April 08, 2005

The GOP Way: Blame Everyone Else (Re: The Schiavo "Talking Points" Memo)



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This is in a very real way a mirror of one of the worse aspects of American culture, the propensity to blame anyone but yourself or fate for something bad that happens. When children seem badly raised, it's because of music, TV, movies, schools, video games, their friends, or society in general--but never the parents, it seems, at least according to the parents. If a person gets injured, then somebody usually gets sued--it was the fault of somebody else involved, whether they were there or if they were responsible for manufacturing or managing something involved in the accident--but not the fault of the person who got injured, and not simply an accident of fate that happened somehow.

In politics, the GOP are masters of this mindset. Always blame somebody else: the Democrats, particularly Bill Clinton, are a good target, and if you can't pin it on them, then some legal aide will do the trick. The poor economy? Blame Clinton. 9/11? Clinton. Record deficits? Due to the economy and 9/11, so blame Clinton. Valerie Plame affair? Hmm, can't blame Clinton or the Democrats for that one... it was some legal aide!

Bush himself mastered this tactic well during the 2000 election campaign, when his drunk driving arrest became public. Despite having committed such a reprehensible offense and then lied about it for so many years, and despite being a presidential candidate with such a serious offense on his record, he successfully played the revelation as being the fault of the Democrats! Here's Bush's take:

The Bush campaign charges that Democratic "dirty tricks" are responsible for the disclosure of information about George W. Bush's 1976 drunk driving arrest.

"I think the American people are tired of this kind of 'gotcha politics,'" Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes said Friday. "They're tired of this kind of last minute dirty tricks and I think the Democrats owe the American people an explanation."

Arnold Schwarzenegger similarly blamed the fifteen charges of sexual harassment against him on Gray Davis, also calling them "dirty tricks," intimating they were not his fault but should be blamed on the Democrat.

Well, it would be out of character for the GOP to stop now, wouldn't it? So that's what happened in the Terri Schiavo case, when it was revealed that there was a Republican talking-points memo floating about which called for Republicans to take advantage of the issue for political gain. The memo said that Schiavo was "an important moral issue and the pro life base will be excited," and that it is a "great political issue because Sen. Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a co-sponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats."

When this was revealed, Republicans immediately blamed the Democrats. The memo was a fake, they said, and the Democrats were undeniably guilty of having forged the memo as a political dirty trick! Republicans everywhere were discussing the forgery, especially on conservative forums where people were downright pissed off that those bastard Democrats were forging documents again! They were not only upset that the Democrats were up to their old dirty tricks, but where the hell was the press in reporting on this debacle?? It's the liberal media, at it again!!

But then it came to light that Florida GOP Senator Mel Martinez himself was the source of the memo. He actually handed the memo to Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, calling it the Republican talking points memo! Whoops!

So now, are the same outraged voices in the GOP singing mea culpas? Of course not! It still isn't a GOP blunder. It was a legal aide who wrote the memo, and Senator Martinez had no idea what was written on it when he handed it to Harkin! Of course he would never approve of such a document! In fact, he stated officially that "Until this afternoon, I had never seen it and had no idea a copy of it had ever been in my possession." Of course! His legal aide wrote the memo and put it into his pocket without the senator's knowledge, and then Martinez took the piece of paper out and handed it to Harkin, calling it the GOP "talking points memo"--but he still had "no idea" what the piece of paper was! Happens all the time!

So yet again, blame the Democrats, and when that fails, fall back on the villainous legal aide who single-handedly commits the deed without anyone else in the GOP knowing a thing about it. I gotta tell you, by now the GOP is rife with dastardly legal aides. They should do something about this infestation, 'cause it's really making them look bad.

Posted by Luis at April 8, 2005 06:37 AM
Comments

Dirty politics, but the Republicans aren't the only ones who play the blame game.

Posted by: papa at April 9, 2005 06:44 PM

Perhaps, but not comparable. We're talking about the difference between laying blame where it is deserved and laying blame anywhere you can to smear the other side and avoid personal responsibility. How many times have the Democrats blamed any Republican when that blame was not well-deserved? How many can you name? If the Democrats were just as bad, I'd agree, and there would be less to be critical of unless one pointed the criticism both ways. But when it is incidental and uncommon on one side, and it is practically a way of life for the other, then I believe a critical point could very fairly and justly be made.

But comparing the GOP and the Democrats on this point, is, I believe, unsupportable. This is a kind of comparison I have heard many times before--for example, We can't jump on Fox News because CBS is just as bad in the other direction because of the Bush NG Memo scandal. But the difference is the same as with the blame game, a difference of quality and degree. Fox is blatantly arch-conservative, and though they claim otherwise, they could not be more obvious; if CBS has a liberal bias, it can only be measured with statistics, and even then, not very strongly. CBS does not have anything near the equivalent of O'Rielly, Hannity, Hume, or a host of others. This is the degree.

As for quality, Fox quite often just makes stuff up out of whole cloth, and when they're caught, they don't apologize, don't fire those responsible, and often do not even correct themselves--and this happens on a regular basis. With CBS, the NG memos were a one-shot deal, they were fabricated outside CBS, whose major fault was in jumping at the big story without sufficient verification--but then, CBS also reported on a host of Clinton-basing stories in the 90's with just as little verification; they have shown that they go for juiciness over political leaning. (Not to mention that CBS was gung-ho in support of Bush in Iraq, and Rather himself admitted that they were far less willing to question the administration than the minimal precepts of journalism demanded.) And when CBS was proven wrong on the memo story to the degree they could not defend, they apologized, corrected themselves, and fired those responsible--and if you believe that Dan Rather was really going to leave on his own at just that time--well, I can't prove anything, but I think it's pretty clear that any big news anchor would never want to leave the game and end their career on such a low point.

In short, Fox intentionally lies on a regular basis and does not hold their people nor themselves accountable. CBS screwed up big-time once, and held themselves accountable. And yet now we have people excusing Fox news by saying CBS does it too. Chronic, unrepentant lying compared to buying into a deception, only once--not exactly the same thing. Quality and degree. So when you say that the Democrats play the blame game too, I have to respectfully disagree--unless that argument can be otherwise supported with example and fact.

Posted by: Luis at April 9, 2005 11:29 PM