The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous. -- Joseph Goebbels
Like a lot of liberals, I spent much of last week in front of the TV, transfixed by the ugly spectacle of the Republican National Convention. Anxious to learn more of their presumptive vice-presidential nomination, curious as to what issues their presumptive presidential candidate thought important, wondering how the Party that Wrecked America was going to cast itself.
Now I generally like to keep the subject matter of CIVITAS as locally relevant as I can, meaning I generally like to write about local issues. But not today, not after what I saw, and heard, last week. And not after what superficially appears to be a national issue might instead be one of the most locally relevant, ever.
It started with Mitt Romney's speech, in which the Massachusetts governor and one-time presidential, then vice-presidential, candidate declared, "It's time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother!"
Not the party of Big Brother? Not the party of extraordinary rendition? Not the party that revoked habeas corpus, while running a secret prison outside US territory? Not the party of illegal wiretaps, the party of torture?
Not the party of Big Brother?
It went from bad to worse, as Rudy Giuliani bleated about Barak Obama's reaction to Republican vice-president nominee Sarah Palin, "I'm sorry that Barak Obama feels her hometown isn't cosmopolitan enough."
Not cosmopolitan enough? Hadn't Palin herself complained of exactly that when she said "'because we are so desperate in Alaska for any semblance of glamour and culture?"
Hadn't Giuliani also said as much when, as mayor of the most cosmopolitan city in the nation, he stated: "That's why New York is not only the world's most diverse city, but also the world's most cosmopolitan and tolerant city?"
A double standard? Of course, and par for the course of the Big Lie.
Please judge this book not by its cover, but by its content
Giuliani went from bad to worse -- scolding those of us who object to the term "Islamic Terrorism" as being only worried about offending "terrorists." But not about offending any religious adjective, such as "Jewish Terrorism" or "Christian Terrorism."
You see, said the ex-mayor of a city that has more Muslims than Alaska has people, you shouldn't be offended if your religion is recklessly associated with terrorism, because that's like saying you're only worried about offending terrorists.
Is there any other reason why a jingoist like Giuliani washed out, so early, in the primary process?
Next up were vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, followed by the lobbyists' favorite maverick, GOP presidential selection John McCain. Palin, whose previous experience included being mayor of a strip mall in Alaska, delivered a snarky, sarcastic speech that looked like it came right out of George Bush's 2000 presidential run.
Which isn't surprising, given that Bush's speechwriter wrote the speech.
And a perfect underscore for the irony of the Big Lie, brought to closure by McCain. The lie that this GOP ticket would break from the past eight years, that it was different, that it, not the Obama team, would bring "change" to Washington.
I sat there, fists clenched in rage, as McCain exhorted us that it was he, and Palin, that were the recipe to clean up a broken government, without ever once owning his failure as the architect of that government's destruction. Under the lights in Minneapolis, he stood there, running against his own party's record, running against his own record, while a sea of amnesiatic white people cheered on as if they were at Nuremburg.
"Drill! Drill! Drill" they exhorted, whipped into a frenzy of a discredited past served up as a fresh-faced new way. More school testing, lower taxes on the super-wealthy, less access to healthcare for most. All presented as fresh ideas, not platitudes that had been on every Republican platform since Reagan was first elected.
Not more of the McSame. Not even the shamed recognition that they were.
Hubris and bluster, the reactionary presented as the revolutionary. The same prescriptions that got us into our terrible mess in the first place cynically held out as the difference, the new way that would get us out.
A nightmare proposition. Groundhog Day with collateral damage is what they're actually trying to shove down our throats.
We can't let it happen.
Gregory Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.