Destruction for the (Hell) Cash of It The Republican Saboteurs Playbook

(This is the second in a two-part response to the attempted Republican sabotage of the Federal Crisis Inquiry Commission. Part One is here.)

sabotage [ˈsæbəˌtɑːʒ] n. 1. the deliberate destruction, disruption, or damage of equipment, a public service, etc., as by enemy agents, dissatisfied employees, etc. 2. any similar action or behaviour.
– Collins English Dictionary

The Republican Party’s Sleeper Cell in the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission has finally done its dirty work. The four GOP Commissioners staged a phony crisis as a pretext for walking out, and now there are a lot of headlines like this one: “Crisis Panel’s Split on Blaming Wall Street May Limit Impact of Findings.” This is Wall Street’s message to its four operatives on the Commission: Mission accomplished.

It’s been clear for a long time that Republicans aren’t interested in working for the best interests of the nation, and the “S” word hasbeen making its way into the political conversation lately. “None dare call it sabotage,” Steve Benen wrote. “Sabotage?” asked Dave Johnson. Zach Carter and Digby also took up the call.

Despite this clear pattern of Republican obstructionism, I haven’t been comfortable adopting language that’s been used so often to marginalize legitimate dissent and disagreements in the past. But when these four Commissioners began their Orwellian campaign against language, one that was destined to fail and which clearly had no objective beyond disruption, the pattern became too obvious to ignore.

Prevent sabotage

It’s startling to see how many of these synonyms for “sabotage” describe the past twenty years of Republican behavior: “attack, block, bollix, break up, cripple, deep six, destroy, disable, disrupt, do in, foul up, frustrate, hamper, hinder, louse up, mess up, obstruct, put out of action, put out of commission, screw up, subvert, take out, throw a monkey wrench into, torpedo, undermine, vandalize, wreck.”

Consider Newt Gingrich’s shutdown of government. Or the passive destruction George W. Bush wreaked by appointing arms control directors who hated arms control, bank regulators who hated regulation, or disaster relief agency heads who hated … well, work, I suppose. (“Heck of a job, Brownie!”) There’s no ethical difference between those actions and pouring sand in a fire truck’s gas tanks. In both cases the goal is to disable a government-provided service.

It’s now clear that the same moral bankruptcy motivates career Republicans who join organizations like the FCIC with the sole intention of disrupting its work and destroying its credibility. It’s important to study these four saboteurs, if only to familiarize ourselves with an M.O. we’re bound to see again.

The FCIC attack followed the classic Fifth Column playbook. The first thing would-be subversives must do is recruit the agents. Let’s meet our quislings:

At Commission hearings, former GOP Rep. Bill Thomas was a likable and amiable blowhard who clearly knew his mission from the start, and carried it out with a considerable amount of warmth and charm. (He was less charming in 2003 when he had the Capitol Police forcibly eject Democratic representatives from a meeting.) Peter Wallison, the “deregulation” double-talker, is an attorney and longtime member of the Republican establishment. Keith Hennessey worked for Sen. Trent Lott before joining the Bush Administration. Douglas Holtz-Eakin is an economist who held various positions during the Bush years.

Of the four, Holtz-Eakin is the real disappointment. He’s a hard-core, doctrinaire conservative. But he’s always seemed like a decent guy with integrity who simply holds a different economic philosophy. (I guess there’s a little Obama in me, too. I look for people like that.)

Once they’ve been identified, a Fifth Column needs to support and train its operatives. When not serving in government, all four Republican Commissioners have enjoyed steady incomes working within a network of well-funded right wing think tanks where they can also trade ideas, strategies, catch-phrases, and long-range plans for the disruption of government institutions.

The next step is to infiltrate your target organization. In this case, that was easy. The FCIC was created by an act of Congress in 2009, and Speaker Pelosi graciously shared the appointment of its Commissioners with the other party.

Once the agents are in place, their first mission is to delay and disrupt the orderly operation of the target. Historically, this has taken the form of work slowdowns and strikes, which in this case began when the four Republicans reportedly bogged down the Commission with complicated, time-consuming procedural requests. By last August they were refusing to participate in most Commission activities altogether.

It’s important to stage seemingly ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations in an attempt to turn public opinion. That’s why they made that absurd, Orwellian demand to exclude certain words and phrases. It couldn’t possibly be accepted, which allowed them to initiate their next action.

(Did they have a fallback plan if the Commission actually accepted that demand? Maybe they would’ve insisted that the entire document be typed without using the space bar.)

The last phase of the operation calls for subversives to manipulate the media, leaving a fog of confusion that makes it impossible for casual observers have no way of knowing the truth. I’d say their chances of pulling that off successfully are pretty good, wouldn’t you?

The Federal Crisis Inquiry Commission – the real one, the legitimate one – will issue a report in January. The saboteurs must not succeed in diluting its impact. If they do, bankers will still have free reign to keep gambling, cheating, and breaking the law. That’ll leave us vulnerable to another crash, one that’s even more destructive than the last one.

Stay vigilant. Fight sabotage. It’s the American way. In the meantime, here’s an inspirational poster for the uncelebrated hero who will eventually be assigned to type and edit the Commission’s final report. Whoever you may be – young or old, male or female – we know your job will be harder now that words like “deregulation” and “Wall Street” are staying in the report. So please ignore the gender stereotyping if you can, and consider this image a thank-you message from a grateful nation:

Keep em flying miss usa

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