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Dark of Heartness, Part II: Compassionless Conservatives

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Message David Michael Green

Imagine our shock at Paul Wolfowitz’s shock. He not only masterminded humanity’s greatest current catastrophe, the US invasion of Iraq, but he did so by fabricating and marketing a complete mythological cosmology of Good versus Evil (Bush good! Saddam bad!), the likes of which might have left even Jim Jones envious and amazed. And he did so in a fashion that no doubt brought a posthumous smile to the face of his graduate school mentor, Leo Strauss, who taught that we of the hoi polloi don’t have the right stuff to maintain our democracy, and thus need enlightened elites like Wolfowitz to spoon feed us religion and other fairytales in order to keep us on the right course, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

But then, of course, the whole dang thing came a cropper in Baghdad, and – as if the symmetries between Vietnam and Iraq weren’t already spookily profound enough – Wolfie found himself following the trail of shame pioneered by Robert McNamara, casually parachuting out of his Pentagon office and into the presidency of the World Bank. (Does this mean that, like McNamara, thirty years from now Wolfowitz will be the subject of a feature film in which he kinda sorta apologizes for his grand goof? We’ll just have to wait and see if he becomes the last human on earth to recognize the full magnitude of his spectacular achievement in Mesopotamia.) Meanwhile, safely ensconced at the apex of financial (as opposed to military) power, Wolfowitz simply refused any longer to answer questions related to his previous employment. Though the dead and the dying of Iraq will not be any time soon, Wolfowitz had simply moved on.

And, with seemingly nary a whiff of irony about him, he came to his new position preaching the virtues of ‘accountability’. Moreover, Wolfowitz – dictatorial leadership style no worse for wear after the last go ‘round – blasted into the World Bank declaring that the evils of corruption were the key source of global development problems, and that rooting them out would become job one at the Bank. But now he and his supporters, including the Wall Street Journal, the National Review and the White House, profess shock at all the hullabaloo generated by the revelation that the anti-corruption president was ordering up massive promotions for his girlfriend (also his employee) while simultaneously preaching the gospel of squeaky clean, again with no apparent sense of irony. So Mr. Accountability is now running around trying to make sure that no one holds Mr. Anti-Corruption accountable for his corruption. Meanwhile, Mr. It’s-All-About-Me is utterly uncomprehending when it comes to understanding other people’s feelings about all this.

What’s going on, here? Sadly, a pattern.

But at least one which we’ve finally figured out. Did you hear about the recent study in which biologists discovered an overwhelmingly robust relationship between genetics and ideology? It seems that, like chimps (with no offense intended to my furry primate friends), conservatives are 99.87 percent identical to fully developed homo sapiens, except that they are missing one particular strand of DNA that scientists say is intimately linked with the human capacity for compassion.

In the world of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, the fact that the above paragraph is not true (or at least not yet; or at least not to my knowledge) would, of course, be a fact of little consequence (in fact, it wouldn’t be a fact at all). If the assertion had any utility in advancing one or more of their venal objectives, it would be promptly employed, regardless of its veracity. Like, for example – and I’ll just make something up at random here – mushroom cloud smoking guns, or knowing for sure where the WMD were stashed in Iraq (around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat, of course).

And its too bad I’m not self-loathing enough to traffic in the sort of bald-faced lies which have become a staple of the regressive diet in recent decades, because this scientific non-finding concerning the missing bit of DNA would otherwise explain so much, wouldn’t it?

Have you noticed with the regressive right how the rules that they love to apply to you and me somehow don’t seem to apply to them? And that when those rules inevitably come crashing into even their privileged lives that they miraculously have a change of heart? And it does happen inevitably. As even the non-regressive New Jersey governor Jon Corzine just found out, while politicians may often successfully place themselves above the law, the laws of physics offer no such exemptions to either the rich or the powerful (and Corzine is very much both). (Note to the good folks reading this: Wear your seatbelt. Note to Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of youse nasties: Your safety belt usage is optional.)

But, seriously, have you noticed that the only time you see compassion from conservatives is when it applies to them (which means, of course, that it’s not really compassion at all)? That’s just the pattern, isn’t it? That’s precisely how it works. The examples are myriad.

Quick, name one conservative figure who is an avid supporter of ending the gun madness which claims thirty thousand casualties in this country every year. Why, it’s James Brady. How could we possibly explain the uniqueness of this apostasy by a former leading figure in the Reagan administration? Could it have anything to do with the bullet that penetrated his skull in the course of the attempt on Reagan’s life?

And while we’re talking Reagans, how ‘bout that Nancy, eh? She’s a solid citizen, isn’t she? A good, old-fashioned regressive from the Marie Antoinette school. A firm supporter of tax cuts for the rich, war-mongering wherever possible, and eviscerating school lunch programs for indigent children (what, you have a problem with counting ketchup as a vegetable?). Except, of course, for one issue where she’s broken publicly with the troglodyte tendency: stem cell research. What’s amazing about that, if you think about it, is the massive coincidence of her position on that issue and the fact that she suffered for years taking care of her husband while Alzheimer’s – a disease likely to be cured by such research – turned his brain to mush. What a bizarre, random, happenstance!

If your heart bleeds for Nancy, it must surely go out to Dick Cheney, who could (literally and figuratively) badly use it. Don’t you just feel awful for this guy, the way he gets roughed up over his daughter’s sexual orientation? When she and her lesbian partner gave birth to a child they are raising together, journalists actually asked Grandad questions about that! With such impudence having consumed the bold gatekeepers of the Fourth Estate, it is no wonder Cheney got all huffy and refused to answer. For crissakes, you’d think he was one of those crass politicians who win elections by using gays as political whipping boys or something! Cheney seems to be saying that people’s sexual orientation is their own business, not the government’s, and I for one am glad that he’s there in Washington making sure that’s so. You go, Dick!

I’m also glad that Jeb Bush is out there protecting us from the thinly-veiled racism that politicians of a certain persuasion are fond of using when (gay-bashing having lost its bite), they pontificate with malice aforethought about the current illegal immigration ‘crisis’. Not Jeb, though. He’s a regular profile in courage. That’s why it was reported that "the Florida governor calls the anti-immigration ‘chest pounding’ of politicians hurtful". You really have to admire selfless politicians like Jebby, willing to cut across the vicious political grain of the regressive right, with nothing in it for themselves, and stand four-square behind fundamental human rights principles like..., like..., well, like not demonizing immigrants in order to score political points. Oh, did I mention that Jeb’s wife Columba is Mexican?

If you’re like me, you’ve long recognized Trent Lott and his Republican colleagues as stalwart advocates for the ordinary guy against the evils of corporate predators continually seeking to ransack hapless Americans, pin them to the wall, and fleece them mercilessly. Frankly, looking at the senator’s voting record in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy, draconian bankruptcy laws, or meat-axe cuts to social spending can be a bit deceiving. He’s really a powerful voice in Washington for the downtrodden who are forever getting kicked around by big business. It was no surprise, then, that Lott was fuming at the despicable treatment that insurance companies doled out to the already miserable citizens of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes. Who wouldn’t be incensed at the insurance companies refusing to pay off claims due to policyholders? "I am outraged," he said. "I’m concerned there are lots of abuses in the aftermath of the hurricane." Of course, given his well-established track record fighting for the little guy, I doubt seriously that State Farm’s rejection of Lott’s personal claim for his loss of a $400,000 home had anything to do with his position on this issue. (Memo to State Farm CEO: Fire your entire senior management team for a complete absence of political savvy. Memo to State Farm Board: Fire your CEO for making lousy personnel choices.)

You see the same kind of thing with guys like Clarence Thomas, who vigilantly and even vehemently guards the barricades against the societal corrosion endemic to programs like affirmative action. Apparently, nothing so incenses the good justice more than the idea that historically thwarted classes of individuals might get some remedial assistance from governing institutions to overcome the barriers they still face today. Preposterous! Offensive! Outrageous! Rightly so, Judge T. has so far found only one single individual for whom the advantages of affirmative action seem to pass muster against his strict criteria for protection of the endangered commonweal. What is so bizarre is the remarkable coincidence in all this: This person has exactly the same name as the judge! (Whether he also shares Justice Thomas’ passion for pornography is unknown at this time.)

But you gotta love Matthew Dowd, especially. With the exception of Karl Rove, perhaps no one in the world is more responsible for making sure that George W. Bush is your president. It seems that Dowd, the chief campaign strategist for the 2004 Bush campaign, was just utterly enthralled with the personality of Young George, going all the way back to Texas days. And who could blame him for that? Smart, articulate, heroic, uniting, tolerant, wise – George W. Bush has it all. "It's almost like you fall in love", Dowd said (not that kind of love, of course – even Cheney’s not up for this one). So Matt did what needed to be done (and, trust me on this, there was a lot, and it was ugly) to push The Disaster That Is Bush over the finish line in 2004. Now, barely two years later, he reveals that it was a mistake, so much so that recently he had actually even written an op-ed piece entitled "Kerry Was Right". He somehow never quite managed to submit it, but that’s another story.

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)
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