Republican and neo-cons like to think of themselves as tough, macho realists, while we progressives are supposedly flower children living in la-la land. But the latest Republican debate showed that it is they who are the real "feel-good" party. They spent most of their time talking, not about real issues that have real consequences, but about how we can save face and feel good about ourselves.
Take for instance, the ridiculous spat between McCain and Romney, based - as Randi Rhodes pointed out - on something Romney didn't actually say. McCain accused Romney of considering - gasp! - a phased withdrawal from Iraq, which McCain defined as surrendering to al Qaeda. The facts - that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, that al Qaeda in Iraq only materialized after we invaded - have nothing to do with the argument. Neither does any kind of rational reasoning, which would recognize that more pointless deaths would not justify previous deaths, or that McCain's argument amounts to endless war, as even he admits. And what if the conditions the Republicans keep putting on even considering withdrawing - the end of a terrorist safe haven in Iraq, and political progress in the Iraqi government - will only happen if we leave? We'll never get to find that out, if we dig our heels in, convinced of the healing power of our presence.
But McCain's argument was not about any of these things. It was simply about how it would feel so much better to somehow say we "won," (never mind the continued failure to consistently define winning), than to admit we made a horrible mistake. McCain and other Republicans add insult to injury, by pretending that to admit a mistake on the part of the Bush Administration is to somehow denigrate the work of the troops. This insult to the troops' intelligence, and manipulation of their sacrifice for political gain, is beneath contempt.
(I can hear Ron Paul supporters saying that he is different on the issue of Iraq. Yes, he is, but I would counter that he has little chance of being the nominee, and also that his extreme libertarian economic positions make up for his reasonableness on Iraq. Moreover, he joins his colleagues when it comes to tax cuts.)
The same "feel-good" mind-set also applies to taxes. The Republican panel never provided any evidence that tax cuts help the economy. In fact, in the face of a looming economic downturn, their solution was to do more of the same - make the Bush tax cuts permanent! Talk about the definition of insanity being expecting a different result with the same actions! But the facts don't matter - what's important is that it feels good to take a rugged individualist stance, rather than be serious about running the government and managing the economy.
One more thought about Republican fantasy land (which was alluded to in the Democratic debate): someone has to challenge Romney on this nonsense about him being in the "real economy." We all live in the real economy, whether we work in the public sector or private sector, whether we work in an office or in the home. As Keith Olbermann almost subliminally alluded to in the post-Democratic debate coverage, (and Thom Hartmann often points out on his radio show), one important difference between running a government and running a corporation or business, is that the latter are not democracies, and they do not require the same kind of negotiation and compromise that government work does.
Thank goodness the Democratic debate at least focused on reality.