Did you ever notice that many of the things Republicans have accused Democrats of are things that they are already doing or supporting to a greater degree? For example:
· John Ensign’s righteous indignation over Clinton’s assignations while Ensign was having a full-blown affair with a staff member who was the wife of another staff member. For a while it did seem like the Democrats were linked with sex scandals and Republicans were linked with money and personal privacy scandals, but now the Republicans have pulled ahead in all areas.
· Accusing Democrats of “politicizing national security” just before the release of a book accusing the Bush administration of timing the release of national security-related information for political ends and suggesting they also overstated the danger level for political reasons.
· Accusing Democrats in general and Obama by name of racism (though since Republicans had been openly stirring the racial violence pot before the election, this doesn’t quite fit the preemptive strike scenario)
· Accusing Democrats of hiding in health care legislation “death panels” who will make life or death decisions about who receives treatment and who doesn’t. There are no death panels in the legislation, but there are de facto death panels right now. They work for the Republican-supported insurance companies, and when they deny coverage, benefits, and treatment, they and their shareholders win and sick people lose, maybe even die.
· Accusing Democrats of wasteful spending when Republicans have been spending our national debt into the stratosphere for 30 years. The last big spending Democrat was Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. Clinton reduced the annual deficit. Why does this myth persist?
· Accusing Democrats of manufacturing public support for health care reform and other issues
· Accusing Democrats of manufacturing scientific evidence supporting climate change and other issues
· Accusing Democrats of trying to turn the country into a fascist state.
Simultaneously, Republicans accused Democrats of trying to turn the country into a socialist state. I have to add here that these two together bug my 16-year-old daughter to no end. She just got an A in history, and she understands that fascism and socialism are drastically different. Under socialism (in theory), production and distribution of goods and services is owned by the public with equal rights for all. Under fascism, the strong eliminate the weak, which is closer to Republican extremism than Democratic.
Then there are accusations of doing what Republicans are already known to have done, like collect an enemies list (Nixon for sure, Bush likely) and take too many vacation days (Bush took many more vacation days at this point in his term than Obama has). Do you remember Republicans accusing candidate Obama of bad taste and poor judgment in asking for campaign contributions last fall as the economy slid into recession?
Why do Republicans accuse Democrats of doing what Republicans are already doing? Is it guilt? Is it lack of imagination? I believe it is tactical: a preemptive strike.
Why is it better to be the first to accuse? First, there is a certain origination value when an accusation is first brought to light whether it’s true or not. People remember it and seem to cede the first accuser the moral high ground. Second, it puts the innocent party on the defensive. Before you can have any credibility accusing the real guilty party, you must clear yourself. Third, the first accusation dilutes all similar accusations that follow. The second to accuse looks like a copycat or worse, spiteful. His or her motivation is immediately suspect. In short, a preemptive strike accusation takes impact away from any later accusation against the original accuser.
In the past, this would have all backfired on the first accuser when the truth came out. Far better to be just guilty than be a guilty, lying hypocrite and false accuser. At least, that’s the way it used to be (though at least Glenn Beck got some pushback for saying Obama hated white people).
Lately, our hypocrisy meter seems to have broken. We’ve moved away from ‘an eye for an eye,’ which is great, but that doesn’t mean we have to turn the other cheek every time, nor do we have to remove every speck from our own eyes to see that giant wooden park bench sticking out of the eye of that lying, smiling, corrupt hypocrite over there. These are Christian metaphors—not ones I’ve heard used by any politician—but you don’t have to have religion to have a good head of righteous indignation steam over this.
I’ve always been a fan of turning bad actions back on the wrongdoer whenever possible—let him shoot himself in the foot, so to speak. So here’s what I propose. We have learned that when Republicans accuse Democrats of something, it’s often a tactic to protect themselves while doing or supporting the same thing. Republicans will always know what they’re up to before anyone else, so they have the advantage in first strike capability. But let’s use that. Consider that first accusation a clue telling investigators where to start turning over rocks on the Republican side.