Republican Crime Family Values
Copyright © 2005 by Stephen W. Potts. All rights reserved.
Among the more memorable pronouncements ascribed to Mark Twain, back when he functioned as America’s curmudgeon laureate, was that our nation had no native criminal class — except Congress. He was speaking as a Republican of the Gilded Age, an era of clear Republican dominance, robber barons, laissez faire, social Darwinism, and a national legislature in the pocket of mining, oil, and railroad interests. Notably, Twain erupted in full fury when the last president of the century, Republican William McKinley, led the nation into war with Spain. His famous essays from that period — “To the Person Sitting in Darkness” and “The War Prayer” — richly reward re-reading now, over a hundred years later.
We can only imagine what he would say about his Grand Old Party today. Having stolen the White House twice and seized Congress with a bare majority, having risen to power on a balloon of corporate welfare and bogus “family values,” they have maintained a stranglehold on the federal government through tactics of extortion and brutality worthy of a crime family. It is about time that the Republican leadership finds itself reaping the classic rewards of excessive pride.
The Prez, God’s Chosen, remains married to his Iraq strategy — if something so poorly planned can be called a strategy — while the public increasingly moves toward the antiwar camp as casualties mount and no exit plan magically appears. Significantly, polls show that close to 60% of the masses now distrust the Thief-in-Chief they followed into war. What they once regarded as determination they now see as sheer stubbornness, and they now believe George the Lesser has lied to them and would lie again.
The summer of 2005 will be remembered in presidential history as the moment the worm turned on this particular resident of Pennsylvania Avenue. In the aftermath of the Katrina disaster, we find all the promises made tardily and hastily in front of the news cameras evaporating like the last remnants of the flood. After hurricane Rita we watched our Lord of Misrule squat at a relief site with a tool in his hand, only to demonstrate that he might hammer in the morning but in the evening he’d be back in Washington, lobbying for tax cuts that will make rebuilding the Gulf Coast impossible. Medicaid is out; fat offshore bank accounts for corporate execs are in. The long GOP crime family tradition continues: perverse Robbin’ Hoods, Bush and buddies take from the poor to give to the rich.
The other perfect storm that shook the White House this summer was the scandal over who outed CIA agent Valerie Plame. Following the gush of relief at the indictment of V. P. Cheney’s dogsbody Lewis Libby — it looks as if Agitprop commissar Karl Rove might yet again elude justice — blowhards of the pointy-headed Right have continued to insist that outing Plame could not be a crime because everyone already knew she was a covert agent. That her neighbors say otherwise suggests that only everyone on the Republican Right knew — more evidence of White House cronyism — and that the GOP leadership is following the same strategy they always do when caught with two red hands: repeat a lie often enough and it will become true. Hey, it’s worked before.
This summer was happy hunting season on the other GOP leaders who had pinned bull’s eyes to their own chests. By now we are all familiar with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay‘s indictment in Austin for laundering corporate money to pay for state campaigns, in violation of Texas law. We have enjoyed the comic vision of a hang-’em-high Republican vehemently attacking prosecutors, judges, and the court system; after all, when lawnorder GOPers like DeLay endorse gettin’ tough on criminals, they mean people who snatch purses or smoke weed, not guys like him who take corporate bribes to steal congressional power. Meanwhile, prosecutorial furies are circling in on DeLay cronies Michael Scanlon and Jack Abramoff, who scammed Indian tribes and others to rake in lobbying bucks. Latest word is that the Republican Congressman from Ohio, Bob Ney, is next in line for the politico perp-walk.
And then there’s Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who was apparently using insider information to trade stock in his “blind” trust — no doubt by peeking through his fingers.
Of course, high crimes and misdemeanors are not historically the sole property of Republican politicos; Twain’s Gilded Age was the heyday of the infamous New York Democratic machine Tammany Hall, equalled in the twentieth century by the Daley machine in Chicago. Significantly, the solid Democratic South became the solid Republican South without changing tactics.
The difference now, however, is that gangland practices are not just the exception with the GOP leadership, but the standard M.O. Frist and DeLay act wholly without shame; DeLay would rather destroy the criminal justice system than face justice. Furthermore, as Watergate veteran John Dean has noted during the reign of Bush II, most extensively in his book Worse than Watergate, this administration doesn’t merely hold a candle to Richard Nixon’s White House, it is torching the entire structure.
Look back at the 1970s, when Nixon oversaw a criminal conspiracy that included White House advisers, Cabinet officials, and a mob of committed gumbas and consiglieri. Over a dozen went to prison for crimes ranging from breaking and entering to obstructing justice. Out of this gang emerged G. Gordon Liddy, a self-styled stormtrooper who went to jail for his Führer and then quoted Nietzsche to the press upon his release, and who continues to believe in everything he did to undermine democracy. For his conviction, he was hoisted onto the shoulders of the Republican Right, then promoted during the glory days of Limboid talk radio to a venue of his own, where he continued to preach the values of the Republican Reich.
All that today’s GOPers learned from Watergate was how to steal elections more surreptitiously.
In the 1980s, the second Reagan term saw the Iran-Contra debacle. Because a Democratic-led Congress actually had the nerve to deprive Der Gipper of the budget for an all-out war in Central America, the White House created its own shadow government, an alternative CIA/Army that collected funds privately with approval from the top and tracked them to friendly fascists to the south, such as Manuel Noriega of Panama and the “Contra” terrorists fighting the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. When it leaked out that this Geheimnisbund had traded arms with Islamist Iran, then as now on the official Washington shitlist, in order to fund war crimes in the isthmus, another Republican White House found itself under the hot lights. Special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh convinced a federal grand jury to bring charges against former national security advisor John Poindexter, retired Major General Richard Secord, Mideastern makler Albert Hakim, and Marine point man Oliver North.
Arguably this scandal was more serious than Watergate; after all, this was not just about stealing an election and punishing political opponents, but about privatizing American foreign policy by placing it in the hands of a secret cabal. Unfortunately, the brain-numb Reagan could get away with claiming ignorance of the workings of his White House as Nixon could not, and head war criminal Oliver North won many hearts and minds in front of the cameras. In this mindless, heartless interval, his judge suspended his prison sentence and gave him hours of community service instead. Though he was one of the few foaming loonies actually to lose an election during the Newt army’s 1994 sweep of Congress, North received his reward from the wingnut elite, and currently serves out his time telling “War Stories” on Faux News. The crackpot Right idolizes its criminals.
There may be many basically decent and ethical Republicans from backwashes like Kansas, Mississippi, and San Diego County, but they are giving their loyalty and their votes to career gangsters. The people in charge of the GOP have only one real family value: winning is everything, no matter how much one has to lie, cheat, bully, bribe, extort, and steal. Fundamental to the governing philosophy of this mob is that decent, ethical behavior is for losers. And as long as they are allowed to get away with their crimes, they are probably right.