Editor’s Note: Robert Zimmerman has been a volunteer for the Democratic National Committee member since 2000. He is a partner at Zimmerman/Edelson Inc., a marketing, advertising and public relations firm based in New York which does not represent the DNC.
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst
In politics, hypocrisy often passes for hyperbole. However, when the discussion gets into the trillions of dollars, hyperbole just doesn't cover it. Hypocrisy puts it in the proper perspective. I will be the first to recognize that neither political party is above hypocrisy, and I have never failed to call my party on it.
However, these past several weeks, hypocrisy has climbed to the height of our national debt, and with the same speed. Which brings me to the self-righteous and divisive comments of the Republican Congressional leadership, their colleagues in Congress and, of course, Rush Limbaugh. Even the unabashed A-Rod would probably cringe at this level of hypocrisy.
With the exception of three senators, every Republican member of Congress voted unanimously against the economic stimulus package, claiming they were not included in the process and that their ideas were ignored. In the epitome of political chutzpah, more than 20 House Republican members issued press releases announcing how the stimulus package would help their districts - never mentioning that they voted against it. Republican Congressional priorities such as providing tax breaks for business investment and job creation, expanding tax breaks for working families with children, putting projects on the Internet so that Americans can track the implementation, fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax and reducing capital gains for small businesses were included in the economic stimulus package.
Nevertheless, the Republicans who fought successfully to have their proposals included still voted the party line in opposition.
The omnibus spending bill recently passed by the House of Representatives met strong Republican opposition, especially over the issue of Congressionally designated projects, or "earmarks." The only reason the debate over earmarks can take place is because the Democratic Congress changed the rules from the days when Republicans controlled Congress. The new rules require that earmarks be publicly disclosed and that members of Congress be held accountable for sponsoring them.
It is also worth noting that while the Republican members of Congress protest this bill as "wasteful," approximately 40 percent of the spending on earmarks went to projects requested by the Republicans. And when Republicans controlled Congress, they got 60% of the earmarks (as is traditional for the party in power), and kept those earmarks secret. You don’t hear them talking about that today.
Then there's Rush. Sure, Rush has 20 million listeners a day. Ann Coulter is on many best-seller lists, and for that matter, I'm sure Larry Flynt sells a lot of magazines, too. What does it all prove? That there's always a market for pandering to some people's base instincts. Exploitation, fear, prejudice and vulgarity unite these people.
What's shocking is that any of these characters could ever gain acceptance or even leadership in our political process. There is, however, no doubt that Rush Limbaugh not only has achieved acceptance but is recognized as a leader in the Republican Party.
The Conservative Political Action Conference was not just a meeting of the conservative base of the Republican Party. It is the Republican Party today. Contrary to the conventional wisdom of political pundits, Limbaugh's speech did not build the movement by rallying the base. It further isolated the Republican Party from the mainstream of America. In Republican Chairman Michael Steele's apology to Limbaugh, he said to CNN, "I respect Rush Limbaugh, he is a national conservative leader, and in no way do I want to diminish his voice." Michael Steele's failure to diminish Limbaugh's "voice or his leadership" only damages his own.
Barack Obama's election to the Presidency and the support he has maintained demonstrates that the United States is committed to addressing the defining issues of our time. Although the nation has moved beyond the hypocritical and partisan political games of the past, the Republican Congressional leadership and Rush Limbaugh revel in it.
On second thought, perhaps A-Rod wouldn't be embarrassed by their conduct or hypocrisy. It occurs to me that he and Limbaugh have a lot in common; neither is capable of shame, and, ultimately, both are corrosive to America today.
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