A spring awash with Etch A Sketch conservatives, camera-wielding GOP con men and a bogus deficit reduction budget from House Republicans shows that for the right, wrong is justified when it achieves the desired results.
A perfect example of this political philosophy is the work of James E. O'Keefe III, a right-wing, unsupervised, unaccountable, self-appointed and self-styled "investigative journalist" who has violated federal law, lied about his identity and deceitfully cut and pasted video to destroy what he perceives as liberal institutions.
Oddly for the party that claims conservative Christians as key constituents, O'Keefe's misbehavior is celebrated by GOP talking heads -- the likes of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. That encourages copycats. The New York Times last week told the tale of one. John M. Howting, a bungling video scam man, sees himself as an O'Keefe apostle.
Honorable journalists abide by an ethics code forbidding lying to secure a story. For them, the end does not justify the means. By contrast, for O'Keefe and today's Etch A Sketch conservatives, the end they want vindicates any scheme to secure it. Deliberate lying, cynical deceit, cut-and-paste deception -- all of that is rationalized by conservatives to get their way. It's a lovely escape clause they've written for themselves from that annoying Judeo-Christian thou-shalt-not-lie commandment.
O'Keefe wannabe John M. Howting tried clumsily to trod in his disgraced mentor's footsteps, lying about his name, who he represented and his intentions in a failed effort to discredit a couple of what he perceived to be liberal New York community groups.
O'Keefe had better luck. This right-wing rebel without a conscience lied about his name, who he represented and his intentions in successful efforts to manipulate some targets into saying stupid stuff, which he surreptitiously recorded. His deceptive and distorted films destroyed ACORN and damaged other groups he considered progressive. Despite O'Keefe's liberal use of the Commandment escape clause, he became conservatives' golden boy.
Among right-wing talk show hosts who urged their conservative Christian listeners to praise the con was Bill O'Reilly, who said O'Keefe should be awarded a Congressional medal. Not so worshiping were federal prosecutors who charged O'Keefe with misrepresenting himself in an attempted phone hacking at the office of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. O'Keefe pleaded guilty. And not so revering was the California state attorney general who determined that O'Keefe's sliced-and-diced video misrepresented the actions of ACORN workers.
Conforming to the conservatives' philosophy of wrong-is-right-if-the-right-benefits is GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Like a Judas, he betrayed his own health insurance program.
Romney contended that requiring everyone to get health insurance -- known as the individual mandate -- was good when he was governor of Massachusetts and signed Romneycare, which includes it. As Congress considered health care reform, Romney repeatedly said Romneycare should be the model for the nation. But later when conservatives blasted the individual mandate in Obamacare, Romney sold out his Massachusetts plan, saying an individual mandate was not good for the nation.
Similarly, in 1994 during Romney's failed campaign for U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat, Romney and his wife attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser and she donated $150 to the group. But now, in pursuit of the vote of the anti-abortion Christian right, Romney no longer likes Planned Parenthood so much, promising:
"Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that."
Are those switches adorable little flip-flops or calculated lying? The comments of a chief Romney aide, Eric Fehrnstrom, show they are calculated. A reporter asked Fehrnstrom how Romney would appeal to crucial middle-of-the-road voters in the fall after taking such hard right positions in the spring to win the primary. Fehrnstrom compared the campaign to an Etch A Sketch:
So, basically, tell the conservative Christian primary voters one thing. Then tell the mainstream general election voters something else. This is the campaign of the GOP frontrunner, the party's likely standard-bearer. This is who most Republicans voted for.
It makes sense really. Apparently Republicans don't expect the truth. Look at the Ryan budget. He calls it the Path to Prosperity. The nation went down this road of tax cuts for the rich and program cuts for the middle class before, under Bush II, and it was a one-way road to increased income inequality. Voodoo trickle-down economics is a path to prosperity only for the already prosperous.
Congressman Paul Ryan contends his budget is a deficit-buster, that it would shrink the deficit to 1.2 percent of the gross domestic product by 2022 -- which is exactly the same place where the country would be if it did nothing, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. In addition, the cumulative 10-year deficits under Ryan's plan would be $200 billion higher than just doing nothing. No busting going on there.
The GOP wants conservative Christian votes so badly it's willing to break those set-in-stone rules conservative Christians revere. Frankly, it's surprising this behavior doesn't make conservative Christians cross. Republicans might consider resurrecting respect for the 9th Commandment if they want to avoid a Christian right inquisition into their Etch A Sketch positions.
Leo W. Gerard also is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and chairs the labor federation's Public Policy Committee. President Barack Obama appointed him to the President's Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. He serves as co-chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance and on the boards of Campaign for America's Future and the Economic Policy Institute. He is a member of the IMF and ICEM global labor federations and was instrumental in creating Workers Uniting, the first global union. Follow @USWBlogger
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