Z-Files, 02/28/2012 "Extremists"I'm Stuart Zechman, and I've heard something that really disturbs me.
I've heard that the Republican Party is now populated with wild extremists, right-wing lunatics who are completely divorced from reality, and so, like never before in American history, the GOP is now totally unreasonable and insane, and, if they get into power in Washington, the will enact the most dreadful, terrible, awful policy...ever.
Have you been hearing this, lately, too?
See, I thought that the Republican Party has always advocated the worst kind of policies and agenda.
Since, like, as far back as the 1990s, I remember Republicans being in favor of all kinds of anti-Bill of Rights, pro-endless war, anti-New Deal and pro-big corporate monopoly proposals, and performing all of these crazy political hostage-taking maneuvers to try to get that horrifying agenda through the government.
I vaguely --really vaguely-- remember way back when that Christian fundamentalist and televangelist fraud Pat Robertson actually ran for President as a Republican, I think that was in the 1980s, actually.
I remember, in the late 90s, when Congressman Dan Burton, a Republican from Indiana, was so freaking nuts that he actually staged a supposed "re-enactment" of how Hillary Clinton murdered a White House staffer named Vince Foster, by shooting a pumpkin in his back yard, and telling reporters to imagine that this was Foster's head. I remember when he said things like "If I could prove 10 percent of what I believe happened, he'd [Clinton] be gone. This guy's a scumbag. That's why I'm after him."
Just to give you some idea of what I'm talking about, Dan Burton, I swear to you, once proclaimed in a 1995 House hearing on the War on Some Drugs, that
"the US military "should place an aircraft carrier off the coast of Bolivia and crop dust the coca fields." It was later pointed out to him that a) Bolivia is landlocked and has no coast (Burton was chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee); b) the Bolivian coca fields (in the yungas and Amazon lowlands) are beyond the reach of any carrier-borne crop-duster, being separated from the nearest coastline (the Pacific coast of Peru and Chile) by the 20,000+ feet high peaks of the Andes; and c) F-18s cannot crop-dust."
I'm telling you, this is well-documented. The Republicans from the 1990s were like this. If you listened to talk radio, like I did, or had enough time on your hands to watch the Christian conservative religious broadcasters, like I did, you were more than likely to hear Hillary Clinton referred to as a secret lesbian murderess. I'm not kidding. They literally told people that Clinton was Satan. These guys made today's "War on Religious Freedom" hucksters look like college Democrats. It makes Romney's references to Obama as a "European-style socialist" look like an endorsement.
And then they were so suicide-bomber insane, that they actually impeached a sitting president over a blow-job. Bob Livingston, the Speaker of the House to be actually resigned when he was caught having an affair, so that they could more easily go after Clinton, they were that kamikazi. (His successor was a straight-shooter from Louisiana named David Vitter.) I'm not making this up. You think that the debt-ceiling debate was Republicans at their craziest? I'm telling you, back in the 1990s they stopped the whole government, held a trial in which the now Very Serious Lindsey Graham got up on the House floor to carefully consider the nature of semen stains. This was the Republican Party of the 1990s...totally f-ing crazy.
And in the policy realm, it was unbelievable...their policy agenda, the policy proposals that came out of conservative think tanks like Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, was even worse for America than all the phony investigations, and fake scandals and even the blow-job impeachment.
These guys, these Republicans, actually proposed things like turning Medicare into a "premium support" system kind of like the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage we got that exploded drug prices when the crazy GOP controlled all three branches of government, and proposed --get this-- creating this vast, privatized health insurance scheme where, state-by-state, the private health insurance monopolies would sell people junk insurance who were forced by law to buy their crappy coverage. It would all be means-tested and funded through HHS, so the federal government would end up actually paying insurance companies to say in business, and only the deserving poor would get any help. And this regime would somehow make health care "affordable care." Yeah, I know. Crazy, isn't it?
Or, talk about nuts, they proposed repealing the New Deal laws that stopped savings banks from becoming investment banks and even financial insurance companies. They basically said that the government needed to get out of the way of the giant banks gambling with all of our money, and should essentially let these geniuses create whatever debt they felt like making and selling, and then insuring themselves against default.
Now that's insane.
You really can't get more out of touch with reality than this, folks.
And they were just as crazy in the 2000s, too. You had best-seller books, like Ann Coulter's "Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism" or Michelle Malkin's "In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror."
I mean, how do you reason with people like this, people who want to, say, institute a massive program to infiltrate Muslim mosques with law enforcement agents, and put grade schools for African-American Muslim kids under constant state surveillance?
Remember when they said that the President had the power to do virtually anything to "keep us safe," and we just had to basically trust that he wasn't going to abuse that virtually unlimited power?
What kind of lunatics believe that this sort of due-process-less regime is somehow compatible with small-d democratic government? It's obviously the path to oligarchy and tyranny, right?
It's like we might all have to pack up and move to Canada, if extremists like that ever got into power.
So, when I was reading the New York Times the other day --you know, they're so much more reality-based than Fox News, despite the whole Judy Miller/Iraq war thing-- anyway, and I saw Paul Krugman say that the party of American conservatism is divorced from reality, quote:
" How did American conservatism end up so detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality? For it was not always thus. After all, that health reform Mr. Romney wants us to forget followed a blueprint originally laid out at the Heritage Foundation!
"The truth, of course, is that he was not a “severely conservative” governor. His signature achievement was a health reform identical in all important respects to the national reform signed into law by President Obama four years later. And in a rational political world, his campaign would be centered on that achievement."
And I thought: wait a second...Krugman is openly declaring that Heritage Foundation health care policy, the policy that flowed from those same insane, pumpkin-shooting Republicans in the 1990s, is an "achievement."
The argument in elite, big-D Democratic circles seems to be that the scary Republicans are scarier than ever before, so scary, with their Tea Party and their conservative media, that they make the Republicans of the late 1990s look reasonable.
So reasonable, in fact, that conservative Republican policies from the late 1990s, policies that are completely at odds with the philosophy of the New Deal, a functioning government, a federal state that doesn't spy on anybody it feels like, and a free and fair market for everybody, policies that reject everything that movement liberals stand for are now considered to be "achievements" when enacted into law by today's centrist Democrats.
Now, if you think about it, that is, itself, quite detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality. And, it was not always thus.
But it does seem to be the argument that national Democrats are using to win over people like Dr. Krugman.
How could it be that the passage of policy identical in all important respects to conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation's, policy we movement liberals would have recognized in 1998 as an obviously, deeply unpopular non-solution, the product of bankrupt ideological premises regarding the superiority of "markets", certain to bring tragic consequences to the people of our country, and discredit to the party which promoted it, how could this be ever be rationally called an "achievement?"
It can't be. Not unless one jumps through extraordinary intellectual hoops to rationalize voting for a Democratic politician whose own "signature achievement" is Mitt Romney's health care policy.
And that's what this line is about, folks. We movement liberals are being told from on high that the reason why centrist Democrats' failures are actually achievements...is because the Republicans of today are super-scary.
And that's just not true. The movement conservatives are just as frighteningly wrong today as when Ann Coulter became a millionaire writing a book entitled "Godless" about liberals, and when Ramesh Ponnuru wrote "The Party of Death" about Democrats a few years ago.
Quote-unquote "market-oriented" policies from the 1990s and 2000s are just as bad for America today as they were back when the majority of Democrats actually opposed them, instead of arm-twisting "progressive caucus" members into shilling for them.
So when you hear this line, that Republicans of today are like Congressional Ahmadinejads because they won't vote for Newt Gingrich's old agenda when it's proposed by Democrats, just remember: it's pretty likely that you're going to read Dem-leaning pundits in the Washington Post consider how reasonable Newt Gingrich's old agenda actually is, compared to the new Newt Gingrich's agenda.
And then ask yourself: is the political price that you're being asked to pay to protect yourself from these terrifying new Tea Party-style Republicans that you now have to vote for old, Dan Burton-style Republicans' agenda, and...
...what did FDR say about "fear itself"?
I'm Stuart Zechman, and this has been the Z-Files.