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11/21/2004

Power Mad

The GOP has again fallen prey to an old vice: believing their own spin, acting as though they have a mandate for revolutionary change. After a bruising election determined by a litany of ultimately insurmountable GOP distortions, conservatives have renewed their assault on the weary American people. Congress came back for a five day lame-duck session less than a week ago. In that brief time, Republicans have again revealed their true colors: contempt for the American people and disdain for the rule of law.

As evidence of criminality continues to accumulate against House Majority Leader Tom Delay, the GOP erected a shield around their wayward leader. "In an unrecorded voice vote conducted behind closed doors," the Republican Caucus voted to change an 11 year old rule prohibiting Congressional leaders from enjoying their positions while under indictment. Three of Delay's underlings were indicted in September for illegally funneling corporate contributions to Texas state politicians, an effort "engineered" by Delay himself. Delay's defenders have responded with a formal smear campaign against Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who is leading the criminal investigation. Unsurprisingly, the smears have already percolated into the press, despite the complete lack of supporting evidence. Delay gloats that the "crushing defeat" suffered by Democrats because of "Democrat (sic) obstruction and vicious personal attacks should show them that the American people are tired of a politics of personal destruction." A majority of the GOP voted to protect this unethical man because the GOP won the election, and has a mandate for more of the same.

Again scoffing at the people's right to hold their representatives accountable, the Republican Congress has passed an omnibus spending bill loaded with egregious riders. They have authorized the pillaging of the environment. They have undermined health care for women and families. They tried to hand unfettered access to our private tax information to Republican legislators. They, at the request of the President, allowed the Department of Education to reduce student loan spending by as much as $300,000,000, cutting off aid for as many as 100,000 lower middle class students and reducing aid for a million more. The bill is 3000 pages long and it was finalized in the dark of night, mere hours before it was voted on. Rest assured that more contemptible riders will come to light. The GOP won the election, and has a mandate for more of the same.

While the GOP fiddled with its stealth riders, intelligence reform burned. The 9/11 Commission's intelligence reform proposals are not going to become law, allegedly because of objections from Republican Congressmen Duncan Hunter (California) and James Sensenbrenner (Wisconsin). Hunter supposedly ignored the Department of Defense's support for the reform, deciding that it would hurt our military intelligence capabilities. Sensenbrenner's objection was even more facile: he wanted to make sure illegal immigrants didn't get driver's licenses. It is inconceivable that a bill supported by the President, the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate Majority Leader could be blocked on such weak grounds. After spending the final months of the campaign courting reform advocates, the GOP sent them packing without the courtesy of breakfast. President Bush won his election, and has a mandate for more of the same.

While the GOP was submarining real intelligence reform, Bush's Director of Central Intelligence surfaced to launch his own reforms: driving objective and professional civil servants from the CIA, to be replaced by GOP loyalists. The Republican staff he put in place to head the agency insulted the professional staff to the point of resignation. Porter Goss responded by circulating a memo admonishing analysts and operatives to toe the Party line. Take no action to defend the American people from administration perfidy, support administration allegations, truth be damned. Bush won his election, and has a mandate for more of the same.

While Goss was busy protecting the administration from truth, Bush elevated to his cabinet two more partisans of fantasy. "In nominating Alberto Gonzales to be the next attorney general, President Bush has selected a man with a long record of giving him the kind of legal advice he wants, [WP]" especially when Mr. Bush wants to torture, execute, or evade international law and public accountability. In nominating Condoleezza Rice to be the next Secretary of State, President Bush has selected a woman with a long record of telling him exactly what he wants to hear, especially when Mr. Bush wants to go to war, blame Clinton, or save face. In even considering promoting the likes of Danielle Pletka and John Bolton, the administration is flaunting its distaste for rationality. Bush won his election, and has a mandate for more of the same.

While Bush was elevating friendly fabulists, old stories were being retold. At the same time that the administration was declaring victory in Fallujah (despite on the ground intelligence), Iraq erupted in flames and insurgents remobilized, leaving Iraq on the brink of formal civil war. Afghanistan is again dominated, socially, economically, and politically, by the opium trade. Following a European diplomatic breakthrough on Iran's nuclear weapons development, the administration leaked dubious intelligence to "preemptively sabotage" any real progress, escalating tensions. Bush won his election, and has a mandate for more of the same.

Democrats, on the other hand, have merely reaffirmed their decency. Former President Clinton asked if he was the "only person in the entire United States of America who likes both George W. Bush and John Kerry, who believes they’re both good people, who believes they both love our country and they just see the world differently?" Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, in his farewell address to a room virtually devoid of Republicans, nonetheless embraced the "firm middle ground based on common sense and shared values." New Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has pledged to "work with [Bush] 'to get things done so that we might actually fulfill the promises we hear so often on the campaign trail.'" Unfortunately, the GOP views decency as a character defect, an invitation to abuse. Senator Kerry is correct to place the burden of bipartisanship on Bush.

The GOP has misinterpreted the results of the 2004 election. A people too preoccupied to wade through innumerable lies reelected a President based on misconceptions, yet the GOP hears this muddled cry for help as vindication for its deplorable politics. They have managed to repeat four years worth of mistakes and malfeasance in less than three weeks. I once heard an old saying from Texas: "fool me once, shame on you - fool me [twice] - you can't get fooled again." Let's make sure the saying is true, and that the American people can't get fooled again.

 

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