Monday, December 10, 2007
Not Your Father's Oldsmobile
It's hard to imagine someone even surviving the kind of hits that the Giuliani and Huckabee campaigns have taken this past week, but incredibly Giuliani is still considered a credible candidate and Huckabee is surging in the polls. The political equivalent for Democrats would be if people had greeted the Gary Hart/"Monkey Business" scandal by grinning slyly and giving him a "You da' man" shout out.
The psychological subtext for why both men will be able to walk around with shit on their heels without the smell bothering the GOP base demonstrates just how dangerously insane the Republican Party has become. It also shows the particular form of the insanity, which is a schizophrenic lack of coherence between its two major wings: the proponents of a national security state on one end and the Christian right on the other.
Giuliani's misuse of the police force and subsequent creative bookkeeping to keep his marital infidelity under wraps demonstrates something quite different to his supporters than if does to people who aren't on medication. To the latter it shows that he's a megalomaniac who considers the public till as if it were his own personal kitty. It also suggests that somewhere along the way a line blurred, and Giuliani's obsessive prosecution of Mob bosses as US Attorney for NY became something more complicated than just a commitment to grabbing reputation-making headlines.
To the former, on the other hand, the whole episode reinforces his principle appeal: that he's willing to do what needs to be done to keep folks safe. Whether they excercise the function of Mayor or Godfather, powerful tough guys always have less powerful tough guys protect their mistresses. The fact that Giuliani used public funds to pay them is less important than the fact that he got it done.
As for Huckabee, the clemency he showed for Wayne Dumond will undoubtedly be written off, sotto voce, as yet one more instance where cleaning up after Bill Clinton got more messy than people expected. The fact that it was an individual case and not policy, like Mike Dukakis' furlough program that eventually served up Willie Horton on a Lee Atwater platter, will work in his favor. And anyone expecting outrage over his 1992 remarks calling for the "isolation" of AIDS patients are missing the crucial dog-whistle code word from those remarks: plague.
Because as Huckabee's followers know (and as he knows they know), while scientific causes might account for epidemics, pandemics, and diseases, plagues have their source in God Himself, who sends them down periodically to let us know it's time to straighten up our act. His refusal to disavow the remarks, similarly, is simply proof that he, unlike Mitt Romney or Giuliani, has no need to reinvent himself to appeal to this crowd. After all, his political positions are based on something more enduring than public opinion polls.
That's Rudy and Huck's GOP: law & order has become a willingness to break the rules to keep people safe; traditional values have become a test of Biblical literalism. And somewhere Richard Nixon is turning over in his grave, wondering whatever happened to good old-fashioned crooks.