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No Soap
February 6, 2004
By Gregory Jefferson

The Republican Party has been given a lot of rope and it may finally be hanging itself. President Bush's recently declining poll numbers may be the first indication. There seems to be a growing sense that this administration, which has long been given a pass by the national media, is now being called to account.

Since Lee Atwater ran those vicious Willie Horton ads in the 1988 presidential election, the Republican Party found that it could win elections using a brutal and cynical strategy. Enhanced by Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, and coordinated with right wing publications and radio hosts, their strategy has been to barrage Democrats with a coordinated stream of baseless or exaggerated allegations that mire Democrats in self-defense. The truth or accuracy of the allegations is irrelevant. Only their inflammatory and destructive quality matters. The theory is that by keeping Democrats on the defensive they can not deliver their message. If some of the dirt sticks, well, so much the better.

The effectiveness of this theory relies on a few basic techniques. For instance, the accusations are made loudly and indignantly and from multiple sources, giving the ring of truth. Then, they sit back and watch Democrats try to defend themselves while Republicans simply refuse to be convinced. The debate is prodded along by contrived Republican outrage and a large dose of arrogance. Their phony allegations soon become the central focus of political debate. After a while, the accusations seem to evolve into a known truth in the public mind, like some urban legend.

The result of this strategy is that today, many people really do believe that Michael Dukakis was systematically releasing dangerous criminals from prison. Some really do believe that Bill Clinton was a draft-dodging, dope-smoking, drug-running rapist who killed people that opposed him. Some people believe with unrecognized inconsistency that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian who was having an affair with Vince Foster, whom she subsequently had murdered.

With Republicans in control of Congress during the Clinton Administration, they played their hand all the way out to impeachment. And while they knew they didn't have the votes to sustain it in the Senate, and they knew there were no impeachable offenses, they played it for all of the short term political advantage they could, best interest of the country be damned.

They were further emboldened.

In their campaign to take the White House in 2000, this Republican strategy took on an added dimension. Sure, they continued the lies about Democrats. They accused Al Gore of claiming to have invented the Internet and to have illegally raised campaign money. But in 2000, they extended their propagation of lies to include the manufactured image of their own candidate, George W. Bush. Not in the usual, glossy, exaggerated way that many campaigns do. In this case, they created a complete fiction, an absolute reverse image of the man they wanted us to elect as president; a sort of Manchurian candidate.

Bush was held out to be a successful businessman, a moral leader, a compassionate conservative, a uniter and not a divider. He was sold as a champion of the enlisted soldier, an opponent of nation-building, a balancer of budgets, a promoter of education, a guarantor of healthcare and a protector of the environment.

Clearly, he did not turn out to be any of those things. But now, as the 2004 election approaches, the Bush White House is trying to sell the same old bar of soap. And it's not selling. And not only is it not selling, the American people are realizing that they were lied to four years ago and they are getting angry. But while the American people are getting a bad taste in their mouth, it may be Bush's mouth that gets washed out with that old bar of soap in November. Here's why.

The American voters know that 9/11 did not justify eliminating our civil liberties. The recession did not justify massive and repeated tax cuts for the wealthy. Nonexistent weapons of mass destruction did not justify invading Iraq. Recession did not cause the $521 billion budget deficit this year.

American voters also know that the Iraqi occupation is not only nation-building at its worst, it is a quid quo pro to a corporate roster of Republican financiers. And they know that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge won't begin to solve our energy problems; it is just a sop to big oil. They know that Attorney General John Ashcroft is not working for our protection, but that he has worked to eliminate our basic protections from search, seizure and wiretaps, and against our basic right to counsel. And they know that denying the existence of global warming will not make it go away.

These Republican zealots say that a lie about sex justifies impeachment, yet they lie about the reason for taking the country to war. They bitterly claim that Bill Clinton was wagging the dog when he fired cruise missiles at bin Laden, and then complain that Clinton should have done more. They start a war claiming to enforce United Nations resolutions, against the will of the United Nations. These are the people who began a federal investigation of Janet Jackson's costume within one day of her Super Bowl show, yet fought the creation of the 9/11 Commission for over a year. And they claim to be patriots, caring about country over self.

They are hypocrites. And there isn't much that the American people resent more than hypocrites. Ask Jimmy Swaggart or Rush Limbaugh or Bill Bennett.

Yes, it now appears that despite all of the smoke and mirrors, the American voters are catching on to the Republican politics of personal destruction, their reactionary agenda, their looting of the national treasury, their disregard for the environment, their arrogance towards our allies, and their bogus war. And the American voters are getting their fill. They are beginning to realize that George W. Bush should be run out of town on a rail; a rail made slick with that same old bar of soap.

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