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19 Jun, 2009 13:27

US Republicans – barbarians at Washington's gate

US Republicans – barbarians at Washington's gate

After eight straight years of calling the shots in Washington, the US Republican party is waging a vicious verbal assault on the new Democratic administration. But will the Obama-bashing backfire?

It might seem to some that the Republican Party should be very grateful to Barack Obama. After all, with a snap of his magisterial fingers the American president, especially considering his meteoric popularity, could instigate the ugliest trials since the communist witch-hunts of the McCarthy era.

The US Justice Department could decide what crime to bring down on the heads of the Republicans with the help of a roulette wheel to make the whole process seem less subjective. Step right up and take a spin of the wheel! Round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows… Iraq War, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, outed CIA agent Valerie Plame, fudged security reports to bolster the claim for war, failure to prevent the attacks on 9/11, torture, Guantanamo Bay , extraordinary rendition flights, secret detention facilities in Europe, loss of civil liberties in the homeland…

Instead of pushing themselves away from the political poker table and count their massive losses, the Republicans refuse to accept their defeat with grace.

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh brought the soup to an immediate boil days after Obama was sworn into office.

Asked to pen a 700-word essay for a “major publication” on his “hopes for US President Barack Obama,” the public personality retorted that he only needed four words.

“I hope he fails,” Limbaugh sneered.

Meanwhile, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who seems to be getting more of the media spotlight than Joe Biden, the real American vice president, continues to lash out at the Obama administration.

Indeed, never before in the history of US politics has the ousted party been so vociferous in its condemnation of the newly elected government. But for the Republicans, the battle seems to be one over the history books as opposed to the present realities.

The Battle Royale, pumped up as the “Clash of Titans” by the media, hit US television screens at the end of May.

In his speech, President Obama blasted the decision by the Bush administration to detain prisoners on Guantanamo Bay, arguing that it was likely to create more terrorists.

“Instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause,” he said. “Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.”

But this brings up the tricky question for Obama: what to do with all of those prisoners that nobody wants in their backyards?

“We will seek to transfer some detainees to the same type of facilities in which we hold all manner of dangerous and violent criminals within our borders – namely, highly secure prisons that ensure public safety,” Obama said.

Two minutes after Obama finished his speech, Dick Cheney took to the podium at the American Enterprise Institute, a hawkish conservative think tank, to deliver his bitter reply.

“For all the partisan anger that still lingers, our administration will stand up well in history, not despite our actions after 9/11, but because of them,” he thundered.

Cheney said that there had been no attack on the United States in the 2,689 days after 9/11 because the Bush administration had “followed through” and “stayed true to our word” by going on the offensive. He called Obama’s strategy for tackling terrorism “recklessness cloaked in righteousness” that would leave America vulnerable to another attack.

The unprecedented public spectacle of a former vice president berating a sitting president sparked yet another unprecedented event: a comment on the unsightly public haggling from the head of the CIA.

CIA Director Leon Panetta commented to The New Yorker for an article in its June 22 issue that Cheney’s criticism of the Obama administration’s approach to terrorism almost suggests “he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point.”

Asked if he agreed with Panetta’s statement, Vice President Joe Biden told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program that he did not wish to guess at the motive behind Cheney’s criticism.

“I think Dick Cheney’s judgment about how to secure America is faulty,” Biden said. “I think our judgment is correct.”

The Washington Village

Senator John McCain, who lost his bid for the presidency against Barack Obama, also weighed in on the “unfortunate” comments.

“Well, this is a big town and a small town,” McCain said in an interview with Fox News. “And people get to know each other over the years. Both Leon Panetta, as chief of staff at the White House, and Dick Cheney is holding many positions, including both of them having been members of Congress, of course they know each other well. And that’s why this statement of Director Panetta is so uncalled for and unfortunate. He knows better. He’s not a new guy in town.”

This is an incredible comment for a guy who almost became the leader of the United States.
McCain argues that Panetta had no right to criticize Cheney because “they know each other well.” Has Washington become so back-slapping buddy-buddy that it is no longer possible to challenge the views of individuals for no other reason than that they “know each other well.”

McCain characterizes Panetta as somebody who “knows better. He’s not a new guy in town.” This comment goes far at explaining the crisis that has gripped Washington: not enough “new guys in town” who are not afraid to criticize the same people that they might bump into at the local restaurant, or some other meeting place. Gosh, that would be so uncomfortable! Has Washington become so dizzy by the cloud of hubris that no criticism, even from that of close associates, is acceptable?

With friends like that, Washington certainly doesn’t need any more enemies.

Finally, even George W. Bush came out of retirement to offer his opinion of the whole terrorist matter, a theme that framed his entire presidency.

“I told you I’m not going to criticize my successor,” he said. “I’ll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don’t believe that persuasion isn’t going to work. Therapy isn’t going to cause terrorists to change their minds.”

But perhaps the smartest words to come out of the Republican party, divided as it is between the neoconservatives and the conservatives, were delivered recently by Colin Powell, the former US Secretary of State.

“I think the Republican Party has to take a hard look at itself and decide what kind of party we are.”

That includes “sharing the wealth of the country not only with the rich but with the least advantaged in our country.”

Look to Colin Powell as the Republican Party’s answer to Barack Obama in 2012.

Robert Bridge, RT