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The Party of Personal Responibility
The Goatherder
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Among the more devastatingly successful charges that Republicans have leveled against liberals over the past quarter century is that they had abandoned any notion of personal responsibility. They railed against government giveaways, welfare queens and crime without consequence. This charge has resonated deeply with the American public and has helped the right to rise to political prominence. But among the political sea changes that have occurred this century is a reversal of this issue. The radical right has abandoned its role as the champion of personal responsibility.

It is almost too easy to start with Rush Limbaugh, the radical right entertainer turned drug addict. Of course, prior to his problems becoming public, he famously stated that white collar drug addicts should be sent up the river, just like every other criminal. But once he was exposed, personal responsibility took a holiday. His only responsibility for his crime was an on-air apology to his loyal listeners, telling them that he was only lying to himself. This gut wrenching confession was followed, of course, by a pit-bull defense centered on suppressing evidence based on a constitutional technicality.

It goes on in the policy arena also. Dick Cheney gleefully reports that deficits do not matter, so the radical right sponsors tax cuts and spending sprees that leave huge bills for our children. Political consultants teach right wing candidates how to spin environmental issues, so crony capitalists can ravage the environment for short-term profits. The Supreme Court has only an honor system regarding conflicts of interest, so Anton Scalia spends a week-end retreat with a litigant who is fighting for his political life.

Which leads to the absolute master of no personal responsibility, the quintessential spoiled rich boy, George W. Bush. Bush has been spending much of the last half year dodging the question of whether he had any responsibility for 9/11. He has refused to apologize in any fashion, and it is not surprising. It would have no effect, since it is clearly too late, and would appear too cynically political. After 9/11, Bush gave a wonderful speech. But he should have given another speech about a month later. He should have said, This terrible disaster happened while I was in charge and I am deeply sorry. But what is more disturbing is that even though I am commander in chief, I am not quite certain what went wrong. Therefore I am appointing a blue ribbon commission to investigate the matter and find out exactly why we failed. And I am going to prod and push and drive this commission mercilessly, to make certain that they thoroughly examine the situation and that they get to the bottom of this. Then, I am going to do what is necessary to fix it. Instead, he fought the creation of the 9/11 commission and has stonewalled it ever since.

But of course George W. Bush has never had to take responsibility for anything in his life. It is not surprising that he would not want to get to the bottom of the 9/11 national security disaster. As a spoiled rich kid, he has never had to figure out what went wrong and correct it. Rather, he has had to minimize blame and wait for daddy or mommy to make things right. It wasnt my fault I failed the test, the teacher was mean. It wasnt my fault that the window was broken, Jeb made me throw the ball too far. Thats OK Georgie, well just have the handyman fix the window. You run along and play. Its OK you failed the test, Georgie, I know some people on the board of trustees. And well have Uncle Dick go with you when you speak to the principal. And on and on. Well have some bankers buy your stock at a good price; Well have our friends get you into the National Guard; Well have Jeb and his friends bring this election in for a landing.

But of course now there is no help from dad, friendly bankers or even Uncle Dick. George W. Bush has put himself in a position where he has to do it all himself. He has to take charge, figure out what went wrong and fix it. And not surprisingly, he doesnt know how to do it. His answer is to dogmatically deny that anything is wrong. He ought to look at his partys campaign propaganda; it has a simple solution for his problem -- Its called personal responsibility.
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