Perry and Purity

Rick Perry is now the undisputed front runner in the GOP field. Some pundits think he will be hard to stop. We’ll see; it’s early yet.

I keep reading that Perry is not Bush. And I keep thinking, how are they different? They both are big time crony capitalists whose big issues are tax cuts and tort reform. But here Steve Kornacki spells it out. The difference, really, is a matter of perception on the Right.

After 8 years of being unable to take down Bill Clinton, the GOP establishment decided that it needed a new marketing strategy. Bush was “elected” in 2000 with the solid support of the establishment and empty rhetoric about “compassionate conservatism.”

And for the first half of Bush’s presidency, Perry and most other Republicans stayed on board even as Bush implemented big government conservatism — a massively expanded federal role in public education (courtesy of a deal with Ted Kennedy and George Miller), a giant new prescription drug entitlement program, the creation of a brand new Cabinet department and so on.

I should add that the real impetus behind most of this was to find new ways to funnel taxpayer money to the education, pharmaceutical, and other industries, but let’s go on …

Every now and then, there’d be some grumbling on the right about Bush’s spending binge, but it didn’t amount to anything. Bush’s approval rating with Republicans remained astronomically high and he was reelected in 2004 thanks in large part to the party base’s devotion to him.

And let’s not forget … September 11 September 11 September 11 September 11 September 11 September 11 September 11 September 11 September 11 September 11 September 11 September 11, etc.

It was in his second term that everything changed. For the first time in his presidency, due mainly to news from Iraq that seemed to get grimmer each month and to his administration’s feeble response to Hurricane Katrina, Bush’s poll numbers began to plummet, first under 50 percent, then into the low 40s, and then into the 30s. His formula had stopped working, and when Republicans were blown out in the 2006 midterms (losing the House for the first time since 1994 and the Senate for the first time since 2001), the leaders and activists who had once acquiesced to the supposed necessity of compassionate conservatism began jumping ship. It was because Republicans had betrayed their own ideological principles, they decided, that the Bush presidency had failed and the GOP’s image was in disrepair. Or, as Limbaugh put it a few days after the ‘06 election:

The way I feel is this: I feel liberated, and I’m going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don’t think deserve having their water carried.

It was in this climate that the Republican Party as we know it today and Rick Perry as we know him today were both born.

Basically, the base has persuaded itself that Bush “failed” because he strayed too far from conservative orthodoxy. He wasn’t pure enough, in other words. Especially after their midterm victory, the GOP is all about ideological purity. And Rick Perry is giving it to them.

This explains a lot of the insanity, including the House vote to privatize Medicare and the call to raise taxes on working people. They’re in self-destruct mode.

Today in Cluelessness

Eric Cantor wants to pay for Irene disaster relief with massive cuts to funding for disaster first responders.

If this were to happen, and some disaster required more responders than we had on hand, would Cantor then decide to fund first responders by cutting funds for disaster relief?

The New York Times editorializes about the Right’s resentment of the poor.

These Republican leaders, who think nothing of widening tax loopholes for corporations and multimillion-dollar estates, are offended by the idea that people making less than $40,000 might benefit from the progressive tax code. They are infuriated by the earned income tax credit (the pride of Ronald Reagan), which has become the biggest and most effective antipoverty program by giving working families thousands of dollars a year in tax refunds. They scoff at continuing President Obama’s payroll tax cut, which is tilted toward low- and middle-income workers and expires in December. …

…The moral argument would have been obvious before this polarized year. … The real problem is that so many Americans are struggling on such a small income, not whether they pay taxes.

Silly New York Times. Don’t they know that in the topsy-turvy world of right-wing morality, the moral argument is that wealth must flow to the wealthy, who “deserve” it, and that the poor must be punished for their poverty? It’s a good editorial, though.

Along those lines, see “Executive Excess 2011: The Massive CEO Rewards for Tax Dodging.”

Also along those lines, wingnuts are outraged because the President is calling for a national day of service to commemorate 9/11. Pam Geller actually called a day of service “sacrilegious.” One wonders in what religion that would be true. Jim Hoft apparently thinks that the president’s suggestion for voluntary charity work is socialism.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Chait explains what jobs are, and how they work, to a right-wing think tank.