Monday, October 01, 2007

Letting the GOP Handle It

I listened to a shocking conversation between Bob Wright and former White House speech-writer David Frum (he of the "axis of evil") a few minutes ago. The discussion was almost entirely an unpacking of the decision to invade Iraq. Before I get to the nature of the shock, let me also reference another conversation I heard (also via podcast) between George Stephanopoulos and Newt Gingrich. The experience was something like falling down when you have a bad back and finding, to your surprise, that vertebrae aligned. One talked about war, one talked about GOP strategies, and together, they revealed to me the unique madness of the Republican Party.

Frum's analysis comes down to a simple set of assumptions that, if agreed to, would in fact make you think invasion was the only solution. That they defy reason and reality is a matter that will become evident of its own accord:
  1. Arabs hate us and nothing the US does changes this immutable fact. (Frum conflates Arabs and Muslims repeatedly, a fact which caused me little surprise.) They hate us so unyieldingly that acts as disparate as befriending Saudi Arabia or invading Iraq will be used to demonize us.
  2. Certain leaders--Saddam chief among them--are inscrutable beyond comprehension. No matter what you do, they will commit acts of "mischief" (Frum's word) about which you should be irrationally panicked.
  3. It is not possible to contain these leaders, and certainly not Saddam.
  4. Since Europe is weak and foolish, the surest method--the only method, really--of heading off the irrational fury of Arab/Muslim madmen is for the US to take command of the situation.
Now, from this strangely beautiful logic, let us move to the wisdom of Newt Gingrich, shared yesterday on This Week With George Stephanopoulos. It echoes a lot of what you hear from the GOP these days, but was inimitably Newt and therefore the purest strain. Speaking commandingly about issues no one has mentioned in years, he exuded confidence rare among Republicans these days. For Newt, the GOP has always been correct on the issues (a national language, lowering taxes on corporations, the pledge of allegiance), the people have always been very ideologically conservative--just like the GOP!, and all the polarization in politics has been thanks to the nasty way in which Dems defy these truths.

So what does the GOP need to do to win in 2008? (Get ready, here's where the post finally comes together.) Since the Dems are weak and foolish, the surest method--the only method, really--of heading off the irrational fears of rich, Southern white men is for the GOP to take command of the situation.

For the GOP, the answer is always: give us control and we'll handle it. In fact, the "handling it" is actually just the exercise of power. Whereas some Americans may have a passing interest in health care and Iraq (issues Newt elided), these are secondary. So long as it's the GOP "handling it," and not the Dems, all will be fine.

Frum and Gingrich, specters from different pasts, were both given the opportunity to detail the ways in which they might govern differently if they were given another shot. Their logic was strangely mesmerizing, doubling back on itself until the method and the conclusion amounted to the same thing.

They have always used issues as window dressing for their leadership--issues were there to lend reality, fullness to the justification to vote GOP. But Republicans of recent vintage have rarely and only ever passingly been interested the issues. That has never been more evident than now, when the window dressing is so sparse and lends so little reality to any conversation. In the end, the argument really is "let us handle it." What else do they have?

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