Sunday, October 08, 2006

Exposing the Republicans

Until now, the only thing I've said about the Mark Foley scandal is that there are more important things to talk about, like North Korea. But thanks to Andrew Sullivan, I've just read an article by Glenn Greenwald that seems so astute in its take on this sordid story that I just have to say something about it. It comes to the same conclusions I would if only I had made the effort to think things through, and it expresses those conclusions with a straightforward eloquence beyond my ability.

Greenwald's thesis is:

"The perfection [in its seeminly divine revelation of Republican shortcomings) of this scandal lies in its substance, not its theatrics. The Foley scandal is not -- as even some Bush opponents have asserted -- an aberrational, isolated, inconsequential melodrama that is unrelated to the substantive and important critiques of the Bush movement and which just coincidentally emerged as a cynical weapon that can be used to defeat the Republicans. The opposite is true. This scandal has resonated so powerfully because it is shining such a powerful light on the towering hubris, utter lack of intellectual and ethical integrity, and deeply engrained corruption that accounts for virtually every other Bush disaster -- from Iraq to law-breaking scandals to torture to Abrahmoff-type corruption schemes and everything in between."

Greenwald makes the following points in support of his thesis:

(1) Most people are too busy facing the demands of everyday life to follow politics closely. So they depend on the media to let them know when something is seriously amiss. But Republican politicians and "pundits" have been so successful at obscuring the truth that it takes something like the "relative simplicity" "crystal clarity,"" involvement of emotionally-charged issues," and "salacious sex aspects" of a story like the Foley scandal to confront the public so squarely with unpleasant truths that no amount of political and propagandistic tricks can camoflauge them. In fact, the more these "obfuscation tactics" are used, the more clearly the public sees through them and rejects not only the tricks but also those who employ them. As Greenwald expresses it:

"The absolute refusal ever to admit error. The desperate clinging to power above all else. The efforts to cloud what are clear matters of wrongdoing with irrelevant sideshows. And the parade of dishonest and just plainly inane demonization efforts to hide and distract from their wrongdoing: hence, the pages are manipulative sex vixens; a shadowy gay cabal is to blame; the real criminals are those who exposed the conduct, not those who engaged in it; liberals created the whole scandal; George Soros funded the whole thing; a Democratic Congressman did something wrong 23 years ago; one of the pages IM'd with Foley as a "hoax", and on and on. There has been a virtual carousel -- as there always is -- of one pathetic, desperate attempt after the next to deflect blame and demonize those who are pointing out the wrongdoing. This is what they always do, on every issue. The difference here is that everyone can see it, and so nothing is working...It is as though Republicans are being punished for all of their serious political sins at once, in one perfectly constructed, humiliating scandal designed to highlight their crimes and exact just retribution for them. The Foley scandal is shining a very bright light on their conduct, not just in this one incident but with regard to how they have been governing the country generally over the last five years."

(2) Contrary to what Republican politicians and pundits would have us believe, it doesn't matter in the least whether the Drudge Report article alleging that one of the victims of Foley's cyber-advances led the congressman on as a hoax, any more than it matters in the least whether a husband who pays money to someone to kill his wife has actually paid money to a cop posing as a hitman. Foley is every bit as guilty as the would-be widower.

(3) It rings awfully hollow (and blatantly hypocritical) for Republicans to be attacking others for focusing so intently on a sex scandal instead of more serious issues when Republican politicians and pundits and the media in general seemed to be able to talk about nothing other than "the spots on Bill Clinton's penis, Hillary's affair with Vince Foster, and semen stains on a blue dress" throughout much of the 1990's.

(4) Contrary to what Republican "pundits" would have us believe, the allegations against Foley are much more serious than those regarding Clinton's behavior with Monica Lewinski. The latter involved consenting adults; the former involved a congressman "engaged in a pattern of sexual pursuit of numerous [underaged] Congressional pages over many years," and I would add that the Republican congressional leadership clearly averted their eyes from Foley who, irony of ironies, co-chaired a Congressional committee investigating the sexual exploitation of children via the Internet.

To be honest and fair, I don't know that Democrats haven't engaged in many of the same tactics for which Greenwald exposes the Republicans, or that they wouldn't do so if they found themselves implicated in a scandal similar to the one involving Foley. However, I believe that Greenwald is correct in pointing out that the Republicans have been using these objectionable tactics with Machiavellian ruthlessness for the past several years and that the Foley scandal has become the story it has and had the negative impact it appears to be having on the Republican Party right now because of the transparency of these tactics. I also hope that whoever--Republican or Democrat--tries to exploit these obfuscatory tricks in the future will be duly exposed and dismissed the way Republican politicians and pundits are being exposed and dismissed by a public on alert today. Perhaps, just perhaps, the Foley scandal is worthy of all the attention it's recieving after all.

(Cross-posted to Thoughts Chase Thoughts)

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