Paul Broder writes in the Washington Post about the fascinating lack of party discipline among Republicans, from the Fristing of House Republicans over the shrinking "Bush tax cut" to the tussles and name-calling between the Pentagon and State, complete with earnest and juvenile messengers like Newtie, Krautie, Billy K., and the rest of the wannabes from the American Enterprise Institute.
Broder paints a picture of a party in Washington that feels the time has come to get theirs, where the various Republican factions (anti-tax, pro-family, evangelical, democratic imperialistic) are emerging like baby birds in the nest — ugly and persistent with mouths wide open for Momma.
Of course, some factions are absent — notably the reduce-spending faction and the Constitution-and-Bill of Rights faction. Could a major political party be doing a bronze cuckoo with their last best hope for competitive national survival? Say it ain’t so!
In any case, Broder sees it, Dubya sees it, Saddam saw it, and I see it. Party discipline is breaking down! This will not stand!
But what to do? Perhaps George and Don’s wild adventure in Mesopotamia can give us some answers. The Bush team had a big problem, lots of people with ideas, and a sense of urgency. Maybe the value system we used for Iraq could be the model for dealing with a far more dangerous and pressing national security threat — Republicans without unified leadership! Hmm, what about…
WMD? While indiscriminate character assassination within the party a la Gingrich and Goldberg has already occurred, and young George has often been tempted to lob one down the street himself, the Republican Party should follow Saddam’s most recent example — eliminate most of the WMD, and hide the rest such that only the CIA experts at Langley will be able to "find" it.
Freedom of speech? This sounds good, but for Pete’s sake, the Iraqis won’t shut up! A cacophony of pluralism, complete with support from interested outsiders, all demanding a voice in the political leadership! No, that’s not why we invaded, and it won’t work for the Republican Party either.
Democracy? This might work, except for the inconvenient fact that the majority of Republicans are actually still conservative — concerned about runaway government spending, debt limits, and the real value of government. Oops — we don’t want majority rule in the Republican Party — then neo-cons can’t get what they want! Well, what if we secure the constitutional rights of the minority? That’ll never work, their rights to foreign policy adventures and socialistic domestic spending will never extend far enough into the majority’s wallet to satisfy…. OK, democracy is out!
Fighting terrorism? We took over Iraq to stop Saddam’s terrorists and WMD from harming the United States (that’s our story and we’re sticking to it). Perhaps fighting Democrat, Green, and Libertarian terrorism will work for the Republican Party at home! Target the enemy, and destroy the evildoer! But what if some of the evildoers — if left alone — might actually stay home and not vote, or vote for third parties giving Bush II a Clinton I? What if you might inspire the terrorists to unite against you? No, a Republican war on domestic political enemies is a non-starter.
It seems our success with Saddam isn’t very applicable — avoiding the use of WMD is helpful, but freedom of speech, democracy, and fighting terrorism all backfire as techniques to get the saddle back on the bucking Republican Party machine. Oops — the elephant is actually the only animal that can’t jump. Never mind, with the neo-cons claiming ancestry from American leftism and Trotsky, what we are really dealing with is a jumpy beast called donkephantus eledonkia.
But wait! Perhaps we can still learn something from Saddam. Why not:
Cultivate instant obedience to the Leader’s wishes. During a bad stretch of the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam asked his senior staff if they thought he ought to give up. He had suggested that he was thinking about it, and one lonely soul stood up and agreed with Saddam. Saddam then executed the guy at the conference table. The party member’s mistake? He didn’t know the heart of the leader and thus was disloyal to Saddam and to the state. Maybe Bush could try this — his poor diction and delivery has improved enough in the past few years — probably only a few staff members would need to be sacrificed before the entire party knew the heart of their great leader, and joined him.
Imprison political enemies. This may or may not include tongue excision, although it should definitely be considered for libertarians. Guantanamo is locked and loaded, and the president has already exercised his authority to imprison American citizens as long as he wants for whatever reason he chooses to give, or not give. Saddam certainly revered this wonderfully effective tool of politics, and it’s worked for Bush, as in Iraq, with minimal domestic outrage. I say go for it!
Democratic centralism. A decision is made, and with iron discipline the entire party apparatus acts as one. Broder seems to think Bush had this in the past and just went wobbly, to use one of Krauthammer’s favorite phrases. Saddam, Stalin, Pol Pot, these guys can’t all be wrong!
Cult status for the great leader. This has always been a great way to improve party discipline. The masterful USS Abraham Lincoln landing (in luxurious irony), the swaggering little president, not seen with women or children, but with men and ships and aircraft. A man of strength! Saddam, if watching, must be reminded of his own "Georgian" role model, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, who took the name Stalin, Man of Steel. This adaptation should continue full bore. Later there will be time for photo ops with the weak and defenseless, but only after the strength of the leader has become iconic.
I think regaining the required discipline in the Republican Party is just around the corner. It is a clearly a concern of the utmost national security, but the methods used to inflict good government on the Iraqi and Afghanistani people may not be as useful to us domestically.
However, the solution to our Republican Party problem is clear, thanks to the wisdom of our old friend and adversary Saddam Hussein, may he rest in peace. When the door shuts, a window opens, no?
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a recently retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley.