Sunday, April 11, 2010

Radical Republicans

Republican leaders this week in New Orleans continue to describe Obama and the Democrats in inflammatory hyperbole. Having lost repeatedly on the issues they have regressed to name calling, a tactic enthusiastically received by the activists driving their agenda. Since the party has abandoned the center and is courting the extreme right wing, even fellow Republicans look like radical socialists. Here are some examples of Republican policies and programs to which today’s Republicans would say “Hell, No!”

Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty Richard Nixon 1972: Recognizing that such systems decrease stability and security, Nixon negotiated the treaty that banned general deployment and all testing of defensive systems against ICBMs. In his first term he lobbied Congress for funds to develop an ABM system, but it was only a ploy to bring the Soviets to the table.

Proposed giving Soviets US military technology, Reagan 1982: To advance his goal of anti-missile defenses, which violated the ABM treaty, he argued that creating an effective shield for all nations would make the world safer. Therefore, he argued, sharing anti-missile technology with the Soviets, as compensation for abrogating the ABM treaty, would create a word wide shield that would make ICBMs obsolete.

Created Environmental Protection Agency by executive order, Richard Nixon 1970: Prior to the establishment of the EPA, the federal government had no comprehensive structure to regulate the pollutants which harm human health and degrade the environment. The EPA was assigned the task of repairing the damage already done to the natural environment and to establish new criteria to guide Americans in making a cleaner, safer America.

Strategic Arms Reduction Talks, Ronald Reagan 1981: Reagan often talked of his desire to eliminate all nuclear weapons. The US had over 6000 nuclear bombs and warheads, and the Soviets had a similar amount. That’s far more then would ever be needed under any imaginable scenario. Reagan continued the process of negotiating weapons reductions started by Nixon (SALT talks)

Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, GW Bush 1991: Removed 80% of strategic nuclear weapons then deployed. Among the provisions was the chopping up of 365 B52 bombers and leaving the hulks in the desert for Soviet satellites to verify.

Savings and Loan bailouts, GHW Bush 1989: Spent $124 billion bailing out failed S&Ls without raising taxes or cutting other programs to pay for it. Despite campaigning for reducing bureaucracy, Bush created a new federal bureaucracy to regulate S&Ls..

Nominated the most liberal supreme court judge (Stevens), Gerald Ford 1975: Of course, Stevens was considered a moderate on that court. The court has now shifted so far to the right of Stevens that he has openly expressed his astonishment at their decisions and written scathing dissents.

Nominated the most activist justice on the Supreme Court, GW Bush 1991: Clarence Thomas voted to override the clause in the Constitution that gives states exclusive right to conduct Presidential elections. He was the only justice who agreed with the Fourth Circuit that Congress had power to authorize the President's detention of US citizens who are enemy combatants.

All these Republican presidents sought the office because they wanted to serve their country. Once they sat in the Oval Office they put their country ahead of their party’s ideology and pursued policies to make the country more secure and to improve the lives of all Americans. Obama has clearly done the same. His centrist policies have found critics on both ends of the political spectrum. Those who claim he is a radical socialist out to take away our liberties, confiscate our property, and sell us into slavery are either misinformed or cynically putting their own ambitions ahead of our country’s welfare.

A few other “radical” Republican ideas and programs: Nixon proposed universal health care and allowing people to buy into Medicare. Gingrich et al proposed universal health insurance coverage and limitations on exclusions to counter Clinton’s healthcare plan. Mitt Romney implemented universal health care in Massachusetts. While GHW Bush was setting new records for annual deficits, every Republican, led by Newt Gingrich, voted against the Debt Reduction Act of 1993 (which eventually produced the budget surplus GW Bush gave away). Reagan and Bush reduced taxes, while increasing spending, thus doubling the annual deficit. And don’t forget Reagan granted amnesty to illegal aliens.

Calling the opposition "radicals" or "socialists" or "dictators", and using terms like "Armageddon" or "the end of democracy" is not a rational technique. It does not present any argument and seeks to denigrate the opposition while avoiding discussion of the real issues. It may "excite the base", but it does not appeal to the moderates and independents. It is time for all Americans to say, "Hell, No!" to such divisive rhetoric.

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