/Palin clearly is not the answer. What do you think the answer is?

Talk about a hanging curve…Still, if someone throws it, someone else is morally obligated to hit it.

The Republican Party, in order to save itself, should do what the children of Israel did to save themselves upon their exodus from Egypt. They wandered in the desert for forty years.

What was the life expectancy around that time? Who the hell knows. Let’s say sixty years. In which case, everyone over the age of twenty (except Moses and his posse) could be expected to die before the Jews were allowed past the velvet rope into the Promised Land.

Thus for the GOP. Literally: send them, at taxpayer expense, to some vast desert area in, say, Saudi Arabia or Libya (or Iraq), and let them wander. Sans GPS, sans cell phones, sans every other goddamn thing except a couple bottles of Jim Beam and a case or two of Vienna sausage. They’ll get by.

In fact, they’ll love it. They adore being–or, at least, claiming to be–persecuted. And they’d be thousands of miles from all the things they (profess to) abhor: government; freedom-hating “liberals”; nanny-state hand-outs; labor unions; forced indoctrination in evolution, sex education, contraception, long division, and arugula maintenance; mandatory health insurance, gun licensing, fluoridation, speed limits, abortions, Title IX–hell, mandatory anything; media; gay marriages; elitist elites; Michael Moore.

Of course, if they “love it,” how does that purify and temper and improve the Republican Party? Won’t this enforced isolation make them hew to their quaint and barbaric values all the more? Won’t they just emerge from exile tanned, leather-skinned, lean, mean, dumber than ever, truly inbred and ready to rule?

Yes, they will. But no one will recognize them. In the forty years of their absence we will (despite regular “Where Are They Now and What the Heck Are They Eating?” features on tv and in magazines) have moved on. Hillary’s second term will have long-since ended, Barack Obama will have won his third Nobel Prize, Karl Rove will be literally dead, and the Cubs dynasty will have come and gone. The Internet will have attained self-consciousness and ended global warming. Sarah Palin’s grandchild (named “Jane,” to spite the mother’s mom) will have children of her own.

After forty years, the next generation of Republicans, purged and cleansed by their nomadic desert life, will arrive in the U.S. like the sand people in Dune visiting the capital, but without all their moral authority and the riding-giant-worms thing.

They will reveal themselves to an amazed, educated, sympathetic, and pitying public for what they are: the offspring of a brutal, ignorant, and savage tribe once somehow involved in U.S. politics and now, both for the good of themselves and for the nation (and, therefore, the world), thankfully an anomaly, an historical curiosity and a reminder of our less civilized past.

Interestingly, four decades of insulation from the rest of the English-speaking world might result in a pressurized mutation of their language, leaving them speaking a pidgin amalgam of American English, Christian code words, hate-garbled profanity, and the normal sort of secret language that evolves among isolated groups. Thus, while we may still think of them as “The Republican Party,” their name for themselves might to our ears sound like “Duh Ruppin Pie” or “The Rubber Part,” etc. We should not be surprised to see their leader step forward, on the tarmac at JFK, and shout into the microphones, “WE BE THE RUBBER PART AND WE ARE RUN FOR PREZNIT GOD BLESS!”

Their future as a political force in the U.S. will, by then, be past discussion. But, in their absence, we will have become, once again, a compassionate people. We will allow them to live out their lives on a reservation somewhere in Arizona. Because, as someone will vaguely remember, they used to like Republicans in Arizona.

18 Questions *From* Congressional Republicans II: The Back Nine

May 13, 2008

Previously, on “18 Questions *From* Congressional Republicans”:

–“For some reason I happen to be on the mailing list of the National Republican Congressional Committee.”
–“18…questions they just sent me…”
–“‘our nation’s position on marriage…'”
–“‘victory…in passing a law banning partial-birth abortions…'”
–“‘…moral, family, and values issues…'”
–“‘Liberal Democrats persist in attacking our Government’s steps and strategies…'”
–“‘…burden of additional security at our airports…'”
–“‘…Bush tax cuts PERMANENT…'”
–“‘…overhaul of the way we pay federal taxes…'”
–“‘…Baby Boomers…retiring…personal retirement plans.'”
–“For this reason I answered ‘not sure.'”
–“‘…not sure.'”
–“…because I’m not an economist, I answered ‘Not sure.'”

And then I came to Question 10, which opened with a clarion call of triumph! “Congress and President Bush strengthened Medicare and provided seniors with their own choice of a health care plan that provides prescription drug coverage.” “Their own choice”! Like a toddler getting his “own” special seat in the car! No mention of the restriction, specified in the law, against Congress doing, when buying prescription drugs, what any other big-ticket customer does when he buys, say, a ton of potatoes–negotiating a better price.

My inner response? The usual: Blah blah blah “what happened to the wisdom of the marketplace?” blah blah blah “competition,” blah blah “government run by corporations for their benefit,” “naked hypocrisy blah,” and so on.

The three answers from which I could choose, alas, featured none of those. Rather, did I favor “more strong Republican approaches to reforming the Medicare system,” (underlining in the original), the Dems’ plan to create “a government-run health care system,” or “leaving things pretty much the way they are now”?

Yes, you read that correctly: “pretty much.” Like you, I was–and remain–offended by the questionnaire’s slack language. I inscribed, with lapidary care, my own box, checked it, and wrote “Not sure.”

If there were a Sentence Hall of Fame (and somewhere on the Internet there probably are six of them), surely Question 11’s opener would qualify for admission: “Despite the success of the President’s No Child Left Behind Act, many U.S. schools are still receiving failing grades.” Here we have a masterpiece of English construction that accomplishes three things at once. It starts with an untrue premise; it contradicts itself with its second clause; and it confuses “schools” with “students” in a question dealing with standards of education.

When asked whether “we” should “mandate that our schools and teachers abandon the burdensome, ‘politically correct’ requirements that are hamstringing their work and concentrate more on the basics of a sound education” (whatever they are, in this day and a.), who wouldn’t (as I did) answer “Not sure”?

Question 12: “In an effort to protect the religious heritage and character of our nation,” am I in favor of the Bush administration’s request that “under God” be retained in the Pledge of Allegiance? Now, I am on record (at least in my mind) as being firmly against protecting the religious heritage and character of our nation.

But even more importantly, I don’t care about this “under God” business because I believe the Pledge of Allegiance itself should be replaced with the Breyer’s Pledge of Purity. Instead of promising “liberty and justice for all,” which is obviously a sales slogan and not to be taken literally, let’s make a promise we can keep, and vow that the United States of America will use “the highest quality, all natural ingredients available.” (Thanks to Richard Price, and Clockers, for the idea). “Not sure” was my answer, and I stand by it.

Question 13 seemed to hint at something progressive: “Do you think that much of our legal system is now working harder to protect the rights of criminals–” Do I ever! White collar criminals! Un-indicted co-conspirators, lying Vice-Presidents, and worse! I got excited and prepared to answer Yes.

Then I finished the question: “…than it is to safeguard the rights of citizens to be free of crime in their homes and on the streets?” Oh. That. Actually, no–I haven’t watched 2,469 iterations of Law & Order without knowing better, or–and this is essential to the Republican world view–believing I know better, even if I don’t. So my initial Yes was killed–murdered!–by my subsequent No and came out “Not sure.”

“More than 3 million illegal aliens now flood into our country each year,” states Question 14. “Our schools, hospitals, and social services are become overburdened by this influx.” What to do? “Tighten our borders, restrict immigration,” etc.? Let the “heavy influx” continue (“…as it has been to ensure the continuation of increased diversity in our country”)?

I looked, in vain, for a third answer (“Re-direct some of the kabillions being wasted in Iraq to support and expand our schools, hospitals, and social services?”). I made a mental note to suggest this option to the Committee, and then punted by writing in “Not sure.”

Question 15 seemed inspired by black helicopter- monitoring cranks: “As we continue to fight the War on Terror, do you think our U.S. troops should be required to serve under commanders from other nations or from the United Nations…” etc., etc., “…as some Democrats have suggested?” Even the author of the question seemed a bit embarrassed by it. The answers available were “Definitely not,” “Probably, sometimes,” and my personal favorite, “Don’t know.”

And now came Question 16.

“How do you describe yourself politically?”

There were four boxes: Conservative, Moderate, Liberal, and Uncommitted. I did what any sensible person would do, and checked all four.

Question 17 was a gimme: Did I vote in the 2004 Presidential Election. (Yes). The 2006 Mid-Term Election? (Yes.) Nuff said.

And finally: “The Democrats are gearing up to increase their numbers in the next elections, when every single one of our 201 Republican representatives will be vulnerable.” Knowing this, am I willing to help “by making a generous donation to the National Republican Congressional Committee today?”

Of course not. And yet, haven’t we all had a bit of fun at the NRCC’s expense? Don’t I owe them something?So I went to the trouble of drawing a little box and checking it and writing “Not sure.”

And there you have it. Eighteen ways to foster ignorance while pretending to ask questions. Eighteen ways to press the red meat of the credulous and the resentful. Eighteen ways to throw hot buttons at a constituency that gets stupider every time it listens to its leaders.

“Not printed at government expense,” it says at the bottom of the form. That’s good to know. It means the government won’t suffer when I take advantage of the postage-paid envelope, and mail back my response.

18 Questions *From* the NRCC

May 8, 2008

The Republican Party, as every schoolchild knows, has by now degenerated from a quasi-aristocratic affinity group of Rotarian strivers and upper-crust coupon-clippers, into a wild-eyed cult, fully marinating in denial and mendacity, in which the very rich exploit the very credulous for the purposes of promoting corporate dominance in the service of the re-distribution of wealth upward via the manipulation of “values.”

Yeah, I know. Duh. Yawn. Check, please.

Still: How do they do it? How do they talk to themselves–which is to say, how do they butter up the indignant “patriots” and self-righteous “warriors for Christ” on whom they want to put the touch for some election-year dough? (Butter up, touch, dough: as always, it all comes down to bread.)

For some reason I happen to be on the mailing list of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Here, then, duly annotated, are the 18 (a sacred Hebrew number standing for LIFE!) questions they just sent me. In fact, so wide-ranging and important are these questions, I may have to address them in a two-part post. Because summarizing and condensing won’t do them justice. I’m talking about an NRCC Every-Member Canvas “prepared for the exclusive use of Mr. Ellis Weiner.” Eat your hearts out, those of you who aren’t me.

It goes without saying that filling in the questionnaire involves three steps: 1) Answer the questions; 2) Sign the form; 3) Return it with “the largest contribution you can make at this time.” Can do. Behold:

1. Do I believe that “our nation’s” official “position” on marriage should be that it is the legal union of a man and a woman, and not of two people of the same sex?

I wasn’t aware that nations had positions. I thought they had laws. For this reason I answered “Not sure.”

2. Following the “victory” of Congress and the president passing a law banning “partial-birth abortions,” do I think “we” should increase “our” efforts to “revisit” Roe-v-Wade, which “has made it easier to kill unborn babies for over 30 years in our country”?

I thought this question missed the point, which is that it should be easier to kill already-born babies, a list of whose names I am willing to provide. Interestingly, all of them are Republicans! I answered “Not sure.”

3. Do I want “us” to “concentrate even more on moral, family, and values issues during this session of Congress than we did on the previous one?”

Normally, yes (and I appreciate the bonus zeal in that use of “even more”). I want us to promote my morals, my family, and my values. But then I realized that I couldn’t really name any actual Republican achievement concerning “values” in the previous session. The partial-birth abortion ban doesn’t promote a value, it promotes a piece of dogma. (The purported “value” it supposedly sustains, that “life is sacred,” is so often honored in the breach by this administration it hardly bears mentioning. If there’s one thing that isn’t sacred to Republicans, it’s “life.”). So I decided this was a trick question, and bailed out by answering “Not sure.”

4. “Liberal Democrats,” Mr. Ellis Weiner’s canvas declares, “persist in attacking our Government’s steps and strategies in fighting the War on Terror.” Do I approve of “our” policies for seeking out and destroying terrorists and their organizations?

I cannot take any question seriously in which a Republican capitalizes “government.” Republicans hate government. They brag about it. George W. Bush has made it his life’s mission–which he has accomplished, thank you–to prove that government destroys, ruins, corrupts, or botches literally everything it attempts. Another trick question. Another “Not sure.”

5. Do I feel that any inconvenience that may be caused by security measures at airports, train stations, and public buildings “is worth the hassle”?

Oh please. I wasn’t born yesterday. I know, even if the intern who wrote this questionnaire doesn’t, that “hassle” is a 1960’s hippie word. I will not so easily be tricked into revealing that I was once a 1960’s hippie. “Unsure of how I feel about this,” is my answer, and you can quote me.

6. Do I support President Bush’s “pro-growth approach” to solving our economic problems “by creating more jobs and creating a more receptive climate for risk-takers who start new businesses”?

Not any more. This “pro-growth approach” has led to what everybody including two of our three dogs is calling a recession. (The third, Chester, our foster Ridgeback, is still holding to his “wait-and-see” position.) I’d like the president to use what remains of his time in office to advance an anti-growth approach, to sort of use reverse psychology to maybe try and fool the economy. “Not really” was a tempting box to check, but in the end, because I’m not an economist, I answered “Not sure.”

7. Do I support “our Republican insistence” that making the Bush tax cuts “PERMANENT” (all caps in the original) is the best way “to ensure that America’s families, seniors, hard working job holders and small business owners can keep more of their hard-earned dollars?”

Could anything be more manipulative? This entire list of so-called beneficiaries of the Bush tax cuts is a tissue of lies, provided you pronounce tissue as “tiss-you,” in the fancy Brit manner. First, families don’t earn dollars, hard-ly or otherwise. Dad earns dollars; Mom gets “house money” and kids get allowances, just as Adam and Eve and their kids (Cain and Abel) did in the Bible. Second, seniors, fine–but what about juniors, sophomores, and freshmen? I resent the classist bias. Third, the fate of small business owners is touching, and so forth, but what about our large business owners? What about our multi-national corporations? I feel strongly that any tax policy that omits them cannot be supported. Then again, I’m not sure how our government can tax multi-national corporations, since they’re…you know. Multi-national. So I answered “Not sure.”

8. “Support appears to be growing in Washington for an overhaul of the way we pay federal taxes.” How would I prefer to see our tax laws completely changed: A national flat tax? By “abolishing the IRS altogether and creating a national sales tax applied only to items that are actually purchased”? Or keep the tax system the same?

I was actually not crazy about any of these options. The flat tax and the national sales tax both seem, not only unfair, but deliberately designed to be unfair, because everyone has to pay the same $3.89 for a gallon of milk, if by “milk” I mean “gasoline.” This is cruel, heartless, and socially retrograde–all of which are classic Republican values I can certainly support, normally, but which would in this case adversely affect what I laughingly call my “lifestyle.” However, those were the only three answers available. Therefore I wrote in and checked, in my own hand-drawn box, “Not sure.”

9. Because “huge challenges” will arrive as the Baby Boomers soon begin retiring, how do I feel about the proposal, advanced by “many Republicans,” that today’s “younger workers be given a chance to invest a portion of their income into personal retirement plans”?

I’ll tell you how I feel. I feel a combination of disbelief (that anyone can afford to retire), resentment (that today’s younger workers will be exempt from funding my Social Security), and gratitude (that many Republicans care enough about me to address this issue). Put them altogether, they spell “I’d need to know more about it before making a decision.”

Exhausting? Somewhat. But enlightening, no? And those are just the front nine. Watch this space later in the week for my review of the final nine questions, and join me as I decide how much money to send the National Republican Congressional Committee, and my method of payment. Oh, and to find out whether or not the return envelope is postage-paid.

Paper Mooned (Or, The Republicans: Crazy, or Nuts?)

January 2, 2008

Say it’s only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea
It’s the Party of Make-Believe
It’s called the G.O.P.

First Ann Coulter tells us Joseph McCarthy was a national hero. Now Jonah Goldberg tells us the Nazis were leftists (never mind all those socialists and communists they killed, or their close collaboration with private industry,), and that liberals are fascists because some of them, like Hitler, are vegetarians. “The Nazis took food very, very seriously,” Goldberg writes, in case any of us thought the Nazis didn’t take food seriously.

First President Bush tells us Osama Bin Ladin is our mortal enemy. Then he tells us he doesn’t think about him very much. We were attacked by Saudi Arabians living in Afghanistan, so under Bush’s command we attack Iraq and declare “Mission Accomplished.”

First Dick Cheney says we’ll be welcomed as liberators; then he says the insurgency is in its “last throes” when, really, it’s in its first throes. And we’re not allowed to know which energy companies are helping him to write energy policy so that they feel secure.

Bush says God speaks to him, then he vetoes health insurance for children. Pat Robertson says God caused Hurricane Katrina because homosexuals are wicked (and Jerry Falwell agrees), but fails to explain why God didn’t send a hurricane at New York, L.A., or San Francisco, where the real homosexuals live.

Alberto Gonzalez (not the Attorney Corporal or the Attorney Captain–the Attorney General) can’t remember anything and can’t remember what he said he can’t remember. Clarence Thomas, the greatest beneficiary of affirmative action in history and a man who has risen to literally the highest position possible for someone in his profession, is against affirmative action, feels victimized and sorry for himself, is angry at almost everybody, and doesn’t really “like” the job.

Condoleezza Rice warns us that Saddam has nuclear weapons ready to create a “mushroom cloud” when, as intelligence reports said, he didn’t. Meanwhile Pakistan, which does have nuclear weapons, is paid billions of dollars and its military dictator is coddled and proclaimed a “good friend” while one of his physicists sells nukes to all comers and Al Qaeda is allowed to frolic free on his border. Now Musharaf and his government face collapse and chaos while Rice worries about her “legacy.”

Larry Craig says he’s not gay but is caught soliciting gay sex. Mark Foley says he’s not gay but is caught flirting with and hustling male Congressional pages. David Vitter is vigorously in favor of “abstinence education” but is caught cavorting (in a diaper) with prostitutes.

William Bennett, who pontificates about “virtue,” is an avid gambler.

Rush Limbaugh, who has said that the way to treat people who illegally use drugs is to “find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river,” is caught illegally using drugs (and admits to it) but is not, himself, sent up the river.

And now look: of the two leading Republican candidates for president, one is a man who takes the Bible literally and doesn’t “believe in” evolution, while the other is a man whose religion holds that Jesus came to America, that Native Americans are descendants of the Hebrews of Israel, and that early (2200 BC-600 BC) inhabitants of North America migrated here from the Middle East. With chariots.

Mike Huckabee believes in the Rapture. Mitt Romney believes in the transparently-fraudulent Book of Mormon. And these two cartoon characters, Mike ‘n’ Mitt, are the GOP front-runners for the White House.

Take one step back from this carnival of make-believe and let’s-pretend, and it becomes clear: The Republican Party has become an aggregation of people who prefer to live in a world of fantasy–and their first fantasy, the Ur-myth on which the entire conceit rests, is (classically) “we are the realists.”

It degrades, into farce and Newspeak, from there. The perpetrators and defenders of the outing of a CIA agent are “patriots.” Tom DeLay is a “leader” and Newt Gingrich is a “visionary.” The President plays guitar while New Orleans drowns, causes a hundred thousand Americans and Iraqis to be killed or injured, and outsources torture, and it’s the Democrats who, per the repellent Ramesh Ponnuru, are the “party of death.”

It’s one thing to praise “faith.” It’s another to be, not only indifferent to the idea of objective truth, but actively hostile to it–unless, of course, like any other good psychopath, they’re not aware of their condition. Who knows what they really think is going on in the U.S., in the world, and in their own heads?

Does George W. Bush really believe that he is a good Christian? Does he really believe he’s a “compassionate conservative”? Does Ann Coulter mean what she writes? Does Dick Cheney think he’s done a good job? Does Rudy Giuliani mean well?

We don’t know. We probably can’t know. They probably don’t know. They don’t want to know. Do we want to know? I don’t know.

I do know this: When the Supreme Court halted the vote-counting in Florida in 2000 and anointed Bush president, it was the equivalent of dropping that gang of boys on that island in Lord of the Flies. Actually, it was worse: they didn’t have any adult supervision. The administration, supposedly, did. But the adults, in the form of the Democrats and the media, were too intimidated (by the tragedy of 9-11, by their corporate masters, by careerist insecurity) to do any supervising.

And so for seven years, under the watchful eye of the genial, soulless Karl Rove, Republicans from sea to shining sea pigged out, yielding to their most gluttonous impulses and indulging their pettiest proclivities. The result? Like Saddam Hussein’s (evil, awful) sons, the Republican Party, drunk on power and unmediated by any sensible outside force, went fucking insane.

Yes, we’ve all enjoyed an easy laugh or two, identifying their obvious hypocrisies and compiling mile-long lists of their lies. But let’s not be disingenuous: The sex scandals and the corruption; the no-bid contracts and the sweetheart deals; the payoffs and the fired U.S. Attorneys, the missing billions in Iraq and the incriminating emails that either are or aren’t destroyed–look, nobody’s perfect. The Democrats have their own skeletons rattling around in their own walk-in closets.

But read the above rundown and add the ten thousand things there isn’t room enough to cite… Factor out the witting lies and brute propaganda… Take out the deceptions they committed on purpose (or think they did), and just leave the stuff about which they are (or think they are) sincere, and you get a picture of mass pathology.

It has gotten so that you have to muster all the compassion and understanding of which you are capable just to think of the Republicans as a party of greedy corporatists manipulating the credulous, the provincial, and the bigoted. That’s the nice way of putting it. But it doesn’t capture the full picture of the sheer moral and intellectual decay of these people and this institution.

Are you happy now, Bill Buckley? Is this your idea of an honorable and worthy political party, Newt Gingrich? Is this what you mean by “conservative,” Bill Kristol? Does it make you proud to be their apologist, David Brooks? Is there anything here you’d like to defend, Peggy Noonan? Glad to be one of the gang, Fred Barnes? Pleased with what you’ve accomplished, Brit Hume?

Of course, they could all answer, “You bet!” and claim to have deliberately engineered all of this on purpose and with open eyes. Which would really be sick.

An Idle Thought

October 15, 2007

As long as I’m here, let me share with myself a thought I just had.

Recall that great sequence in The Honourable Schoolboy, John Le Carre’s sequel to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. In it, George Smiley, having revealed the identity of a mole in “The Circus,” understands that the discovery of a spy in one’s midst, while distressing and galling and etc., provides an excellent opportunity. After lamenting all the secrets the spy has disclosed to his handlers, you are now free to follow his paths and examine his previous activity, and thus to unearth secrets about HIM and about those for whom he worked.

This is making high-kwality lemonade out of some serious lemons. Once you’ve identified and deplored the bad person, you are free to go back and examine his actions and his associates, and learn from them what you can.

So let’s do the same, sort of, with the current Boschian monster-fest that is today’s Republican Party. Ie, rather than just lament it, and find it disgusting, criminal, corrupt, hypocritical–stop yawning–and so forth, let’s use it as a kind of field test for revealing the nature and the habits of the American right.

Isn’t that vague? What I mean is, now that the Republican Party’s pretenses at military competence and moral integrity are in ruins, now that its more centrist, or mainstream, or reasonable elements have left it in droves, what remains? What can we learn about the right, now that it has been stripped of its less egregious camouflage?

A complete discussion of this topic would (and will) fill books, but here are a few bullet points:

1. THEIR DISCUSSIONS ARE NEVER SUBSTANTIVE. After saying, “What you liberals refuse to understand is, we are in a fight to the death with a mortal enemy,” they have nothing else to say about that supposedly dire issue. The rest is character assassination. The bloggers, the op-edsters, the braying asses on Fox Gnus: all they do is cry “traitor” and “dhimmicrat” and etc. Rather than write about the serious pros and cons of SCHIP, they attack a 12-year old. Rather than discuss the prosecution of the war in Iraq, and how it could perhaps have been done better, they simply attack its critics. What does this suggest?

2. IT SUGGESTS THAT THEIR ENTIRE POLITICAL POSITION IS EMOTIONAL, WHICH IS TO SAY, SYMPTOMATIC. You don’t need to be a psychiatrist, or even an adult, to know that people like Ann Coulter, Michele Malkin, and the worthies wasting electrons at Blogs for Bush, are at best soulless and at worst pathological. You do, however, have to remember that the only way to deal with such people without being sucked into the black hole of their own pathology is either to a) mock them openly with facts at the ready to disprove their every lunatic assertion, b) ignore them completely, or c) use their every lunatic assertion as a takeoff point for a reasoned, documented discussion of the topic at hand, without engaging with their smears, lies, exaggerations, and etc.

3. TAKE NOTE OF WHO REMAINS AS THEIR DEFENDERS. This, before your disbelieving eyes, is the lunatic fringe. When a major public party has nothing left to defend but the indefensible, only the non-rational constituency will still show up. Does this mean that, say, William Kristol is indistinguishable from, say, Pamela Oshry? No. But it does mean that William Kristol is less unlike her than he would like to believe, and that he is just as much like her as we have always thought.

(To Be Continued?)