Becomes your Coffin
Hey kids, remember me?
See, there was this other election, exactly thirty years ago...
Another Republican Party, putrid so deep in the blood that its own members ran screaming in horror from it.
Republicans like Representative Lawrence Hogan from Maryland, who famously said, as the Watergate scandal was coming to a head:
“The thing that's so appalling to me is that the President, when this whole idea was suggested to him, didn't, in righteous indignation, rise up and say, "Get out of here, you're in the office of the President of the United States. How can you talk about blackmail and bribery and keeping witnesses silent? This is the presidency of the United States." But my President didn't do that. He sat there and he worked and worked to try to cover this thing up so it wouldn't come to light.”
Of course, gutted of conscience and drowning in hubris, Jim Beam and the Blood-o-Christ, this current Administrations views all that led up to and followed Watergate as a failure not because it was the greatest attempt to rape and murder the Constitution in modern history, but because they believe Tricky Dick was too big a pussy to burn the tapes, shoot Woodstein and roll a few hundred tanks in the streets.
Y’know, because he wouldn't pull the trigger and go Full Metal Pinochet Cheney-style.
No, the Bush White House is a reeking haggis made from the diseased organs of the Watergate White House and run straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Nixon, but this is not about that shameful chapter in modern Republican history.
This is about the Gerald Ford Coda at the end of Nixon’s dark symphony.
Not the pardon -- which was an awful mistake but one I accept Ford made for honest reasons – but his run for the Presidency in his own right in 1976.
Now I liked Jerry Ford. He was an older-school, kinder, gentler Rockefeller Republican. Shit, put him back in the House, embedded in a Party of men and women like him, and Us and Them would have a lot to talk about.
A lot to agree on, or to at least dispute over respectably, and from which each side could retire from the field with honor. Because in that Universe, the Center would once again really mean something.
In that Universe, Compromise would be a virtue and not be an epithet.
In that Universe, the GOP would not be run by that bottom-feeding Morlocks like Grover Norquist who liken bipartisanship to date-rape.
But that is long ago and far away in the land of Never Was; in a place where political comity and collegiality had not been vaporized under a premeditated and coordinate rain of Unholy Partisan Nuclear Fire from Hannity and Coulter, Roberston and Dobson, Gingrich and Limbaugh, Rove and Atwater, Racists and Theocrats.
All of whom have one thing in common: they are completely cool with a Constitution-immolating, Liberty-razing Pyrrhic victory. Dee-lighted with the thought of it, in fact, so long as they get to squat in the ruins and play King on the rubble of what was once a great nation.
In the Here and Now, the Center is nothing more than Tom Friedman’s morally indefensible, intellectually flaccid flophouse. To be found in any given hour at whichever GPS location happens to be exactly halfway between wherever Jerry Falwell and Harry Reid happens to be on any given issue.
(Ignoring, of course, the simple fact that Harry Ried’s positions look an awful lot like where Jerry Ford used to be, and Falwell is about one Guyana jungle, one pair of sunglasses and 300 gallons of Koolaid short of being Jim Jones.)
Of course making such a staggeringly obvious observation would affront Friedman’s essential dishonesty and laziness – his Long Con depends entirely on mechanically blaming Both Sides Exactly Equally no matter what atrocities the GOP commit mere inches from his face, so don’t expect him to grow a spine and a conscience any time soon.
But this is about Jerry Ford, 1976, and 2006.
Affable guy, Jerry, as I have already mentioned. And he did what he could to set things a’rights. Who, for example, can ever forget his Whip Inflation Now initiative? (I have a whole box of “W.I.N.” buttons stashed away here at castle driftglass next to the Y2K jerky and dehydrated Oban powder...just in case.) Or his prescient pronouncements regarding the freedom of the Polish people years before their chains were actually broken?
But when the basic material you have work with is so putrid, you better be the original Smoove B, Love Man if you want to pull it off.
And Jerry wasn’t. He came across as bumbling and addled. In the volatile world that Watergate left behind, one misstep might have been forgiven, but Jerry made several.
And the there was the whole falling down problem.
Then Chevy Chase piled on,
and people started watching for Jerry to stumble.
Which he did. A shame, really: he was a graceful man and quite the athlete in his day.
A lot of factors conspired to defeat Gerald Ford: Nixon, Reagan, James Earl Carter, the fall of South Vietnam and the Mayagüez to name a few.
But it would also be fair to say that context killed his Presidency. Once seen and decisively mocked as ineffectual and bumbling – once that narrative killbox was clamped around him – every other misstep resonated louder and louder as a reflection of a larger Basic Truth.
That’s why, three weeks before this 2006 election, my thoughts turn to Jerry and 1976.
Because from Iraq to Katrina to DeLay to the parade of the Grand Old Pedophiles, the same fractal repeats itself.
Thirty years ago, to get and hold power, the GOP consciously decided to court racists and theocrats, and make ferocious war on the Truth as a matter of electoral strategy.
And as long as the truth was an abstract thing -- someone else’s brother dying, someone else’s money being looted, someone else’s rights being violated, someone else’s father tortured, someone else's mother losing her pension, someone else’s kids being hunted, someone else’s country being fucked into the ground -- Republicans, being the morally degenerate creatures that they are, had no problem whatsoever with the Truth being waterboarded.
It was all just good fun until a Republican Congress -- now openly led by raving theocrats -- decided to belligerently intrude into the private life-and-death decisions of a single family named Schiavo.
And in response to the jolt of nausea the Middle felt at seeing the naked face of the Christopaths who really run their Party, the Right Wing Hate Machine -- incapable of admitting error and taking corrective action -- just turned the volume up a little louder.
Then a Republican President let an American city die because he was too busy clearing brush on his fake ranch in Crawford to be bothered with the drowning of an American city and a buncha dying Negroes.
And the Right Wing Hate Machine turned the volume up a louder still. Blame the poor. The weak. The elderly. The dying. The brown. They just let their racist freak flag fly because, hey, they won in 2004 so now it's finally acceptable to embrace your inner Klansman in the public square!
Then we find out this Republican President lied us into a war, and as Americans are maimed and killed for those lies, he has been rectifying the problems by lying about his lies.
And the Family Values Christians who operate Right Wing Hate Machine practically snap the fucking volume knob off, calling veteran’s cowards and critic’s traitors.
Then we find out this war we were lied into actual breeds the very disease we were told it was supposed to cure, and as it all falls apart, the Right Wing Hate Machine rams the rhetoric up to an eardrum-shattering shriek because, having gone to that well so many times, it is literally all they know how to do anymore.
And in this soundstorm of thundering rhetoric that is no longer even tangentially related to Reality at any point, the sleepy Middle slooowly wakes and begins to see what the rest of us have known all along: that all the GOP knows how to do is fuck things up and steal.
And when the Truth they have been so hysterically trying to dam up starts breaching their lies -- when it all blows up in their faces -- all they know how to do is duck and cower like a Yellow Elephant desperately hiding from a Marine recruiter. It was blame Clinton, blame soldiers, blame vets, blame children, blame the media and blame everyone else in the world for their own sins, crimes, and criminal incompetence.
Because they are, in their own way, where Ford was 30 years ago: welded into a context of their own construction, and unable to get out.
The really, lasting story of Mark Foley scandal was not that a pedophile was loose in the Party of God, or even that the Party itself knew about it and did nothing because power is more important to them than the safety of children. Hell, anyone looking at the Iraq or New Orleans knows that the GOP does not give a shit about the lives and deaths of ordinary Americans except in the case of a Pat Tillman when their demise can be spun into a pro-Bush press release.
No, the real story is found in tracking the reaction abroad in the land.
First the stunned shock by Party faithful.
Then the resounding, “Well, DUH!” reply to that shock. The mocking “Where the fuck have you meatheads been for the last six years” response to those who were stunned by those of us who had not been living on a steady diet of Limbaugh Koolaid and dumbass pills for most of our adult lives.
Then a deafening stillness before the storm really broke. Caught red-fucking-handed trolling for children and covering it up, how would the Party of God react?
This was a quiet filled to overflowing with the silent, hopeless prayers of the rank and file millions:
“Oh, please don’t embarrass us in front of the Liberals again.
We’re tired of defending you craven hucksters.
We’re tired of backing chickenhawks against genuine war heroes.
Please don’t shit yourselves and run away, then whine and lie and blame your siblings like spoiled children again.
Please for the love of God step up, man-up and don’t show yourself to be the weasely, soul-dead, abject cowards and pussies the Liberals say you are.
Ah, but was there ever any doubt how the Party of Falwell and Coulter and Rove would react?
Still fighting its ridiculous, rear-guard action against a Truth that surrounds them now on every side, the Party of Personal Responsibility melted down on camera so embarrassingly, so completely and so predictably as to almost defy parody.
Of course they blamed Clinton.
And the media.
And, finally, the children themselves.
In the face of the child sex predators and their enablers they have sheltered in their midst, instead of looking into their own filthy souls and confronting the monsters they have let nest there, they did what they always do; looked to Karl Rove to come down off the mountain with tablets of New Talking Points that would let them off the hook for their sickening behavior.
They’ve fallen once too often.
And now they can’t get up.