Having a fun little weekend with your top donors is not exactly new. It is widely understood that giving someone a bucketload of money entitles you to a certain level of access to that candidate, and that the more money you give, the more access you expect to get. A few thousand dollars might get you a picture of you and your favored future government official shaking hands; a six-figure sum will get you a weekend of dinners, dancing and golf with your candidate and numerous close advisers.
There were a few other things in the story, though, that stood out a bit. The first is the omnipresence of Super PAC strategist Karl Rove, a man who has done his level best to make American politics meaner, more vapid, and less truthful throughout his long career, but who can only finally come into his own personal Golden Age now that the Supreme Court has declared his style of politics-for-sale to be, officially, the transcendent one:
Bush strategist Karl Rove, who helps run American Crossroads, the well-funded GOP super PAC, is planning to speak at the retreat, said the fundraiser, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the event. Rove’s appearance could raise questions because of campaign finance laws barring any coordination between super PACs and actual campaigns.Could raise questions, they say. No doubt, but coordination rules are so lax already that the two men hardly need to exchange words in order to plan their mutual strategy. Rove's group are the attackers, willing to smear whichever Romney opponent needs smearing the most, in order to advance Romney in any particular state or group. Romney himself can simply content himself with his usual stump speeches, and count on uncoordinated groups to pick up on whichever new talking points his campaign might insert, of their own volition. No, in the case of Karl Rove, this might simply be a case where Mitt Romney just sincerely owes this fellow a few free dinners. And, perhaps, considerably more than that.
But Rove is not the only Bush-era figure who will be at the retreat. On the contrary, the program reads like a Bush family reunion:
Other guests slated to appear include former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and James A. Baker III, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Republican strategist Mary Matalin and conservative political commentators Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes.From the people who brought you the Iraq War, and who tried mightily to sell it, defenders all of the worst presidency since we first started debating what a "worst presidency" might entail, now presenting Mitt Romney! The newest model in a long line of Republicans, Mitt Romney will bring you all the fresh, new ideas of ten and twenty years ago, repackaged for today's modern tastes.
Many of the fundraisers themselves, no doubt, are veterans of the Bush years. And the other stars of the event are hardly outsiders in the Republican Party, either. Even the young upstarts are hardly upstarts, but people who have been carefully groomed and cultivated—in the Jindal case, to hilarious results, and in the Ryan case, as a true celebration of the Republican Party's final triumph over the principles of grade-school math.
Much can be said of the Democratic Party as well, of course. The Obama ranks have included no small number of Clinton-era figures; while the exuberance and expansiveness of his 2008 voter base could be counted as remarkable, neither Obama himself nor his administration can be supposed as anything but evolutionary, when compared to Clinton's own years. This is not meant as compliment, or insult: just observation.
This little Deer Valley jaunt serves as another reminder of how stagnant our politics has become. Mitt Romney is a machine candidate; he was from the very start the preferred candidate of the Money, and in the Republican Party especially, the Money decides the path to be taken. The few ideas he does announce, when he deviates from his script of blaming the Obama presidency for anything and everything bad about the world, are wholehearted endorsements of Bush-era economic policy, Bush-era deregulation efforts, Bush-era anti-environmental efforts, Bush-era foreign policy belligerence, and so on. If anything, they are toned up a bit from the original Bush versions, in keeping with the new conservative insistence that doubling down on all of those things will no doubt work out better the second time around. The ideas, though, have not changed. If the Romney campaign deviates from George W. Bush administration policy in any substantive way, I would love to hear of it.
The Citizens United case will likely further entrench machine politics, by making it even more difficult for non-machine candidates to gain traction. The Romney efforts against his primary opponents illustrate the pattern perfectly; while the political strategies remain the same, the easy cash with which to execute those strategies now allows the preferred candidate of any special interest group that just happens to be extraordinarily wealthy to carpet bomb his opponents long before they can achieve a broader viability. Even without that, though, the same faces and notions have no trouble persisting election after election, and even decade after decade. There is no second act in American politics, because the first act simply never ends.
The wolf in charge of shepherding modern American conservatism, Grover Norquist, observed a while back that it did not really matter which Republican was put in the presidency so long as they could sign their own name. His point was a valid one. No matter which Republican wins the nomination, the same figures would still hold sway; the same narrow group of people would be selected from, to govern and to give advice; the same money handlers would be present, collecting from the same groups and companies, demanding in return the same policies and agendas.
It really ought to be too soon, however, for the Bush-era crowd. A mere one presidential term away from the levers of power would seem an egregiously small sentence for the foulups, misdeeds, and general incompetence that characterized that group in nearly everything they chose to undertake. It is a bit soon to undertake more deregulation, premised exactly the same as the last rounds, or to shake our fist at another Middle Eastern country with a four-letter name, for the same reasons as the first, or to hurt the poor even more, or to coddle the rich even more, or to inflate the deficit bubble even more earnestly, declaring once again that it no longer matters, or any of the rest of it. Americans have famously short memories, but the Bush crowd started peeking up over the hedgerows after a mere two years out of office, and two years later have declared themselves and their ideas officially vindicated, on their own say-so. And so more of the same is on the menu, now. The political punishment for badly fucking up the nation lasted, in the Republican Party, for considerably less time than it has taken many victims of the recession to find new jobs. And the Republican political figures have been able to count on more sympathy, and far more generous welfare.
It is easy enough to be hostile at a crowd of the wealthy and connected having a private, no-press-allowed Park City retreat with their newest candidate of choice. The perceived elitism grates, and the recognition of just how few people are truly involved in deciding what choices the rest of the democracy will ever be presented with is infuriating every single time. But this crowd, in particular, seems worthy of scorn. It is a get together for the same money to bond with the same figures, and the same ideologies, and the same proposals, and in some cases the very same people that are responsible for so much of the misery that lies just outside the resort gates. They are happy, because things have worked out well enough for them, all things considered. Nobody can claim that the Republican Party as sobered up in the last few years—the opposite would seem to be obvious, and I think the Congress has moved on to methamphetamine use, or bath salts—but they are certain they are ready to retake the wheel.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2003:
Yes, we've found mass graves in Iraq. Oddly enough, most date back to the uprising after the Gulf War, the one where we encouraged the Shia and Kurds to rise up against Saddam and then let them be slaughtered. It's as if we unleashed a pit bull in a petting zoo and then express astonishment at the dead bunnies and chicks lying around. Then, a few weeks later, say that we need to take over the petting zoo because the owner lets pit bulls run around and kill things.
The fact is that the Shia are not stupid. They know who betrayed them, who turned their back as Saddam attacked and killed them and now uses those bodies to ward off criticism of the occupation. They don't want us there any more than the Sunni do, they just haven't unleashed their guerrilla war, yet.
For apologists of our occupation of Iraq, the dead Shia are convienent, like a handy talisman to ward off criticism. Despite years of Amnesty and Minority Rights Groups reports, despite the Southern no-fly zone, the only value the Shia had was as a way to indict Saddam's government. The fact that 15,000 Shia guerrillas sat in in Iran would usually get overlooked.
Now, this is why we went to war in Iraq. We had to save people who we condemned to death without a second thought.
It is hard to decide what is morally bankrupt, lies and distortions over WMD or justifying them by the dead we help lead to the slaughter.