Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sometimes a Great Nation

It is not unreasonable to judge a republic, at least in part, by the quality of its leadership. No matter what anyone thinks of its leaders, the people voted for them; the credit—or discredit—goes to them.

What passes for leadership in the current Republican Party should put all notions of American Exceptionalism to rest. (The Democrats are in a sorry state themselves, but the levels to which Republicans will sink have been largely undiscovered until recently.) Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor are the party “leaders” of their respective houses. McConnell has been quoted as saying they could do what was best for the country, but their job was to unseat Barack Obama. Cantor is such a lying weasel his press secretary kept interrupting Leslie Stahl when Cantor found himself trapped by the fact that St. Ronald Reagan raised taxes a dozen times. Cantor maintained all the while Reagan had not. Speaker of the House John Boehner doesn’t wipe his ass until the Tea Party tells him which hand to use; they make up barely a quarter of his caucus.

This year’s crop of presidential candidates competes on a daily basis to see who can promote the most regressive, repressive, reactionary policies imaginable. Herman Cain is one step above a sexual predator. Michele Bachmann is, to be fair to her, bat shit crazy. Ron Paul has the virtue of sincerity. His policies would return the nation to the early days of the Industrial Revolution in some ways, farther back in others. Newt Gingrich never met a fact he couldn’t make up; Rick Perry never met a fact he could remember. Jon Huntsman comes across as putting the nation first, though should he receive closer scrutiny his policies aren’t much less regressive then his peers. Rick Santorum would return much social policy to feudal times.

Then there is the “presumptive” nominee, Mitt Romney, who won the New Hampshire primary last night. Romney likes to portray himself as the adult in the room, with policies that avoid the Tea Party extremes on the right as well as the nanny state on the left. He has the hair, the smile, and works overtime to project an aura of the guy you’d like to see in charge.

In fact, he’s a greedy, insensitive son of a bitch.

Now that the rug rats have pretty well burned themselves out amusing the media, our watchdogs have time to pay attention to Romney. What he’s showing them is not pretty:

Last week’s comment that he likes “being able to fire people who provide services to me,” was spoken in the context of health insurance. The initial uproar was inaccurate; more on that later. The issue here isn’t that it’s good to be able to get rid of a company that gives you substandard service; we all like doing that, as cable and cell phone companies are well aware. What damning here is that Romney doesn’t understand the average person doesn’t have the option to change health insurers.The vast majority of people in this country have health insurance provided by their employer on a take it or leave it basis; they have the option to stick with it or buy their own. Even if they’d like to opt out and get their own—assuming they can afford it—no one has issues with their health insurer unless they’re sick. At that point, no one else will pick you up because you have a pre-existing condition. Romney points to his experience as governor of Massachusetts to show his health care expertise; in fact, he lacks even basic knowledge of how it works.

He uses his experience at Bain Capital to show he can run a large organization. Paul Krugman puts to rest the myth of running government like a business pretty tidily here. In short, if a business lays off half its workers, it still has the rest of the world to sell its stuff to. Nations—even export-heavy nations—sell the majority of their good internally. Lay off too many of them ad no one has money to buy anything else.

Romney’s claims to have created 100,000 jobs while at Bain don’t hold water. He dared to look someone in the eye and talk about knowing what it’s like to worry about getting fired, seeing no distinction between being a “freshly-minted MBA” with an already wealthy father and someone who will lose his health insurance and house if he gets canned.  He even had the chutzpah to claim to be unemployed himself.

Now he claims the “firing people” line was taken out of context. A recent Romney ad shows Barack Obama saying “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” What’s left out is the line immediately before that: Obama was quoting an aide to John McCain in 2008. Complaining about out of context quotes takes Romney to a new level of the Menendez Brothers Duplicity, killing one’s parents then begging for mercy as an orphan.

Great nations have great leaders. Take a look around at who’s in charge and who wants to be. Then look into a mirror and tell yourself they reflect a great nation. I dare you.

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