Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's About Values

A Republican sympathizer commented (on Facebook) about my last blog entry, “You are much more interesting when you don't write about politics!”   So, I’m not going to write about politics this time.  I’m going to write about values. 

These are not mine:
    "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me."  
     “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”
     “We’ve always encouraged young people: Take a shot… get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business.”
     "I'm also unemployed."
     "There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip."  Seriously?
     "I get speaker's fees from time to time, but not very much."  But, golly, put it in a little tin box and it adds up to $374,000 in one year!
     “Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax.”
       "I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there."

All from the mouth of one man. 

But this isn’t about one man, it’s about values. 

When Republicans were wise and reasonable, President Dwight Eisenhower, said, “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”  I knew some day I’d find a reason to like Ike.  I found two.  In a 1954 letter to his brother Edgar, he wrote, “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.  There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. … Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”  

All right, it is about one man.

     “Free enterprise has done more to lift people out of poverty, to help build a strong middle class, to help educate our kids, and to make our lives better than all the programs of government combined.”
     “There are 47%... who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it. … And the government should give it to them. …
     “My job is not to worry about those people.  I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
     “And they will vote for this president no matter what.” 

Which brings us back to values.  What would Ike have had to say about his or any political  party’s schemes to deny the right to vote to those, primarily minorities, deemed likely to vote for another party’s candidate(s)?  About one political body’s obsessive campaign to prohibit and criminalize a woman’s right to make decisions governing her own body?  About a treacherous cabal of an opposition  party’s elected representatives plotting, the night before a new president’s first day in office, to obstruct and quash his ability, hence the entire government’s ability, to accomplish anything for four years?  Sound extreme?  It’s a matter of record: a party that represents roughly half of Americans, and would like, at any cost, to represent all, swore, on the night before the president took office, to oppose every single thing the president did or wanted—in sum, to see to it that he failed.  Whose Senate leader said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” The single most important thing!  What about the people’s elected  representatives’ duty to make laws?  To regulate interstate commerce?  To coin money and collect taxes?  To “provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States?”  To honor and uphold Article 1 of The Constitution of the United States!  Values!  In the gutter.

And the candidate?—the standard-bearer of “the single most important thing…”?  He doesn’t stand for anything—
     "I'm not familiar precisely with what I said, but I'll stand by what I said, whatever it was."

—and a man who doesn’t stand for anything will perversely stand for anything under the sun, no matter how base and unprincipled, if that will get him what he wants.  He is an empty vessel, wide open to being indiscriminately filled and emptied and refilled ad infinitum by anything or anybody with an agenda, at whim or will.  

Since this is about values, and one of mine is making an effort to present a balanced argument  whenever possible, I’ll let a Republican have the last word.  Writing for “,” Joe Scarborough, former congressman and current host of TV’s “The Scarborough Report,” had this to say:
“Mitt Romney is in trouble. Not because of a boring convention or a bloodless speech or a grossly inappropriate press conference, but rather because the man refuses to stick his neck out and take a stand on the critical issues of our time. … And the lesson is clear: If we want to win the battle of ideas in the long term, we should be willing to face the fact that Mitt Romney is likely to lose—and should, given that he’s neither a true conservative nor a courageous moderate. He’s just an ambitious man.”

Monday, September 3, 2012

It's Their Party

How do I love the Republicans?  Let me count the ways.  (This won’t take long.)

A party with a mission, they gathered in Tampa to present their candidate and themselves in the most favorable light possible.  Disciplined and determined, they planned, four years in advance, to show the country here and now they are infinitely more fit to govern than the candidate and the party the people had elected. You have to ask—at least I have to—if a party that plans four years in advance to hold such an all-important presidential-nominating national convention in a hurricane-prone region during hurricane season after its previous national convention was delayed by a hurricane in the same time frame is a party conceivably capable of planning the future of this country.
Sparing no expense, the RNC staged and scripted the proceedings ad nauseam, or possibly ad tedium.  They stifled spontaneity, silenced or ignored discordant opinion, and deemed their recent two-term president unmentionable and their last vice-presidential campaign darling persona non grata.  As if by fiat, they ruled out embarrassments.  A locked-down convention, with no surprises.  Until, that is, the gaff-master invited one for his crowning night.  Surprise!

Party luminaries came from all four corners of the nation to talk about themselves.  They made barely standard references to the party’s standard bearer.  The only one talking primarily about Mitt Romney was his wife, Anne.  In case you missed any of the solipsism, i.e. the self as the only reality, Santorum served Santorum, Christie boosted and boasted about Christie, and Newt and Calista, obliviously parodying a 20th century icon, “American Gothic,” babbled in responsive tongues about relatively little.

The star of the evenings was not Paul Ryan, as expected, not Mitt Romney, as longed for, and definitely not the “surprise guest,” as regretted, but a relative unknown, Susana Martinez, the Governor of New Mexico, who scored heavily by telling her unvarnished, and what I dearly want to believe was her true, story.

Which bring us to truth-telling.  Christie, a self-aggrandizing truth-teller, had a lot to say about it, so he certainly wasn’t talking about Governor Romney—or, as we now know, Representative Paul Ryan, who was supposed to be forthright and honest, a veritable paragon of virtue or, at the least, the Gentile equivalent of a mensch.  In only 23 days since becoming the person who could be the next vice president of the United States and only 35 minutes, give or take an untruth, of presenting that paragon to the largest audience he’s faced to date, he has become, unabashedly and unapologetically, MisRepresentative Ryan.

Ryan’s convention speech and subsequent lies have been well-documented by practically everyone on both sides of the political spectrum, so in lieu of repeating the indictments, I quote an admirable, brave truth-teller, Sally Kohn, a Fox News contributor and writer, “…to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.”  I urge you to read her detailed accountwhich includes the enlightening, “And then there’s what Ryan didn’t talk about.”

On the whole, truth did not fare well at the GOP convention.  Nor was there as much as a visible,  honorable attempt to keep to the facts.  To the contrary, lying was condoned and encouraged.  Sound unfair and outrageous?  According to Mitt Romney’s pollster, Neil Newhouse, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”  According to Rudy Giuliani, in his attempt to justify Ryan’s lies, “Well, look, when people give speeches, not every fact is absolutely accurate.”  Apparently neither Newhouse nor Giuliani, believe it or not, a former Associate Attorney General in the United States Department of Justice, knows what “fact” means, or that it’s an antonym of fiction.

Lying is easy and gets easier.  Irresponsible politicians, inspired by “the stupidity of people in large groups,” easily lose sight, so it seems, of honor, principle and truth.  Seduced by the sonorousness of their own voices, they believe in the substance of their lack of substance, wallow in slogans, catch-phrases and rhetoric and think that saying something, anything!, makes it so.  Taking Goebbels’ famous dictum one step further: “Tell a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” for the liar.

Now consider: If lying works so well, their fabrications may be able to stick it to the Democrats and dupe undecided voters today, but given the power tomorrow, what falsehoods would they be telling the country, and to what purpose or profit?

It’s their party.  And they’ll lie if they want to.