I Know You Are But What Am I
Matt Yglesias wonders why the Republicans have been so blase about nominees lying outright to the Senate during their confirmation hearings when they may very well be at the mercy of Democrats in the future. Yesterday, Bill Frist righteously rebutted the argument set forth by some Republicans that the nuclear option would leave them powerless when Democrats came into power, by saying that if it was wrong for Democrats today it would be wrong for Republicans tomorrow. In truth it doesn't matter.
The trouble is that the IOKIYAR (it's ok if you're a republican) phenomenon is not just a little blogospheric joke. It's quite real and it's been demonstrated over and over again. There is absolutely no reason for the Republicans to fear that they will be held to the same standard as they hold Democrats, ever. These lies by Bush appointees are not going to be investigated and they will always remain in the realm of he said/she said, old news, whyareyoubringingthisupnow. Fuggedaboudit.
For instance, Matt brings up the fact that the Bush administration has hired convicted congressional liars from the iran Contra era. But, one must also remember that those same convicted liars were all pardoned by George Bush Sr at a time when he was personally under investigation by a special prosecutor, thus effectively ending the probe. Immediately after Senior left office, however, there began a relentless series of demands by Republicans for special prosecutors investigating a list of shockingly trivial charges that eventually led to the impeachment of the president. The Republicans didn't worry that someone would make comparisons that would embarrass them. They are unembarrassable because they have found that they can ignore the prinicples of relevant difference, the universality principle, the golden rule or whatever you want to call it, and there will be no repercussions.
It may be that this is caused by a media that refuses to take a stance on even factual matters, which leaves people with the impression that there are no standards except those which are imposed by the loudest, the most powerful, the most entertaining or whatever. It's a big problem for us in the reality based community, however, because we remain stuck in this rational mode of argumentation while they careen off into a relativist fallacy whenever they choose.
In other words, there are no rules --- only actions that will keep them in power or strip them from it. The fight each battle separately and don't worry about the one they are going to fight tomorrow. And when the worm has turned and Democrats gain power again, everything will go back to square one and all of the the crimes that we spent that last five years screaming to get covered and investigated will be turned by the Republicans into indictments of Democrats.
Yesterday, James Dobson, alleged arbiter of moral standards, came to a ringing defense of Tom DeLay. Using the approved right wing talking points, he claimed that DeLay was the subject of a witchhunt financed by liberal millionaires. This is, of course, exactly what they did to Bill Clinton for eight long years. They have no sense of embarrassment at this; no sense of irony; not even a little bit of shame for unoriginality. No, it is as if these arguments have never been uttered before and have the full force of moral righteousness even though it is, to our eyes, infuriatingly absurd. And, in truth, because we have uttered these words for so long they are out in the ether with some feeling of received wisdom to those who don't follow the details of political warfare. (They are good at taking our received wisdom and turing it to their advantage. I wish we would start doing the same.)
The Republicans are rejecting reason in science, economics, rhetoric and governance and therefore we cannot expect that rules based upon a rational assumption that they will be applied to both sides equally are even relevant. We fight each battle anew. It's never over. Nothing is settled. This is why they hate the courts. Reason and finality are their enemy. These are the "I Know You Are But What Am I" Republicans and they have taken us into a new world of post enlightenment reality. We'd better get used to it.