Sorry I’m a bit late with this column. It’s not because I am an alcoholic and have checked into rehab. Or because I am a gay man. Or because as a young choir boy I was fondled by priests. Or because in the ’80s I voted for Gerry Studds, or because I’ve been too busy IMing interns with one hand while .?.?. um .?.?. er .?.?.
No. I’ve been far too preoccupied splashing around in a 45-foot pool of schadenfreude while watching a sinking boatload of hypocritical Republicans finally reap their much-delayed political comeuppance. Who can be more deserving of this sordid Foleygate scandal than a generation of sanctimonious, smug congressional Republicans who have poisoned the previous decade with endless self-righteous sermonizing (and companion legislation) on everything from partial-birth abortion, to gay marriage, to hysteria over sex offenders, to Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube?
I’ve got some liberal friends, believe it or not, who are dismayed by the Foley scandal. They’re terribly disappointed with the salacious response of the unwashed American masses and would oh-so-prefer that all the current heat be evoked not by Foley’s fiddlings, but by something more politically correct like Rumsfeld’s war, Bush’s torture bill, Cheney’s general evilness. They think it trivial, distracting, perhaps even flirting with homophobia, that Foley’s real or imagined sex life should now be at the center of our news agenda — even if it is killing off the Republicans.
Those Democrats just don’t get it. Why should they? They’re the same lugs who couldn’t and wouldn’t comprehend how Bill Clinton’s Oval Office orgasmics were, indeed, about much more than a mere blowjob and how they led directly to a disgusted nation electing one George W. Bush.
In Foley’s case, it’s true that not so many Americans are really that scandalized by what he might have typed out to some teenage pages. But Foleygate has rudely yanked a national nerve, symbolizing and crystallizing into one juicy tabloid story all of the cumulative cluelessness, corruption and corrosion that has piled up during the Bush era. Americans have simply had enough: of Abramoff, of Cunningham, of Brownie, of a visibly deranged secretary of defense playing chicken with the world, with a snarling veep who looks like he just ate one of your kids, of a boobish president who continues to justify a war that is spiraling out of all control, of an arrogant White House that is always right and never in need of listening to anyone else. The story of a lecherous and closeted Christer who tried to pork the same-sex underage pages while Denny Hastert looked the other way is just too much to not remind everyone of the fundamental dysfunction of the guys in charge.
I had argued more than a year ago, in the immediate post-Katrina moment, that this sort of ignominious collapse of the Bush era was inevitable. But who could have guessed it would be, um, quite so ignominious, finished off by some overheated congressional pud pulling. Talk about going out with not a bang but a whimper!
The devastating national polls read like the autopsy report of a meticulous coroner precisely recording the weight and dimension of each diseased organ: presidential favorability rating: 34 percent; congressional favorability rating: 32 percent; confidence in Republicans to manage taxpayers’ money: 29 percent; percentage who think Bush is lying about or misrepresenting war in Iraq: 83 percent. Number of House seats the GOP admits it might lose next month: 30. Attending experts agree the Republican Senate may also be severed. And Republicans are edging close to losing their current majority of governors’ seats.
And all this in spite of the absence of an authentic opposition party. Imagine the above numbers if the Democrats could actually produce a compelling, credible, alternative national narrative. Or even a coherent position on the No. 1 issue on voters’ minds — not Foley, but the war in Iraq. On the war, we continue to drown in Democratic gobbledygook about “redeployment .?.?. repositioning over-the-horizon .?.?. phased time-tables” ad infinitum.
Oh well, it’s all now of little import. The history books will record that the conservative revolution, dreamed up by Goldwater, enacted and expanded by Reagan, and at least sloppily maintained by Bush 41, had a long and glorious life, inexorably spreading its influence over the cultural and political centers of America; until, that is, it made the fatal error of letting George W. Bush take over.
Maybe the real credit in this story should go, as usual, to beady-eyed Karl Rove, himself a half-baked Texas mediocrity until he latched onto the vehicle of George W. Bush. Rove single-handedly molded the otherwise forgettable Texas governor into a two-term U.S. president. And now — with only a little help from his friends, an assist from Mother Nature and some indiscretions from a Florida backbencher — he has begun to destroy all that he (and Reagan) had wrought.
Good riddance. The noise you hear from just offstage is the death rattle of the conservative revolution, smothered not by some grand progressive counterstrategy, but rather a victim of its own banality and venality. Pity there is no alternative movement ready to step in and replace it.