Sunday, December 17, 2006

Newt Wants to Catch You Napping

Huffington Post
Paul Abrams
Newt Wants to Catch You Napping

In the party that claims for itself traditionalí values, Newt Gingrich's personal history--diddling an employee while married and while impeaching Bill Clinton for the same, 3 citations for violating House ethics, 3 (or is it 4?) marriages that seemingly disqualifies him from becoming its Presidential nominee threatens to induce complacency to his utterances by Democrats.
Big mistake.

Newt is running, and running hard. While the rightwing personal destruction machine (see, Johnson and Boyce, 'How Long Will the Right Let Us Love Obama') grinds down Democrats, Newt's improbability is providing him an unscrutinized forum to spout what he calls 'big ideas', rewrite history, appeal to the intellectual side of those who would reject him for his personal transgressions, and provide the rightwing its next dose of vision.

Newt is the most clever, astute politician on the radical right. He also learns from his mistakes. His biggest mistake was assuming the country was as rightwing as the '94 elections may have suggested, and thus would support him when he shut down government to cause Social Security and Medicare to wither on the vine for lack of sustenance. Newt responded by combining Orwellian labeling---his bills were to 'Strengthen Medicare' and to 'Save Social Security'---with outright deception about the actual content of those bills whose results would have been to weaken and destroy, respectively.

Paradoxically, by providing legitimacy to government-run social programs across the political spectrum, the Orwellian language that enabled the radical right to retain power in the face of strong public opposition to their true policies undermined their ultimate goal of disestablishing collective responsibility from the body politic. It was then only a matter of time before the movement collapsed in corruption and 'big-government' conservatism. The ultimate irony is that that use of government power for the powerful disables the liberty they claim to cherish far more than the liberals' social safety net excoriated in Newt's rants.

When cornered with, say, a specific fact at odds with his claims, Newt employs two techniques: 1) overwhelming verbosity; and 2) reaching for generalities to deny that fact. For example, when challenged on the impact of his real decreases in medicare funding, Gingrich painted a starry-eyed vision of future medical care---his 'diagnostic chair' that will provide patients an instant, accurate, inexpensive diagnosis. The direct message about funding reductions: 'don't worry, medical care will not be that expensive anyhow'. The [not so] indirect message: 'the current medicare system is preventing the introduction of the diagnostic chair into medical practice.

To anyone who can recall the last time he was poked with needles, or scanned in a claustrophobia-inducing machine to establish perhaps an uncertain diagnosis, and then recalls the bill for these tests, Gingrichís 'diagnostic chair' is very appealing. One small problem, ignored by Gingrich: the diagnostic chair does not exist, it is not currently in production nor is it even on the drafting table.

Newt's most recent endeavor is to demonstrate God's central role in the establishment of our Republic. [N.B: This is Newt's ticket to attempted salvation for his personal perfidy with the religious right]. That the Constitution makes no Biblical reference, nor any mention of God* or a Creator, is of trifling concern to Gingrich who, instead, refers to our 'founding documents' to include the Declaration of Independence so as to insert the heavenly hand.

It is an interesting ploy, but, like Gingrich's Orwellian language to deceive the voting public about social programs, it proves the opposite. The Declaration, of course, is not connected seamlessly to the Constitution. Even if the Articles of Confederation, and 11 years, had not intervened, the Declaration was a statement to the world about the inherent right of people to govern themselves, not a contract under which certain people (our ancestors) would agree to be governed, which is what the Constitution (and Articles) is.

But, it is more telling to take Gingrich's conflation of the "founding documents" at face value. It is a central principle of Constitutional construction that, if the Founders demonstrated in one place that they ìknewî how to define or outline something, its absence in another place is proof that their silence on that subject was intentional, and thus cannot be imputed.

The Founders clearly showed in the Declaration that they considered 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' to be inalienable rights that were direct gifts of the Creator, not mediated through some royalty claiming 'Divine Right' to rule. In constitutional construction terms, it would be said that the Founders 'knew how to appeal to a Creator in a document, and knew how to define what that Creator provided and how it was provided'. Thus, the absence in the Constitution of biblical reference for gifts, proscriptions or obligations, or to any God or Creator, demonstrates it was consciously omitted, not a mere oversight, and not because it was so obvious that it need not have been mentioned.

Indeed, the 1st Amendent's non-establishment and religion freedom clause ("Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof") buttresses the case above that these wise and temperate men specifically segregated civil society---where belief in absolute truths lashed to the power of government was so fraught with danger from peoples' individual lives where their right and privilege to believe and practice anything they wanted, unaided by government power, threatened no one, while providing them the dignity and respect for which their inalienable rights were created.

Our forebears arrived on this continent to escape government prosecution for their religious beliefs. It is testimony to their true greatness, and magnanimity of spirit, that their reaction was to chose to secure tolerance by separating religion from government, rather than ërevengeí for their own persecution by establishing a religion and subjecting others to it by force of law.

As we are learning in Iraq, revenge societies do not work. It would be well if Newt learned that lesson, rather than trying to rewrite American history. In the meantime, watch him carefully. He is as slippery as a salamander.

(*Yes, the Constitution does contain a reference, the date(!), "In the Year of Our Lord", i.e., using God as timekeeper. To inject the entire King James' Bible on that basis is, to put it mildly, a bit oblique. More importantly, it actually proves--again--that the Founders knew exactly what they were doing by omitting any reference to God, or a Creator, in the body of the Constitution describing citizens' rights and obligations with reference to government, while they had previously referenced our Creator in the Declaration of Independence as the source of certain rights, including to rebellion).