The Leesburg Daily Commercial was worth the price of admission today, as it served up yet another delicious example of hypocrisy from Cal Thomas, Fox News pundit and all-around defender of the right-wing’s faith. We have already seen how the text of the Constitution means nothing to Thomas when it gets in his way. Today, we found out that even the Ten Commandments are not immune to “reinterpretation.” What could be so vital to the national interest or, rather, vital to the interests of social Conservatives, that it warrants turning a blind eye to a clear Biblical command? Is the survival of the republic at stake? Do we find ourselves in an existential struggle which requires the temporary abandonment of our most cherished moral principles? Apparently so, and all because Mitt Romney is running for President.
Without mentioning any particular candidate by name, Thomas leaves us with the verdict that, “if the country is to be made well, voters may just have to sacrifice the ideal for the pragmatic.” This pronouncement came after a long, verbal shrug of acknowledgment that marital infidelity is a fact of life and that modern culture has become more accepting towards it. We don’t need a magnifying glass to read between these lines. We all know that he’s telling us Newt Gingrich is a flawed human being, but that – in these especially difficult circumstances – he is the only one who can save us. Such permissiveness toward Gingrich’s manifest and manifold character flaws is nothing new for Thomas. He has done previous groundwork for Gingrich by presenting his lucrative work for Freddie Mac as nothing remotely hypocritical, notwithstanding frequent Republican criticism of the mortgage giant.
Sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start when the hypocrisy is this rich and complete. After all the sanctimonious lectures from social conservatives like Thomas, urging people to live their lives in accordance with Christian values (and aimed, of course, primarily at the poorer recipients of what they consider social largesse) it is almost breathtaking to behold the ease with which a Biblical commandment can be shrugged off.
Thomas reports that he wanted to ask Gary Hart, whose presidential ambitions were famously scuttled by revelations of an extramarital affair, whether the American people could trust him if he couldn’t keep a promise he made to his wife before God. Thomas wants us to believe that this question doesn’t matter as much any more because society has changed. But hang on a minute, Cal. You’re a conservative, and a Christian conservative at that. You’re supposed to resist undesirable social change, not facilitate it by encouraging us to endorse a candidate who makes a mockery of the Seventh Commandment. And this observation leads to an obvious question for Cal Thomas himself. Why should anyone pay any attention to a pundit who can apparently jettison his fundamental principles at will?
If fidelity to one’s spouse – and to Christian values – actually meant something to Cal Thomas, there are other candidates in the field who have no black marks in that department. One of them, mentioned for the sake of ironic completeness, is the sitting President, about whom much bile has been spouted but nary a peep of hanky-panky has been alleged. Michelle Bachmann has said she “was a sinner,” which could be fun to explore, but has apparently been a very good girl since. (Excessively so, for those of us who don’t expect women to obey their husbands to the degree demanded by our own Congressman, Daniel Webster.) And then there is Mitt Romney – the very portrait of an all-American dad. Doesn’t that wholesome family image count for anything any more? More to the point, why has Herman Cain’s candidacy gone down in flames while Gingrich – an actual, not merely alleged adulterer – has replaced him as the front-runner? It looks as if the whole Republican establishment needs to answer the same question we posed to Cal Thomas. If family values only matter when you say they do, why should we care about any of your professed values?
Those of us who aren’t wet behind the ears know very well that the right-wing uses the language of values as a cynical tool in its coalition building. Pick up a few right-to-lifers here, a few gun nuts there, sprinkle in an admixture of creationists, and pretty soon you’ve got yourself a red state. Then you can pass all the legislation that your corporate paymasters – who don’t give a damn about anything other than short-term profit maximization – really want. But one of the interesting aspects of (very recent) social change in America – far more interesting and important than attitudes towards marriage – is the degree to which this ugly reality is becoming transparent. Since the financial crisis, the G.O.P. hasn’t bothered to try to hide its affiliations. We know exactly who they work for, and we know which values really matter.
This, then, is the prism through which we need to look at the Republican nomination process. The corporate oligarchy needs a candidate who can be depended upon to do its bidding, but who is also electable. Herman Cain was never going to be electable, so the corporate media were at liberty to do a full hatchet job on him. Michelle Bachmann, despite her undeniable pulchritude and willingness to submit to corporations as well as her husband, was too crazy to play on a national stage. Ron Paul is far too rational in certain areas and would not be compliant. Most of the others are bland non-entities. So that leaves us with the big two – the established players with experience in government, name recognition, and plenty of money. The race between them can be viewed in a couple of different ways, one of which is decidedly counter-intuitive for most people.
The easier explanation is that Romney, too, is seen as unelectable due to his preternatural tendency to vacillate on every conceivable topic. I’m not sure there has ever been a case of a presidential candidate so blatantly changing his mind in his attempt to win the position that will complete his resume. Even his assumed advantage on economic issues – which could be important if the economy deteriorates further before the election – is questionable, given that much of his time at Bain Capital was spent raiding struggling companies and laying off their workers in order to restore profitability prior to resale. The potential for attack ads against Romney is tremendous, and the Obama people are masters at all phases of campaigning. Romney’s Mormonism probably won’t help in the Bible Belt, either, possibly reducing turnout. (I shall resist the temptation to ask whether Mormons are any crazier – or more “cult-like” – than Baptists or Pentecostals.)
In contrast to Romney, Gingrich seems vastly more self-assured, and Americans like their chief-executive decision-makers to exude confidence. In fact, Newt is so full of himself that he would have no trouble going toe-to-toe with Obama in presidential debates, and one can easily imagine G.O.P. voters relishing that prospect. Obama is not nearly as good a speaker as he is reputed to be – hesitating and stumbling frequently when not guided by a teleprompter – and Newt could easily rattle his cage, supported as he now is by a wife pretty enough to be First Lady. Judging by the drool marks all over the pages of the Daily Commercial, this is the juicy political steak into which Cal Thomas wishes to sink his fangs. But there are other diners in the room with more discerning palates than Thomas, and enough breeding not to leave such an obvious trail.
It is to these more sophisticated appetites that we now turn. Those of us who rail against the corporate oligarchy often make the mistake of assuming it to be monolithic, but that is almost certainly an inaccurate oversimplification. What’s good for the Koch brothers may or may not be good for Goldman Sachs. (A cynical observer would note that almost anything is good for Goldman Sachs given that they can place bets either way….) We know the Koch brothers want to repeal as much environmental regulation as they can, and work feverishly at the state level to reduce the onerous burden that restricts their socially beneficial enterprises. We know the oil companies want the Keystone pipeline project to bring Canadian oil from the tar sands of Alberta to their refineries in Cancer Alley. These actors are reliable Republican donors.
But the financial services sector developed an obscenely incestuous relationship with the Democratic Party during Slick Willy’s tenure, aided and abetted by the uber-devious Robert Rubin, upon whom much of the blame for our current predicament can be laid. (If you haven’t seen it already, watch the movie Inside Job. It spells it all out in graphic, sickening detail.) While these banksters would surely be happy with a Republican Administration – as they were under that of Bush II, which allowed them to police themselves – they know how to get what they want whoever is in the White House. Indeed, it can be argued that they get more of what they want under the cover of a Democrat. While this argument is utterly beyond the comprehension of Fox News viewers who believe the hyperbole that Obama is a Muslim socialist, there is ample evidence to support it merely in the composition of Obama’s inner circle of advisers. When we look at the actions – and inaction – of Obama’s Department of Justice, the pattern of deference to Wall Street becomes undeniably clear.
When the part of the corporate oligarchy that reigns supreme – the financial sector – can get what it wants from the current occupant of the White House, the Republican race is a mere sideshow. This is why the race has appeared to be so chaotic, and will ultimately produce a nominee who can’t beat Obama. If Wall Street really wanted Obama gone, amateurs like Donald Trump would never have any opportunity to participate in the process. These charlatans can only flourish in the low-pressure environment of a vacuum. The G.O.P. “contest” does not matter to the people who really matter in modern America.
This is something for the oil, gas, and mining companies to think about. Their interests are currently being subjugated to those of Wall Street. The Keystone project is on hold because the bankers’ boy needs to curry favor among environmentalists for the election. Meanwhile, the Administration is more worried about preventing the state attorneys general from prosecuting the big banks for mortgage fraud. Of course, the extractive industries have plenty of opportunities to mold federal law in their image thanks to their kept men in the legislative branch, but it might be nice to have a few more cronies in the executive-branch agencies as well. They could console themselves by contemplating the magnitude of their record-setting profits, but those numbers can never be large enough, can they?
It is not at all clear that Cal Thomas understands any of this. Indeed, one could almost feel sorry for him. He actually believes that he is still relevant, and has sold his principles and credibility to the devil in order to attempt to influence the outcome of a race that amounts to nothing more than a middle-fingered gesture to democracy. He would have been far better off sticking to his guns and scolding anything that smacked of good, old-fashioned immorality. At least then we could still have had a little respect for him.