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Fighting Words

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There's been quite a bit of controversy throughout the liberal blogosphere pegged off a couple of comments made recently by Rolling Stone columnist and avowed prick Matt Taibbi. As a writer Taibbi's always had strong opinions, and despite being regularly left-leaning, he's never shied away from taking those who typically embrace him to task when he thinks their adherence to stereotypical dogma amounts to shooting themselves in the foot. This is one of the qualities I've always admired in him: He's an honest-to-God individual and doesn't really give a crap what either side of the aisle thinks of him; he seems to revel in pissing down the back of everyone.

The comments that have some of the usual suspects on the left in such a tizzy come from Taibbi's blog (which as far as I'm concerned is required reading) and have to do with the current battle over health care reform. At first glance, they seem to defend the tactics of the Bush administration.

The most recent:

I'll say this for George Bush: you'd never have caught him frantically negotiating against himself to take the meat out of a signature legislative initiative just because his approval ratings had a bad summer. Can you imagine Bush and Karl Rove allowing themselves to be paraded through Washington on a leash by some dimwit Republican Senator of a state with six people in it the way the Obama White House this summer is allowing Max Baucus (favorite son of the mighty state of Montana) to frog-march them to a one-term presidency?

Then there's this one:

Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, or anyone else. If the Obama administration wanted to pass a real health care bill, they would do what George Bush and Tom DeLay did in the first six-odd years of this decade whenever they wanted to pass some nightmare piece of legislation (ie the Prescription Drug Bill or CAFTA): they would take the recalcitrant legislators blocking their path into a back room at the Capitol, and beat them with rubber hoses until they changed their minds.

It goes without saying that to think Taibbi is suggesting that the Bush White House had its merits is to miss the point completely. What he's expressing, rightfully and angrily, is frustration.

For eight years we watched George W. Bush and his band of corrupt cronies get away, almost literally, with murder. When the GOP held absolute control over every arm of the government, it abused that authority thoroughly -- not only cutting out but publicly belittling the political minority that it knew didn't have the numbers to make a successful stand against it. The Republicans truly were the Evil Empire in Washington, DC; they treated the Democrats as a non-entity, annoying gnats to be swatted away with the wave of a fat, sweaty hand. Here's the thing, though: Like it or not, agree with their sickening platform or disagree, the Republicans got things done. They got things done because they did what they always do: get behind a person or simply a set of obscene and ridiculous talking points and stay there. True, if you were on the other side during this dark period in our nation's history, you likely shouted to the heavens about how unfair the whole thing was -- how unconscionable repugnant turds like, say, Jim Sensenbrenner were for literally standing up and shutting off the lights and walking out of the room while their Democratic counterparts were trying to speak on the Hill. You no doubt despised the special brand of GOP thuggery.

Once again, though -- these tactics, as deplorable and antithetical to the spirit of the American political system as they were, pushed the Republican agenda through with unsurprising ease.

It's not right, but it worked -- in the sense that it accomplished what it set out to.

And to this day, there have been no negative, lasting repercussions for those who chose to undertake this course. Bitch all you want, these assholes are still walking around free -- and they will be from now until they die fat and happy on a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets somewhere. George W. Bush is already preparing his memoirs; Dick Cheney isn't up against a wall behind the Hague; Tom DeLay's on Dancing with the Stars for fuck's sake. They got away with it.

And now that the tables are turned and the other side has near-complete control of the White House and the Hill, what do we get?

We get spineless waffling, pathetic half-measures, a supposed push for bipartisanship in deference to a group that giddily trampled its political opponents underfoot for nearly a decade and have no compunction about continuing to, despite the fact that it's in no position whatsoever to exert such force -- not anymore.

And that's what Taibbi's getting at. His comments pose an interesting question: Is it better to be able to say that you were completely "fair," or that you got things done? This becomes especially thorny when you consider that, despite all your attempts at being obliging and conciliatory, the other side isn't really interested in bipartisanship. The Republicans are only pretending to give a shit about fairness; the reality is that they'll never bend to the will of the Democrats -- they'll block Obama at every turn and by any means necessary. Try to appease them all you want, it'll get you nowhere.

By now, the Democrats should've realized this and should be rolling over the GOP obfuscation, misdirection and conspiracy machine with a tank. They have the power and the numbers, and yet they continue to behave as if the other side would show them the same courtesy were the roles reversed -- as if the last eight years never happened.

It's time to lay down the gauntlet and not fight back -- since the Democrats should in no way be on the defensive right now -- but fight.

This is what Taibbi's getting at, and he's 100% right.

Being able to say that at least you played fair will be little consolation four years from now when nothing's been accomplished and a Republican president is back in office.