Thursday, June 11, 2009

March of the Plastic Soldiers Part 1

“Republican political doctrine has been a failure. Look at New Orleans. How can you say that was a success? Look at Baghdad ... We've been in charge for six years and I don't think you can look around and say that was a great success.”-Newt Gingrich, 2006

"It is perfectly "American" to be wrong." - Newt Gingrich, 1984

But apparently not to admit it, if you happen to be a modern-day Republican.

Gingrich was forced to resign from his role as Speaker of the House in 1998 after misguiding his party to disaster with irrational obstructionist postures toward the Clinton administration. He barely snuck past a public crucifixion for an adulterous personal life similar to the improprieties that many Republicans claim are their biggest reasons for hating President Bill Clinton. Many of us who assumed we wouldn’t be hearing from Newt Gingrich ever again didn’t count on the abject disrepair and dysfunction that characterizes the GOP’s structure after John McCain’s loss last November. Many of us were too busy celebrating to really wonder what would emerge from the ruin of the opposition: a concentration of the worst aspects of Right wing policy. We are witnessing the return of “opposition, for opposition’s own sake” inspired and promoted by the most superficial entities of the Republican disinformation and propaganda machine.

Power, it is said abhors a vacuum. Apparently, it can get by with hot air as a substitute.

The Republican Party is today, a talking pile of rubble that is masquerading as a mere shadow of its former colossal stateliness (I refuse to use the word “grandeur,” it’s bad enough that I have to resort to the acronym GOP which has “grand” in it.) Today the GOP is held together and directed by ancillary forces that were formerly just the messengers who banged pots and parroted talking points. The tail is wagging the dog in many respects too numerous to mention in one post… which is why I am beginning a five-part series on what is emerging as the new Conservative leadership in America. Neither Michael Steele, John Boehner nor Colin Powell will appear in these posts; they don’t have any actual influence within the Right wing. John Boehner and Michael Steele just do what they are told by the figures I am about to discuss. I’m not going to devote any more space to Sarah Palin in these particular posts because objectively speaking; she’s just too damn ridiculous. I can handle the topic of Bill O’Reilly simply: the man lies too often to be taken seriously by anybody with integrity. I will discus Tim Pawlenty and Bobby Jindal in individual posts after this series as they are actual elected figures and are a legitimate presence in the Republican Party.

The demagoguery that in the past formed the outermost treads on the rolling Republican machine (-the power and policy historically radiated from the hub, actual elected officials like Ronald Reagan, Trent Lott, Jesse Helms and most recently Dick Cheney) now is the hub itself.

Republicans (and the Right as it is classically identified and understood) is known for marching in tight lockstep. The Right organizes and holds together against everyone on the planet and the Left argues with itself while it argues with everyone else (Which I think is admirable by the way, and it is nothing for Progressives and Liberals to be ashamed of) … that was until last year, and last year was a long time ago.

These pundits; media personalities who rose to prominence during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, are leading the GOP whether Republicans like it or not. Curiously, the man on the street with an elephant pin doesn’t seem to care. Maybe rank and file Republican voters never knew the difference between Talk Radio personality Rush Limbaugh’s position as un-elected radio celebrity and the position of RNC chairman.

I’ve got news for Michael Steele: when you have to apologize to an un-elected demagogue for telling it like it is, you are the chairman of “nothing.”

Which brings us to Newt Gingrich’s sudden reappearance in the news. The Republicans are currently a party in a fatal and desperate panic. They are, compared to their state exactly a year ago, not really a party at all. They are not in transition, they are not rebuilding. The GOP is a leaderless mass that has to contend with how to move past policies that clearly led to global economic disaster, without admitting that they were wrong somehow. If the GOP admits that it was wrong, in essence making a long overdue capitulation to reality, it then has to address how its core Reagan-era deregulation postures, economic trickle down principles, “don’t tax and spend” strategies and foreign policy philosophies are still acceptable. Let’s face it, most Americans never voted on the basis of these issues in any event. Republicans have been swept into office repeatedly over the years by presenting themselves as strong on defense and security (9/11 happened on their watch, the Iraq War was an ill-advised botch job by anyone’s estimation, sorry), and being fiscally conservative (cutting social programs while allowing corporations to engage in no-bid contacts in the ramp up to the War in Iraq is not fiscal Conservatism). Government grew to ridiculous scale during George W. Bush’s administration, the surplus of 2000 evaporated by the time he took his third vacation in office. How can the GOP answer for its Herculean failures without admitting wrongdoing at worst and incompetence at best?

It cannot.

Instead it is desperately turning to the tactics and methodologies of its informal media apparatus: distort, disguise, distract all from the truth. Newt Gingrich, one of the only figures out of government long enough to be not directly stained by the Bush administration’s poisonous aftermath is making his way back to the political stage not as an experienced policy maker with a decade of experience in the legislature, but as someone in the mold of the only figures who Republicans have not entirely abandoned: Right wing talkers and pundits. After all, the talkers “just talk”, so they are not held responsible for the failures and the criminal ineptitude of the policies and politicians they support and promote. Gingrich has been a talker for the last ten plus years of his civilian life, speaking at colleges, association events and the like. He has made a living out of preaching to the converted, occasionally waking them up with out-of-character concessions to the uncomfortable truths facing the Conservative movements. Gingrich doesn’t dwell in the facts for very long however, as his recent “Tweets” about SC Justice nominee Sotomayor bore out.

Feeling the need to chime in as a Republican voice on an issue that required no perspective whatsoever, Gingrich parroted Rush Limbaugh’s disinformation efforts by furthering the smear campaign that the Talk Radio host was pushing on the public by selectively quoting Sotomayor out of context. Gingrich conveniently ran with Limbaugh’s dissembling as if it were information and broadcast his opinion via Twitter:

"Imagine a judicial nominee said 'my experience as a white man makes me better than a latina woman.' new racism is no better than old racism."

And Gingrich followed up with:

"White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw."

Gingrich sent this last statement, only to apologize for it shortly thereafter… sort of.

This is the kind of nonsense people like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have made careers out of: Tell a lie, slander an opponent with misconstrued facts, then say the facts were wrong, admit a mistake was made, but allow the spurious allegations to remain by qualifying your apology. Gingrich and the GOP have to adopt the methodology of the punditry because those are the only strategies that will allow them to create fictional distance from the reality of the disasters their policies have created over the past twenty-five years. Gingrich is going to be the first pundit-candidate of our modern age. But he won’t be the last. He went from elected official, to talker. He went from the Senate to the College speaking circuit. Now he is back in politics, possibly disassociating himself successfully from his actual political career and the reality of its failures in the public’s mind. How Newt Gingrich fares will be an indication of the future of this new political animal: the “populist” opinion monger who has more in the way of feelings and convictions than actual informed perspectives or facts as motivations. If you don’t believe it, remember that Chris Mathews also recently considered a run for the Senate.

It’s a bleak picture if the next candidates have to get their start as “news analysts,” which is to say they will have to be people who talk out of their ass for a living. This is sadly the future of the Republican Party: Taking its leadership from the punditry and molding candidates in the image of their flashiest and loudest propagandists.

One more sobering quote from this talker/possible presidential hopeful:

“The greatest leaders in fighting for an integrated America in the twentieth century were in the Democratic Party. The fact is, it was the liberal wing of the Democratic Party that ended segregation. The fact is that it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who gave hope to a nation that was in despair and could have slid into dictatorship. And the fact is, every Republican has much to learn from studying what the Democrats did right.” - Newt Gingrich

Read it over and over again, it might be one of the last times you see unadulterated and inconvenient honesty from Newt Gingrich as he tries to assert himself as the Republican Party’s frontrunner in 2012.



Jack Jodell said...

Bravo, SJ! It had been so long since we heard from either you or mycue23, I was beginning to fear you guys had maybe gone "off the air." But this brilliantly reasoned post explains your long absence, and was well worth the wait. There are so many truisms listed here it is amazing. The GOP HAS to hide its past errors, as they were so disastrous all they can ever hope to do is lie or distort them away. Their foreign and economic policy has indeed been proven bankrupt, but that won't stop them. NO amount of lying will fully cover up Gingrich's past, nor the ineptitude or inadequacies of Palin or Jindal.

What is most disturbing today is to see the total lack of depth, breadth or substance coming out of the GOP. None of their spokesmen, including Gingrich or the crazy pundits, has yet offered anything substantive to meet the pressing needs of the country. They instead prefer to offer meaningless innuendo and sound bites rather than detailed, practical alternatives. And they live in the past. Their constanting invoking of the "principles" of Ronald Reagan are ridiculous. All Reagan really did was cut taxes for the wealthy and outspend the Soviets to the point where it bankrupted them. In the process, he fed and strengthened an already malignant military/industrial complex here, and set the stage for the disastrous neocon Bush II presidency.

Great post, and welcome back, SJ! I can't wait for installments 2-5! Give my best to mycue23, too.

SJ said...

Many thanks, that means a lot to me.

I'd been trying to keep to shorter posts of about 600 words or less, but found myself with drafts that read like rehashes of old posts (Partly because there's a lot of rehashing going on right now from the GOP's figures in government and in the media so it's hard to avoid repetition) I'm trying to express perspectives and angles that I don't see discussed right now in the public. So this series on the "devolution" of candidates/elected officials from experienced and qualified policy makers to pundit/celebrity/reality-show rejects seems like a good aspect to focus on. The have Joe the Plumber run if they could. They are so desperate that they don't want to admit that Sarah Palin was and is a really bad idea for VP, and now that the national spotlight is on her, I think most people don't think she should even be a Governor of a state. -Again if they really wanted a woman VP, there's Christie Todd Whitman, there's Linda Lingle, there's plenty more women out there on the right who are smart, (not my choices for office by a long shot) experienced and objectively capable statespersons. But they're not robotic party faithful are they?
That insistence on Orthodoxy over ability is one of the many reasons the GOP is sinking fast before our eyes.
If the GOP keeps up this stupidity, I see a chance for the Libertarian Party to raise its profile exponentially in the US, which is also scary as they have a very radical Conservative posture. For a lot of people on the Right in America, they may seem like the only game in town, since Republicans have been proclaiming policy with their mouths, and acting like corporate shills with their policy and actions.

Thanks again for the kind words Jack.


Jack Jodell said...

SJ, to hell with brevity---what needs to be said needs to be said. Unlike Garrison Keillor or some other writers, you don't pad your pieces with overabundant flowery nonsense. You get right to the point, and it always makes sense. So get it out, brother, because you and your partner there can always be counted on for relevant and well reasoned posts. I comb your blog daily looking for more. You speak the language of truth and passion. Give 'em hell!