Saturday, May 29, 2010


But the conversation with a two-term congressman from Pennsylvania has now grown into a dispute over whether business as usual is good enough for a president promising reform.

That's Peter Baker in today's New York Times, on the subject of discussions Bill Clinton had with Joe Sestak about a possible job with the Obama administration. My response is: Dispute? We're having a dispute in America about whether this -- this -- is a betrayal of Barack Obama's 2008 campaign pledges?

The hell we are. Ordinary Americans certainly aren't. Yes, a lot of ordinary Americans feel disappointed, even betrayed, by things the administration has done or failed to do. But this? This is nothing.

It isn't corruption by any reasonable person's standards. Corruption is the relationship between government and BP, or government and Massey Energy, or government and Goldman Sachs. This isn't corruption.

The notion that the Sestak job offer violates Obama's promises of "change" and transparency is a Republican talking point painstakingly crafted to appeal to centrist and liberal Beltway journalists who gave favorable coverage to the Obama campaign. And, of course, crafting talking points in order to destroy the careers of Democrats and liberals is simply what Republicans do. The Republican Party is no longer a political party, really, as we've previously understood the term. The Republican Party is an opposition-research operation that also runs candidates for office. Political parties care about governing. Political parties care about legislating. The Republican Party cares only about driving Democrats from office and winning power for the sake of winning power.

This is an attempt at a coup by talking points. The goal is to get everyone across the political spectrum talking about how this is a really big deal. For the red-meat-craving right-wing base, there's talk of impeachment and the invoking of Watergate, with the suggestion that there must be much more to this than meets the eye because, well, there just must be. For mainstream journos, there's the talk of Obama's betrayal of his promises of change. And now the effort is self-sustaining: When reporters as far left as Eric Alterman are arguing that this is a self-inflected wound because the White House and Sestak could have released all the facts right away (as if that would have stopped the GOP scandal-generation machine), it's meant as friendly advice, but it plays into the Watergate-evoking "cover-up is worse than the crime" meme that's the subtext of other coverage of the story.

I suppose it's futile to hope for this, but the left response to the Sestak story should be: Republicans, how dare you. Amid job losses, oil spills, terrorist attacks, and all the other problems we have, you want to bring down a government now, over this? Talk about the criminalization of politics.

But then, Republicans simply don't care about what happens to America. They'd burn America to the ground if it meant they'd rule over the ashes.

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