Process

The national Republican party feels at home campaigning. Attack ads, nasty whispering campaigns, intimations of inadequacy, thinly veiled threats … it’s a mindset they’re comfortable in. They slide into it like the body into a dance learned years ago, kinetic memory taking over. Parry, thrust, bazooka.

It’s not so surprising, the U.S. attorney firing scandal. We’ve known for a long time that there was nothing they wouldn’t use. We’ve known about it at least since Valerie Plame was outed, maybe before that, maybe all the way back to McCain in South Carolina, that there was nothing they wouldn’t leverage for political gain.

What the U.S. attorney firing scandal proves is that there’s really only one thing these guys know how to do. And so when they get elected, they act like governing is still campaigning because that’s all they know. They don’t get that it’s a different process, that you have to do boring shit like hire competent people to run FEMA and the Justice Department, that you have to hire competent people even if they’re assholes who disagree with you because in the long run that’s what needs to happen to get the job done.

At every turn in the past seven years, before every major disaster, the Bush administration instead of hiring some bureaucrats who’d be dull and insist on compliance with the law hired party political hacks who shoved their ideology into places expertise should have been and made fucked-up situations worse. FEMA during Katrina, the OSP before the war, Condi in the State Department, Bremer in Iraq. The kids from the Heritage Foundation losing billions in Baghdad.

Campaigning is all they knew how to do. So when they got elected and had to govern, they just kept on campaigning. Mission Accomplished. Path to 9/11. Photo ops instead of action, shopping instead of enlistment, blaming the victims instead of airlifting them away from the flood. It’s a different job, campaigning is, and it calls for different talents these days than governing does. Plenty of good politicians are middling campaigners (Kerry, Gore, etc) and plenty of good campaigners get their asses into the chair and then go, “Oh, shit, now this actually has to work.

But they could have learned, you know, and if you’re a Republican you’ve got to be pissed off, that they could have done what they promised to do during the 2000 campaign and actually listened to smart people around them. They could have left some departments alone while they were handing out jobs to their cronies like candy corn at a carnival. They could have taken classes, for chrissake, in policy and procedure, and what you’re expected to do and they could have learned to be grown-ups once they got into the job, for the sake of the country and their own miserable souls.

Instead, they just kept right on campaigning, and this is the result:

“Eight U.S. attorneys who did not play ball with the political agenda of this administration were dropped from the team,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois. “We have a right to ask what that political agenda was and whether or not it was a reasonable firing and dismissal.”

Some of the fired prosecutors testified last week that lawmakers leaned on them to speed up prosecutions that would hurt Democrats. Others said they felt intimidated by the agency to stay quiet. All of them were miffed by the Justice Department’s contention that the dismissals were performance-related. The department then fired back, enumerating publicly what were described as performance problems for each of the fired prosecutors.

Gonzales at first shrugged off the furor as an “overblown personnel matter” in a USA Today column. A day later, the inspector general of his department released a report showing a different problem: The Justice Department had abused its power to issue secret national security letters seeking people’s personal information.

It’s a different process, governing. Maybe next time around, maybe in a year or so when American voters are looking at candidates, we can actually pay attention to that fact.

A.

10 thoughts on “Process

  1. mrstrailerco says:

    This is the premise of Tom Oliphant’s next book. I’ve heard him discuss this theory many times on Al Franken’s show. All of this would be fine . . . if they were selling soap. Or even aluminum siding door to door. The only way this stops is to put Karl Rove in jail and restrict his phone and computer priviledges.

  2. lauren says:

    everybody needs to calm the heck down there are little girls in this website looking at these comments and seeing ya’ll say all these inapproprite conversations.
    Thank you and goodnight

  3. Ripley says:

    But it’s not about doing the right thing, with these morons, it’s about being #1 and getting their way and ‘winning’ and appearances… and the Devil take the hind-most.
    Actually, this entire crew and all their supporters can be summed up simply by this: “As long as I get mine”…
    Fuck the poor, fuck the needy, fuck the Others – and god help you if you veer off course and notice that somebody’s being fucked. Shift the blame, leave the country when the heat is on, shout down the Truth, grab and fuck and pillage and Run, Forrest, Run! before the subpoenas start trickling down (up?).
    Fuck the values voters (sorry!), fuck the moderates (sorry!), fuck the ‘Centrists’ (sorry!), fuck America – if there’s money to be made – fuck anyone who gets in the way of The Plan, and Keep On Fuckin’!
    These are not men. They’re not adults, they’re not patriots and they’re not good citizens (oh, yeah – fuck that ‘defend the Constitution’ business – where’s the money in that?) They’re selfish, spoiled children in expensive suits with no regard for the Common Man.
    We don’t have a Democracy anymore. It’s more like Uriah Heep and Veruca Salt spent a night drinking Tequila and smoking crack, then dropped their love children on the doorstep of the White House.
    God help us all…

  4. ql in ny says:

    Wow, I had this exact conversation yesterday with a co-worker. It’s part of the reason I really want a wonk in the WH next. It is going to take an incredible amount of work to put the Federal government back together again. As GWPDA has pointed out, they have decimated the Civil Service. Figuring out how to build it again is going to take a long time and a lot of boring work.

  5. Ruth says:

    Good thinking Athena, and it looks ever more likely that the criminals will be prosecuted. On the verge of an economic meltdown, the use of high office for the purposes of political gain is going to become intolerable even to the willfully ignorant. A lot of oxen are getting gored.

  6. dan mcenroe says:

    “…they act like governing is still campaigning because that’s all they know.”
    Jesus, you got that right. And Ripley’s identified the other half of the problem – their almost mind-numbing, childish sense of entitlement. That’s what makes them think things oversight and regulation exisit only to fuck with them – never for a minute wondering if maybe, just maybe, they were created because the system works better with them than without them. Never even enters their mind.

  7. LMAO . . that’s even better than Chuck Jones’ er . . Michael Maltese’s take:
    “Ho, haha, guard, turn, parry, dodge, spin, ha, thrust! *BOING*”
    The GOP has become the latest expression of Daffy Duck in the real world.

  8. As Molly Ivins said: “They don’t want to govern. They want to rule.”
    Maybe we’ve figured that out, too. Maybe know we understand the difference.
    One can only hope.

  9. As Molly Ivins said: “They don’t want to govern. They want to rule.”
    Maybe we’ve figured that out, too. Maybe know we understand the difference.
    One can only hope.

  10. hoppycalif says:

    We just had a Congressional election. The Democrats won a slim majority in both houses of Congress. If the voters really had learned anything, we would have large majorities in both houses. If the voters had really learned anything, there would be a groundswell in favor of immediate impeachment of both the President and vice President. I’m afraid a near majority of the voters has an IQ too low to learn the important stuff.

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