Monday, October 5, 2009

Spiteful

This probably won’t be the straw that breaks the camels’ back, but the right wing’s gleeful response to Chicago losing the 2016 Olympics and portraying it as a major defeat for President Obama will probably splash back more mud on the righties than it will on the president. It isn’t because they were right that Rio deserved the games or any other city was better equipped to handle them; it was the way they responded: variations on “neener, neener,” and other childish taunts and not really caring that it made them, these paragons of American patriotism and My Country Right or Wrong during the Bush administration, look as if they were rooting against America. As Rachel Maddow said on Meet the Press yesterday, it says a lot more about the righties than it does about this loss.

It also makes it clear that no matter what happened in Copenhagen, the right wing would have turned it into another opportunity to bash the president. If the president had not gone and Chicago lost, they would have said that he didn’t care about America’s Olympic spirit and that he should have gone to make the case in person, just like the president of Brazil and the king of Spain did for their countries. If he had gone and Chicago had pulled it off and won, then they would have claimed that the fix was in and Chicago-style strong-arm politics and corruption had won the day. And if Chicago did win regardless of what the president had done, you could be sure that between now and the opening ceremonies in August 2016, every story of a cost overrun or a questionable contract associated with the Olympics would have been laid at his feet.

Yet this is the standard operating procedure of the conservative movement now even if, as Paul Krugman writes, this adolescent knee-jerk repulsion to anything President Obama proposes — for example, healthcare reform — goes against their own platform and philosophies.

For the main G.O.P. line of attack is the claim — based mainly on lies about death panels and so on — that reform will undermine Medicare. And this line of attack is utterly at odds both with the party’s traditions and with what conservatives claim to believe.

Think about just how bizarre it is for Republicans to position themselves as the defenders of unrestricted Medicare spending. First of all, the modern G.O.P. considers itself the party of Ronald Reagan — and Reagan was a fierce opponent of Medicare’s creation, warning that it would destroy American freedom. (Honest.) In the 1990s, Newt Gingrich tried to force drastic cuts in Medicare financing. And in recent years, Republicans have repeatedly decried the growth in entitlement spending — growth that is largely driven by rising health care costs.

But the Obama administration’s plan to expand coverage relies in part on savings from Medicare. And since the G.O.P. opposes anything that might be good for Mr. Obama, it has become the passionate defender of ineffective medical procedures and overpayments to insurance companies.

And at town halls, the GOP has proposed that we already have “universal healthcare”: just go to an emergency room. Problem solved, right? Except for the fact that ER care is the most expensive way to get medical treatment, it only can handle so many patients, and those that can’t pay end up costing the rest of us through higher insurance premiums and hospital bills. That’s the worst form of “socialized medicine,” yet they’re all in favor of it. This is their idea of healthcare reform? No wonder that even when they get one of their rising stars in the person of Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) to come up with a GOP ten-point plan, it’s nothing but warmed-over Democratic points or already-discredited GOP bumper-sticker ideas from the 1980’s.

The usual response from the defense is that the Democrats were mean to President Bush. First, that’s an infantile evasion, and second, as much crap as the Democrats and the progressives gave to Mr. Bush, even in light of the contested election in 2000, I don’t recall any member of the House putting forth a bill that was a thinly-veiled attack on his citizenship or his right to even be in office. There are always fringes on either side, but none of the 9/11 Truthers ever got beyond heckling Bill Maher on his TV show, much less actually getting their own nightly program on Fox or CNN.

What it comes down to is the same old stuff we’ve been getting from the conservatives for the last twenty years: they don’t care what they have to do to win, because that’s all that matters. They will turn anything they can into a cause for fund-raising, whether it’s playing the victim (witness Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) now being “vilified” for his outburst on the House floor) or coming up with crocodile-tears outrage over Rep. Alan Grayson’s blunt assessment of their healthcare proposals, when they’ve done exactly the same thing without so much as a grunt of disapproval from their own leadership. It makes you think that the last thing they want is for anything to be done that might improve the lot of the people that didn’t vote for them.