It is axiomatic that everyone looks good when things are going well. Dealing with high times isn’t a traumatic test of character, and therefore doesn’t reveal true character. It’s when things get tough that authentic personalities are exposed – and there can be no better example of this psychobabbling truism than today’s Republican Party in action.
With the White House’s upper echelon now in criminal jeopardy, we pause with wonder at how leading GOPers have scrambled, dissembled, backpedaled and raised hypocrisy to new and breathtaking heights. Perjury? Obstruction of justice? Pshaw. Mere misdemeanors, they say, little bumps in the political road that only hypercritical naysayers would condemn as serious.
Remember how, according to Republicans, the national sky was falling when Bill Clinton hit these same bumps? His perjurious ways – and over sex, mind you, not national security – were a bane on our national reputation, an intolerable blight on the presidency and demanding of the harshest punishment: impeachment.
But so much for that. It’s a new age.
Chris Matthews, in a rare moment of actual political hardball, recently played two clips of Texas GOP Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison - a kind of before and after thing. On the one hand were her previous and dire warnings about the dangers of ignoring Democrat Clinton’s awful legal sins way back when; on the other hand was her present-day enlightenment about what a picayunish matter perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges would be if filed against Republicans Rove and Libby. My, my, she implied, what kind of nitwitted, nitpicky prosecutor would bother the national conscience with such petty technicalities.
In both instances Hutchison was merely floating her memorized Republican talking points. But framed in her party’s self-righteousness, the juxtaposed talking points spotlighted nothing but ethical depravity. Adding to the rehearsed sham on another Hardball program were representative conservative voices such as Byron York of the National Review - ho-hum, what Rove and Libby committed was pure and simple politics played and loved by all; and MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson – not many Americans are even paying attention to this stuff. Ho-hum again. Lower the criminal bar. Boys will be boys. Bore the audience. Yawn.
GOP feats of triple-axel hypocrisy over this self-inflicted disaster are just gearing up, but they’ll soon be an inventive sight to savor for every political junkie. For that much, and that much only, we thank the sterling party of Tom DeLay, Bill Frist and George W. Bush.
Hypocrisy, of course, is an old and venerated tradition in politics. No organized group of politicos could survive long without its infectious necessity. But what talking-head Republicans are in the process of unveiling goes more to fundamental dishonesty – their true nature as also unveiled in cooked-up stories leading to an unnecessary war, and their fraudulent economic policies sold as populist benefaction, but dripping in plutocratic favoritism.
The deeper transgression, however, lies in the American electorate’s willingness to put such naked dissemblers in office to begin with. Quite aside from Bush II’s initial theft of the White House, it’s been the American voter who empowered Republicanism to launch a bloody travesty in the Middle East and suck the working classes into an abyss of helpless servitude.
So, fundamental Republican dishonesty? You bet. But at another fundamental level we have only ourselves to blame. That’s a point that seems almost too obvious to mention, but it’s also a point that all too frequently goes overlooked in times of exposed political obscenities, as well as a point we should all remind our GOP-inclined friends of, right up to Election Day 2006.