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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Reform Mask Slips

If I’m right in suggesting that the Bush-Cheney campaign is in the process of pivoting towards an old-style Liberal!Liberal!Liberal! campaign seeking to Dukakisize John Kerry, a big part of the message will be that George W. Bush and his party are brave reformers seeking to bring Washington under control. That may seem preposterous to anyone who knows the iron partisan control the GOP exercises over the federal government today, but intellectual honesty just doesn’t matter at all to these guys.
What could really step on this message, of course, would be real-life events that expose the GOP’s power-lust, and its eager embrace of all the corruption that comes with political power, especially among people who actually oppose using government for any higher ends.
And that may be happening right now.
Tom DeLay, having set a new modern record for rebukes by the House Ethics Committee, is in serious trouble, with investigations continuing into his possible involvement in a whole host of sleazy tactics used by his friends to plan, finance, and engineer the Great Texas Power Grab–the GOP’s successful effort to force a second redistricting of TX congressional districts to pad the party’s margin in the House and further insulate DeLay and company from any troublesome meddling by voters.
But there’s another story that could pack even more dynamite against the GOP’s drive for perpetual control of Washington. The Senate investigation (led by retiring Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and the very unretiring Sen. John McCain) of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff is unfolding an incredibly tawdry tale of shakedowns and influence-peddling, involving a guy with close and deep connections with the whole rogue’s gallery of conservative gangbangers–Tom DeLay, Karl Rove, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist, to mention a few.
And speaking of our ol’ buddy Grover, his baleful influence was illustrated again today in the WaPo op-ed pages. You may recall that Grover got into a little hot water recently when he penned a column for a Spanish newspaper that cheerfully predicted the Democratic Party was literally dying off as those inveterate socialists of the Greatest Generation went off to the welfare state in the sky. Grover squawked that he was misquoted, but today that staid symbol of conservative respectability George Will recycled (without attribution) exactly the same argument in all its cynical and malicious glory. Indeed, Will managed to lower the tone of Norquist’s argument by adding the smear that fear of losing its funding base among trial lawyers and public employees is the only reason Democrats oppose Bush’s domestic agenda (conversely, BTW, Karl Rove has been known to argue that destroying the Democratic donor base is the primary reason his boss wants to enact tort reform and shrink the more progressive precincts of government).
Now, I obviously don’t know if the DeLay and Abramoff ethics probes represent tempests in a teapot or another Teapot Dome. And maybe I’m exaggerating the significance of a guy like George Will buying into the Norquist-Rove reduction of every public policy question into a scramble for cash. But we already know the Bush claim to be a “reformer with results” is nonsense, and that the GOP’s claim to be the anti-Washington party is outrageous nonsense. The question is whether the mask of deception will slip in time for voters to do something about it.

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