(Here's a quickie to get us started!)
If memory serves me right, George W. Bush promised in his 2000 campaign for president that his administration would "change the tone" in Washington. After eight arduous years of the worst partisan bickering ever during Clinton's administration, it seemed almost impossible for the "tone" to do anything but get better. The voters saw fit to elect Bush, partly, I believe, because they bought his line about wanting to restore "honor and dignity" to the White House.
Yet in the three-plus years this administration has held the reins of power, the tone has not changed one bit, and, in fact, seems much, much, worse. Take, for example, the way this administration treats its critics, even critics from its own party. In the summer of 2001, before 9/11 gave Bush license in the public eye to do whatever he wished, Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords left the Republican party
after the White House and Senate Republicans promised to make him pay for not toeing the line on tax cuts.
Since then, every single Republican critic of the Bush administration--from Paul O'Neil
to Richard Clarke
--has been smeared in true slimeball fashion. That's nothing compared to the tactics the administration (and the campaign) can sink to against its Democratic
Just this past week, the official Bush-Cheney election site has distributed a commercial
to millions of email users that juxtaposes prominent Bush critics with images of Hitler taken from disavowed entries from MoveOn.org's "Bush in 30 Seconds" contest. And on the floor of the Senate last week, Dick "Big Time" Cheney dropped the f-bomb
on the other Vermont Senator, Patrick Leahy, in what was probably the most concise statement of the administrations attitude toward its critics we have seen yet.
And should we talk about how this administration treats the press? Last week in Ireland, Bush got snippy with an Irish reporter
for asking follow-up questions. (This is after knowing three days in advance
what the interview questions would be--they could have prepared something beyond the evasive half-answers U.S. journalists are often satisfied with.) This is not the first time Bush has treated the press corps with disdain, either.
Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof says it well
So it's not news that politics is a tough business--there's more honor and dignity in a New Mexico cockfight--but what is amusing to me is that we keep expecting it to get better and rise above this level of discourse. The Democrats are just as good as the Republicans at playing hardball. The difference with most Democrats, though, is that they don't hide behind a veil of virtuosity, depicting themselves as the Knights of the Round Table who are bound to some nebulous standard of "honor and dignity," whatever that is. That's why it's so funny to hear George W. Bush, running on a campaign sworn to restore this lost honor, refer to a reporter as a "major league asshole," or to find out that one of their leading scolds against vice, William Bennett, is a whale in Vegas and, according to some rumors, is into a leather dominatrix. This is the party of Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, and Bob Barr, who collectively have more ex-wives than Henry VIII, pushing the Defense of Marriage Act. (It makes you wonder whose marriage they're defending.) It's not the sins that are funny--hell, everyone has their flaws--it's the flaming hypocrisy of it that makes you wonder if they are either incredibly cynical about the mental capacity of the electorate, or we really are that shallow and sheeplike to fall for their line.
So the questions almost write themselves: Is not having sex in the Oval Office (though the room that Monica and Bill used now apparently holds Bush's conquests
!) enough to "change the tone"? Are Republicans truly more hypocritical than Democrats in their virtue? Should Bush and Cheney be held accountable for their very public petulance and profanity? Is John Kerry--who has been known to drop the f-bomb himself
a better choice for restoring "honor and dignity" to the White House?
I say the hypocrisy is worse--it shows a deeper pathology than a mere tendency to swear in public. The smears, the hissy fits toward the press, and the unapologetic refusal to engage in bipartisanship must end, and end soon. I think it's time to change the tone for real--and change the occupants of the White House while we're at it.
Jay Bullock, Iron Blogger Democrat