Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Politics as Usual in an Exceptional Time.

I've been taking a bit of a break from politics these last couple of months. I realize that it isn't entirely appropriate to pull away during the beginning of a new president's tenure... especially considering how ardent a supporter I was of the pre-executive Barack Obama. It's not fair for me to shine the light of analysis on the preceding administration, and then give this one a free pass. Yet at the same time, I spent so much energy following the 2008 presidential election that I felt entitled to have a rest. Truth be told, my level of involvement in the political scene was unsustainable. There was just no way for me to devote the hours it took for me to inform myself, while at the same time pursue my other interests and obligations.

Still it's not as if I have been living in a bubble. I realize that there has been a rash of government activity aimed at confronting our tenuous economic position. I took a look at the stimulus package, and considered the amount of extraneous spending included in the final bill. I try to keep up with the planning for the disbursement of the second half of the TARP funds. I even tune in for the latest reporting on the stock market. There is little to recommend a belief that we are "righting the ship". Obviously extreme measures have not yet been sufficient, and I think that Congress and the Obama Administration will continue to search for bold steps to jar the American economy out of its current malaise.

It's been slightly entertaining to see just how quickly Obama's hope of a post-partisan era of politics has been revealed as just so much wishful thinking. Michael Steele, the prospective new head of the opposition party, has blatantly labeled bipartisanship "a fiction". Granted the new GOP Chairman has been under great fire lately. I suppose this was inevitable given the state of the Republican leadership in the wake of their great losses. Steele is tasked with rebuilding a party that lays in ruins at the feet of eight years of failure. And he's being asked to deal with a constituency that is notoriously recalcitrant and resistant to change. That's quite a bit to overcome for someone who has never won a major election during his career.

Chairman Steel also has to contend with one of the loudest windbags since Joseph McCarthy. Hack radio host Rush Limbaugh continues to consolidate his power over the "conservative movement", in the midst of total breakdown. Limbaugh strikes me as nothing more than a very fat vulture, greedily licking his lips at the vulnerability of the dying Republicans scattered around Washington. He's obviously aware that this his last best opportunity to be the voice of the GOP. The rank-and-file has been left with nothing but platitudes and defeat. It's been 15 years since the last recapitulation of moral majority values, and the playbook that was drawn under the watchful eye of Newt Gingrich has proved ineffective and empty.

Still it's difficult to understand what productive outcome Limbaugh hopes to achieve with his incendiary stream-of consciousness, especially since it can be reduced to a mercenary desire to see Obama and Co. fail in their attempts to help the nation regain its bearings. As a national figure, he is continuing to erode his own popularity. No doubt his invective is carefully calculated. He realizes that he is increasingly irrelevant, and that his last best chance to be a player is to distinguish himself as the enemy of the White House. I think he truly believes that he can elevate himself by attacking the Commander-in-Chief. The trouble is that he is setting a dangerous precedent that his less deliberate followers are likely to emulate. And that can't be good for the US.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This, I'm sure, is a cynical view of American culture as it is today, but I think that the late night TV shows such as Letterman and Leno, Saturday night live, bitter newscasters such as Olberman, cartoons and main stream media editorials did far more to damage how the country views the Republican Party than Limbaugh, who's listeners are typically (just a guess on my part), and closed-minded social conservatives, at best a very small minority of the general public.
jg

8:16 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

If the man himself is to be believed... he has about 22 million listeners.

I think eight years of the Bush Administration, and six years of GOP control of Congress did far more to damage the reputation of the GOP than anything you've mentioned.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course you're right (at least about some of the Bush Administration's recommendations and decisions). However, as I'm sure you know, I was comparing media figures and the media.

Now, if you're adding elected officials to the conversation, that's another ballgame. As I sit here, I can name any number of people who have and "represent" the Democratic leadership (in no specific order...Clinton, Kennedy, Reid, Pelosi). I can't think of a single Republican legislator who carries the same weight.

Now for a comment on the 6 and 8 years of Republican hold you refer to. I don't really consider myself a staunch Republican, but rather a moderate Republican, one who has voted Democratic in the presidential election 50% of the time in the last four elections. On the other hand, and I'm sure I may be accused of some form of either revisionist history or forgetfulness, I can't think of a substantial number of things that were done over the last eight years that I'd consider too damaging. The war in Iraq...no disagreement there. However, the overwhelming majority of both the public and both sides of the legislature initially supported it, and continued to for some time. Why do you think that was, ever given the bad information entrance was based on. The record on civil rights for both citizens and non-citizens as an aftermath to 9/11...yes, subject to criticism. With this as well, I imagine you'd find a large number of Americans who supported that policy as a knee-jerk reaction to both real and perceived threats.

So, let's see a list of what history will record as really horrendous decisions made over Bush's eight years (and the Republican's six), that would make him one of the worst presidents of all time, and the period as one of the worst in history.

I know you enjoy a challenge, though I'm likely to hear it wasn't much of one..
jg

5:06 PM  

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