Smell that? It’s the piquant aroma of warm and steaming freshly excreted bullshit wafting in the from the fecund bowels of Washington DC.
Today, at a lumberyard in Northern, Virginia, Republicans unveiled their new “Pledge to America.”
Yes, I know, I know, you’re excited and confused and a little turned on.
Who wouldn’t be?
The exact same people, Newt, Boehner, et al who brought you political loyalty oaths, purity pledges, and chastity belts make yet another solemn promise to the American people. Conservatives so love to spit in their palms and swear blood oaths, don’t they? God, you can almost hear the angels singing.
As reported by CNN, Republicans say they realize the voters are angry with both Democrats and Republicans (but mostly Democrats – their humility act only goes so far), so they cooked up the “Pledge To America” in order to convince voters Republicans take those concerns seriously and if they are returned to power, why, they will act differently than when they had the majority under Bush (which they confidently figure the average mouth-breathing voter has long forgotten).
Honestly, they’ll do better this time.
Really, truly, cross their black inky hearts and hope to die (well, hope there’s a war and they can send your kids off to die, but hey, that’s just a quibble, bottom line, somebody is going to die, but not fetuses because the very first thing on the agenda is to outlaw abortions, but never mind that, hey, look, over there, is that Ollie North? Everybody, God Bless America dum dum da dum!). Republicans made the pledge with their hands over their hearts and little paper hats made from folded Wall Street Journals perched jauntily on their heads, like Calvin and Hobbes taking the official freebooter vow in their tree house pirate ship.
Conservatives at the signing were visibly angry:
"The federal government is too big, it spends too much, and it's out of control," snarled House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH). “The current federal government isn't listening and doesn't get it."
“Our government has failed us," Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) asserted. "The land of opportunity has become the land of shrinking prosperity. People are outraged."
Oddly, nobody seemed outraged that despite both the unfortunately named Boehner and even more unfortunately named McCarthy being actual no foolin’ sworn members of the US House of Representatives, nether seemed to realize that they themselves were members of the Federal government that they were condemning. Watching them was like watching that episode of Scrubs where The Janitor grabs JD’s hand and smacks him repeatedly in the mouth with his own fist while chanting, “Why do you keep hitting yourself? Why? Why?”
I think that’s a pretty good analogy for the larger question of why Republicans insist on dredging up the same old cast of characters, Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, John Boehner, the other conservative buffoons who keep popping up like a parade of clowns exiting from the doors of their battered little car.
Why do you keep hitting yourselves, Republicans, why, why?
Conservatives don’t seem to realize, or care, that this Pledge to America is little more than the second coming of the same old empty promises and just about as worthless as those aforementioned chastity oaths they make their pregnant teenage daughters take.
These are, in point of fact, the same exact people who brought you the Republican’s “Contract with America.”
Who could forget. Big success, right?
Let’s review: Back in 1994, during Bill Clinton’s first term in office, Newt, Dick, John, and their pals Tom DeLay, Bill Paxon, and the clowns over at the Heritage Foundation cooked up the Contract. They billed it as a revolution in commitment to Americans and a specific promise to 1) reduce the size of the federal government, 2) reduce taxes, 3) increase entrepreneurial enterprise, 4) complete tort reform, and 5) overhaul welfare.
If you read the Contract with America, you’ll see there were some weasel words in there. We’ll come back to those in a moment.
Republicans, specifically the same exact republicans who orchestrated this morning’s Pledge, solemnly signed the contract. In fact, all of the party’s candidates up for election at the time, and all but two incumbent members of the House, some Republican members of the Senate, and the GOP leadership signed the Contract With America, including Gingrich and Boehner.
How’d the Contract work out for America?
Well, a contract is a contract, right?
Unfortunately for us, they had all the lawyers and we got to represent ourselves – and you know how that always works out (None of the photographers present at the signing thought to take pictures from behind the Conservatives, so it wasn’t until later that we realized that they all had their fingers crossed).
The contract specified eight major reforms:
1. Require all laws that apply to Americans also apply to Congress. Didn’t happen. Didn’t, in fact, make it out of committee. We’re still bitching about this.
2. Have a major independent auditing firm (that wasn’t actually owned by members of Congress) conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud, and abuse. Bawahaha. Good one. Horrorstruck, conservatives realized too late that “independent audit” meant all their defense contractor and Wall Street buddies would get audited too – this item died a panicked hyperventilating death with two bullets right in the brainpan. Then Haliburton threw a bitchin’ shindig and handed out stock options as party favors.
3. Reduce the number of House Committees, and cut the remaining committee staff by one-third. You folks want to compute the delta between the number of committees then and now, or you want me to do it? Ironically, conservatives formed committees and hired staff to examine how to reduce the number of committees and staff. Today, some of those staffers are still working for us.
4. Limit Committee Chair terms. Didn’t happen. Anything involving term limits of any kind doesn’t make it out of committee and isn’t going to, contract or no contract. Most committee Chairs die in office, we’ve buried how many this last year alone? What? I’m just sayin’.
5. Ban proxy votes in Committee. And have to show up? Not likely.
6. Open committee meetings to the public. Don’t make me laugh. Not only didn’t this happen, with the implementation of the Protect America Act and Patriot Act, a large number of committee meetings became classified in the name of national security and off-limits to not just the public and press, but even government oversight. Hell, in some cases, even the sanitized minutes of those meetings are classified. Want to guess who was the big push behind this? Liberals or Conservatives?
7. Require three-fifths majority to pass a tax increase. They tried to amend the Constitution, it passed the House, but was rejected by the Senate. So they wrote a law instead, despite specific provisions in the Constitution against this type of thing. The statute passed both houses and was signed into law by Clinton who didn’t have the votes to prevent a veto override – and was promptly struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional when the State of New York sued the federal government. Not only did they not keep this provision of the contract, but they ended up costing the tax payer millions of extra tax dollars when the government sued itself for passing a law that it knew in advance wouldn’t stand up in court. Brilliant.
8. Guarantee realistic accounting of the Federal Budget through the implementation of zero baseline budgeting. You’ve heard of this, right? No? How realistic do you think accounting of the Federal Budget is today?
There were a bunch of other minor items in the contract, some were actually implemented, some weren’t.
Final Verdict on the Contract with America? Did they reduce the size of the federal government? Did they reduce taxes? Did they increase entrepreneurial enterprise? How about tort reform? And that welfare overhaul?
What they did was flail about madly over tort reforms and welfare overhaul, until everybody forget about it. They did cut taxes – and then drastically increased the size of the federal government and started two wars and sent the bill to the next administration. As to entrepreneurial enterprise? Well let's just say that nowadays as long as you’re making body armor and Predators, or working in the foreclosure industry, life is groovy.
By the time Republicans lost control of the House and Senate, the cost of the programs the Contract with America promised to eliminate completely had increased by 25% and the rest of the items were long, long forgotten.
But in the end, today, this morning, the conservative framers of the Contract with America, the very same folks, are pointing to it as proof of their commitment and trustworthiness and are asking you to put them back into power so they can do the same exact thing again.
Why do you keep hitting yourself? Why? Why?
Remember those weasel words? See, the Contract with America only promised to “bring to the House Floor the following bills…” When pressed, Newt and Boehner are quick to point out that they never said they’d do any of the things promised in the contract, only that they’d introduce them on the House Floor. Which they did.
Booyah, bitches, and read the fine print.
This is why it’s a good idea to have a lawyer go over the contract. Especially when you’re entering into a contract with lawyers.
On the surface, the Contract with America was an abject failure.
Except it wasn’t.
The simple truth of the matter is that not one of those eight major contract points was ever the real agenda. Republicans never had any intention of passing that legislation, they didn’t have a prayer, Clinton was still in Office and he would, and did, veto any of it that actually got past the Senate. By the time Clinton was out of Office and Bush the Lesser was stinking up the place and scheming his little schemes, everybody had pretty much forgotten the Contract With America.
The Contract was never intended to be an actual contract. What it actually was, was a brilliant piece of Information Warfare waged against the unwitting dupes of the American public.
See, Newt’s Contract with America was a success, it did accomplish its one and only real goal – it flimflammed the American voters long enough to give Republicans control of Congress in 1994. That was the real agenda right from the very start.
And that is exactly what the goal of today’s bullshit Pledge to America is. Exactly the same.
It’s the same plan.
It’s the same wording.
It’s the same situation.
It’s the same promises.
It’s the same goddamned politicians.
Americans are being played. Americans are letting themselves be played. This Pledge is tailored directly to the fears of the old fashioned conservatives, including moderates and progressives, and the newly powerful TEA Party extremists. All the key words and hot button issues are there, spelled out in small words and sound bites so the average idiot will pick it up and pass it along, all the way to the voting booth.
After November, no matter who wins, this Pledge like the Contract before it will quietly disappear. The weasel words have been carefully crafted and the plan is already in motion.
This contract isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, just like the last one (somewhere, there are a bunch of Native Americans shaking their heads and laughing. Contract with the US Government? Bawahahaha. Sweet sweet irony is ours. Welcome to the party. Hey! Maybe they'll offer you a land deal).
Contracts, real contracts, are legal instruments entered into by both parties – not something drafted up by one side and foisted on the other (unless, you’re those aforementioned Native Americans, but I digress, as is my wont). Here’s the thing, we already have a contract with Congress, it’s called their Oath of Office:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.“That, my fellow Americans, is the contract our leaders have with us. That right there, nothing more and nothing less.
However, since Republicans seem to need something more, I say we, us Americans, take them up on it.
Let us sign a contract.
Yes, let us.
A real contract.
One that contains penalty clauses, substantial legal penalties and hefty monetary consequences, for breach of contract, for mental reservation and evasion and obstuction and for failure to live up to their promises. Then we’ll have our lawyer go over it in nitpicking detail and line out all the weasel words. And have it witnessed and attested by a notary public and entered into the public record.
They want a contract? Let’s give them a real one.
See how many Conservatives sign the damned thing then.