Cliff Schecter, 6/1/2012 [Archive]

Conservative Courage And Other Myths

Conservative Courage And Other Myths

By Cliff Schecter

Courage is a word we often hear bandied about in our modern age, but it is as much in vogue as a mullet or Mel Gibson. It can be defined in a variety of ways, but they all have something in common: a willingness to sacrifice one's own life, wealth, status or something of great import for the greater good.

While this trait may be lacking in our society as a whole, it is even further into remission among our elected political leaders. Which is a shame, because we're in desperate need of it.

Scholars Thomas Mann, of the centrist Brookings Institution, and Norman Ornstein, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, recently came out and said the dysfunction, polarization, and toxicity of our Congress the no longer the fault of both major political parties. These days this is the singular accomplishment of the Grand Old Party, who sees compromise as weakness, thinks science is for suckers and has turned legislating in Washington into one long Gingrich marriage, without the open part, of course.

In fact, it is the singular lack of courage of any major Republican elected officials in calling out their own party that has helped get us into our current age of The Real Housewives of Congress.

It hasn't always been like this. Back in the 1950s, in a serious act of bravery at the time, Senator Margaret Chase Smith authored a Declaration of Conscience with six other Republican Senators, chastising Senator Joseph McCarthy for his paranoid delusions about those sneaky Communists hiding inside his empty bottles of Bushmills. In later years, many Republicans rebuked the extremist (and Koch-daddy founded) John Birch Society, and then-Senator Barry Goldwater himself expressed his desire to kick the Reverend Jerry Falwell in a rather rotund part of his exterior when the good preacher attacked Ronald Reagan's choice of Sandra Day O'Connor as Supreme Court Justice.

This served an important function. An actual Republican Establishment helped reign in the radicals and ensure their conservatism was not so influenced by the far-right to embrace the outright nihilism of today's version of the party. These elected officials told their fellow public servants--as well as commentators--what was acceptable, making it clear that country came before party, our commonality as a people before their campaign contributions.

Today, however, only two groups point this out: pundits and former politicos with nothing left to lose. While it was refreshing to hear George Will call Donald Trump a "bloviating ignoramus," which was perhaps a tad too kind, that should be Mitt Romney's job when Supercuts Trump carpet bombs the truth like he has the institution of marriage. Meanwhile, where was Speaker of the House, John Boehner, or Senator Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell?

While many on both sides of the aisle have been lionizing Senator Dick Lugar (when not feeling terrible that he lost his primary to a guy who likely needs his food cut into tiny bites for his own safety), what about Lugar's responsibility to call out the Tea-Party trend in his party over the last few years? Where was Olympia Snowe, who as a female Senator from Maine built a reputation as a Margaret-Chase-Smith-like legislator, but couldn't be bothered to really attack her own party's extremism until she decided to retire?

Eyal Press, whose recent book, "Beautiful Souls," is all about those who choose to "break rank" and "heed their conscience" during trying times, lamented this lack of courage when we spoke. He shared with me that "someone writing an updated version of "Profiles in Courage" would be hard pressed to find a character in today's GOP for such a book. It speaks to the striking lack of willingness to speak out, that unfortunately characterizes our politics generally and right wing politics specifically in Washington today."

The President's birth certificate is questioned, admitted torturer Allen West calls fellow members of the House "Communists" and Michele Bachmann runs for President praising the hometown of John Wayne Gacy because she just doesn't know the difference. As Kurt Vonnegut might say if he were still with us, so it goes.

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©Copyright 2012 Cliff Schecter, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Sales at 800- 696-7561 or email sales@cagle.com.

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, and the author of the 2008 bestseller "The Real McCain." Email Cliff at cliffschecter@gmail.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.




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