Is the Republican well of contempt for the American voter bottomless? I'm not asking about mere tactical cynicism. In politics, that's a given, it seems to me. No, I mean contempt -- a profound, institutional contempt that knows no final depth.
This is no idle speculation or query, of course. With every passing day of this presidential campaign the GOP pushes one more Democrat, one more independent, one more thoughtful conservative to ask the very same question and for damn good reason. The GOP is daring us in so many ways and on so many fronts.
I almost didn't even ask, principally for the simple reason that the affirmative seems so bloody obvious. I mean, who isn't asking the question and drawing the same conclusive answer?
It's hardly unique or insightful for any commentator to note in any column on any given day anymore that McCain-Palin 2008 is beginning to make George W. Bush look honorable. It's that bad. Whereas Bush & Co. in 2000 and 2004 scraped the bottom of the contemptuous well, McCain & Co. is back-hoeing it.
It's got so bad, even the mainstream media are beginning to take note. For instance this morning the New York Times on the front page -- the front page, mind you, the one that some voters actually see and on a slow day perhaps even read -- writes of the avalanche of criticism being dumped on McCain "from Democrats, independent groups and even some Republicans for regularly stretching the truth in attacking Senator Barack Obama’s record and positions."
True, the euphemistic "stretching the truth" terminology is less than ideal or semantically accurate, but this is progress, I'd say. The front page. I'm impressed.
What was exceptionally impressive was that the degenerating content of McCain's character is now being put on the record from Republican sources. One can always lift a quotable quote about GOP scurrility from a Democrat or neutral observer, of course, but when the conservative homefolks start publicly complaining, you know things are brushing the apocalyptic.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, for example -- and remember, this is one of the original New Righters who once believed in the supremacy of the lowest tactics -- said in a Friday interview on a New York news channel (and quoted by the NYT) that the McCain camp's interpretation of Obama’s "lipstick on a pig" comment was "ridiculous." As in, subject to ridicule -- this, from a McCain surrogate no less.
And said one "Republican advertising strategist," by name (Don Sipple): "The last month, for sure, I think the predominance of liberty taken with truth and the facts has been more McCain than Obama." And Mr. Sipple is on McCain's side -- he makes his living from McCain's side. For now.
Yet what has been, is, and forever shall remain the absolute Platonic Ideal of GOP contempt for the American electorate is the Mortimer Snerd candidacy of blank-slate Sarah Palin.
Being, as noted, ethereally contemptuous, this one is beyond description in down-to-earth English. There are simply no words that can fully capture the essence of McCain's insult to voters in choosing Ms. Palin, and the dropped-jaw validation of this proposition came, of course, in her Charlie Gibson "interview."
Truly, what can one say? How can one survey that on-air display of utter ignorance and casual bellicosity in mere words?
Here was an individual, submitted to voters as the potential caretaker of thousands of megatons of world-ending power, who didn't recognize the two-word description of U.S. foreign policy for the last seven years.
Here was an individual who, when asked if war with Russia over a U.S.-strategically insignificant piece of land might be necessary, could calmly, off-handedly respond, "Perhaps so."
Here was an individual who told Mr. Gibson she "would never presume to know God's will," yet assures her fellow church-goers that U.S. troops in Iraq are "on a task that is from God."
Unstinting ignorance, unbridled jingoism and delusional thinking. Sound familiar? And after eight years of it, sound even worse than familiar? Sound like "Change is coming"?
Oh, it's coming, all right. As the national conversation increasingly shifts from GOP charges to an examination of GOP charges and their contemptuous deployment, independent voters should start abandoning McCain-friendly territory en masse.
Because there's just no way to put, and keep without smearing, lipstick on McCain-Palin's virtual promise of World War III and the Great Depression II.
I have to believe that, at least for another 50-odd days, even while retaining my unshakable belief in democratic ineptitude. The alternative is just too depressing.
Depressing? More like devastating to the nth degree!
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THE FIFTH COLUMNIST by P.M. Carpenter
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.