I got a bad feeling that if we liked the Clinton years, we're gonna love the Obama ones.
Remember those fun 1990s? Actually, they really weren't, of course. If they look good at all in retrospect, it is purely because the intervening monster mash gave us a point of reference so that we might know what ugly really looks like.
Apart from that, however, the political story of that decade had a depressingly simple narrative arc to it. Republican bottom-feeders demonstrated at every opportunity how scummy politics can be, and Democrats responded over and over again with the political equivalent of "Thank you, sir, may I have another?" And wasn't that fun to watch?
What the last months seem to be screaming out for all to hear is the lesson that some people just can't change. Or won't.
Could the little project launched a few centuries back, and affectionately referred to as ‘America', possibly be in a more precipitous free-fall than it is right now?
No. And yet...
...And yet, while Wall Street firms are desperately trying to out-30s the 1930s themselves with their 2008 exercise in earnings annihilation, management gladly rewarded itself with nearly $20 billion dollars in bonuses, many funded by the United States taxpayers. This caused the people's president to nearly raise his voice in remonstration, he was so upset.
...And yet, with the Republican Party tanking so badly that its best likely outcome in the years ahead (and you should see the second best) is to wind up as the undisputed vote-getting champ of Mississippi and large parts of Georgia, still they reiterate their most aggressive and abysmal of behavior.
...And yet, with the Democratic Party holding more or less all the political cards imaginable, still they go desperately looking for any and all possible ways to share their political power with the GOP. And when the latter folks reward such generosity with an immediate slap to the face, still the Dems come back begging for more.
We're two weeks into the Obama decade, and already I'd be bored if I wasn't so pissed. Even with every imaginable self-made predator circling the camp, still we go on with the same set of juvenile antics that substitute for a meaningful politics in America. Even with every conceivable disaster hungrily lapping at our shores, some of us would rather get rich than live to retirement age, some of us would rather win elections than save the country, and some of us would rather hold hands than be the guy who walks away from the knife fight alive.
Yep, it's the Clinton years again. Minus the booming economy and probably the sexual shenanigans. But the politics sure look the same.
Wall Street greed that exists absolutely without bound, to start with. And a government that finds increasingly creative ways to liquidate the commonwealth of its common wealth and turn it instead into private playgrounds, corporate jets, MBA bacchanals, and really big rings on the fingers of really big trophy wives. What, you've got a problem with a $35,000 toilet for a company accepting taxpayer bailout money?
Don't worry. Barrack Obama called it shameful. Since that appears to be just about all he plans to do about it, and since I had already made that particular analytical leap on my own horsepower, I must confess to being seriously unimpressed. Yeah, limiting salaries of the execs running companies receiving bailout funds is not a bad idea, but mostly another terribly trembling tactic from timid town. Since I am now an owner of these firms, would it be too much to ask for new management? Call me strange if you must, but I don't want corporate chiefs who have proven their ability to wreck companies running mine. It's just this odd quirk I've always had.
But the finger-wagger-in-chief's little dressing down was actually the high point of the week. Somewhat less amusing was the GOP's reaction to the president's fiscal stimulus plan. Even though Obama went out of his way to include within it tax cuts that seem to be the only two words the lips of Republicans are able to form in discussions of economics or public policy - tax cuts that are widely understood not to have serious stimulus capacity at this point - still not a single member of the House - not one - voted for the bill. Instead, they went parading around the media complaining about how the legislation would favor illegal immigrants, or would spend a few bucks on family planning services. Can't have that. Brown women in America? Not barefoot and not pregnant? Not okay.
Did I mention that this looks a lot like the 1990s? Zero was precisely the number of Republicans who voted for Bill Clinton's economic rescue package in 1993. Taxes, sex, war, taxes. Taxes, sex, war, taxes. This guys are like a jazz singer who can only hit four notes, two of which are the same. And about as useful.
Of course, people gotta have principles. Texas Senator John Cornyn - who is absolutely everything you'd expect a Texas senator to be - said this week "I read the bill in vain for any real stimulus in the economy. What I do see mainly is an opportunity being exploited to spend a lot of money without much scrutiny." Now see, dang it, that's not okay. For example, let's just say you had this Treasury secretary - we'll just call him John Doe Paulson, to pick a name at random - and he spent $350 billion by giving banks rescue money that they used instead for bonuses and really cool toilets, literal and figurative. Now that there, my friends, is an example of money being spent without scrutiny. Or certain contractors (oh, you know, like Haliburton maybe) and their no-bid contracts in certain wars (let's say Iraq, for instance). Or a prescription drug bill that actually forbids the government from using its buying power to obtain volume discounts. Now those are some nasty cases of unscrutinized federal spending, and we can all be thankful that Cornyn and other Republicans have been on the job this last decade, making sure none of that transpired.
The party, meanwhile, was busy last week choosing for themselves a new chairman. And guess what? He's a real conservative fellow. Now there's a shocker. And he's a black man. And he argues that Republicans have gotten a totally bum rap when it comes to perceptions of their racist politics these last decades. You know, that whole Reagan states' rights campaign kick-off speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi - a town famous for only one thing, murdering civil rights workers - for example. Or that whole Nixonian Southern Strategy to appeal to racist white voters in the South. Or the Willie Horton ad. Or the small matter of mass black voter disenfranchisement campaign in Florida in 2000. Or Ohio in 2004. Yeah, man. You gotta feel bad for the GOP and this unfair reputation. They really need to hire some new marketing people!
Oh, and did I mention the guy who didn't get the chairmenship? He sent around a CD to party leaders that included the snappy little tune, "Barack, the Magic Negro"! Some people in the party thought that was pretty tacky. But others didn't, and so a serious and major debate ensued within the party leadership as to whether this was an appropriate thing to do, and whether it was a good idea to put such a person at the top of the party. Hmmm, tough question. No wonder they had such a struggle over it.
Of course, the good news for the GOP is that with a black man as their chairman now, they'll no doubt be drawing tons of black votes from this point forward. And the even better news is that the GOP thinks that with a black man as their chairman now, they'll no doubt be drawing tons of black votes from this point forward. You know, just like Sarah Palin knocked down those barriers preventing women from gaining equality (the same ones that Republicans had spent lifetimes erecting) and thus energized the female vote for the GOP ticket. Oh yeah.
Let's be honest. The chances that the GOP would change its ugly ways only rose to the high-water mark of about three out of a thousand because of the trouncing they took in two elections back-to-back. Anyone who thought these folks were about to give up either their abysmal politics or their disgusting tactics hasn't been paying attention since the 1950s. And, besides, what would be the point? We already have a party that stands for just about nothing, and does so with unsurpassed strategic blunder, and a passionate devotion to the avoidance of both passion and devotion. Who needs another?
Speaking of which, I'm starting to feel kinda dumb for having said lately that a certain fellow by the name of Obama is a real smart guy. The more I see him in operation, the more I get the sense that the prime directive of his operating system is to always seek the making of happy-happy with his adversaries. He actually had some nice Republican members of Congress over to his new house the other day and personally walked around the room carrying a plate of oatmeal raisin cookies to serve them. You think I'm making this up, don't you? You wish. I wish. If this keeps up, pretty soon he's gonna make Chamberlain at Munich look as tough as the siege of Stalingrad by comparison.
He gave the Republicans a couple of hundred million bucks worth of worthless tax cuts as a means of compromise, even though that substantially diminishes his chances for succeeding in bringing recovery, and therefore also in succeeding at playing president. He says nice things about Ronald Reagan and throws a big shindig for the guy who just got through spending half a year calling him a socialist terrorist. He's now put three Republicans in his cabinet, which by my count totals to a contingent therein approximately three hundred percent bigger than the liberal cohort (of, maybe, one person). Not only that, instead of trading the last Republican added for the 60th Democratic senator and thus a filibuster-proof majority that would guarantee getting his legislation through Congress, Obama agrees to a deal wherein the Democratic governor of New Hampshire backfills Judd Gregg's seat with a Republican appointee.
And what do they do, in return? Trash his bill in public, say that they hope he fails, and vote - with nary a single exception - against the signature legislative initiative of his presidency. During an economic crisis, no less, with a public already massively angry at them.
If anyone knows this guy's Blackberry address, pass it along, wouldya? I'd like to remind him that Republicans don't get that whole ‘post-partisan' thing. Precambrian, yes. Post-partisan, no. They will thrash the country (again) if they think it will wreck this presidency and bring them back to power. I'm not sure how Rush Limbaugh could possibly have been quite any more explicit about that. Yo, Barry. They are going to resist you any and every way they can. If you succeed, they'll take credit for it, maybe saying that the Bush tax cuts finally kicked in. If you fail, I'm pretty sure they won't be acknowledging the role of their political sabotage during a national economic crisis.
Lose the hand-holding impulse, dude. You've got cred, you've got crises, you've got control of the government. If you throw them a bone and they slap your face in return, the thing not to do here is increase the size of the bone. No more oatmeal cookies, man. Pull their useless stuff out of the bill, redraft it exactly the way you want it, and ram it down their throats. If they use their 41-seat minority in the Senate to block a relief bill that the people desperately want, the House has passed, and the president is waiting to sign, make them pay for it politically by endlessly reminding the public just who's standing in the way of the Red Cross trucks, and just who's driving them.
I mean, is it really too much to ask for a Democratic Party actually does something? Without asking the GOP for permission first?
Once before, American had a crumbling economy, a bumbling foreign policy, an angry electorate, and a decisive election. Ronald Reagan won in 1980, and Democrats cowered for the next three decades. They're still cowering.
This time the conditions are almost identical, except for three things. First, people are hurting a lot worse now than in 1980. Second, it's the Democrats who have won this time. And, third, it wasn't an election. It was two.
But, of course, one thing hasn't changed.
It's still the Democrats doing the cowering.