The GOP hits bottom. Again.
We were about to congratulate the Palmetto State for surviving handily the mysterious four-day absence of its GOP governor, until Mark Sanford finally reappeared yesterday, to confess an extramarital relationship. Just over a week before the South Carolina governor`s revelation, U.S. Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.) fessed up to cheating on his spouse. What with sex scandals touching U.S. lawmakers David Vitter, Bob Ney and Larry Craig (until recently a long-serving GOP U.S. senator from Idaho, after whom a men's-room stall at Minneapolis International has been named), it seems the GOP has to keep learning over and over that its traditional claims to a superior adherence to family values and moral rectitude are lousy selling points if members of your own party keep running afoul of what passes for decent behaviour.
Mark Sanford, GOP governor of South Carolina, pictured left, tells reporters yesterday of his extramarital affair with an Argentine woman. Eight days earlier, U.S. Senator John Ensign (R-Nev) acknowledges his extramarital affair with a former campaign worker. Ensign is not a national figure, and is overshadowed even at home by Harry Reid (D-Nev), the Senate majority leader. But Sanford, head of the Republican governors association until his announced retirement from that post yesterday, was a rising star with 2012 presidential ambitions. Sanford sought to deny his state its $700-million (U.S.) share of the Obama stimulus package, citing his ideological opposition to intrusive government.
But it`s hypocrisy that defines the modern GOP. Look at what the Republican Party of recent decades stands for, and then its record:
* Family values and moral probity. See above. Who is this party of Newt Gingriches (cheated on his first two wives), John McCains (cheated on his first wife), Rush Limbaughs (Oxycontin addict), Bill O'Reillys (out-of-court settlement over sexual harassment of a coworker), William (Book of Virtues) Bennetts (inveterate Vegas high-roller who has inveighed against gambling) to be claiming its moral superiority over anyone?
* Fiscal probity: Under Reagan and Bush, the U.S. federal deficit exploded to record levels. In just two terms, Bill Clinton, playing the traditional Dem role of cleaning up GOP messes, turned his inherited deficit into budgetary surpluses. Successor George W. Bush promptly reverted to the GOP`s spendthrift ways, running three-digit deficits in seven of his eight years. (In Dubya`s first year, he inherited the last of the Clinton surpluses.) On leaving office, Bush Jr. bequeathed a record $1.2-trillion (U.S.) deficit to Obama. All through the Dubya years, a freespending Congress was controlled by the GOP.
* National security. Competent FBI field offices forwarded disturbing reports from everyday Americans about peculiar behaviour of al-Qaeda operatives in the U.S., circa 2000-01. But on arrival at Washington HQ, these were shelved. Dubya`s FBI didn`t talk to his CIA, and Bush himself in August 2001 tossed aside his Presidential Daily Briefing dossier labelled "Al-Qaeda poised to strike in U.S." In the Clinton White House, PDB`s of that nature routinely triggered ``Principals Meetings`` among the president, vice president, national security advisor, defense secretary, heads of the FBI, CIA, and joint chiefs of staff. Not this time. Bush churlishly told the sad-sack CIA officer who handed him the fateful warning on Air Force One that day, "Fine, you've covered your ass," and continued on to his vacation at his faux ranch in Crawford. Fact: The GOP controlled the presidency and Congress when America was hit with the worst terrorist attack in its history.
And then there`s Katrina.
The Dems are scarcely better at keeping their trousers zipped, as we well know from the antics of Clinton, John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer. And the Dems` ousted Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is proof that terrestial border security should take a backseat to building a less porous border with outer space.
The problem for Republicans, though, is that they're the ones running on the above issues - family values, careful spending of the people's money, protecting the homeland. One could argue that since Reagan came along in 1981, the GOP has done a miserable job at all three. One cannot argue that since Dubya came along in 2001, the GOP has failed manifestly at all three.
Worse for the GOP, while Dems don't hold themselves out as role models of morally straight behaviour, one of their own now occupying the White House is an overtly family man whose solid marriage and disciplined kids alone probably account for two-thirds of Obama`s high public-approval rating. Which means the GOP as never before in modern times cannot afford impropriety eruptions.
Of course, it would help if the GOP had some ideas of its own on economic recovery, the climate change spectre, energy self-reliance, educational and healthcare reform, and a foreign policy that extended beyond bullying. Today`s Republicans, with too few exceptions, present themselves as self-interested moral eunichs who would make Americans endure even harder times than these in order to maintain Dubya's tax cuts for the richest of the rich. There will be no quick fixes for the GOP image. As Obama told Republican National Committee head Michael Steele at the White House Correspondents Dinner last month, ``Unfortunately, the RNC is not eligible for the government bailout program.``
* WSJ: Now you can invest like Buffett, save like Scrooge. Some of the Oracles picks are trading far below what he paid.
For the purposes of this blog, the inception of the Great Recession in the U.S., the epicentre of the crisis, is taken as the start date for the global slump. The U.S. has been in recession since December 2007.