Thursday, April 13, 2006


Meet Mr. Republican: Matt Taibbi Exposes Jack Abramoff

Matt Taibbi is the Hunter S. Thompson of the early 1960s, the white-hot, almost unbearably keen and whip-smart Thomspon that existed and wrote before the booze and drugs took hold. (Thompson still was doing good work as late as the Watergate hearings, but the people who were into him then were into him for his style rather than his substance.) A big thank-you to Atrios for posting the URL to Taibbi's latest piece, the definitive exposé of Jack Abramoff, wherein you will find such nuggets as this:

Abramoff was part of the first wave of young people who came back to the Republican Party en masse during the so-called Reagan Revolution. The year 1980 was a time of resurgence for a party that just four years before had been in a post-Watergate death spiral; the Moral Majority had just been founded, and new-right prophets like Howard Phillips, Paul Weyrich and Richard Viguerie were attracting a fresh generation of young people to the brash, piss-in-your-face, fuck-the-poor ideas emanating from places like the Heritage Foundation and Bill Buckley's Young Americans for Freedom. Among their other converts at this time were Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, a pair of ambitious students from Harvard and Emory University, respectively. After Reagan's 1980 landslide win, those two, along with Abramoff, would work together at the College Republicans National Committee, and when Abramoff succeeded Norquist as CRNC chief he would win a national reputation as a hard-liner with his Lenin-esque pronouncement that it wasn't the job of young Republicans to "seek peaceful co-existence with the left." The take-no-prisoners stance of the twentysomething student leader: "Our job is to remove them from power permanently."
Can you imagine any major US paper stating these facts quite so emphatically? Me neither. It gets better:
All accounts point to Abramoff as the prototypically humorless Animal House campus villain. A thick-necked champion weight lifter (he still holds the Beverly Hills High bench-press record) with a square jaw and exquisite hygiene, the man-child Abramoff also had the kind of sadistic jock temperament that impresses coaches and corporate recruiters alike. "The football coach was always afraid that Jack was going to kill somebody if he hit him head-on," Rowen says. By the time he went away to Brandeis, he'd already undergone a conversion to Orthodox Judaism, having found religion at the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles (after seeing Fiddler on the Roof as a youngster, Abramoff says), and so he arrived in 1970s Massachusetts the rarest of East Coast campus creatures: a moralizing weight lifter with short hair and a passion for Republican politics. The Abramoff story, in fact, confirms in the most dramatic way every vicious popular stereotype about campus conservatives. Kids who get involved with lefty politics on campus almost always graduate straight into some degrading state of semi-employment -- the defining characteristic of lefty student movements is how few doors they open for you. Another defining characteristic of the student left is its persistent, unquenchable and irrational suspicion that the campus Republicans hold their meetings in the offices of someplace like the Rand Corporation, where they have their buttocks branded with Sumerian symbols in secret ceremonies that upon graduation will gain all of them entrance to the upper ranks of corporate and governmental privilege. That was Jack Abramoff. Like those famed USC student "ratfuckers" who went on to hold the ultimate panty raid in the Watergate Hotel, Abramoff and his close friends Norquist and Ralph Reed (the one-time head of the Georgia College Republicans used to sleep on Abramoff's couch) never really abandoned the laughable training-wheel secrecy and capture-the-flag gamesmanship of student politics. His buttocks freshly branded, Abramoff in 1983 traveled to Johannesburg on behalf of the CRNC and immediately parlayed his student experience into a real job as a sort of frontman for South African intelligence services. He was the young progressive's paranoid nightmare come shockingly true: absurd campus Republican proto-geek effortlessly transformed at graduation into flesh-and-blood neo-Nazi spook.
See what I mean? Taibbi shows the seamless fratboy link between Nixon's dirty tricksters and their spiritual heirs, Abramoff, Norquist, and Reed. Selah.

The right really is a sort of self-contained culture of death:

* Tobacco
* Big oil
* "Defense"
* Fake Christianity
* Amway and similar organizations
* Ethnicidal movements like "English Only"

They take the wonderful, complex, strange, untamable thing called life, kill off the people and species that aren't of immediate financial benefit, suppress different views of the world and subvert the energy that should go into community into cults that seek to deny the humanity of relationships, and get all of their money by destroying the earth.

But you know, I think the right has always been this way. The latest version simply doesn't make the gestures toward decency that used to be thought were required.
Oh, exactly, Charles. They've always thought that the rules didn't apply to them. It's just that they don't pretend otherwise nowadays. It's what makes me optimistic lately, because their pretensions to decency are being exposed. (For instance: All the anti-gay amendments in the world aren't going to get the Hispanics back into the GOP fold, not after the Republican Party has shown conclusively who its true constituents are.)
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