You might have guessed from the thinness of posting here that I am busy at the moment, but the Anonymous Economist recommends this (non-free) editorial from the New York Times. I extract the first five and last three paragraphs:
IF you believed Tom DeLay then, you no doubt believe now that the deposed House majority leader is only on “temporary” leave from his powerful perch in Washington and that he’ll soon bounce back, laughing all the way, from a partisan witch hunt that unjustly requires his brief discomfort in a Texas courtroom.
Those who still live in the reality-based community, however, may sense they’re watching the beginning of the end of something big. It’s not just Mr. DeLay, a k a the Hammer, who is on life support, but a Washington establishment whose infatuation with power and money has contaminated nearly every limb of government and turned off a public that by two to one finds the country on the wrong track.
But don’t take my word for it. And don’t listen to the canned talking points of the Democrats, who are still so busy trying to explain why they were for the war in Iraq before they were against it that it’s hard to trust their logic on anything else. Listen instead to Andrew Ferguson, of the conservative Rupert Murdoch magazine, The Weekly Standard. As far back as last December in a cover article on the sleazy lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Mr. Ferguson was already declaring “the end of the Republican Revolution.”
He painted the big picture of the Abramoff ethos in vibrant strokes: the ill-gotten Indian gambling moolah snaking through the bank accounts of a network of DeLay cronies and former aides; the “fact-finding” Congressional golfing trips to further the cause of sweatshop garment factories in the Marianas islands; the bogus “think tank” in Rehoboth Beach, Del., where the two scholars in residence were a yoga instructor and a lifeguard (albeit a “lifeguard of the year”). Certain names kept recurring in Mr. Ferguson’s epic narrative, most prominently Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, Republican money-changers who are as tightly tied to President Bush and Karl Rove as they are to Mr. Abramoff and Mr. DeLay, if not more so.
The bottom line, Mr. Ferguson wrote, was a culture antithetical to everything conservatives had stood for in the Gingrich revolution of 1994. Slaying a corrupt, bloated Democratic establishment was out, gluttony for the G.O.P. and its fat cats was in. Mr. Abramoff and his gang embodied the very enemy the “Contract With America” Congress had supposedly come to Washington to smite: ” ‘Beltway Bandits,’ profiteers who manipulate the power of big government on behalf of well-heeled people who pay them tons of money to do so.” Those tons of Republican money were deposited in the favors bank of K Street, where, as The Washington Post reported this year, the number of lobbyists has more than doubled (to some 35,000) since the Bush era began in 2000. Conservatives who once aspired to cut government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub” – as a famous Norquist maxim had it – merely outsourced government instead to the highest bidder.
This is the culture that has given us the government we have. It’s a government that has spent more of the taxpayers’ money than any since L.B.J.’s (as calculated by the Cato Institute, a libertarian research institution), even as it rewards its benefactors with tax breaks and corporate pork. It’s a government so used to lying that Mr. DeLay could say with a straight face that the cost of Katrina relief could not be offset by budget cuts because there was no governmental fat left to cut. It’s the government that fostered the wholesale loss of American lives in both Iraq and on the Gulf Coast by putting cronyism above patriotism.
The courts can punish crooks, but they can’t reform democracy from the ground up, and the voters can’t get into the game until 2006. Meanwhile, on the Republican side, the key players both in the White House and in the leadership of both houses of Congress are either under investigation or joined at the hip to Messrs Rove, DeLay, Abramoff, Reed or Norquist. They seem to be hoping that some magical event – a sudden outbreak of peace and democracy in Iraq, the capture of Osama bin Laden, a hurricane affording better presidential photo ops than Rita – will turn things around. Dream on.
The one notable anomaly is John McCain, who retains a genuine hunger for reform, a rage at the corruption around him and the compelling motive of his presidential ambitions to push him forward; it’s his Indian Affairs Committee, after all, that exposed the hideous Abramoff cesspool to public view last year. The Democrats, bereft of leadership and ideas (though not of their own Beltway bandits), also harbor a number of would-be presidents, but they are busier positioning themselves politically than they are articulating actual positions that might indicate what a new governmental order would look like. While the Republican revolution is dead, it says everything about the power vacuum left in its wake that Geena Davis’s fictional commander in chief has more traction, as measured in Nielsen ratings and press, than any of the real-life contenders for that job in D.C.
It’s horrifying that the Democrats have so little to offer: John Kerry, for heaven’s sake! You could sneer that that’s true of the Tories here, but some of them – William Hague, Malcolm Rifkind, for instance – are far superior in character and intellect to Toni. Democracy isn’t in one of its good spells at the moment.
Oh yes, Rifkind. What character, what intellect: