Well I had hoped that I could begin posting about other issues near and dear to my heart, but while I have limited time to write, everyone keeps dying on me and my brother and I seem to be at loggerheads over the latest steaming political pile of dog links fostered on our unwitting republic by the administration. But rather than keep on blathering about the specifics of an outsourcing proposal whose news cycle is already getting stale in our A.D.D. media mindset (especially as I covered it earlier posts and in comments on Mike’s Blog), I want to address the seductiveness of certain political arguments.
When I first thought of writing this post in response to Mike’s first post I thought of the title ‘Xen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.’ I thought that to be a clever pun, but two things came up. First, Mike’s hurling around the xenophobe label, while wrong-headed, was I believe more of an offhand remark. It’s what I like about blogging – it’s sort of halfway between the immediacy of conversation and the reflections of prose. But quick comments can lead to misunderstandings, just as in Mike’s post, and in my (somewhat intemperate) follow-up comment. The second reason, of course, is that I couldn’t figure out a rhetorical way to incorporate motorcycles into my train of thought.
But then Mike did a follow-up post before I could even do a first one, and his writings enraged me even more. My own brother has apparently drunk a whole sickly sweet pitcher of G.O.P. Kool-Aid; fortunately his constitution seems to be rejecting it and the result is repeated retchings and spews of fragmentary Republican Party talking points, more commonly read in the National Review. To wit:
“…But it's killing us. Because as long as we continue to put our energy into tearing Bush down (who at a 34 percent approval rating can STILL get the Patriot Act through Congress), we will never develop what we really need -- an alternative vision, an identity of our own that isn't just an identity in opposition. Because that's what we need. We need the other way. And there is nobody in the party who is coming forward with that right now…”
Ah, that old Chestnut: The Democrats are a party of No Ideas. The G.O.P. has pretty much Trademarked that one by now, it’s so commonly regurgitated throughout the media. It’s a seductive one, and it sounds like advice one would hear from your friendly grandmother while she’s crocheting a pair of baby slippers. ‘Don’t say anything if you don’t have anything nice to say.’ ‘Don’t criticize – be supportive and offer constructive suggestions.’
This Talking Point is much older and heartier than the Xenophobia one. And it comes from the same basic political idea – Tar your opponents with the brush that should be tarring you. If you are fielding a candidate who sat out the Vietnam War in a drunken bender, and running him against a decorated Veteran, then you use the media to accuse the Veteran of being a coward who cheated to get his medals. It evens the playing field and blunts your opponents’ weapons. (This is Karl Rove’s favorite tactic, the Xenophobia Talking Point being only the latest: as Mike himself pointed out, much of the fear of swarthy brown people in this country has been stoked by this administration.)
So what has the party of ‘No Ideas’ done about Port Security:
‘…--In 2003, House Republicans, on a procedural vote, agreed to kill a Democratic amendment that would have added $250 million for port security grants to a war spending package.
--Two years later, nearly all House Republicans voted against an alternative Homeland Security authorization bill offered by Democrats that called for an additional $400 million for port security.
--Senate Republicans stood together in 2003 to set aside a Democratic amendment that would have provided $120 million more for port cargo screening equipment.
--One year later, all but six Senate Republicans voted to reject a Democratic attempt to add $150 million for port security in a Homeland Security appropriations bill…’
In the same article:
‘…In defense, Republicans say Democrats always want to throw money at untested technology and that the GOP-led Congress has consistently given more money to port security than what the Bush administration has proposed…’
‘…For the second time in two months, a test of the national missile defense system has failed, Pentagon officials said Monday.[February 15, 2005]
Military technicians say they believe the failure of the $85 million test was caused by a problem with ground support equipment, not with the interceptor missile itself. A preliminary assessment indicated that the fault had occurred in the concrete underground silo, where a variety of sensors perform safety and environmental monitoring.
The program, by some accounts, has cost $130 billion and is scheduled to require $50 billion more over the next five years. Bush's budget request for the 2006 fiscal year cut about 10 percent from this year's funding of almost $10 billion…’
The problem is not that Democrats have no ideas, it’s that a minority party isn’t going to get the same press that the majority will, especially in a media environment more obsessed with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. And, so, yes, slamming a G.O.P. administration and congress as incompetent is something that we need to do. We actually need to shout it from the rooftops to get anyone to listen.
On a related note, I ran across this on the National Review’s website. Posted today in Ross Douthat’s column - it’s so fresh that you can still smell the keystrokes:
‘…It's similar, I think, to the traditional Christian attitude toward monasticism, poverty, celibacy, and so on — which wasn't that every rich man needed to sell all he had and enter a monastery, but that some did. Christ told the rich young man to give away all his possessions and follow him, but he didn't tell that to everyone he met — it was a specific mission for a specific person, or kind of person…’
That insanity is why I’ll keep shouting from the rooftops.