Get Ready for a GOP Rerun

Published on
by
The New York Times

Get Ready for a GOP Rerun

You just can't close the door on this crowd. The party that brought us the worst economy since the Great Depression, that led us into Iraq and the worst foreign policy disaster in American history, that would like to take a hammer to Social Security and a chisel to Medicare, is back in control of the House of Representatives with the expressed mission of undermining all things Obama.

Once we had Dick Cheney telling us that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and belligerently asserting that deficits don't matter. We had Phil Gramm, Enron's favorite senator and John McCain's economic guru, blithely assuring us in 2008 that we were suffering from a "mental recession."

(Mr. Gramm was some piece of work. A champion of deregulation, he was disdainful of ordinary people. "We're the only nation in the world," he once said, "where all of our poor people are fat.")

Maybe the voters missed the entertainment value of the hard-hearted, compulsively destructive G.O.P. headliners. Maybe they viewed them the way audiences saw the larger-than-life villains in old-time melodramas. It must be something like that because it's awfully hard to miss the actual policies of a gang that almost wrecked the country.

In any event, the G.O.P. has taken its place once again as the House majority and is vowing to do what it does best, which is make somebody miserable - in this case, President Obama. Representative Darrell Issa, the California Republican who is now chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said recently on the Rush Limbaugh program that Mr. Obama was "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times." He backed off a little on Sunday, saying that what he really thinks is that Mr. Obama is presiding over "one of the most corrupt administrations."

This is the attitude of a man who has the power of subpoena and plans to conduct hundreds of hearings into the administration's activities.

The mantra for Mr. Issa and the rest of the newly empowered Republicans in the House, including the new Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, is to cut spending and shrink government. But what's really coming are patented G.O.P. efforts to spread misery beyond Mr. Obama and the Democrats to ordinary Americans struggling in what are still very difficult times.

It was ever thus. The fundamental mission of the G.O.P. is to shovel ever more money to those who are already rich. That's why you got all that disgracefully phony rhetoric from Republicans about attacking budget deficits and embracing austerity while at the same time they were fighting like mad people to pile up the better part of a trillion dollars in new debt by extending the Bush tax cuts.

This is a party that has mastered the art of taking from the poor and the middle class and giving to the rich. We should at least be clear about this and stop being repeatedly hoodwinked - like Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy's football - by G.O.P. claims of fiscal responsibility.

There's a reason the G.O.P. reveres Ronald Reagan and it's not because of his fiscal probity. As Garry Wills wrote in "Reagan's America":

"Reagan nearly tripled the deficit in his eight years, and never made a realistic proposal for cutting it. As the biographer Lou Cannon noted, it was unfair for critics to say that Reagan was trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, since ‘he never seriously attempted to balance the budget at all.' "

We'll see and hear a lot of populist foolishness from the Republicans as 2011 and 2012 unfold, but their underlying motivation is always the same. They are about making the rich richer. Thus it was not at all surprising to read on Politico that the new head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fred Upton of Michigan, had hired a former big-time lobbyist for the hospital and pharmaceuticals industries to oversee health care issues.

I remember President Bush going on television in September 2008, looking almost dazed as he said to the American people, "Our entire economy is in danger."

Have we forgotten already who put us in such grave peril? Republicans benefit from the fact that memories are short and statutes of limitations shorter. It was the Republican leader in the House, Tom DeLay, who insisted against all reason and all the evidence of history that "nothing is more important in the face of war than cutting taxes."

But that's all water under the bridge. The Republicans are back in control of the House, ready to run interference for the rich as recklessly and belligerently as ever.

Bob Herbert

Bob Herbert, former staff columnist for the New York Times focusing on politics, urban affairs and social trends, is now a distinguished senior fellow at Demos.

Share This Article

More in: