'Vote For Me, You Jerk!' (… and then shut up!)

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“Bigotry,” according to Frank Sheed, “does not mean believing that people who differ from you are wrong; it means assuming that they are either knaves or fools.”

If Sheed is right, then we might very well have to conclude that the Republican/neocon party leadership is flirting with bigotry.

To be sure, they have every reason to be concerned about next week’s elections. After all, there are millions of one-time Bush supporters who are failing to report for duty in the war on Democrats, which is Mr. Bush’s domestic version of the Global War on Terror.

As one longtime conservative and Republican (in that order) — a high-ranking, senate-confirmed official in the Reagan and Bush 41 regimes, put it:

"I ask myself these days if the Republican Party is pursuing a political program or a rank fraud. This is virtually the first time in recent memory where I’ve done nil volunteer work u2018on the ground’ for the GOP going into an election."

And how does the Bush league respond to the concerns of this key conservative intellectual and part builder?

Tony Blankley calls him a dunce. Dick Cheney considers him an Al Queda sympathizer. Wielding a lighter touch, Dennis Prager merely calls him irrational (at least he didn’t say "deranged"). And George Bush, of course, considers him simply as the enemy.

Millions of true conservatives are tired of being treated like cattle — herded into the corral every two years, but never fed by the rustlers they helped to get elected. Eventually, these folks manage to wake up. "Don’t assume that I’m an imbecile," a savvy gal from my Indiana hometown told Frank Herbert of the New York Times — referring, of course, to you-know-who.

My genuinely conservative friend wonders whether the whole thing has been a fraud. After all, most neocons are former leftists, many in the tradition of Leon Trotsky. Did they perceive a generation ago that conservatism would be in the ascendant for a generation? Having at heart their own agenda, they donned their conservative costumes and rode the conservative horse for all it was worth — all the while treating it with contempt even as they rode it to death.

When 9-11 came along, they jumped at the opportunity to promote and to control the Iraq disaster. Their reasons were simple: (1) the war would make them very powerful and very rich, and (2) the war would turn the country against the GOP and against "conservatism," something the neocons could not do on their own, since the rank and file have never trusted them. Destroying conservatism and, if necessary, the GOP was high on their list of priorities, but they had to do their destructive work from the inside.

And so they have. Whether it was the result of a deceitful fraud or an inexorable stage of Marxist-Leninist history, the neocons have destroyed conservatism. Meanwhile, the intellectually bankrupt Republican Party has sunk into a corruption so steep that it is now indistinguishable from the Democrats.

So how is the GOP to woo back the disaffected rank-and-file?

Why, insult them, of course!

One thing these strangers to conservatism understand is fear, and they’ve been pushing it for all it’s worth.

Take George Bush. He tells his conservative, pro-life, pro-traditional marriage religious conservative base that “terrorists win and America loses” if you don’t vote for the candidate who is pro-partial-birth abortion, pro-gay-marriage, pro-nationalized-health-care, anti-strict-constructionist judges, John-Kerry-running-mate Joe Lieberman.

Now, there’s a rational argument!

Lieberman, who stands for everything the religious right is supposed to hate, has probably been the premier recipient of the most steady, strong, even strident support from the White House and the RNC, who probably don’t even know the name of the Republican candidate whom they’re supposed to be supporting (neither do I).

"Vote for me, not your principles," says the prez.

Defeat threatens. Contradiction thrives.

Enter Dick Cheney. If "big-government conservatism" has made you mad as hell and you’re not going to take it any more, why — you’re soft on the war on terrorism, and a rank "defeatist" to boot.

Rick Santorum, who betrayed pro-life, pro-family conservatives in the critical 2004 Pennsylvania Senate primary, now pounds the podium demanding virtual all-out war against Iran. Vote against him and you’re giving "solace" to Al Queda.

How nice of him not to call it "aid and comfort"!

So listen up, disgruntled conservatives. Come back to the fold! Vote for us! If you don’t, Tony Blankley says you’re "stupid." Gary Bauer says you hate western civilization but Al Queda loves you. And that one-issue wonder Michelle Malkin says that, if you don’t vote for the war party, you are embracing "the anti-military animus of the Left."

Finally, Ben Stein, whose oozing, self-congratulatory treacle is the closest thing the neocons have to Oprah, will just sit down and cry all over your keyboard if you don’t vote for his power-lunch pals and all their endless wars. No doubt he’ll use that flag he’s wrapped in to dry his crying eyes.

Applying Sheed’s definition, these neocon wolves in conservative clothing are nothing more than a condescending bunch of contemptible bigots. They can’t even stand to extend a hand to "the folks that brung’em" — even when they need them desperately. Instead, they give them the back of the hand.

For generations, the Democrats have taken blacks for granted. In like manner, party-hardy Republicans have taken conservatives for granted, and then tossed them aside when the elections are over. Like the wife-beater who knocks the old girl around for her own good, the Bush team thinks that conservatives will "come home" when they vote next Tuesday if it bashes them good and hard right now. In the words of the Washington Post, circa 1985, Bush treats the religious right as though it were "poor, undereducated, and easily led."

So should we vote for the Democrats?

Not necessarily.

In fact, there is one good reason why a conservative who is fed up with Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld should not vote for the Democrats.

It is simple.

The Democrats won’t impeach them.

Far from it. If the Democrats’ believed their own attacks on the Bush administration, you would fully expect Speaker Pelosi to inaugurate her term as Speak of the House next January 3 by immediately commencing inquiries that would inform subsequent impeachment proceedings.

After all, impeachment is constitutional, unlike most of what has gone on in the past five years regarding the Iraq invasion, illegal immigration, and the rest of the big-government neocon agenda.

So why won’t Pelosi’s Democrats embrace their constitutional duty? After all, history indicates that Republicans react differently than Democrats when a president of their party is under the impeachment microscope. While Democrats were bused to the White House lawn to show their unswerving support for Bill Clinton after his impeachment, Republicans have historically been much more willing to look at the evidence.

Consider, for instance, that famous line that marked the turning point in the inquiry into President Nixon’s Watergate scandal. "What did he know, and when did he know it?"

The Republican who uttered that death knell for Nixon’s presidency was none other than Howard Baker. For his sin of turning against the president of his own party, Baker was punished by being made Senate Majority Leader in 1981, White House Chief of Staff in 1987, and Ambassador to Japan in 1989.

In the meantime, Earl Landgrebe, the down-home Hoosier who defended Nixon to the end is remembered primarily in jest, if not outright contempt, for his famous line at the Watergate hearings: "Don’t confuse me with the facts."

So Speaker Pelosi could easily find Republicans to join in an impeachment inquiry, once those stubborn facts start emerging — and it’s remarkable how they tend to, when White House staffers can no longer claim "executive privilege" and when they raise their right hand and have to testify under the penalty of perjury, instead of a mere bad press cycle.

Speaker Pelosi could easily begin with Cheney, as the Democrats did with Nixon’s veep, Spiro Agnew. With Cheney gone, Democrats in the Senate could simply refuse to confirm a new Vice President while the House turns its impeachment focus to President Bush. (In contrast, the prospect of a Vice-President Gerald Ford posed no problem for the Democrats of his day, a sentiment which he confirmed by appointing as his sole Supreme Court nominee Mr. Justice Stevens. To this day Stevens is the bane not only of the religious right but of a much greater portion of the national population. For the record, the White House Chief of Staff responsible for the Stevens nomination was Donald Rumsfeld, and his Deputy Chief of Staff was Richard Cheney).

So Speaker Pelosi could easily become President Pelosi, and, for a change, it would all be constitutional.

But she won’t. And it’s easy to see why.

After Richard Nixon lost the 1962 California governor’s race, he famously declared that "you won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around any more." The Democrats realized that Nixon, ever the astute politician, was on to something. A punching bag is a very valuable asset. And now, with the most nationally unpopular Republican president since Nixon, the Democrats realize that their party (forget the country) will benefit much more from having George Bush to kick around — major league, big-time. And it is quite obvious that they will.

On the other hand, if Pelosi were to pursue her constitutional responsibilities and give impeachment proceedings her blessings, she might well become president — and her accession to that post would immediately make the election outcome of 2000 seem like a landslide. Bush being gone, Pelosi would become the issue. And Ms. Pelosi does not want to be the issue. For her, Bush is the best thing that has happened to the Democrat party since she was in Congress, and she is not going to let him go softly into the night. She wants to be able to kick Bush around — and you can bet that she will — for two more years.

By 2008, it will seem like an eternity. For the Democrats, it will be all upside, no downside. Except, of course, if you take them at their word, then they will have shirked their fundamental constitutional duties in the same order of magnitude as they say that Bush and the Republicans have shirked theirs.

No matter. "Power corrupts," as the saying goes, and power has indeed corrupted the Republican Party beyond its fondest dreams (i.e., they have finally caught up with the Democrats). If Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House, it will corrupt her even more, and she will wink, and evade, the most profound and fundamental (and, if we are permitted to mention it, constitutional) duty of her office.

So, while the other neocon party-line "reasons" for not voting for the Democrats are as bogus as Saddam’s WMD, this argument is unassailable: Don’t bother. They won’t impeach them.

Karl Rove, call your office. This could be a winner.

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