WE TELL OURSELVES EMBARRASSINGLY OBVIOUS LIES IN ORDER TO LIVE
At the Carpetbagger Report, Steve Benen reads the New York Times story "Question of Timing on Bush’s Push on Earmarks" and says he's puzzled:
In the midst of a likely recession, and instability in the global markets, the president devoted 149 words of his State of the Union address to the economic downturn and what he wants to do about it. Conversely, he gave almost exactly the same amount of attention to decrying congressional budget earmarks....
These comments, delivered early on in the speech, were music to the ears of conservatives, and congressional Republicans were delighted by the remarks. (At a recent retreat for GOP lawmakers, Republicans decided reforming the earmark process would be the key to reclaiming the congressional majority.)
I'm afraid I just can't fathom why this has reached the top of the Republican list of domestic priorities.... pork-barrel spending exploded once the GOP controlled both Congress and the White House.... Now, after six years of spending like drunken sailors, Republicans believe one of their worst habits is going to be the key to their political salvation? Really?
Hey, Steve, I get it. You're focusing on what they think is their problem. You need to look at what they don't think is their problem.
Republicans have told themselves a fairytale: that they lost control of Congress in '06 not because voters were sick of the war or feeling economic anxiety, or because of the GOP's handling of Katrina and the Terri Schiavo case, but because Republicans weren't Republican enough -- they didn't stay true to their principles and hold the line on wasteful spending.
This, of course, is a fairytale within a fairytale -- as Steve says, Republicans have never held the line on spending in living memory. But Republicans think they're not the tax-and-spend party because Saint Reagan said Democrats were the tax-and-spend party and Republicans weren't -- even as America's debt skyrocketed on his watch.
The earmarks-defeated-us thesis was advanced immediately after the '06 elections by people such as Michael Reagan:
We are hearing all sorts of reasons why the GOP got, in George Bush’s word, "thumped." We're told it was Iraq, or that it was the incompetence and corruption of some of its members. Some cited the unpopularity of the president, implying that it rubbed off on the House members who went down to defeat last Tuesday.
While there is some validity to all these complaints, they miss the mark by ignoring the real cause of the Nov. 7 electoral disaster -- the fact that Republicans had stopped acting the way Republicans are meant to act, and began acting as clones of big-government, big-spending Democrats....
The GOP leadership allowed some of their number to corrupt their own party. In the notorious, pork-laden "bridge-to-nowhere" transportation bill last year they promised certain earmark goodies to certain members of Congress if they would support the bill....
And we heard it again last week in the GOP debate, from John McCain, in pretty much the same words:
We Republicans lost an election. We lost an election because of the Bridge to Nowhere and the fact that we presided over the biggest increase in the size of government that -- a sense of [G]reat [S]ociety, we let it get out of control.
The alternate explanation -- that GOP governing principles have actually been wrong, on earmarks and the war and a host of other issues -- is simply impossible for Republicans to accept. Either that or they do accept it, but they think they'll look weak if they say so out loud.