As the president puts the final touches this week on his second-term cabinet, a revolution that began a 25 years ago achieves its ultimate goals. Ronald Reagan was its first modern leader, Newt Gingrich became it's second leader. And, it was Gingrich’s “Contract With America” that became the neo-conservatives Trojan horse, even as Democrats occupied the throne.
A bloody, no-holds-barred battle raged for the next eight years. Unfettered by principle or any modicum of fair play, neo-con forces made steady progress, nearly toppling the Clinton regime itself at one point.
The 2000 election, so close it had to be decided by a controversial Supreme Court ruling, capped the neo-con revolution. Re-elected rightwing conservatives had finally achived the creation of the most radically conservative government America has ever had. Not since the Taliban ruled Afghanistan has the world seen a more ideologically shaped and driven clique in charge of an entire nation -- only in this case that nation is also the world’s last-standing super-power.
It's a fact that is now even giving some Republicans sleepless nights as they worry they have allowed their party to by hijacked, just as Afghans had allowed the Taliban to hijack their country under religious pretence. The Bush neo-cons see their re-election as the long awaited green light to finally implement a pure neo-con agenda. That agenda can be summed up in its rawest and most fundmental form as:
U.S. Domestic policy:
"Survival of the fittest."
American Foreign Policy:
"What are you looking at? You want a piece of this?"
So, even as the nuttiest of the nutty within Bush’s first administration are given medals, promoted to Cabinet posts and kept on for a second term, many House and Senate Republicans appear to be plotting to frag their own leader and his neo-con henchmen. Even before Bush’s November win, some mainstream Republican strategists were privately hoping for a Kerry victory, worrying that a second Bush term would be so radical it might result in Republican loses for the next 25 years.
Veteran Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, of Red-State Nebraska, has gotten louder in recent weeks in his condemnation of the administration’s war in Iraq. Sunday Hagel told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos" that he did not believe the White House had a strategy to extricate the United States from Iraq. Senator John McCain, asked if he had confidence in the administration’s handling of the war responded, “I have no confidence in Rumsfeld.”
And, it’s not just the neo-cons handling of the war that’s making fellow Republicans nervous. Bush’s plans to begin dismantling Social Security, one piece at time beginning with personal accounts, is also making them nervous.
Republican Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, who sits on the Finance Committee, which Bush will need to approve his plans, indicated this weekend that she is no fan of the Bush proposal. "There is a lot of fear among seniors," Snowe said on CNN's "Inside Politics Sunday."
Over on the House side Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, a gruff and independent Republican from California, told Tim Russert he though Bush’s proposal would not improve Social Security and called for a broader review. Both Thomas and Snowe, questioned Bush's description of the outlook for Social Security as a "crisis."
Thomas also fired a shot across the administration’s bow on trade policy, which he and many other Republicans, see as unbalanced and unfair to American producers. "The United States is the world's largest importer and the world's largest exporter, and our tax system is out of sync with the rest of the world," Thomas said. "We pay their social costs; they don't pay ours."
And, these Republicans only get more and more nervous as fresh Bush administration’s secrets leak out. This weekend the Washington Post reported that the administration created a new ultra-secret intelligence/covert ops, the Strategic Support Branch, answerable only to Donald Rumsfeld. Intelligence oversight committees of Congress, it seems were left out of the loop on this, and they were not amused.
Republican Sen. John McCain bristled that he had to learn about this new intelligence agency in the newspaper. He announced that the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings on the Post report that the Defense Department is reinterpreting U.S. law to give the secretary broad authority over clandestine operations abroad.
When the Post story broke the Defense Dept. issued a statement denying that it even existed. That turned out to be a lie. By early this morning the Post story had been confirmed by other news outlets and the Defense Dept. was backtracking. Now it seems whether there is such a secret group within the DOD depends on what the meaning of “is” is.
The Strategic Support Branch, according to The Post, expands the Pentagon's use of human intelligence operations, recruits spies and interrogates prisoners. Agents recruited by the SSB can now include "notorious figures" whose ties to the United States would be an embarrassment if revealed, according to a Pentagon memo quoted by the Post.
And do we doubt there will be such leaks? Of course not. In fact House and Senate Republicans know that there will eventually be disclosures about what Rumsfeld’s SSB goons have been up to and that it will not be pretty – especially since the SSB has been shielded from congressional oversight.
What old-fashioned, mainstream conservatives are beginning to discover is that they have allowed the crazy wing of their party to take over. Now they must know how moderate Muslims in Afghanistan must have felt when they woke up one day to learn that all those pious Islamic Mullahs they allowed to run their country were messianic, psychotic, megalomaniacs.
The Bush Talipublican neo-cons share many traits with the now deposed Taliban. They are deeply religious, believe God acts through them, and are suspicious of any science that contradicts their narrow views and beliefs. They are xenophobic, hostile to outsiders, foreign traditions, beliefs and cultures. They are unnecessarily aggressive and quick to fight because they view negotiation and compromise as signs of weakness. And, they can be cold and cruel towards those entrusted to their care, those who do not or cannot contribute to their goals and visions for society, especially women, children and the poor or disadvantaged.
Republicans turned this monster loose and it is now out of control. Since Democrats are clearly not up to the task, it may well fall to Republicans now to round these screwballs up before they do any more damage.
Because if we fail to put a stop to this neo-con coup this time, Rummy’s Strategic Support Branch may end up having more than we want in common with that other S.S.