GOP Lives Up To Its Caricature
By Arianna Huffington
May 18, 1998
This year Republicans have perfected the art of squandering golden opportunities. Although they face a White House bedeviled almost daily with new revelations about its contempt for the rule of law -- most recently, illegal campaign contributions from the Chinese military -- they have repeatedly failed to rise to the occasion.
They are given a financial scandal, and what do they offer up? Al D'Amato. They are given a character scandal, and they come up with Dan Burton, a.k.a. the Hoosier Pericles. Meanwhile, the titular head of the party, Newt Gingrich, is considered honest and trustworthy by only 37 percent of Americans. The president -- at 38 percent -- is in the same part of the barrel.
Republicans continue to provide an all-purpose punch line for the comedy establishment -- as insensitive, uncaring, rich, country-club types. And if the past few weeks are any guide, they don't plan on deviating from the stereotype one bit. They seem determined to stand by their Big Tobacco sugar-daddies, thus tossing the Democrats a nice slow softball for their 30-second ads this fall: "Democrats love children; Republicans love tobacco cash, even if it means more kids hooked and more addicts dead." Home run.
As if this were not enough, Gingrich is leading the charge to extend federal subsidies for ethanol. Of the $600 million taxpayers will be forking over to ethanol-producing companies every year until 2007, half will go to Archer-Daniels-Midland -- which will no doubt turn around and reinvest a portion of it in enormous campaign contributions. In the past six years, ADM and its grateful chairman Dwayne Andreas have contributed $1,917,268 to the GOP and $1,054,000 to the Democrats. To paraphrase Johnny Chung, drop half-a-million annually in the federal Turnstile and get $300 million back -- a rate of return that would make Warren Buffet drool.
It's no wonder that Newt Gingrich is willing to do anything to protect the subsidy, even replacing on the conference committee an ethanol opponent, Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer (R-Texas), with an ethanol lover, Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa).
Three years ago in a speech to the Natural Gas Supply Association, Gingrich let the cat out the bag by calling the ethanol subsidies "a political decision." Then in the wink-wink, nudge-nudge street hustle of contemporary politics, he added that if natural gas were "subsidized as much as ethanol, it would be astonishing the difference it would make." Obviously, if natural gas producers want to get serious, they need to contribute a few million dollars to the GOP. Buying your senator or congressman is clearly the most prudent investment a company can make. How this differs from Al Capone buying off judges in Chicago is a topic worthy of debate in civics classes if not the Sunday morning talk shows which, incidentally, are subsidized by ADM.
Of course, ethanol isn't the only needy case for a hand-out from the public till. The corporate welfare juggernaut this year includes plenty of pork in the $218-billion highway bill and $60 billion in other corporate subsidies. The same Republicans who took over Congress in 1994 promising radical reform have ended up as staunch protectors of the status quo.
This does not bode well for the upcoming mid-term elections. "House Republicans are really, really nervous, bordering on panic," says Charles Cook, who is monitoring Congress for the publication Roll Call. "A lot of them believe that their majorities are in jeopardy." And why should we be surprised? Even the most ballyhooed bipartisan achievement -- the balanced budget -- epitomizes the failure of Republican leadership. It is about $300 billion higher than when the GOP assumed control of Congress in 1995, with tax cuts that Rep. David McIntosh accurately described as "anemic and an embarrassment."
But with Nov. 3 less than six months away, Republicans are singing again their old canticles: Lower taxes, smaller government, an end to business as usual. There is no music to the song, though, and no credibility to the singers.So Republicans will just have to hope that the president's disregard of the law and of all unpleasant realities, domestic and foreign, will finally catch up with him and his acquiescing party. What a tragic indictment of our political system: Let the least obviously corrupt man win.
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