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Republicans: A Prose Poem

Dan Ford,
Dan Ford, "The Burning of the National Library, Baghdad; Troops Observing Looters" (2004), oil on canvas. Courtesy of Roebling Hall.

"They hate our friends. They hate our values. They hate democracy and freedom, and individual liberty."

—President George W. Bush

"I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators."

—Vice President Dick Cheney

Thomas Donahue, Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is a Republican. He said the newly unemployed should "stop whining."

Alfonso Jackson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is a Republican. He explained the enormous cuts to low-income housing by saying, "Being poor is a state of mind, not a condition."

Rick Santorum, Senator from Pennsylvania, is a Republican. He defended cuts to child care and welfare by suggesting that "making people struggle a little bit is not necessarily the worst thing."

Eric Bost, Undersecretary of Food and Nutrition, U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a Republican. A study by his own agency said that 34 million Americans, including 13.6 million children under the age of 12, were affected by hunger, but Bost doubts these numbers: "If you ask any teenager if they’re happy about the food they have in their house, what will they say?" Responding to a report that the number of people seeking assistance at food pantries in Ohio had increased by 44% in the last three years, Bost told an Ohio newspaper: "Food pantries don’t require documentation of income…so there’s no proof everyone asking for sustenance at a soup kitchen is truly in need."

Dr. Tom Coburn, former Congressman and current candidate for the Senate from Oklahoma, is a Republican. Dr. Coburn supports the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions.

Republicans do not like dogs. Major General Geoffrey Miller, former Chief of Prisons at Guantanamo Bay, now Director of Prisons in Iraq, said that "at Guantanamo Bay we learned that the prisoners have to earn every single thing that they have. They are like dogs and if you allow them to believe at any point that they are more than a dog then you’ve lost control of them."

Republicans like dogs. Trent Lott, Senator from Mississippi, was asked about the use of attack dogs in torturing an Iraqi prisoner. He replied that there’s "nothing wrong with holding a dog up there unless it ate him."

Republicans have a sense of history. The National Museum of Naval Aviation now exhibits the actual Navy S-3B Viking fighter jet that carried the President to the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln for his "Mission Accomplished" speech. It has "George W. Bush Commander-in-Chief" stenciled just below the cockpit window.

Republicans are fighting terrorism. Rod Paige, Secretary of Education, called the National Education Association, with a membership of 2.7 million teachers, a "terrorist organization." Karen Hughes, adviser to the President, said that, especially after September 11, Americans support Bush’s efforts to ban abortion because "the fundamental issue between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life."

Patricia "Lynn" Scarlett, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, is a Republican. She is the former president of the Reason Foundation, a libertarian group, and is opposed to recycling, nutritional labeling on food, consumer "right to know" laws, and restrictions on the use of pesticides.

D. Nick Rerras, State Senator in Virginia, is a Republican. He believes that mental illness is caused by demons and, somewhat contradictorily, that "God may be punishing families by giving children mental illnesses." He also claims that "thunder and lightning mean God is mad at you."

John Yoo, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, is a Republican. In January 2002, he sent a 42-page memo to William Haynes II, Chief Legal Counsel for the Pentagon, stating that the Geneva Conventions, the War Crimes Act, and "customary international law" do not apply to the war in Afghanistan. He was seconded by Alberto Gonzales, White House Legal Counsel, who wrote: "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." A few days later, the President suspended all rights for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

William Haynes II, the recipient of Yoo’s memo, is a Republican. As the Chief Legal Counsel for the Pentagon, he argued that the Defense Department should be exempt from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and allowed to test bombs on a Pacific Ocean nesting island. Such bombing, he said, would please bird-watchers, because it will make the birds more scarce, and "bird watchers get more enjoyment spotting a rare bird than they do spotting a common one." Haynes has now been nominated by the President for a lifetime appointment as a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Republicans like children. John Cornyn, Senator from Texas, speaking in support of the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, said: "It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right. Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife."

Republicans are optimistic. General Peter Schoomaker, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, says that, following September 11, "there is a huge silver lining in this cloud." He explains: "War is a tremendous focus.…Now we have this focusing opportunity, and we have the fact that terrorists have actually attacked our homeland, which it gives it some oomph."

Republicans do not like children. The President has never bothered to appoint a director of the Office of Children’s Health Protection.

Craig Manson, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, is a Republican. In charge of overseeing the Endangered Species Act, he has refused to add any new species to the list. He said: "If we are saying that the loss of species in and of itself is inherently bad—I don’t think we know enough about how the world works to say that."

Elaine Chao, Secretary of Labor, is a Republican. Her department publishes a pamphlet with tips to employers about how to avoid paying overtime wages to workers.

Jack Kahl and his son John Kahl are Republicans and major contributors to the Republican Party. They are, respectively, the former and current chairmen and CEOs of Manco, Inc., a company in Avon, Ohio. (Motto: "If you’re not proud of it, don’t ship it.") Manco produces 63% of all the duct tape used in the USA. When the Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, repeatedly urged Americans to buy plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal their homes from a biological or chemical attack, Manco’s sales increased 40% overnight.

Republicans have a sense of history. Sonny Perdue, the Governor of Georgia, celebrated his election victory, and the end of Democratic control, by intoning the words of Martin Luther King: "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!" He gave his speech in front of a large Confederate flag.

Sue Myrick, Congresswoman from North Carolina, is a Republican. As the keynote speaker at a Heritage Foundation conference on "The Role of State and Local Governments in Protecting Our Homeland," she said: "Honest to goodness, [my husband] Ed and I, for years, for 20 years, have been saying, ‘You know, look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country.’ Every little town you go into, you know?"

Republicans are fighting terrorism. In the village of Prosser, Washington, a 15-year-old drew some antiwar cartoons in a sketchbook for art class; one depicted the President as a devil firing rockets. The art teacher turned the sketchbook over to the principal of the school, who called the local police chief, who alerted the Secret Service, which sent two agents to Prosser to interrogate the boy.

John Hostettler, Congressman from Indiana, is a Republican. He was briefly detained by security at the Louisville, Kentucky, airport, when they found a loaded Glock-9mm automatic pistol in his briefcase. In 2000, when the Violence Against Women Act passed Congress by a vote of 415 to 3, Hostettler was one of the three.

Joan Linder,
Joan Linder, "Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Condi" (2004), ink on paper. Courtesy of Roebling Hall.

Jeffrey Holmstead, Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation at the Environmental Protection Agency, is a Republican. A former lawyer for Montrose Chemical, American Electric Power, and various pesticide companies, he served under Bush Sr. on the [Dan] Quayle Council on Competitiveness, devoted to weakening existing environmental, health, and safety regulations. Holmstead is a member of the Citizens for the Environment, an organization that promotes "market solutions" to environmental problems, considers acid rain a myth, and supports the total deregulation of businesses.

Ed Gillespie is Chairman of the Republican National Committee. He accuses gays of "intolerance and bigotry" for "attempting to force the rest of the population to accept alien moral standards."

Al Frink is a Republican. He was appointed to the newly created position of Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing and Services, to address the massive loss of jobs to factories overseas. He is the co-owner of Fabrica, a company that makes expensive carpets for the White House and the Saudi royal family. (Motto: "The Rolls-Royce of Carpets.") Although Fabrica has no factories abroad, it has replaced many of its workers with robots because, as Frink’s partner explained, you don’t have to pay health insurance for robots.

There are American soldiers in Iraq who are Republicans. They follow the instructions to tear out a page from the pamphlet, "A Christian’s Duty" (distributed, with military approval, by the In Touch Ministries), and mail it to the White House, pledging that they will pray daily for the Administration. The pamphlet includes a suggested prayer for each day. "Monday" reads: "Pray that the President and his advisers will be strong and courageous to do what is right regardless of critics."

There are men in Indianapolis, Indiana, who are Republicans, but they don’t look like ordinary people. At a rally promoting Republican economic policy and its effect on the ordinary person, those standing behind the President were asked to remove their ties and jackets for the cameras.

Republicans are fighting terrorism. Tim Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota, wants people arrested at antiwar demonstrations—but not at other demonstrations—to pay an additional fine, which will be used for "homeland security expenses."

Republicans do not like children. A little girl asked Richard Riordan, Secretary of Education for the State of California, if he knew that her name, Isis, "meant ‘Egyptian goddess.’" "It means stupid, dirty girl," Riordan replied.

Republicans like ice cream, but they do not like the ice cream made by Ben & Jerry’s, with its notorious support of progressive causes. So they have created their own brand, Star-Spangled Ice Cream, which has pledged 19% of its profits to conservative organizations. Among its flavors are I Hate the French Vanilla, Gun Nut, Smaller GovernMINT, Iraqi Road, and Choc & Awe.

Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida, is a Republican. He opened the nation’s first Christian prison, where inmates spend their days in prayer and Bible study.

Republicans like Hummers. Those who purchase a Hummer H-1 for $50,590 receive a tax deduction of $50,590; those who purchase a H-2 for $111,845 receive a deduction of $107,107. "In my humble opinion," said Rick Schmidt, founder of the International Hummer Owners Group, "the H2 is an American icon…it’s a symbol of what we all hold so dearly above all else, the fact we have the freedom of choice, the freedom of happiness, the freedom of adventure and discovery, and the ultimate freedom of expression. Those who deface a Hummer in words or deed deface the American flag and what it stands for."

Republicans like secrets. Asked by a reporter from a newspaper in Apopka, Florida, the White House refused to confirm or deny that it had invited members of the Apopka Little League team to watch a game of T-ball on the White House Lawn.

Republicans have a sense of history. The officials of Taney County, Missouri, refused to hang a "plaque of remembrance" honoring a Taney County resident who died in the World Trade Center on September 11 because he was a Democrat.

Jerry Regier, Director of the Department of Children and Families for the State of Florida, is a Republican. He believes that children should be subject to "manly" discipline, that a "biblical spanking" leading to "temporary and superficial bruises or welts does not constitute child abuse," that women should view working outside the home as "bondage," that Christians should not marry non-Christians, and that "the radical feminist movement has damaged the morale of many women and convinced men to relinquish their biblical authority in the home."

Pete Coors, candidate for Senator from Colorado, is a Republican. Heir to the Coors Beer fortune, he has stated that, if elected, his top priority will be to lower the drinking age.

Republicans have a sense of history. Bill Black, Vice Chairman of the California Republican Party, sent his constituents an article from the Center for Cultural Conservatism, which read: "Given how bad things have gotten in the old USA, it’s not hard to believe that history might have taken a better turn.…The real damage to race relations in the South came not from slavery, but from Reconstruction, which would not have occurred if the South had won."

Kathy Cox, Superintendent of Schools for the State of Georgia, is a Republican. She wants all textbooks in the state to be changed so that the word "evolution" is replaced with "biological changes over time."

Jim Bunning, Senator from Kentucky, is a Republican. He gets a laugh at Republican dinners by joking that his opponent in the forthcoming election, Dan Mongiardo, a son of Italian immigrants, looks like one of the sons of Saddam Hussein.

Republicans have a sense of history. The only illustrations in the federal budget, published annually by the Government Printing Office, are normally charts and graphs. This year, it features 27 color photographs of the President. He is seen in front of the Washington monument and in front of a giant American flag, reading to a small child, hacking a trail through the wilderness, comforting an elderly woman in a wheelchair, and serving an inedible food-styled Thanksgiving turkey to the troops in Iraq.

Republicans do not like almanacs. On Christmas Eve, the FBI sent a bulletin to 18,000 police organizations warning them to watch out—during traffic stops, searches, and other investigation—for anyone carrying an almanac. The bulletin stated that "the practice of researching potential targets is consistent with known methods of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations that seek to maximize the likelihood of operational success through careful planning." Kevin Seabrooke, senior editor of the World Almanac, may or may not be a Republican. "I don’t think anyone would consider us a harmful entity," he said.

Republicans like the Rush Limbaugh Show and like having it broadcast to the troops overseas, five days a week, on the official American Forces Radio and Television Service network. When it was suggested that they provide more "balanced" political programming, Sam Johnson, Congressman from Texas, said that it "sounds a little like Communism to me."

Stephen Downs, age 61, is probably not a Republican. He was shopping at the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, when security guards surrounded him and asked him to leave. Downs was wearing a t-shirt with the words "Give Peace a Chance." He refused to leave and was arrested for trespassing.

My friend, a middle-aged white man, is not a Republican. A photographer on assignment for the National Geographic in Florida, he was taking pictures of some colorfully painted vans in a parking lot. An hour later he was arrested. An alert citizen, suspecting possible terrorist information-gathering activity, had called the police.

Herbert O. Chadbourne is probably a Republican. A professor at the evangelical Regent University, he developed a facial tic—the result he said, of exposure to biological or chemical agents when he was a soldier in the first Gulf War. The university, however, said that the tic was a sign that he was possessed by a demon, having been cursed by God for sinfulness, and fired him.

Jeffrey Kofman, reporter for ABC television, may not be a Republican. When he broadcast a story that morale among American troops in Iraq was weakening, the White House spread the story that not only is Kofman gay, he’s a Canadian.

Republicans like technology. Although most programs for low-income housing and job training have been greatly reduced or eliminated, the Department of Labor has created a website for the homeless.


Eliot Weinberger

Weinberger is a contemporary American writer, essayist, editor, and translator.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2004

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