Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Republicans' Theory of Government as Bankrupt as Lehman Bros.

In all the media hubbub over the McCain campaign's three gaffes yesterday (one, two, and three), I think we overlooked a subtler but more fundamental revelation that sums up the Republican Party's entire theory of government: it's not that big a deal.

When Carly Fiorina, one of McCain's top economic advisors and former (ousted) CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was asked on a radio show whether she believed vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin "has the experience to run a major company, like Hewlett-Packard," Fiorina answered abruptly, "No I don't. But you know what? That's not what she's running for [laughs]. Running a corporation is a different set of things." A tougher set of things, she meant to say.

The media apparently realized that this was a pretty dumb thing to say before Fiorina realized it, because when Andrea Mitchell asked her about it later on MSNBC, she not only reiterated it. She amplified it!

"Well, I don't think John McCain could run a major corporation; I don't think Barack Obama could run a major corporation; I don't think Joe Biden could run a major corporation. But, on the other hand, running a major corporation is not the same as being the president or the vice president of the United States. It is a fallacy to suggest that the country is like a company."

Wikipedia describes "gaffe" partially as a mistake "that may come from saying something that is true, but inappropriate." Fiorina's statements yesterday were a gaffe of the highest order. They represented exactly what Bush, McCain, and the Republican Party have come to think of government. The only mistake was that someone forgot to tell Fiorina it was a secret.

Remember when Bush bragged about being just a C-student? Remember "Heckuva Job" Brownie, whom Bush had appointed to FEMA in time for him to completely botch the Katrina evacuation and recovery? How about Harriet Miers, the startlingly unqualified Bush nod to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor who went on to a dwindling career of Congress-stalling ignominy? How about Monica Goodling and the other 149 graduates of Pat Robertson's sham law school Regent University who found their way into the Bush Administration, surely on their merits, just in time to be at the center of the U.S. Attorneys scandal?

Well, that's just Bush's Washington, you might say. Fair enough, how about the employees of the Department of the Interior who were sharing alcohol, drugs, and illicit sex with the very oil employees they were supposed to be overseeing and regulating? They were in Denver, away from Washington, proving that Republican incompetence spans at least 2/3 of our continent.

Even so, you say, that still falls under the giant umbrella known as "The Bush Administration." In a McCain Campaign, the era of bad government is over. He's a maverick! He's going to take on the special interests and clean up Washington. Change is coming, and it's riding in on a white horse called competence!

Of course, the problem with that is that, in the single most important decision he has had to make so far in this campaign, he chose one-half-term Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate -- a person who thinks she's ready to be commander-in-chief because she can see Russia from her state, who doesn't have any definition of the Bush Doctrine, let alone the right one, who has switched her position on the Bridge to Nowhere from "yes" to "no," and who has also switched her position on cooperating with an investigation into her possible abuses of power with the same answers. Even current and/or former McCain fans Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., Charlie Krauthammer, David Brooks, David Will, and Richard Cohen have noted how unready, how unqualified, how strikingly lacking in basic competence Palin is.

Which brings us back to Fiorina. The thrust of her argument was that government wasn't rocket science, that little old America could make do with the leftovers after all the corporations, heck, even small businesses had had their pick of the litter. It's in keeping with Cindy McCain's nakedly tone-deaf statement at the Republican Convention that life would be a dream, sweetheart, if we could just get the pesky government off our backs and out of our way!

With apologies to Hallmark, the Republican Party's motto should be, "America: When You Care Enough to Send the Fair-to-Middlin'."

Nearly three decades ago, Ronald Reagan said of the nation's crisis at the time, "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. " But when Republicans took the reins of power, rather than shrinking government, or streamlining it, or staffing it with the best-qualified, most competent, most highly productive employees it could find in order to reduce the waste of the public's cash and confidence, they have taken the law-school-by-mail, Brownie/Harriet/Carly/Crony route and left us with the most broke, least competent, least efficient government in my lifetime.

Fiorina's statement that McCain/Palin aren't fit to run Hewlett-Packard but are quite good enough to lead the free world is nothing more than the bastard child of a bankrupt philosophy and unimaginative minds. It reminds me of Ananias and Sapphira, who in the Book of Acts told the Apostles that they had given their very best to the Church but who, in reality, had held back their choicest offerings for themselves. And God struck them dead.

I know America isn't God, but I'm a guy who believes America deserves the very best leadership and governance we can find. "Good enough" isn't good enough for the greatest country in the history of the world.

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