October 8, 2006

It's About Keeping Power

The American people have been shocked by Republican Mark Foley’s predatory behavior in systematically trolling underage congressional pages. But it wouldn’t have been nearly as much of a problem if the Republican leadership had held up their responsibility, paid attention to warnings, bothered to look into the rumors or even done something once they were more directly notified that something wrong was going on.

On ABC’s “this week with George Stephanopoulos” Rep. Rahm Emanuel made an analogy to another institution into which we entrust our young people: a school. And the analogy is apt. If a teacher had been sending these messages to students, and using them as his stalking ground for fresh sexual partners, and the principal and others in the administration had been made aware of the situation, they’d all be out on their asses. (His analogy, my wording)

But this leadership in the Republican party has transitioned to one interested only in consolidating and holding power. They quickly dispatched with Foley (as if the voters would have kept him) and tried to ignore the larger problem. Foley is not the problem, but a symptom. Foley is not the only predatory adult in the world, he’s just the one that the Republicans begged to run so that they could hold on to that seat, well after they knew of his proclivities. He’s the one they put in a leadership role — chairperson on the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. The problem is the reason that Foley was allowed to stay so long. If today’s Republican has to choose between doing the right thing and doing something dishonest to strengthen re-election chances, the choice will be for re-election.

That’s why I laugh at Republican insistence that they got rid of Foley immediately. Rep Putnam on “this week” stuck to that talking point for dear life. “Foley was gone within hours of the scandal!” if you parse that, what you’ll understand is that they dumped Foley within hours of them losing control of the story because it got out on ABC. Not that they did anything about it once it was known to the leadership.

BTW, Putnam was on the show because Republican Tom Reynolds chickened out of the show and sent Rep. Putnam in his stead. Reynolds is the NRCC chief who crammed his last press conference with children; a prudent thing to do when you’re about to answer questions about a sexual predator, don’t you think?

When I say the American people were outraged, I exclude the Republican leadership. Even now, there is a lack of outrage evident, seeing Putnam sitting there and downplaying the matter to “odd emails.” As Cokie Roberts puts it, there should be unbridled outrage. The outrage in some Republicans is quite bridled.

George Will noted that the Republicans are out of touch, even with their own base:

These guys get up every morning and say ‘what can we do to offend the base today?’

It’s easy to offend people when you’ve been selling people fear, telling them that you are the ones who really care about them and all the time it’s your own hold on power that is the focus of your every decision.

Time Magazine has it right: “Every revolution begins with the power of an idea and ends when the only idea left is power.” Power has corrupted the Republicans. A lack of balance has unbalanced them. They came intending to change Washington and instead Washington has changed them.

It’s not a secret, and it’s not anything you have to be a genius to see. In fact, Speaker Hastert comes right out and admits where the focus is, on conservative talk radio. From the Time article:

“If I fold up my tent and leave,” Dennis Hastert told her, “then where does that leave us? If the Democrats sweep, then we’d have no ability to fight back and get our message out.” That may have been the most damning admission yet in the unfolding scandal surrounding Florida Congressman Mark Foley: Holding on to power has become not just the means but also the end for the onetime reformers who unseated the calcified Democratic majority that had ruled the House for 40 years.

The outrage is not with Foley. The interest is not with taking responsibility. The day of personal responsibility is over for modern Republicans. The outrage is in anything that goes against their main interest of holding political power. And now it’s our responsibility to do what we can to correct that situation.

Posted by James at October 8, 2006 7:02 PM
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Thanks James, for staying on top of this. Where others regurgitate, you actually provide insight.

Posted by: Chuck S. at October 8, 2006 10:23 PM

Republicans have abandoned their contract with America.

It's time for Democrats to step up and offer a new contract, an alternative and a promise to listen to the concerns of people from both parties, to put the interest of people above political motives. In return for the the privilege of leading the country.

I don't know if they have the confidence at this point for the bold move that America needs. It's been a rough decade for them. If the election can deliver a message that America wans them to step up, I think we'll see what it's like to have a government that's not just running away full of its own power.

Posted by: James at October 8, 2006 10:45 PM

Something that consistently bothers me is referring to these people as "Republicans" and "Democrats," as if they operated with one mind. One Republican makes a statement, and we criticize him because it's the same kind of thing *another* Republican accused a Democrat of doing.

The Republicans do tend to herd together, and the Democrats don't, and I think that's part of the reason they don't stay in power. But I don't think it's bad. I think the herding, the "toeing the party line" is what's bad. If they all worked as individuals, then we could elect them as individuals and I think we'd all be better off.

When Foley resigned so quickly over relatively innocuous looking emails, I knew there was something behind the scenes. I think that's the most damning evidence that Republicans were well aware of what was going on. If they didn't know, they'd have rallied round, because those emails didn't look that bad. (I mean, weirdly creepy, but not blatant... not the ones that came out later.) Truly they are self-serving bastards.

Posted by: at October 9, 2006 8:01 AM

They don't operate with one mind, though there is herding. It's tough to know what to call these people, as real conservatives get upset when I call the Republicans "conservatives."

I call them Republicans because that's what they call themselves, and I feel a clear line needs to be drawn going into the election.

You make a good observation about the relationship between herding and staying in power. I worry about herding and the Republican tendenct toward consolodating power and authoritarianism. Republicans tarring the Democrats for playing politics is ludicrous; look at which party is more politically focused, has more money behind its politics, is more expert at political character assasination. Clearly, the Republican party is more focused on politics.

Back to your main point, which is about language. For the longest time, Republicans have also been better at beating liberals at the language game. Making "liberal" a dirty word. They have no compunctions about how they use language. They don't agonize about whether calling the Democratic party the "Democrat party" will bother anyone. Hell, all the way up to the president there is blatant lying about what Democrats have said and what they intend. They don't make all Democrats responsible for what one Democrat has said -- they make shit up and make all Democrats responsible for a lie. And because people assume the president would have enough honor to tell the truth, the lie becomes the truth in the minds of people on both sides of the aisle.

I used to worry a lot more about language. Now I just worry.

Posted by: James at October 9, 2006 10:00 AM

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