Monday, September 25, 2006
The Republicans: Just Plain Evil
KGB Headquarters Lubyanka Square; in the foreground is a statue of KGB founder Feliks Dzherzhinsky.
At the risk of intruding into the one area in which Jonah Goldberg enjoys unchallenged expertise, I begin today with a reference to The Simpsons -- specifically the episode entitled “Bart Gets an Elephant.”
Through a series of utterly random and implausible events that appear quite rational and predictable in the “Simpsons” universe, elementary school troublemaker Bart Simpson acquires an elephant named Stampy. At some point Stampy escaped and went on a rampage. En route to the Springfield Tar Pits (described by Time magazine as offering “the best in tar entertainment”) the terrified pachyderm barges through the local Republican Party convention. Among the signs displayed at the event to rally the faithful are two reading “We want what's worst for everyone!” and “We're just plain evil!”
After chasing Stampy to the tar pits, Homer somehow became mired in them and began to sink into their bituminous depths.
“I'm pretty sure I can struggle my way out,” Homer assured his horrified family. “First” -- he said, reaching down to grab his ankles -- “ I'll just reach in and pull my legs out. Then, I'll pull my arms out with my teeth.”
On the evidence of recent headlines, Homer's approach to freeing himself from the tar pits is pretty much identical to the Bush regime's strategy for getting the US out of the Iraq-mire: The way “out” is to bury ourselves completely in the Mesopotamian morass.
But the critical insight provided by that Simpsons episode was its revelation of the GOP's secret motto.
On more than one occasion I have adverted to the following piece of political folk wisdom:
In Washington, there are two parties: The Stupid Party (the GOP) and The Evil Party (the Democrats). Occasionally they will collaborate to do something that is both stupid and evil. We call this “bipartisanship.”
By common convention, beginning with John Stuart Mill, conservatives have been known as “the Stupid party,” and with the ascendancy of Bush the Dumber, and GOP spokesmen like Sean Hannity, the Republican Party does seem to be the natural habitat of the synapse-challenged among us.
But during the Bush administration, a type of amalgamation has taken place. The Republicans, while losing none of their stupidity, have added to that trait an apparently limitless capacity for pure, unabashed, vindictive evil, while the Democrats, while retaining their penchant for political evil, have apparently come down with a terminal case of the “stupids.”
This is displayed to good effect in the recent “compromise” over the question of torture. From the very beginning it was clear that the Bush-led Republican Party would settle for nothing less than some formula that would enrich presidential powers and put the US government on record – the first in modern history, if I'm not mistaken – as claiming the legal right to engage in torture. Not that Washington would be the first to practice torture, mind you, but rather the first to make a public assertion that it is legal, proper, and moral to commit that crime.
The Bush regime demanded that Congress enshrine that policy into law, and House Republicans eagerly approved the White House version of the proposed law. After a brief but transparently dishonest display of resistance from three Senate Republicans, a slightly modified version of the same basic legislation is now ready for passage. Although it bans nine forms of torture as violations of the War Crimes Act, the key element of the legislation is found in the provision authorizing the president to determine what “grey area” torture methods would be permitted, and how violations would be punished.
Which means, in effect, that in the matter of torture, as in so much else, George W. Bush would be a law unto himself.
And that is how the measure would read before His Imperial Stupidness nullified whatever restrictions it contains by revising it, after the fact, by way of a “signing statement.”
As the irreplaceable James Bovard points out, the “compromise” measure “will de facto permit the CIA to continue torturing people around the world. And the deal will prevent anyone — including Bush administration officials — from being held liable for the torture.”
Eric Margolis of the Toronto Sun, who was the first journalist permitted to visit the KGB dungeon at Lubyanka Square, believes that the torture “compromise” is one of the final steps in the process he calls the “Sovietizing” of the United States:
“We have seen America’s president and vice president, sworn to uphold the Constitution, advocating some of the same interrogation techniques the KGB used at the Lubyanka. They apparently believe beating, freezing, sleep deprivation and near-drowning are necessary to prevent terrorist attacks. So did Stalin. The White House insisted that anyone — including Americans — could be kidnapped and tried in camera using `evidence' obtained by torturing other suspects. Bush & Co. deny the U.S. uses torture but reject the basic law of habeas corpus and U.S. laws against the evil practice. The UN says Bush’s plans violate international law and the Geneva Conventions.”
What may be even worse is the arrogant triumphalism displayed by the Republicans in demanding that the Democrats simply shut up and play along.
“I don't think sitting on the sidelines in the war on terrorism is a good idea,” taunted Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell. “My advice to the Democrats would be to support us – that would be a great way to take that issue off the table.”
As if that weren't bad enough, consider how the “Christian” Right has dealt with the prospect of America's transformation into a terror and torture regime.
Lou Sheldon is the head of a group calling itself the Traditional Values Coalition, which for the most part has focused on cultural issues, such as abortion, homosexual “rights,” and the like. He recently ventured out of that field to endorse the White House's demand that our laws and policies be radically revised in a neo-Soviet direction.
"Our rules for interrogation need to catch-up with this awful new form of war that is being fought against all of us and the free world,” insists Sheldon. “The post -World War II standards do not apply to this new war. We must redefine how our lawful society treats those who have nothing but contempt for the law and rely on terrorizing the innocent to accomplish their objectives. The lines must be redrawn and then we must pursue these criminals as quickly and as aggressively as the law permits.”
Rev. Sheldon, it appears, has spent too much time communing with the GOP and too little time in the word, which is why he appears to have forgotten God's admonition against moving the “ancient landmark that our fathers have set” (Proverbs 22:28).
Unless Sheldon's idea of “traditional” values pre-dates both the Constitution and the Magna Carta – or perhaps even Law of Moses and the Code of Hammurabi – there's nothing “traditional” in his desire to “redefine” our constitutional and legal standards, or in his demands that legal and ethical standards be “redrawn.”
And pray tell me, what Christian would urge that we “catch-up” with terrorist barbarians?
That question assumes, of course, that it is the terrorists who are in the lead in the race to nihilistic oblivion. Bush and his junta manifestly have “nothing but contempt for the law,” and they – like the Clintonoids before them, who screwed down an embargo on Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of children – have no compunctions against killing or terrorizing innocent women and children.
I'll have some additional thoughts on this subject in my next installment....
at 2:01 PM