Over the coming week, all Americans should take time to honor the rich history of predatory behavior by the Republican Party. The Mark Foley scandal is, of course, the most recent manifestation of this deeply rooted strain in the Republican character, but it would be unfair to allow this affair to eclipse the many other masterpieces of predation the GOP has wrought. The last six years have been a virtual "greatest hits" of gluttony and greed, a tour de force of defrauding and deception, a veritable magnum opus of predatory behavior during which the party in power has treated the country like its very own 16-year-old page, inviting us for a ride in its BMW and taking us to its house to ply us with intoxicants, to whisper in our ear what "hot studs" we are while it forces itself upon us and shoves our faces into the couch cushions and satisfies its primal urges and then tosses us, bloody and shivering, out into the street.
In focusing only on this most recent predatory success, we do as much of a disservice to the party of Lincoln as we would by honoring Shakespeare for a late limerick, or John Wayne Gacy for swatting a fly.
We must not overlook Iraq, that towering accomplishment of predatory genius in which 2,700 American men and women - many only a year or two older than the objects of Mark Foley's affections - have been sacrificed, many thousands more have been maimed, and $300 billion dollars wasted in the process of thoroughly raping a country which posed no threat to us. As is true for all predators, it was precisely Iraq's inoffensive posture which encouraged the Bush administration's assault; unlike Iran and North Korea, who might actually have put up a struggle, Iraq was defenseless, having been weakened over the previous 12 years like the women in the film The Silence of the Lambs who were kept in a dark pit and starved before being strangled and having the flesh sliced from their bodies. Far from the swagger of a cowboy, Iraq shows the Bush Administration's come-on to be the whimper of a true coward, the pathetic act of a weakling who knows it can only dominate the puniest member of the pack. The administration and its Congressional allies preyed upon the world's good will in the wake of September 11, preyed upon disunity and and dysfunction at the UN, preyed upon Colin Powell's loyalty in forcing him to lie to the Security Council, and preyed upon the confusion and fear the American public had been - and still is - encouraged to feel in the "War on Terror."
Magnanimous as always, the Republicans have been happy to share the spoils of this kill, allowing Halliburton to prey upon the prostrate Iraqis and the bamboozled Americans, to take its cut from the carnage like the petty thief who strolls by a horrific car accident and lifts the victims' wallets.
Republican predatory behavior of course extends far beyond the battlefield. Appreciate, for example, the masterful way in which they have preyed upon the most vulnerable segments of the American population. Seniors were lured into voting for a Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage scheme only to find themselves hopelessly confused, paying thousands of dollars out of pocket, and powerless to negotiate bulk-pricing with the gluttons at Big Pharma. Not to be left behind, the country's children were promised a major improvement of the public school system only to find it largely unfunded, the GOP allowing schools to keep crumbling so that the eventual slaughter of American public education will meet little resistance. And of course Americans weak enough to have to pay income taxes in the first place have been preyed upon with phony "tax relief" which has done little for them but a great deal for the billionaires who previously had to suffer the inconvenience of putting their money in off-shore tax shelters. Particularly brilliant here is the way in which Republicans have victimized not only today's middle class - who have been weakened and left to the vultures of the Health Insurance, Mortgage, and Oil industries - but also their children who, saddled with a projected $10 trillion national debt, have been financially incapacitated even before conception. Call it "No Unborn Child Left Behind."
But predatory behavior cannot be restricted to major policy initiatives. The Republicans' genius as predators is equally evident in their public relations activities, campaign strategies, and overall philosophy. Consider the much-touted conservative desire to "shrink government until it is small enough to drown in the bathtub." Was there ever a more succinct statement of the molester's code? Find a victim who cannot defend itself, weaken it further, and then have your way with it. Rapists of the world, take note.
On the walls in this wing of the Predators Hall of Fame we also find such people as Max Cleland, the former Georgia Senator who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, only to be called unpatriotic and compared to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein by Saxby Chambliss in 2002 in his bid for reelection; John Kerry, who was wounded in war three times and twice decorated for bravery, only to have the country told he had fabricated his heroism and that they should instead vote to re-elect a man who had gone AWOL not only in Vietnam but in the first nine months of his presidency; Valerie Plame, whose career was destroyed and whose covert status was compromised in order to punish her husband for dissenting from administration policy; and the entire population of New Orleans, too politically and racially powerless to merit much GOP concern in the first place, who were first left defenseless in the path of a massive hurricane, then ignored in its aftermath, then conscripted to serve as backdrop for interviews and commercials meant to show how much George Bush cares. The battered wife surely recognizes this playbook favorite - smack her around until her will is broken, then trot her out (with a thick layer of makeup) to brag to company about her ideal marriage.
At the bottom of predatory behavior is, of course, hunger. Deep, insatiable hunger. And here's where we see how Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Bob Ney, Tom Delay, and Jack Abramoff are exemplars of the Republican Way. Where others might be constrained by scruples, satisfied with the power and wealth they had already accumulated, these Paragons of Predation understood that a real Republican does not hesitate at the edge of the trough - whatever laws or honor or public interest might stand between him and the foodstuffs must be shoved aside, insulted and kicked in the groin, lest a single tasty morsel go ungobbled.
And where would the Predator be without the Scavenger? The Republican ecosystem depends on efficiency, that the bones of the body politic be stripped shiny and bare of every scrap of meat. That's where Bill Frist comes in, taking advantage of a brain-dead woman to advance his ambitions, in a move that made necrophilia look classy. That's where Rick Santorum comes in, insisting that Weapons of Mass Destruction have been found in Iraq, just in case there are six or seven Pennsylvanians still stupid enough to believe him, lest the potential of their gullibility go unexploited. That's where Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo comes in, elevating his profile by fomenting hatred against immigrants who already have no political power and whose last energy must be reserved not for self-defense but for crossing a desert with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
As in nature, predators and scavengers go hand in hand: first the lion picks out its victim, attacks and takes the juiciest cuts for himself. Later, he naps in the shade, his belly full, leaving the bloody carcass for the jackals, the hyenas, and the worms.
So in this National Republican Predator Week, all Americans should take a moment to honor the Art of Predation, an art which the party of Lincoln has elevated to new heights in the past six years. What a shame it would be if these accomplishments were forgotten, overshadowed by the fumbling efforts of one pedophile from Florida! There's an election coming, one in which, by all indicators, the GOP will have to rise to even more innovative and ruthless predatory practices in order to maintain control of Congress. Even now, if you listen closely, you can hear the predator sharpening his teeth, cracking his knuckles, hiding in the shadows of the underground parking structure and laying wait for the unsuspecting victim he'll accost, sucker punch, chloroform, sodomize, and dismember, all the while moaning in near-orgasmic joy. Certainly Mark Foley is worthy of admiration, having identified a previously unexploited population of victims and employed new technologies like IM to expand the frontiers of predatory tactics. But let's not forget all the other heroes who have fattened, enriched, and empowered themselves at the expense of the vulnerable. Let's not forget that, in the context of today's Republican Party, Mark Foley is only the predator du jour.