It's a lot of fun being a Republican politician these days as one can say anything, be it a half-truth, gibberish or an outright lie. Republicans can contradict themselves, accept the endorsements of religious fanatics, support the super-rich and attack existing government programs and agencies in the name of fiscal conservatism while funding wars that cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Consider the following:
-On Aug. 10, Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona trashed one of his favorite targets - Planned Parenthood. Kyl stated, "Everybody goes to clinics, to doctors, to hospitals, so on. ... If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, that's well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does." In reality, only 3 percent of that organization's funds are used for terminating pregnancies, with more than 90 percent allocated for health care services.
When CNN sought an explanation for this wildy inaccurate assertion, the network received a statement from Senator's Kyl's office. It said, in part, that Kyl's remark "was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, does subsidize abortions." Perhaps in the future Senator Kyl can inform us when he is speaking truthfully and when he is denigrating an individual or organization with false information.
-In a recent interview, Wolf Blitzer asked Texas Republican Ron Paul if he thought the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be abolished. Paul responded, "Well, if you want to live in a free society, if you want to pay attention to the Constitution, why not? I think it's bad economics. I think it's bad morality." Paul asks why someone who does not live in a disaster-prone area should have to pay to rebuild the homes and businesses of people devastated by a storm - Hurricane Irene, for example: "I mean it's - it's a moral hazard to say that government is always going to have to take care of us when we do dumb things."
To all those people who did the dumb thing of building homes in the Keene valley, Ron Paul says get lost, don't look for government handouts to remedy your self-made problems. This is the same individual who asked President George W. Bush to declare much of Texas a disaster area (and become eligible for federal assistance) in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, the same Ron Paul whose Republican Party has no qualms spending hundreds of billions of dollars "nation building" in Afghanistan. Constructing bridges and schools in Kandahar Province is fine with this crowd, but helping Americans devastated by natural disasters - no way! It's a "moral hazard" and too expensive. (Earlier this year, Republicans attempted to reduce 2012 FEMA spending by 55 percent compared to the 2011 level, and 70 percent compared to the 2010 budget.)
-In the first quarter of this year, the six largest multi-national oil companies earned $38 billion in profits, 69 percent more than they earned in the first quarter of 2010. During the Republican candidates debate in early August, Herman Cain pledged to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent (which few corporations pay, by way of tax loopholes) to 25 percent. Rick Santorum quickly responded stating that he would eliminate corporate taxes altogether. High gas prices, record profits and zero taxes for the likes of ExxonMobil. Thanks, Rick, that's more good news for the middle class.
-GOP (God's Only Party) presidential candidate Rick Perry's recent "The Response" prayer rally was endorsed by John Benefiel of the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Community. In a recent sermon Benefiel stated, "You know there's a statue in New York harbor called the Statue of Liberty. ... Listen, folks, this is an idol, a demonic idol. ... People say, 'Well, it's patriotic.' What makes it patriotic? Why is it? It's a statue of a false goddess, the Queen of Heaven. We don't get liberty from a false goddess, folks; we get our liberty from Jesus Christ. There is no connection whatsoever. So I'm telling you we practice idolatry in America today, and we don't even recognize it."
In an August 2010 sermon, Benefiel said he had "spiritual authority" to rename the District of Columbia "the District of Christ." He noted, "I have more authority than the U.S. Congress does; see, I guarantee that that will not forever be called the District of Columbia. It will be changed by somebody, it will be changed by the Lord when He comes back, or our Congress."
If an Islamic holy man had proposed renaming the District of Columbia the District of Allah, Reverend Benefiel and his apostolic followers would be outraged, screaming that Muslims were engaged in a sinister plot to overthrow the U.S. government. However, whatever Benefiel does in his drive to transform this nation into a fundamentalist Christian theocracy is viewed as both acceptable and desirable by his followers and sympathizers - the separation of church and state be damned.
-At the mid-September Republican candidates debate sponsored by the Tea Party, Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly needed six months of intensive medical treatment. Paul replied, "That's what freedom is all about - taking your own risks." When Blitzer asked if "society should just let him die," many in the Tea Party audience erupted with shouts of "Yeah!" This is the same group that said "Obamacare" would convene death panels to decide if little old ladies lived or died, the same crowd that's replete with fervently anti-abortion conservative Christians who bellow that "all life is sacred." Talk about hypocrisy.
-When President Obama proposed taxing millionaires at the same rate as middle-class Americans, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin (the House Budget Committee chairman) stated that "class warfare may make for good politics, but it makes for rotten economics." Ryan doesn't see anything that resembled class warfare when his party attempted to smash government employee unions in Wisconsin. Corporate CEOs making 400 times the salary of their average employees while outsourcing millions of jobs is considered sound economic policy by the GOP. However, any attempt by lower and middle-class Americans to level the economic playing field is immediately met with the class-warfare card, Republican code for, "These people are just a bunch of communists."
-Last but certainly not least, we have the ramblings of Michele Bachmann, perhaps the only politician in America who can make Sarah Palin look like a towering intellect. During her state senate days in Minnesota, Bachmann had a "Michele's Must Read List" on her website which included a biography of Robert E. Lee by J. Steven Wilkins, a proponent of the theory that the South was an orthodox Christian nation unjustly attacked by the godless North. Wilkins argues that "slavery ... was not an adversarial relationship founded on animosity. In fact, it bred on the whole, not contempt but, over time, mutual respect." Apparently slaves were leading the good life (what's the occasional beating among friends?) working for loving masters but still wanted freedom. You just can't please some people. Thanks for pointing out this revisionist history, Michele. Who knew?
Garrison Keilor of "A Prairie Home Companion" fame summed up today's Republican Party as well as anyone: "The party of Lincoln and liberty," Keilor states, "was transmorgified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists ... shrieking midgets of AM radio ... people who believe Neil Armstrong's moon walk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico. ... Republicans: The No. 1 reason the rest of the world thinks we're deaf, dumb, and dangerous."
George J. Bryjak lives in Bloomingdale, retired after 24 years of teaching sociology as a professor at the University of San Diego.
"Another disaster: Conservatives' attack on FEMA" (Aug. 30, 2011) CNN.com, www.cnn.com
Benen, S (April 9, 2011) "Political Animal," Washington Monthly, www.washingtonmonthly.com
"Class warfare? No, fairness" (Sept. 20, 2011) Albany Times Union, blog.timesunion.com
Cunningham, C. (Sept. 2, 2011) "Rick Perry and the Satanic Statue of Liberty," Big Think, bigthink.com
Keilor, G. (Aug. 26, 2004) "We're Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore," In These Times, www.inthesetimes.com
Krugman, P. (Sept. 15, 2011) "Free to Die," The New York Times, www.nytimes.com
Hartman, L. (August 2011) "Why not one question about Republican plans to voucherize Medicare and turn Social Security over to Wall Street?" Thom Hartmann, www.thomharman.com
"Pain at the Pump" (June 17, 2011) The Week
Schlesinger, R. (Aug. 8, 2011) "Michele Bachmann Promoted Bizarre, Revisionist View of Slavery," U.S. News, www.usnews.com
Tashman, B. (July 23, 2011) "Rick Perry Ally John Benefiel Renamed Capitol 'District of Christ,'" Right Wing Watch, www.rightwingwatach.org
Wasson, E. (May 24, 2011) "House Panel Moves to Cut Disaster Aid," The Hill, thehill.com
Wilkins, J. (1997) "Call of Duty: The Stately Nobility of Robert E. Lee," Cummberland House Publishing: Nashville, Tenn.