The Republicans lost their soul years ago. Hanging out with cynical politicians like Nixon, Reagan and, wow, Junior Bush will have that effect on you. You are who you eat, and the GOP has been buying and eating dirty pork chops for decades.
But, now, in its deeply damaged state, the Republican party is even losing the soul it claims to have. Since the days of Billy Graham selling his snake oil in arenas all over the country, the GOP has always declared itself the party of God and Morality. They have spent millions poisoning the electorate by beating up on the heathen Democrats -- the party of contraception, uppity women, abortion, divorce and homosexuality. Go ahead and vote Democratic, they said -- we all knew who was first in line when the Rapture calls the Righteous to Heaven’s Door.
Unbelievers like me have had to deal with the reality that we could never, ever be Holier Than Them. It was liberating in a way, knowing that even good works, solid values and belief in the Golden Rule would never get us to the Promised Land. I sin, therefore I am. Our political efforts could only get so far because only the Lord would set us free. And only in the manner defined by Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and other offspring of the Deciding Divider.
In the race for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, all claims to sanctimony have been tossed out the window. It means little; after all, this is just a race to see who gets to have the “R” next to their name in the history books as the person who lost to whoever the Democratic president turns out to be. But, for all their years of telling you and I and every Democratic candidate how we and they should be living, it is shocking to see the Republicans running away from the supposed values they have spent all these years claiming to have.
The problem for the GOP is that the leading candidates who have chosen to come forward in this hopeless race are, er, human. Rudy Giuliani has been married three times (at least he is still in his third) and John McCain has been married twice. The despicable Newt Gingrich, dancing around the edges of the race until Fox News decides he should get in, has the most wonderfully icky marital history: He dumped his first wife while she lay on a hospital bed. Then he was running around the Capitol playing “Hide the Banana” with his current wife, while wife number two was home, watching him wax poetic about the debauchery of Bill Clinton during the “impeachment” proceedings on TV.
Ronnie Reagan broke the Divorced President barrier, but that was because everyone forgot about his first wife, Jane Wyman*, anyway. And with Nancy, hey, the former spouse is simply not to be discussed in polite company. And, that was Hollywood, anyway.
Rudy is another matter altogether, with his ex-spouse and even his children still feeling the sting of their humiliation when they had to watch America’s Mayor dance around Manhattan with his new squeeze while they hunkered down in Gracie Mansion. Rudy was a class act all the way, moving out of the mayor’s quarters and howling ‘till dawn with the younger Judith Nathan.
Giuliani was a victim of his Sinatra complex -- "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, baby,” he would growl, while they sipped champagne against the Manhattan skyline. Why have all the adrenalin rush from being the right mayor at the right time on 9/11 and not be able to “use it”, if you know what I mean? You can imagine President Rudy if the U.S. gets in a shootin’ match on his watch. “Hey, baby, get in here!” he would shout to the nearest intern. “Let’s push some buttons!” Perhaps they could install a revolving door on the First Lady’s quarters.
Any Democrat with the same history would be savaged on a daily basis in both the right-wing media and the MSM until they apologized for even thinking about running for dog-catcher, much less president. Cheap hacks like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson would trot out to the microphones to pretend to pray for the poor soul’s redemption, not to mention that of the Heathen Nation that allows him to live here. Hell, Bill and Hillary Clinton have taken it from these people for not having the decency to divorce. But, any potential GOP savior gets a pass from those majoring in hypocrisy. Giuliani is “a true American statesman”, says Falwell’s laughably-titled National Liberty Journal. Well, golly. How much closer to god can you get?
The fact is that Giuliani happens to be the only hope of the GOP, however faint. I realized this while watching him speak at the ‘04 convention. He is the only Republican with any hint of authenticity or common sense. Unfortunately, he has decided to whore himself out to the GOP machinists and they have decided to pretend not to notice all his personal, er, quirks.
But it’s not only his personal life that should have the Kings of Sanctimony in a tizzy. Giuliani is still pro-choice, still in favor of recognizing gay unions and still supports gun control efforts in big cities. His sop to the conservative base is that he would appoint justices like Scalia and Alito to the Supreme Court (funny, he never mentions Thomas). But, again, where is the outrage of the religious right for Rudy having the temerity to support a woman’s right to choose, the opposition to which is the Holy Grail of the conservative charade?
It is moments like this when the blinding light of Truth shines in on those who choose to exploit the darkness of moral hand-wringing. The truth is that, for all their beating us over the head about our personal failings, the right-wing political intelligencia cares not one bit about abortion, gay marriage, divorce, pot-smoking, crime, long-hair or any of that stuff. They say this divisive nonsense because it riles up certain well-meaning Christians in their base that buy their empty words. But, now, even the evangelical leaders are selling out their congregations to anyone-who-can-win. It shows their concern for the wedge issues themselves to be as genuine as their supposed discussions with god.
Selling their souls for the hapless, damaged Giuliani? Sure, why not? That’s about what they're worth.
* Correction -- see comment below. Thanks, Anony.