Monday, October 17, 2005
Party over country. You can hear it in Miller's accountings of her conversations with Libby; you can hear the "crimes aren't crimes if they're done for the sake of politics" meme from pundits like Chris Matthews and William Kristol; you can hear it everywhere in Washington, for that matter. Lying about sex had many of these same pundits foaming and frothing at the outrage of it all; compromising our intelligence assets against weapons of mass destruction, at the very same time the government is warning us to stock up on duct tape and watch out for swarthy bearded types holding glow-in-the-dark suitcases, is considered too shallow a crime to pursue -- if a Republican does it.
There's something beyond mere politics in all of this. Politics, one would hope, is not sufficient reason to damage the country. This is different. This is the cult of power, and of corruption, that is not just defended, but celebrated by pundits, by journalists, and by politicians alike.
The Republican pundit machine wails, and wags their fingers, and is shocked by the investigations, and depositions, and prosecutions, and calls it the "criminalization of politics".
Most of the rest of us call it crime, disguised as politics.
Crime, disguised as politics, and defended by crooks, cowards, and blowhards.
In The Weekly Standard, William "Bill" Kristol and Jeffrey Bell milk the "criminalizing conservatives" talking point like the professional paid blowhards they are. The high point:
Why are conservative Republicans, who control the executive and legislative branches of government for the first time in living memory, so vulnerable to the phenomenon of criminalization? Is it simple payback for the impeachment of Bill Clinton? Or is it a reflection of some deep malady at the heart of American politics? If criminalization is seen to loom ahead for every conservative who begins successfully to act out his or her beliefs in government or politics, is the project of conservative reform sustainable?
We don't pretend to have all the answers, or a solid answer even to one of these questions. But it's a reasonable bet that the fall of 2005 will be remembered as a time when it became clear that a comprehensive strategy of criminalization had been implemented to inflict defeat on conservatives who seek to govern as conservatives. And it is clear that thinking through a response to this challenge is a task conservatives can no longer postpone.
Oh, boo-goddamn-dumbfucking-hoo. I've watched Bill Kristol do his wide-eyed oh-my-goodness "thinking man's Dan Quayle" brand of dumbass punditry for some time, and Kristol long ago got his card stamped for membership in that class of people who think that standard operating procedures during the Clinton years are now outrageous!, simply outrageous! when applied across the aisle, but that the use of classified information for political payback is a perfectly acceptable and common practice because, as Libby so inartfully danced around the edges of in his conversations with Miller, the bitch deserved it.
But Kristol is right. This isn't politics as usual any more. Not for them, and not for us.
Since they don't have the answers, let me help them, since apparently I'm a hell of a lot more tuned in to the political scene than they are.
Is it simple payback for the impeachment of Bill Clinton?
You bet. Deal with it, because we partisans intend to staple every Republican scandal to your furrowed, studiously shocked brows until you can't walk down the streets without re-collating your own foreheads.
Or is it a reflection of some deep malady at the heart of American politics?
Yep, I'd say that's a pretty solid conclusion too. I'd say when the most important Republican figures in the White House, the Senate, the House, and the Republican lobbying machine are all under investigation for separate alleged criminal actions, something is wrong.
If criminalization is seen to loom ahead for every conservative who begins successfully to act out his or her beliefs in government or politics, is the project of conservative reform sustainable?
Because, apparently, it is absolutely impossible to sustain so-called conservative reform without committing crimes. That's the lesson I've been getting from DeLay, Frist, Abramoff, Franklin, Tobin, Safavian, Rove, Libby, etc, that have state prosecutors, the FBI, the SEC, and/or other federal officials buying new filing cabinets by the truckfull in a futile effort to keep track of it all.
Is that conservatism? Kristol, you want to field that one? These are the heros of your movement?
What's particularly galling is while Kristol and Bell bemoan the criminalization of "conservatives who seek to govern as conservatives", few of the people at the heart of the various Republican scandals represent much in the way of true conservatism at all. Is Abramoff a "conservative", or simply the main driveshaft of a Republican money machine? What about DeLay? Does his deficit-busting, spend-money-like-a-drunken-pirate agenda really square with "conservative" principles, or does "conservative" these days simply mean whatever principles Kristol deems convenient during this particular twenty minute span of time, to be revised as needed by the latest RNC-faxed talking points?
Yeah, Kristol, I said RNC-faxed. The entire "criminalization of politics" meme got horked up onto the conservative stage with the subtlety of a greased-up Arnold Schwarzenegger lovemaking scene. So don't count yourself as clever, just because you can regurgitate the orchestrated RNC position in a begrudging Fox Pundit Book Report, along with everyone else in your class.
These are the Movement Republicans of Fox News, whose talking points are set over their cups of coffee in accordance to whatever the Bush-focused needs of the day prove to be. Deficits are bad, then deficits are good. Espionage against America is bad, except when it's no big deal. States' rights, but never mind. Drugs are bad, except when Rush does it. The Katrina response was fantastic! Iraq is going well! The economy, booming! Cronyism is good!
Blah, blah, blah. Punditry with the predictable pattern and spray of automatic lawn sprinklers. If Iraq has turned into the much-predicted fiasco most observers expected it would, it's because liberals didn't believe hard enough. If the economy is going to hell, it's the fault of the damn American middle class, which needs to collectively get off its quivering, jobless ass and buy a few hundred thousand new cars. And if a Republican commits a crime, it's the Democrats fault for politicizing it.
Honestly, do these people have a bone of responsibility or self-accountability in their thick, Clinton-addled skulls? Is their brand of so-called "conservatism" nothing more than the economic and national security version of Intelligent Design, in which it'll all just work out fine if you draw a picture of Noah carrying everyone's 401K plans onto the Ark?
Whether it be election law, campaign finance law or lobbying restrictions, we see Republicans in legal jeopardy defended primarily by the arguments like Chris Matthews' faux-dismissive "everybody does it" or Bill Kristol's sniffling "how dare you bring these things up". Whether it be government report after government report found to be "cooked" by political cronies who need to sell by deception what actual fact can't support, or government payments to ostensible pundits, or the wholesale manufacture of fake reporters producing fake news segments, there is literally nothing -- nothing -- which a movement Bush loyalist apparently finds ethically questionable, and damn you for finding out about it in the first place.
No. No dice, pundit class. Don't give us vapid, amoral, blastfaxed crap about how horrible it is that everyone-on-the-planet-but-the-involved-Republicans are responsible for a certain collection of viciously partisan figures toeing the fine lines of numerous federal laws, and finally losing their balance on a half-dozen of them.
Is this the best face that the Republican Party can put on? Is this the best defense against scandal after scandal -- to ignore the sentenced, defend the indicted, blame the investigtors, and howl at the injustice of it all?
Honestly, what farce.
Conservatism, whatever it may be, is hopefully not this. You don't have far to look, in the Republican Party, to find true conservatives. I may not like the political stances of a John McCain or an Arlen Specter, but nor do I fear for the nation if they come to lead the Republican party. Men of integrity can disagree on the principles of government; men whose sole moral compass is directed by what they can technically get away with, however, aren't political men. They're just crooks.
But for every politician of questionable honesty, for every staffer under arrest, for every Republican lobbyist caught as bagman, there's a hundred desperate Bill Kristols willing to prostrate themselves and their own morality in exchange for another perceived half an inch towards their own movement's elusive prize: some nebulous faux-conservative utopia that always turns to a deficit-riddled, pork-choked, crony-laden hell within the first years their chosen Republican leaders try to implement it. And then, the political cycle repeats.
No, Movement Republicans are people who not only are willing to overlook advantageous crimes, but celebrate them, if done in service to the party. Successful pundits include Iran-Contra figure Oliver North and convicted Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy -- people who, in any movement with the integrity of week-old tuna, would have been drummed out, not hired on as voices of the movement.
So I think we know pretty much all we need to know about the ethics of the modern "conservative" movement, as practiced by Fox News, the Weekly Standard, et al. And with all due deference to the weak constitutions of the "conservative" pundit class, desperately trying to revise their well-worn politics of personal destruction scripts before it bites them in the ass -- I think it's a valid issue.
Kristol says, in closing:
[I]t's a reasonable bet that the fall of 2005 will be remembered as a time when it became clear that a comprehensive strategy of criminalization had been implemented to inflict defeat on conservatives who seek to govern as conservatives. And it is clear that thinking through a response to this challenge is a task conservatives can no longer postpone.
And here we see, again, the tired and boring chin-jutting half-threat that, if all this investigating and arresting and indicting continues, in response to Republican scandals, there will be a Republican "response" or retribution. I don't know, Bill: I think you're going to want to think long and hard about your "response" to the "challenge" of Republicans committing crimes.
Only a jackass of the caliber of a Fox News pundit could write an entire column in response to the scandal after scandal after scandal dogging every significant figure in the Republican leadership, and come to the conclusion that the problem was that Democrats were finding too many scandals and should just shut up.
So, William Kristol, with an honorary mention to Jeffrey Bell who probably wrote a great deal of that drivel but sadly didn't have the clout to get his name in the lede alongside Horking J. Blastfax up there:Go to hell.