(This was originally going to be the conclusion from Parts 1 and 2 but there's just too much wingnuttery goodness to fit into a single blog post.)
Does this surprise you? (All emphasis added.)
At the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday, right-wing activist and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist urged conservatives not to work to accomplish anything in the current Congress.
“Get married, develop a hobby, learn to belly dance, learn to golf — you know, we got two years free, but we gotta spend time and effort playing defense here,” Norquist said. “Our job is to say ‘no, no, no, no’ for two years.”
Because the Democrats are going to be like young men on prom dates — they’re gonna keep asking the same question of us over and over and over again. And our job is to say “no, no, no, no” for two years.
It doesn’t do us any good to go “no, no, yes” okay? It has to be “no” for two years in a row. It’s going to be tiresome, it’s going to be boring. People are gonna go, “oh maybe this bill isn’t as bad as it looks.” Don’t eat it, don’t swallow it, don’t touch it. Nothing good passes this Congress.
If that surprises you, well, you just haven't been paying attention since, for the last several years, the American Right has been thoroughly, unabashedly and nakedly political. Norquist's advice makes his ideological worldview embarrassingly clear -- if the conservatives can't run things, then they're going to make damned sure no one else will do it either. End of story. But it's been like that down south for quite some time already, or hadn't you noticed?
In many ways, the Bush administration has never even pretended to be interested in actual policy. You know -- the kind of policy that is meant to, well, help people. If you don't agree, then you never heard of John DiIulio (emphasis added):
President George W. Bush called John DiIulio "one of the most influential social entrepreneurs in America" when he appointed the University of Pennsylvania professor, author, historian, and domestic-affairs expert to head the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. He was the Bush administration’s big brain, controversial but deeply respected by Republicans and Democrats, academicians and policy players. The appointment was rightfully hailed: DiIulio provided gravity to national policy debates and launched the most innovative of President Bush’s campaign ideas—the faith-based initiative, which he managed until this past February, the last four months from Philadelphia.
"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," says DiIulio. "What you’ve got is everything—and I mean everything—being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."
In a seven-page letter sent a few weeks after our first conversation, DiIulio, who still considers himself a passionate supporter of the president, offers a detailed account and critique of the time he spent in the Bush White House.
"I heard many, many staff discussions but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions," he writes. "There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues. There were, truth be told, only a couple of people in the West Wing who worried at all about policy substance and analysis, and they were even more overworked than the stereotypical nonstop, twenty-hour-a-day White House staff. Every modern presidency moves on the fly, but on social policy and related issues, the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking: discussions by fairly senior people who meant Medicaid but were talking Medicare; near-instant shifts from discussing any actual policy pros and cons to discussing political communications, media strategy, et cetera. Even quite junior staff would sometimes hear quite senior staff pooh-pooh any need to dig deeper for pertinent information on a given issue."
But none of this should come as any surprise anymore. This was not an administration that had even the slightest interest in developing a coherent policy on anything. From beginning to end, it was political. If it couldn't be used as a political weapon in some way, they ignored it and moved on. And it didn't end there.
Remember those U.S. midterm elections last fall? And remember how GOP legislators reacted to the results?
Congress will convene on Tuesday for what some fear will be the lamest of lame-duck sessions, and GOP leaders have decided to take a minimalist approach before turning over the reins of power to the Democrats. Rather than a final surge of legislative activity, Congress will probably wrap up things after a single, short week of work. They have even decided to punt decisions on annual government spending measures to the Democrats next year.
That's right -- once the GOP realized they'd been beaten, they simply lost all interest in earning their paycheques. Their attitude was simple -- if they're not in charge, well, just fuck it. It's not like anyone elected them to, you know, do stuff for the electorate or anything. Once the election was over, why would they give a shit?
And perhaps the funniest (and scariest) example of politics trumping policy was when GOP hatchet man Karl Rove was actually put in charge of policy, for God's sake.
Under one of his hats, Mr. Rove is running a sophisticated campaign on behalf of the president's Social Security proposals, employing all the components of the national political machine built to re-elect Mr. Bush. Under the other, he is overseeing policy meetings where the administration's senior officials analyze the competing Social Security proposals, bone up on arcane economic concepts and plot how to hit back at the substantive arguments made by people on the other side of the issue.
Other presidents have had powerful advisers with a hand in both politics and policy. The most-cited model in recent times is James A. Baker III, who had a wide-ranging portfolio in the administrations of Mr. Reagan and Mr. Bush's father, and went from political operative to treasury secretary, to secretary of state, then back to overseeing a presidential campaign.
But the intensity of Mr. Rove's involvement in politics and policy makes his current status unusual and gives him remarkably broad authority inside the White House and out. And in giving Mr. Rove his new title, Mr. Bush, freed from the need to think about re-election, seemed to acknowledge what everyone in Washington knows: that in this administration, as in all others, politics and policy are inextricably intertwined.
The message here is simple: the GOP is all about politics, and nothing else. Policy is not relevant -- even in the slightest -- unless it somehow connects with politics. And on that note, we'll leave it hanging to finally work on the conclusion, and how this all takes us back to why the Blogging Tories are such worthless hacks.
But you knew that already, didn't you?