What Moral Values?

Strong moral values, decency, propriety, and honesty: conservatives long ago declared these ideals essential to their belief system, achieving political ascendancy with promises of restoring honor to a government they view as tainted by liberal immorality and excess.

A fine notion, indeed, but one question lingers: what happened?

Barely a year into Bush’s second term, the American political landscape is brimming with blatant examples of conservative deceit, dishonesty, cronyism, and hypocrisy.

Foremost among these examples is Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s right-hand man, who has been indicted on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements before a grand jury. Not that this is cause for embarrassment among conservatives–indeed, many are relieved, pointing out that Libby is in trouble “only” for lying. It seems conservative standards on morality have slipped a bit.

Of course, the Libby indictment is but the tip of the beast’s horn. The larger case is about a vengeful administration that was bent on destroying an undercover CIA agent’s career by leaking her name because her husband, Joseph Wilson, also a CIA agent, challenged shoddy evidence buttressing the case for war in Iraq.

Let us forget for a moment the value of simple honesty. Let us forget also the importance of not undermining the nation’s intelligence services when one’s entire platform is “national security.”

What does this event tell us about the oft-invoked conservative call to “respect the culture of life,” so often invoked in abortion debates? Let us not pander to fools: this war was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, based on manifest lies and exaggerations. Therefore, can anyone seriously claim that this administration showed even the slightest “respect” for the lives of the 2,000 American soldiers, or the lives countless Iraqi civilians now lost to the war’s horrors? Most intriguing, then, is this “culture of life”–a culture which champions life when it does not yet exist, and abandons it when it does.

Surely, however, could the Republican Party not redeem itself through its philosophy of Christian compassion? Apparently not. Congressional testimony two weeks ago revealed that when FEMA’s sole representative in New Orleans–who was there only accidentally–found thousands of Americans stranded without food or shelter during the hurricane, he issued a desperate call for help to FEMA chief Michael Brown. Brown’s aide replied–several hours later–with the following instructive example of compassionate conservatism in action: “”It is very important that time is allowed for Mr. Brown to eat dinner.” The locale of choice? Baton Rouge. Marie Antoinette would have been impressed.

Equally impressive is the Republican Party’s idea of taking responsibility and not blaming others–a key conservative tenet–in the case of Tom Delay, the House majority leader indicted for pouring corporate money into Texas’ 2002 state elections, which saw the reconfiguration of the state’s congressional districts along even more pro-Republican lines. Censured three times in 2004 alone by the bipartisan House Ethics Committee, Delay nonetheless views the indictment as a kind of vast left-wing conspiracy, calling the prosecutor “an unabashed partisan zealot.” Heaven forbid.

It goes without saying that Republican contrition for any of the outrages outlined above is unlikely: the arsonists are running the firehouse, and they take great pride in fanning the flames.

We would be sorely remiss, however, if we ignored the role of the Democrats in this affair. They have sat on their firehoses and idled their fire engines on key issues, enabling Republican misbehavior to go unchecked. Most Democrats, it must be remembered, voted in favor of granting Bush unprecedented war powers. And it was the “liberal” New York Times, with its neo-con pseudo-journalist Judith Miller at the helm, who led the drumbeat procession to invade Iraq based on the thinnest of lies.

Naïve liberal Democrats were also quite pleased to see conservatives break ranks during the Harriet Miers debacle, taking it as a sign of some kind of impending right-wing implosion. They apparently forgot the basic fact that it was the far right–not what passes for the left–that tore apart Miers’ chances for judicial confirmation. Now, a staunch conservative, Alito, has been nominated and the “implosion” has disappeared into thin air. As usual, we can soon count on the usual “centrist” Democrats–those Klan-minus-costume-crats and heirs to the Dixiecrat legacy–to help vote Alito onto the bench.

Thus, while conservative wrongdoing is obvious, liberals must take a long, hard look at their own party’s role in producing the present state of affairs. Americans are told, after all, that there are two major parties, and that one is supposed to act in opposition to the other.

A fine notion, indeed, but one question lingers: what happened?

M. JUNAID ALAM, co-editor of Left Hook, can be reached at alam@lefthook.org












More articles by:

M. JUNAID ALAM, 21, Boston, co-editor of radical youth journal Left Hook (http://www.lefthook.org), feedback: alam@lefthook.org , first published in Left Hook

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