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Political Animal

When Things Were Rotten

By Brian Morton | Posted 6/21/2006

Itís a glorious time to be a liberal. No--really, it is. When Republicans are eager to call their own kind liberals in order to avoid the blame of the sinking ship of state we happen to be riding, then it must be a good time to be left of center, or at least not be right of it.

Sure, thereís always a crook like U.S. Rep. William Jefferson on the left for hard-core righties to crow about--nothing like finding 90 grand in the freezer to announce your ethical righteousness to the world. But really, Jefferson isnít part of some giant wide-reaching web of corruption; he comes from Louisiana, fer chrissakes. Down in that part of the country, thatís almost a political lagniappe. Let the good times roll, as they say.

But on the right-hand side of the aisle, the hits just keep coming. The swirling miasma of sleaze surrounding already-convicted Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham is widening, and the bathtub ring of criminality following convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff is still leaving residue all over a number of Republican congressmen. Already thereís an investigation of powerful House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) due to the interesting idea that oneís employees can make great side money as lobbyists while still working as congressional staffers.

In the meantime, the presidentís approval ratings, while taking a miniscule bounce here and there, still hover under 40 percent. And hereís why itís now fun to be a liberal: When a president is loved by that few of his constituents, the blame starts coming out. The first thing the Republicans do is start claiming so-and-so "isnít a real conservative."

Four years ago, right-wingers would stand up proudly to climb in your case if you called yourself a liberal--hell, theyíd line up to take turns, like the people waiting to whack that woman to her senses in Airplane! Nowadays, if you get into a political argument about George W. Bush, those same people say, "Well, Iím an independent," before they start talking about how all Americaís troubles are the Democratsí fault. Itís like how everyoneís a Yankees or Cowboys fan--until they start losing.

Right-wingers spend gobs of time telling liberals what they should be doing, which is always amusing, seeing as how we all know that theyíve got such earnest motives at heart. You canít go a week without seeing conservatives telling liberals what they should be doing to regain the love of the American people, at the same time that their Congress, their president, and their Supreme Court are fundamentally undermining the Constitution, sabotaging the military, and bankrupting the country. Antonin Scalia last week authored a court opinion that essentially hollowed out the Fourth Amendment under the pretext that American police are so well-trained that search-and seizure conventions dating to the 13th century--the idea that police have to knock before they bash your door in--are moot. Bush has declared that because he is a commander in chief in wartime, a "unitary executive," he can do what he wants, no matter what the laws passed by Congress say. And that same Congress, while underfunding the militaryís need for body armor in Iraq, is steadily tearing apart the system that supports those troops once they come back from abroad. Just last week Fort Sam Houston in Texas was ordered to pay $4.2 million in back payments for electric power at the risk of lights going out.

More than half the country favors setting a timetable to get the troops out of the war Bush lied us into in Iraq, yet the right-wingers call it "cutting and running." And then they impugn the military service of one of the most honorable veterans in Congress, pro-military Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania.†

But Bush is no longer a true conservative, according to the wing nuts, because if he were, well, heíd be popular like Ronald Reagan now, wouldnít he? And if a "conservative" isnít popular, despite tax cuts every year since taking office, then he isnít a conservative. Itís sort of like how New Republic editor Jonathan Chait put it when he quoted liberal author Rick Perlstein. Perlstein said, "Conservatism never fails. It is only failed." Chait says in addendum, "Bush has failed. Therefore he cannot be a conservative."†

So donít be surprised if the next person with whom you argue politics doesnít claim to be a Republican when you want to talk about the problems the current reigning party has beset on the country. They only want to hang with winners. And for that, they may have to wait a long time.

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