Wednesday, January 11, 2006

# Posted 11:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VINTAGE WaPo CONTRARIANISM: One of the things that makes the Post's op-ed page so great to read (as opposed to certain others) is that you really don't know in advance what its columnists are going to say. They will surprise and challenge you.

I'm hardly the first to make this point, but it's a good one nonetheless. And yesterday morning, the Post's columnists did it yet again. Compare George Will writing about the Abramoff scandal to David Broder writing about the same subject. Here's Will:
Before evolution produced creatures of our perfection, there was a three-ton dinosaur, the stegosaurus, so neurologically sluggish that when its tail was injured, significant time elapsed before news of the trauma meandered up its long spine to its walnut-size brain. This primitive beast, not the dignified elephant, should be the symbol of House Republicans...

Now among House Republicans there are Darwinian stirrings, prompted by concerns about survival...In Washington, such concerns often are confused with and substitute for moral epiphanies...

Second, House Republicans, after 40 years in the minority, have, since 1994, wallowed in the pleasures of power. They have practiced DeLayism, or "K Street conservatism."...

Liberals practice "K Street liberalism" with an easy conscience because they believe government should do as much as possible for as many interests as possible. But "K Street conservatism" compounds unseemliness with hypocrisy. Until the Bush administration, with its incontinent spending, unleashed an especially conscienceless Republican control of both political branches, conservatives pretended to believe in limited government.
Now here's Broder:
If Tom DeLay was blind to the perils of mixing money and politics, business and government, he was true to the tradition of his state, where the long-dominant Democratic Party plumbed all possible permutations of that intimate connection.

To take but one example, consider the phone conversation between Lyndon B. Johnson and George Brown, chairman of the board of Brown & Root, the construction giant, on Jan. 2, 1964, soon after Johnson became president, as quoted in "Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-1964."

As Michael Beschloss, the editor of the volume, summarized the conversation, "Brown, one of Johnson's earliest financial backers, . . . has asked him on behalf of another old supporter, Gus Wortham, a Houston insurance tycoon, and John Jones, president of the Houston Chronicle, to ask Robert Kennedy's antitrust officials to suspend antitrust restrictions against a merger they are seeking between two Houston banks. As a master horse-trader, Johnson . . . wants a written promise from Jones that the Chronicle will support him as long as he is president."...

DeLay's "K Street Project" of moving Republican staffers into similar positions in law firms and lobbies was no innovation; it was simply an adaptation of the old plan.

And his fondness for earmarks in appropriations bills, as a way of securing the loyalty and votes of his members, was, again, simply more of the model that previous generations of Texas politicians had followed. The federal treasury was their favorite tool for building grass-roots political support...

It will take much more than hounding Tom DeLay out of office to change the culture of this city.
I don't know if they read the WaPo way up there in Manhattan, but if they do, some of the long-time columnists on the island might be interested to know that parroting the party line is not actually in their job description.
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion

Will's blowing hot air. He attempts to claim that corruption is inherent to liberalism - because it favors interest-group politics - as a way of saying "we're bad, but they're inherently bad." That's not "surprising" or "contrarian" at all. Indeed, the counter-argument is just as persuasive, i.e., that pro-business, pro-corporate conservativism makes it very difficult to draw the line between corrupt 'favors' and ideology.

There's a simpler argument: total control of government breeds arrogance and corruption. Happened to the Dems, happened to the Republicans. Happens in most U.S. states subject to long-running one-party rule.
Hi Dan! I'm not saying that being unpredictable and challenging means throwing all of your ideological baggage overboard. Rather, it's just being open-minded enough to hold your own to account for their behavior instead of writing yet another column about "Rummy" or about tax cuts for the rich.
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