On being a Bush hater and a Hillary doubter

I’ve been thinking about why I find the GOP so irritating. I’m not partisan in the narrow sense of the term — though I consider myself a strong liberal, I am not a registered Democrat, and I don’t have an especially high regard for much of what the Democrats do and say, speaking in terms of political tactics.

To be specific in one case, the possibility of Hillary Clinton being a front runner in 2008 worries me considerably. She seems to be working from her husband’s old playbook, about running to the center. I’m sick and tired of Democrats running to the center. Republicans have been winning for 25 years by pulling hard, hard, harder to the right, and they’ve dragged the center with them. They’re not afraid of offending moderate and liberal Americans, and it’s worked for them. Why should I support a Democrat who doesn’t strongly espouse my liberal values? Honestly, I don’t have a preferred pick for a Democratic candidate in 2008 on their side, but at this point I’d have to say I’d much rather see John Edwards or Howard Dean than Clinton.

The other problem with Hillary, of course, is a candidacy on her part would rally the Republican base better than any possible action the GOP could take on its own behalf. The 1990s demonization of the Clintons runs strong and deep to this day, as witnessed by the conservative talking heads’ continuing tendency to blame anything bad on Bill’s presidency. If the Democrats want to stand a chance in 2008, they need to play to the left, differentiating themselves from the GOP the same way the GOP has from them, and they need to not run the one candidate guaranteed to bring out every conservative vote in the United States in opposition.

In other words, with Hillary we get the worst of both worlds — a centrist who isn’t strongly committed to liberal values and issues, while at the same time igniting the Right more surely than any hard core liberal could ever manage to do. In Hillary we pay the price of running to left without reaping the benefits.

Despite my intense distaste for President Bush, my antipathy toward the GOP runs deeper than personalities. It boils down in large part to a profound hypocrisy. They’ve made considerable electoral hay in the last 25 years out of being identified as the party of family values, moral values, and good government. Anyone remember the Clinton years? The smug moralism of the GOP leadership in those days was appalling. The martial records of the House Impeachment Managers who sat in judgment on Clinton’s extramarital blow job were dreadful. We went through that circus because Clinton lied about consensual sex with an adult, and the GOP assured us that the rule of law required prosecution to the fullest, even of a sitting president.

Where was the rule of law when Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq, about the ongoing conduct of the war?

In that vein, one of the current hot talking points from GOP circles concerning the upcoming elections is that if the Democrats control one or both houses of Congress, Washington will become bogged down in Congressional investigations. They say this like it’s a bad thing. If the GOP had governed as it ran — I’m looking at pretty much every major GOP figure in the House here, not just the ones already on their way to or in jail right now — they would have nothing to fear.

Having staked out a position of moral absolutism and ethical superiority, I think the GOP and its standard bearers need to be held accountable to those positions. There are far more officials in both the executive and legislative branches under indictment or conviction now, when the GOP has virtually complete control of all the process of government, than eight years of continuous public and private investigation ever managed during the Clinton presidency. Imagine what would happen if any truly aggressive and authoritative investigation took place outside the shield of radical right wing partisanship?

These people are rotten and exploitative beneath a very long tenure of wearing the mantle of moral rectitude. It sickens me. It sickens me further that so many millions of Americans cling to that message in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

We were told in the runup to the 2000 election that when Bush won, the grown-ups would be in charge. Instead Americans traded a venal but highly competent adult in the Oval Office for a petulant child who is advised by ideologues and fools. Leo Strauss has a hell of a lot to answer for.

Yes, it’s very emotional for me. As I said recently in conversation, I’ve reached point where I presume that anyone willing to assume a senior position in this administration is a moral leper. Am I a “Bush hater”? Hell yeah. Proud to be. Him and his entire movement in the GOP. With a lot more reason than anyone who spent the 1990s railing about the long national nightmare of the Clinton administration ever had.

As a side note, this is a very weird echo of how Ronald Reagan continues to be a heroic icon of small government and fiscal conservatism, when he racked up the largest spending deficits in pre-Bush history. Democrat Bill Clinton presided over the first surpluses in recent memory and a reduction in the size and role of the Federal government, yet he is reviled by the very people who claim to hold those as core values.