Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday with McKenna: Greed, Oppression, Power (G.O.P.)

New week, new banner quote. It seems a pithy comment on a certain trend that we hope only began last Tuesday. As always, if you think you know the author, post it in a Comment. Now for more in-depth analysis, who better than a Republican—that is, a clear-sighted one—to dissect last week's partial collapse of the GOP hegemony? Terry McKenna joins us now with his post-mortem.

Before we get to our analysis of the GOP's withering defeat and some recommendations for the victorious Democrats, let's remember how much the world lost because of the Republicans’ power grab. We have at least 150,000 Iraqi dead (some say 600,000). And the US army is in disarray. Our equipment is worn out and our reserves are exhausted. If anyone made a move against the US, anywhere on the globe, we’d be sunk. Maybe our air power could save us, but we’d have to use carpet bombing, not smart bombing. And the world is left with a near failed state in the Middle East.

Hey George, Dick, Karl, etc. … was it worth it? Huh?

Last Tuesday’s electoral rebuke of the Republicans was so stinging that it deserves the extensive critical analysis that it is getting.

So far, the consensus is that the failed Iraq war ended the Republican era – I don’t entirely disagree. Others suggest that it was conservatism itself that brought down the Republicans. That too seems reasonable. Paul Krugman places the blame on the good will of the American people who reacted to the Bush era with revulsion. That’s a good point. By the way, aren’t you tired of reporters who continue to confront Democrats with the question: “what is your plan for Iraq” – we are way past needing a plan – we need facts, lots of ‘em, and from all sides. Harry Reid proposes stronger Congressional oversight – that sounds good. Others have suggested an international summit, including all of Iraq’s neighbors – that means Iran and Syria. And then there is the Baker panel. Maybe they can share their insights now that the election is over (isn’t it ironic that Bush held back both Rumsfeld’s resignation and the results of the Baker panel because he feared that either would tip the balance against his party – considering how things turned out, the odds are that both would have helped his party).

But let’s return to the real cause of the Republicans’ demise. I think that their failure has its roots in the very same elements that make for a successful classical drama. Thus their fall was the result of a tragic (or fatal) flaw – several in fact. The Republicans’ failure is like that of Orestes and Oedipus or Hamlet and Macbeth. Well, maybe not that grand, but you get where I’m going. The Republicans’ failure was the consequence of old fashioned human frailty. The rest is just detail.

I’ve selected two traits - Greed and Hubris. The thought that they could craft a perpetual majority led Republicans to re-configure everything in terms of politics. Thus, they appointed unqualified party hacks and hangers on to serious jobs (remember Brownie) and they reduced Federal revenue while at the same time, increasing spending (wars cost real money, and then we have the Medicare drug benefit). When failure occurred, instead of looking for solutions, they tried to explain it away (so the looting in Iraq was spun into freedom, the insurgency was described as concerning just dead enders or outsiders agitators). The only question for me is which one came first—greed or hubris.

The irony here is that conservatives have for decades been preaching that all would be better if we just returned our education system to the teaching of the so called Great Books – otherwise called the Western Canon. The notion is that somehow these would inculcate lessons of traditional morality and honor. (Former secretary of Education, William Bennett is one of the more prominent bloviators in this matter. The western canon is worthy of study – but not for the same reasons put across by Bennett and his ilk and we might disagree upon which books.

Another aside - should we teach our high school kids the Bible? Taught as literature, the old testament gets pretty weird, though I bet the kids would love Solomon’s Song of Songs*…. In any case, the irony is… that despite their being steeped in traditional morality (don’t they all attend Bible study), conservatives fell victim to our old pals, greed and hubris.

An excellent assignment for a high school literature class would be to discuss which of the Republicans’ tragic flaws led most to their doom. I think it’s Hubris (but the modern usage, not the ancient Greek version – see Wikipedia for the difference) – for it was hubris that blinded them. Can’t you just imagine Karl Rove preening before a mirror, thinking of himself as the genius everyone said he was, and no longer able to hear the voice of his conscience? And what about Dick Cheney? Friday’s NY Times shows him sitting in the White House with the president and Nancy Pelosi – he certainly didn’t hear the clues – or didn’t care. By the way, in his picture, he looks like he’s eating a turd.

So the Democrats should not act like they have seized power, but instead should try to govern from the humble and moral center. Yes, I would love impeachment hearings - but the Democrats should get down to serious business. Find America’s agenda (whatever that really is) and stick to it.

If they do, they won’t have another 40 years of unchallenged leadership as they did prior to 1994, but they might win the next election in 2 years.

*When I first read this one, I thought – the Bible? Can’t be. I also don’t take seriously the commentary by pious Christians that the real message is of sacred love.

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