Tuesday, March 22, 2005


David Brooks:

Ralph Reed, meanwhile, smashed the tired old categories that used to separate social conservatives from corporate consultants. Reed signed on with Channel One, Verizon, Enron and Microsoft to shore up the moral foundations of our great nation. Reed so strongly opposes gambling as a matter of principle that he bravely accepted $4 million through Abramoff from casino-rich Indian tribes to gin up a grass-roots campaign.

As time went by, the spectacular devolution of morals accelerated. Many of the young innovators were behaving like people who, having read Barry Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative," embraced the conservative part while discarding the conscience part.

Abramoff's and Scanlon's Indian-gaming scandal will go down as the movement's crowning achievement, more shameless than anything the others would do, but still the culmination of the trends building since 1995. It perfectly embodied their creed and philosophy: "I'd love us to get our mitts on that moolah!!" as Abramoff wrote to Reed.

They made at least $66 million.

This is a major accomplishment. And remember: Abramoff didn't do it on his own.

It took a village. The sleazo-cons thought they could take over K Street to advance their agenda. As it transpired, K Street took over them.

With the on-going attack on DeLay that is landing repeated blows, there was bound to arise a Good Government group of Repugs. That Brooks of all people sees fit call for such a movement, however implicitly, shows not only how gangrenous the rot in fact is, but how Repugs are beginning to recognise the threat the obvious rot has to their hold on power.

Of course, anyone in their right mind predicted the corruption would reach this level as soon as the Repugs got power: it's just their nature. Absolute power corrupts absolutely; it corrupts even the most innocent and well-intentioned. What we are seeing, then, is how it corrupts the already corrupted.

There are two historical analogues to remember. One, the anti-corruption movement among Repugs post-Nixon, admittedly never that powerful to begin with, and eventually torpedoed alltogether by Ronald Reagan. And two, the Republican schism in the late Gilded Age, which amounted to a haphazard lysol job when in fact the whole filthy building needed demolished.

A clever Republican could go Theodore Roosevelt with this sort of thing. But then bear in mind that Theodore Roosevelt wasn't exactly sincere, for as Mr Frick of U.S. Steel said at the time, his company bought TR, too.