ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There's a strange contradiction inherent in conservative lectures about freedom, individual responsibility and smaller government and the right's determination to undo established law when it comes to personal life-altering decisions. Couched in the endless rhetoric about abortion, health-care legislation and the deficit is a kind of mindless, one-note approach to what Tea Partiers and the far right would prescribe for the country.
Riding a triumphal electoral wave, newly established members of Congress are bent on re-opening their standard array of issues acting as if they were new ideas and a fresh approach to our national condition. At CPAC this past weekend, Newt Gingrich reached back over the years to amuse attendees with a recapitulation of Lloyd Bentsen's zinger when Dan Quayle sought to compare himself to Jack Kennedy during the 1988 vice-presidential debate. Bentsen who knew Kennedy scored with his retort that Quayle was no Jack Kennedy. Gingrich had to stretch to draw an analogy between then and now since President Obama had made no such comparison between Ronald Reagan and himself but rather mused about the former president's ability to connect with voters. Although it pleased the CPAC audience, when Gingrich reached his climactic "you're no Ronald Reagan" others of us could only breathe a sigh of relief and say thank goodness.
So much for comic relief as Gingrich droned on with tired old platitudes about the sanctity of life, taxes and states rights. Applause greeted his remarks about lower taxes although taxes are currently at an all-time low. Still, proposals to repeal the estate tax continue to be a conservative crowd pleaser although it is a tax that affects only a few of the country's most affluent taxpayers while providing much-needed revenue. And broadsides unleashed against the president were typical of the mindless approach old-guard Republicans cling to and Tea Partiers embrace. Curiously, the word recession is never uttered at any of these confabs, as if there were no influences affecting fiscal policy other than a left-wing urge to drain the treasury.
In fact the highest purpose among the Republican majority is to restate their long-held belief systems. We are thrust into the middle of the abortion debate one might have thought had long since been settled. In one subcommittee hearing Chairman Trent Franks sought to 'educate' the audience about some of the more gruesome procedures he referred to as "dismemberment abortion." The point of this excruciating exercise was to promote passage of H.R. 3 banning taxpayer-funded abortions, something that hasn't been at issue since the Hyde amendment was passed years ago.
The real purpose of these harangues is to further limit a woman's right to choose; there are even members of Congress who would dictate when or if an abortion under any circumstances could be sanctioned by attending physicians, family members and women themselves You may have thought the new Congress would be serious about budgeting, foreign involvements, education and defense spending only to find that once again social issues provide the best opportunity for legislators to grandstand in an attempt to establish their moral bona fides - - an assault on personal freedom and a surrender to governmental oversight that flies in the face of stated Republican ideals.
A fascinating but distressing feature of Tea Party thinking is its fiendishly one-track mind. It focuses on what it defines as fiscal purity, a standard that often ignores reality. Across-the-board cuts, for example fail to consider what a particular cut might mean in terms of human need or unfinished projects. It is the intellectual grappling of people whose arguments are incoherent attempts to find solutions before they have accurately defined problems. And representatives of the Tea speak authoritatively about issues they are ill-equipped to address except in emotional terms. Everyone wants a better life except if they've already got the best. As has been said, 'The best medical care is going to cost, it's the American way.' You just better be able to pay for it.
Tea Partiers tend to ignore international affairs; it's just not their mission, as Amy Kremer, president of the Tea Party Express suggested on Saturday's Washington Journal. Here we are in the 21st Century with a truckload of legislators and pundits who know little about our country's history, economic theory or the way of the world. Michele Bachman tells us the founding fathers "worked tirelessly" to rid the country of slavery. Kremer can't postulate a foreign-policy criterion; neither can many of her colleagues. This is a movement the country would be foolish to trust with its future.