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Davis Sweet Headshot

The Asshole Factor (Not About O'Reilly, Necessarily)

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We're seeing a lot of analysis (or "anal-ysis") about the factors that led to last week's boot-up-the-derriere for a (w)hole lot of Republicans. The war, sure. Stem cells and scandals and surprisingly strong Democrats, of course. But I think we're ignoring the smelly elephant in the room: the asshole factor.

The smug, leering face of the GOP in power is not dissimilar from that you see at the DMV when you've just waited two hours in the wrong line, behind the mirrored glasses when you didn't notice the school zone at 3AM (this may be just an Oregon thing), or in the "rear-view" mirror when some asshole is tailgating you. It's the look of usually unearned privilege delighting in the chance to grind your nuts (or other gender-appropriate sensitive bits) just for the fun of it. Picture Tom "Smugshot" Delay. Picture former genius Karl Rove. Picture Prexy Pullmyfinger.

Every smear in the recent campaign was a skidmark, and all of that unwashable crap (aside from some of the more hysterical Foley-bashing) came from the GOP. Karl Rove telling us the liberals wanted "therapy" for terrorists. Calling relentlessly pro-troop Representative John Murtha a traitor. Gang-pouting at John Kerry for an insult that a flippin' earthworm could tell was aimed at Bush rather than the troops. Each was an asshole move. Even though the news coverage was mostly textbook "pretend-both-sides-have-a-valid-point" nonsense, apart from those voters with a vested interest in bollocking the Dems, everybody picked up that the GOP's jutting-jaw indignation in each case was an act, a tactic, another sputtering, stinking movement of the bowels.

It seems like there's a disinclination to publicly recognize asshole tactics as "cruel" or "unfair," those notions (and the ideals that mark their opposites) apparently too simple for the oh-so-complex-and-sophisticated political arena. That's bullshit. I have to hope even casual politics watchers can tell when somebody's an asshole, and that they base their judgments not on attack ads and planted stories but on simple, direct substance. Are you arrogant in victory and petulant in defeat? Are you the kind of person who could justify torturing another? Did you buy a billion annoying phone calls and pretend they were from the opposition? If yes, then asshole.

There are more subtle examples, like scrambling to shore up your public image rather than protecting real people being blown up in Iraq and drowned in New Orleans, but "subtle" isn't the same thing as "incomprehensible" (regardless of what the DLC tells you). It all comes back to the asshole factor. When folks are in trouble and you have the capacity to help, you have a couple of simple choices: help or be an asshole. We watched this administration choose their course, we were briefly baffled, and then we realized there was too much proctology in their psychology.

We voted accordingly.

So, advice to the incoming majority (barring an asshole move like a party switch from he-who-must-not-be-named): keep your words April fresh, clean up after yourselves, and limit any attacks to above the belt. That's the way to win the hearts and behinds of America.