Frank Rich: GOP dreams of Reagan, acts like crooks

Sunday NY Times Select (subscription):

The candidates mentioned Reagan’s name 19 times, the current White House occupant’s once. Much as the Republicans hope that the Gipper can still be a panacea for all their political ills, so they want to believe that if only President Bush would just go away

…it isn’t just the divisive Bush-Rove partisanship that led to scandal. The corruption grew out of the White House’s insistence that partisanship — the maintenance of that 51 percent — dictate every governmental action no matter what the effect on the common good. And so the first M.B.A. president ignored every rule of sound management. Loyal ideologues or flunkies were put in crucial positions regardless of their ethics or competence. Government business was outsourced to campaign contributors regardless of their ethics or competence. Even orthodox Republican fiscal prudence was tossed aside so Congressional allies could be bought off with bridges to nowhere.

This was true way before many, let alone Matthew Dowd, were willing to see it. It was true before the Iraq war. In retrospect, the first unimpeachable evidence of the White House’s modus operandi was reported by the journalist Ron Suskind, for Esquire, at the end of 2002. Mr. Suskind interviewed an illustrious Bush appointee, the University of Pennsylvania political scientist John DiIulio, who had run the administration’s compassionate-conservative flagship, the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Bemoaning an unprecedented “lack of a policy apparatus” in the White House, Mr. DiIulio said: “What you’ve got is everything — and I mean everything — being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.”

His words have been borne out repeatedly: by the unqualified political hacks and well-connected no-bid contractors who sabotaged the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq; the politicization of science at the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency; the outsourcing of veterans’ care to a crony company at Walter Reed; and the purge of independent United States attorneys at Alberto Gonzales’s Justice Department. But even more pertinent, perhaps, to the Republican future is how the Mayberry Machiavellis alienated the precise groups that Mr. Bush had promised to add to his party’s base.

“Wrongdoing of this magnitude does not happen by accident, but it is not necessarily instigated by a Watergate-style criminal conspiracy. When corruption is this pervasive, it can also be a by-product of a governing philosophy. That’s the case here. That Bush-Rove style of governance, the common denominator of all the administration scandals, is the Frankenstein creature that stalks the GOP as it faces 2008. It has become the Republican brand and will remain so, even after this president goes, until courageous Republicans disown it and eradicate it.”

“We’ve certainly come a long way from that 2000 Philadelphia convention, with its dream of forging an inclusive, long-lasting GOP majority. Instead of break dancers and a black Republican congressman (there are none now), we’ve had YouTube classics like Rove’s impersonation of a rapper at a Washington journalists’ banquet and George Allen’s “macaca” meltdown. Simultaneously, the once-reliable evangelical base is starting to drift as some of its leaders join the battle against global warming and others recognize that they’ve been played for fools on “family values” by the GOP establishment that covered up for Mark Foley.”

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Politics

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