New York Times columnist Bob Herbert devotes an entire column to how the Republican Party at the national level has become institutionally deceitful, highlighting the recent battle over raising the minimum wage as a classic example.
The GOP has always been a fierce opponent of the minimum wage, which now sits at a paltry $5.15 an hour, a half-century low in real dollars. Yet the Republicans suddenly embraced a modest $2.10 increase in the minimum wage over three years tied to a whopping slash in the estate tax and a change in law that would have actually cut wages for millions of employees who earn tips. The so-called “trifecta” legislation was little more than an election year stunt intended to bend Democrats over a barrel, and Republican leaders made clear that Dems who opposed the bill would be targeted as obstructionist come November. “There’s like 12 30-second ads sitting around in this bill,” one Republican aide told The Hill.
Herbert bluntly calls the GOP’s bluff, and then some:
I’m for an increase in the minimum wage and against a cut in the estate tax. But that’s not the point here. The point is the extent to which the Republican Party is willing to engage in deceit to try and achieve ends it could not achieve any other way. The latest incarnation of the Republican Party has taken deceit in government and politics to dangerous new extremes, and it’s time to call a halt to it.
The war in Iraq will be remembered as one of the greatest exercises in systematic governmental deceit in U.S. history. But the Iraq fiasco is just the most stunning and tragic example of a style of governing and politicking that has become second nature to the Bush administration and much of the national Republican establishment.
At some level all politics is local, so when we talk about the institutional dishonesty of the national Republican leadership we must also consider how they harness their deceit to influence elections at the local level. Herbert continues:
It is in that same deceitful and vengeful spirit that the party is now attacking Democratic senators who managed to hold fast, under the leadership of the minority leader, Harry Reid, to defeat the legislation that cynically tied the estate tax windfall to an increase in the minimum wage.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee declared that Maria Cantwell, a Democratic senator from Washington who voted against the bogus bill, “decided that giving in to pressure from her party’s leadership was more important than voting to raise the federal minimum wage.”
Senator Cantwell, who is up for re-election this year, favors an increase in the minimum wage, as does her party’s leadership. It has been the Democratic Party that has been pushing for years for an increase in the minimum wage, but there is no room for that reality in the G.O.P.’s corrosive culture of deceit.
Which brings us to Sen. Cantwell’s challenger, former SAFECO CEO and insurance industry lobbyist Mike!™ McGavick, a man who has pledged to bring bipartisanship and civility back to the other Washington. And how does he intend to achieve this? By echoing the partisan, divisive rhetoric of his partisan and divisive national leadership, of course. In the very first sentence of a press release issued in the wake of the vote, Mike!™ immediately fell back on the NRSC talking points.
“Simply put, Sen. Cantwell today announced that she will side with her party’s leaders over the interest of our state,”
Simply put, Mike!™ is a politician like all other politicians, and a Republican in the mold of the national Republicans with whom he would caucus if elected.
And you can’t just write off that initial press release as the rushed, knee-jerk reaction of a communications staff desperate to get out in front of the news cycle. Mike!™ issued two more press releases in the following days, continuing to hammer home the NRSC talking points, eventually so riling The Stranger’s Josh Feit that he felt compelled to pick one apart with footnotes:
GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mike McGavick keeps saying he wants to run a “different” campaign. That is: a campaign that doesn’t stoop to the childish, misleading level of partisan attack politics that typically clutters civic debate. I want to believe the guy, but then he sends out childish, misleading, partisan press releases that clutter civic debate.
What really bugs me about this whole thing is that the GOP trifecta was purely an election-year stunt to neutralize a winning Democratic issue–the minimum wage. First thing Monday morning, McGavick, who claims to be above the juvenile partisan fray, sends out a misleading hack-job press release on Cantwell, trying to blame her. McGavick is just following GOP orders.
And so he is.
Last week, Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly accused me of taking part in a “mean, low-down attack” against Mike!™ for my teensy role in the SAFECO shareholder lawsuit. Joel seems to want to believe Mike!™’s call for civility at least as much as Josh, calling him a “stand-up guy“. But given the deceitfulness of his press releases one can’t help but wonder what Mike!™ is willing to stand up for? The people? The truth? Or the larger agenda of his Republican leadership?
Knowing his long history as a Slade Gorton operative it is hard to take Mike!™’s sudden conversion to civility at face value. Oh sure, no doubt he’s a nice enough guy when you sit down across from him face to face, but then, so am I. And as has been extensively documented by the Seattle Times’ David Postman and on the blogs Hominid Views and Orcinus, Mike!™ has shown an extraordinary willingness to do or say whatever it takes to win an election.
So is Mike!™ just another dirty campaigner, cynically touting civility and bipartisanship as little more than a political convenience? Well, to paraphrase Mike!™’s own defense of a misleading ad against Mike Lowery from 1988: “I have no indication that he isn’t.”
What I do know is that Mike!™ is a Republican and that he is eagerly attacking Sen. Cantwell with the same “deceitful and vengeful spirit” that Herbert has observed nationally. Mike!™ can talk about civility all he wants, but if the Republicans retain control of the Senate we already know what we’re gonna get.