Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Republican Party vs. The Republican Party: An Eerie Specter

By: UnrepentantNewDealer

I know, I should by all rights be posting my "Blessed are the Peacemakers, pt. 2". Don't worry, I will. But now for something entirely different...

France Kicks Butt?
First things first, an amazing true story out of the Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast forces bombarded the positions of French peacekeepers enforcing a cease-fire there over the weekend, killing 9 Frenchmen and 1 American. They claimed it was an accident. Unfortunately, the French didn't accept their apology. In the dead of night, French planes destroyed the newly-created Ivory Coast Air Force, consisting of "two Russian-built Sukhoi 25 aircraft and three helicopters... in what it called a pre-emptive strike." In responce, angry mobs of Ivory Coast(ers?) attacked French citizens living in the nation. In response to that, 50 French tanks have surrounded their president's home.

Wow. The French have finally found a nation they can defeat.

Does Energizer know about this?

Did you know that the NASA Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, are still going? They landed in January and were only expected to last 90 days. Almost a year later, they're still roving around Mars. Dust was expected to have covered the rovers' photovoltaic solar cells to such an extent that they would shut down. Amazingly, dust appears to have been removed somehow from Opportunity's solar panel, thus ensuring continued longevity.

Thanks, little green men!

You can't fire me! I'm resigning!"

This just in: John Ashcroft has submitted his letter of resignation.

About friggin' time! A poll I saw this spring showed that Ashcroft had the lowest approval rating of anyone in the administration, below 35%. Ashcroft has always been a liability to Bush; you know you're attorney general is unpopular when your opponent gets his biggest applause lines by threatening to retire him, not you. Of course, Bush couldn't have fired him before the election; it would have meant he was admitting a mistake, something you don't want to do in an election year. But the minute the election is over, Ashcroft is jettisoned like ballast. That's gotta hurt.

From Ashcroft's letter of resignation, we read, "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved. The rule of law has been strengthened and upheld in the courts. Yet, I believe that the Department of Justice would be well served by new leadership and fresh inspiration. I believe that my energies and talents should be directed toward other challenging horizons." Other challenging horizons... like writing self-serving memoirs, one would assume.

Of course, there is another reason Ashcroft was allowed to keep his job as long as he did. He offered complete uncritical obedience to Bush, something demanded by this president. Most presidents select people to put in their cabinets that will present them with all the options. Policy is shaped by the interactions of highly-qualified, highly-opinionated individuals, allowing the president to see all sides of an issue before taking any major action. Clinton had a Defense Secretary and a FBI director that were Republicans. You can find similar examples going all the way back to Washington including Jefferson and Hamilton in his cabinet (amazing they could stand to be in the same room!)

Not so with this administration. Bush stuffed his cabinet with yes-men, with only a few token exceptions. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill made the mistake of telling the president what he thought, rather than adhering to the party line. For this act of disloyalty, he was forcibly "resigned"--allowing him to salvage some dignity rather than being fired outright. Ditto EPA director Christine Todd Whitman. Ditto John DiIulio, the head of the president's "faith-based initiatives" office. And of course, Vegas odds that Colin Powell will stay on for another four years?

Specter of the Future?

On a related note, but far more troubling, is the cautionary tale of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter. On November 3, the day after the election, this moderate pro-choice Republican, next in line to become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke up. He reminded Bush of the extremely hard time he had had in getting his extremist ultra-conservative (my words, not his) judicial nominees appointed in his first term and urged the President to not nominate an extremist to the Supreme Court in the highly-likely event of a vancancy. The Republicans have a majority in the Senate, but are still 5 votes short of the 60 necessary to end a Democratic filibuster.

Specter said,"But with 55 Republicans, you aren't at the magic number of 60, so you have to anticipate problems with the Democrats, as we had a lot of them in the past Congress." This man has been the Senate a long time and has seen many a contentious confirmation fight from Clarence Thomas in 1991 to Miguel Estrada in 2001. He was simply telling Bush to spare the already-polarized nation another bruising nomination fight.

Specter gave, as an example of nominees that would not fly, any who were on record for the overthrow of Roe v. Wade. The Democrats would filibuster any nominee who took that position till Judgement Day. But this is the stuff the religiously conservative base of the Republican party doesn't want to hear. The religious right is hell-bent on imposing its morals on the rest of the nation and doesn't want to hear any dissenting opinion. Especially, from within the Republican party. His less-than-completely-unqualified support for the administration is inexcusable to party leaders, such as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, and others in the Republican party including newly-elected Senator John Thune of South Dakota, all of whom have criticized their collegue for his comments. Some in Congress and on the Religious Right are already calling for Specter to get passed over for the chairmanship of the Judiciary committee.

The Republican party, formerly a "big tent" party, has gone far down the road to being an ideologically homogenous party. The Bush administration cannot tolerate dissent, driving Jim Jeffords from the party in 2001, and countless others from its administration since. The warning has now gone out to all Republicans: toe the administration's line, support it 100% of the time, on every issue. The Religious Right has finally gained dominance over the Republican party, a party that is now at the height of its power nationally. Yet, pride comes before a fall. In a foolhardy attempt to purge the Republican party of all ideological "impurities", the Republican party is setting itself up for a mighty fall. And loud shall be the noise thereof.