Wednesday morning notes of interest

Writer John Dean, formerly of the Nixon (R) administration, provides a chilling introduction to his new book, Conservatives Without Conscience:

It was not Senator Goldwater’s (Republican candidate for President, 1964) politics, however, that prompted me to call him after the 1994 midterm elections, when the Republicans won control of Congress for the first time in forty years. I called to solicit his thoughts about the Silent Coup lawsuit, and to talk to him about the conservatives who were so aggressively promoting, and buying into, this false history. Following the senator’s unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1964 he had filed a defamation lawsuit against the publisher of FACT magazine, Ralph Ginsberg, who had claimed during the 1964 presidential campaign that the senator was crazy, a judgment he based on a ludicrous and highly partisan poll of psychiatrists. Although it took years, Senator Goldwater eventually won. His case made new law, which I told him would help my wife and me, as public figures, prevail in our suit.9 He was aware of the attacks on Mo, and he immediately put our situation into a larger context, while counseling that we vigorously pursue the litigation.”I heard that jackass Liddy on one of the talk-radio shows,” the senator told me. “I don’t think anyone believes him, John. He’s a fool.” “Frankly, I find it offensive that he calls himself a conservative,” the senator added.
“Why’s that?” I asked.

“Why? I’ll tell you why. Because he thinks like a thug, not like a conservative. Conservatives seek the wisdom of the past, not the worst of it,” he snapped. He continued, “I was talking with [former Arizona Republican congressman and former minority leader of the House of Representatives] Johnny Rhodes, just a few days ago. He’s still got the ear of the House Republican leaders. I asked him to tell those fellows back in Washington that I don’t go along with their incivility. I told them they should back off on their attacks on Hillary Clinton. They’re acting like jerks too, not conservatives. If they don’t, I’m going to blast them. They’re driving decent people out of public service. And they’re turning off voters. It’s dirty politics, and it should end.”

“Why do you suppose that they do this?” I asked.

Without hesitation he said, “It’s these so-called social or cultural conservatives. And I don’t know what in hell possesses them. I’d like to find out.”
Conservatism is not inherently moralistic, negative, arrogant, condescending, and self-righteous. Nor is it authoritarian. Yet all of these are adjectives that best describe the political outlook of contemporary conservatism. I make these observations not as an outsider, but as a conservative who is deeply troubled by what has become of a treasured philosophy. Conservatism has been co-opted by authoritarians, a most dangerous type of political animal.How do people-particularly those who have never put their life on the line for their country-engage in, or condone, attacks on Senator John McCain’s life-defining experiences as a Vietnam POW or question Senator Max Cleland’s courage in building a new life after his loss of three limbs in Vietnam? What causes them to dispute Senator John Kerry’s valor during voluntary combat duty in Vietnam or to contest Representative Jack Murtha’s war record in Vietnam? Do they believe that by belittling the competence of White House counsel Harriet Miers, by forcing her to withdraw as a nominee for the Supreme Court, they are engaged in legitimate political debate? Why do they remain silent, or even defend, a president who has shamed the nation forever by endorsing an unprecedented and unnecessary use of torture against our enemies? These questions have clear answers. My aim is to explain how and why these conservatives operate as they do, with the thought that others may realize that this current breed of authoritarian conservatism, the behavior of both authoritarian leaders and their credulous followers, constitute a hazardous way for politics and governing. In fact, these people cannot be trusted to exercise the powers of government responsibly. 

If you’re a conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between, grab a stiff drink, head over to OpEdNews, and read this whole piece.

I heard Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, speak on immigration reform last night at the North Fulton Democrats meeting.  An advocate of earned citizenship, he nevertheless took the GOP to task for essentially creating an issue for an election year. 

On the same topic, Cynthia Tucker of the AJC is accusing Georgia Republican senator Saxby Chambliss of playing both sides of the issue:

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA.) – then a congressman – was annoyed at the old immigration and Naturalization Service for trying to enforce the nation’s laws. In 1998, when INS agents rounded up illegal workers at the Vidalia onion fields in southeast Georgia, Chambliss and a handful of other Georgia congressmen denounced the agency. Chambliss accused INS of using “bullying tactics.”

These days, Chambliss is better known for his tough stance against illegal workers. A member of a hard-core group of Republicans who have rebelled against President Bush’s sensible call for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, Chambliss has said that such an approach “sends the message to the American people that we are more eager to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship than we are to secure our borders from further illegal immigration and the smuggling of illegal drugs and weapons. That is not the message my constituents in Georgia want to hear.”

Veteran politicians are practiced at doing 180-degree turns while pretending to remain steadfastly on course, but that’s not what Chambliss has done. He hasn’t really reversed himself. He stands on the same side he’s always stood on — the side of Big Business, which wants to exploit illegal workers without giving them the benefits of legal status. When Chambliss criticized INS eight years ago, he did so because farmers were upset about losing their workers at harvest time, not out of any concern for exploited migrants.

Of course, this unsubtle hypocrisy — targeting illegal workers while protecting illegal hiring — is aided and abetted by constituents who find it easier to blame darker-skinned Latinos than white business owners. While the Minutemen have stood guard at the border and various factions have organized protests aimed at Mexicans, Guatemalans or Salvadorans, those groups have not targeted onion growers or home builders.

If Chambliss & Co. really wanted to stanch the flow of undocumented workers, that would be easy enough to do. We wouldn’t have to build a a single mile of fence or hire even one more Border Patrol agent. If Congress cracked down on illegal hiring — passing a tough law that sent a few criminal employers to jail — the practice would end. The waves of illegal immigrants would dry up. If they couldn’t get work, they wouldn’t come.

But when Chambliss had the opportunity to vote for a proposal to crack down on illegal hiring, he refused to do so. In May, the Senate adopted an amendment to its immigration bill that would require employers to use a federal database to verify the immigration status of any job applicant; the amendment included stiff fines for employers who hire undocumented workers. But Chambliss voted against the amendment, as did U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). They also voted against the larger Senate bill, with its provisions for a path to citizenship.


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