Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Grand Old Party's Over

In the future, historians will agree that King George II and the Republican Party were asleep at the switch prior to 9/11; simultaneously dishonest and incompetent in war to the point of treason; so grossly negligent in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Katrina that it rises to the level of involuntary manslaughter; and willfully created both annual budget deficits and astronomical National Debt while awarding hundreds of billions of dollars in immediate benefits to wealthy supporters.

Yet, today, too many people in positions of influence deny the obvious: The Republican Party has become a criminal conspiracy and it has hijacked this country. A simple example: the Medicare Drug program prohibits the federal government from negotiating volume discounts on pharmaceutical prices. In other words, the Republicans are forcing the government to behave irrationally so as to increase the profits of their campaign contributors. Other schemes -- such as privatizing Social Security so that Wall Street will profit while retirees take all the risks -- have not fared so well. Don't worry, they'll be back.

Simple incompetence can no longer provide a sufficient excuse. This Administration has conveniently "reinterpreted" both laws and the constitution itself so as to negate any restrictions on its behavior whatsoever. That's a legalistic way of saying "I may be breaking the law but it doesn't count because I am also lying about it."

Thus far, only a handful of the criminals have been indicted or sentenced. Disgraced Congressman Duke Cunningham tops the list but perhaps only temporarily. Republican Bob Ney was thwarted by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in his efforts to sell airplane parts to "Axis of Evil" member and nuclear club nominee Iran. Ney wanted this done despite the fact that Islamic extremists had already crashed civilian airplanes into the Twin Towers. Oh, yeah. Almost forgot that Ney was simultaneously accepting expensive trips from a bunch of felons and shady dealers. Cunningham's criminal activities, both petty and profound, directly threatened the security of the United States. Yet the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Republican Jerry Lewis, has offered only an "informal" investigation into how Cunningham was able to direct defense expenditures into the coffers of his co-conspirators. Republican Duncan Hunter helped the same conspirators loot the federal treasury. And he received piles of campaign cash in return. Bear in mind that the ONLY reason Cunningham got caught is because he is stupid. Really stupid. Most Members of Congress are much smarter and, thus, far more capable of disguising their sweetheart deals and delaying their largest bribes until after retirement. It will be difficult to successfully prosecute most of them. But the rumors continue to swirl that several more Congressmen (and women) are the subjects of criminal investigations.

The reason that these scandals extend far beyond Jack Abramoff's multi-million dollar Republican slush fund is because the corruption is part of this Republican Party's culture. That is, it is not limited to one corrupt official or a single lobbyist with unlimited cash to throw around. No one in the party has been willing to stand up against the criminals -- because they felt the Party's political dominance depended on continuing the practice. Dozens of Republicans (staffers as well as elected and appointed officials) participated in quid pro quo trade-offs -- a lucrative job for a legislative earmark, a luxurious vacation for favorable treatment on the committee, bundled campaign contributions for a seat at the table.

Fortunately, the criminals got so greedy and careless they are being exposed before they could inflict fatal harm on the American political system. It is still possible that enough of them will be indicted, convicted, and removed from positions of power and that America can begin to correct their malfeasance before it is too late. Consider this: It has gotten so bad that people are seriously talking about Newt Gingrich making a comeback. Newt is the same man who toppled Democratic Speaker of the House Jim Wright over a corrupt book deal and shortly thereafter accepted a $4.5 million advance to write a book for Rupert Murdoch's conservative empire.

If Newt is the answer, Republicans are asking the wrong questions.

No comments: