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David Jenkins: The GOP Dog And Pony Show

The GOP Dog and Pony Show

By W. David Jenkins III

There was an interesting story in the NY Times last week. Seems as though there is something called Compassion Across America, a group of conservative volunteers who will be doing their level best to redirect attention away from the Democratic National Convention by " feeding the homeless in the Bronx, packing up supplies for Iraqi schoolchildren, passing time with poor children in a Staten Island day camp." (These activities will be taking place during the Republican National Convention as well.)

Stop laughing, I’m serious. Hang on to your sensibilities, kids, it’s time for the Conservative Dog and Pony Show!

Many years ago, I held various jobs in manufacturing and then moved on to human services. One of the things I noticed was whenever state or federal inspectors would come to call on the facility I was working for at the time, we would put on what was commonly referred to as a "dog and pony show." In the case of factories, floors would be swept, machines had debris cleaned from them and the daily safety hazards we were accustomed to working with miraculously "disappeared." Much like the various hospitals and nursing facilities I worked in. Suddenly, the blankets didn’t have any holes in them, walls were alive with decorations, normally cranky and indifferent clinical staff suddenly found "sunshine" and dessert carts were displayed with a variety of delectables rivaling any upscale restaurant. In other words, we were putting across an image when we knew we were being judged that had nothing to do with what we did when nobody was looking and that is exactly what the GOP is doing now.

Now I’m sure there are some very compassionate people out there who are still clinging to an authentic conservatism. But they’re not the ones who are leading their party – or who even speak for their party on a daily basis. As hard as the GOP may try to show a compassionate side, its attempts are no different from those dog and pony shows I referred to. And it is the force of its most hard-line representatives that is keeping the Republicans from being perceived as anything but radically insensitive and ideologically way out of the mainstream.

Take, for instance, the original line-up of speakers for the GOP Convention. Originally they had Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain and alleged Democrat, Zell Miller among others slated to speak. But when it was pointed out, largely by their base, that these folks didn’t adhere to the "new" Republican Party and its ideology they realized the danger of trying to portray themselves as "moderate" when it came to their most staunch supporters. So now they will also trot out McCain basher Denny Hastert, kitten killer Bill Frist, gay basher Rick Santorum and religious whack-job Sam Brownback in an effort to hush the protest from folks like The Family Research Council, Jerry Falwell, Ann Coulter and the rest of the neo-nuts.

As much as the conservatives may want to portray a "big tent" when it comes to their image, the truly powerful of their party simply cannot pull off the real McCoy when they get right down to it.

Back during the GOP Convention in 2000, they poured their cold little hearts out with their "minstrel show"– parading selected members of African Americans for the cameras – while they were simultaniously and illegally removing them from the voter registries in the state of Florida (

Of course it doesn’t help that the state of Florida was planning (secretly) on using the same shennanigans this time around as well to help Bush "win" that state again – until they got caught. And they are paying dearly for it.

Bush’s petty spitefulness was revealed when it fell through the cracks of his now-tarnished armor in his refusal to speak at the NAACP convention for the fourth year in a row – because they have been saying "mean" things to him. I think it will hurt the conservatives in November when it comes to the black vote.

Although Bush accepted the invitation to speak to the Urban League, the difference in tone between his speech and Kerry’s speech at the same venue was a study in extreme contrast. Candidate Bush was even more bumbling and disengaged than normal when he spoke and it was more than obvious that he was uncomfortable – because he knew he didn’t belong there. He was merely putting on a face for the cameras in a futile attempt to appeal to a constituency that he knew he had done a grave injustice to. This is exactly the case when it comes to the brazenly dishonest dog and pony shows like the folks with Compassion Across America commonly produce.

As frustrated as I get with the left wing’s fear of the word "liberal" (after all, it’s only been vilified by the most contemptible people on earth), it’s also just as puzzling that conservatives feel the need to run from what they stand for in their need to fool people into thinking that these particular conservatives care about anything but their new-found imperialism and the protection of the riches in both power and money they’ve reaped for themselves.

The New Republican Conservative would sooner gargle dirt than be bothered with feeding the poor or "hanging out" with the homeless under normal circumstances. And boxing up supplies for Iraqi school children? Oh, please stop already. In truth they’re merely feigning compassion for little more than "collateral damage" – if anyone cares to remember the official stance as to where Iraqi children fit in to the Bushies’ Grand Scheme of all things Iraq. You have to be awe-struck, even as you hold your nose, at the audacity of the Bush Republicans to think they can simply pull out a box of tricks for the cameras and get away with it.

For the modern conservatives to think that they can be portrayed as compassionate is completely ridiculous when you take into account the people they are trying to keep in power, but by golly, they are sure going to try.

Forget about the assaults they’ve committed against this country and other members of our global community. Forget that government funding for housing, education, the environment and health care have been sacrificed in order to finance illegal invasions, tax cuts for the rich and corporate plunder. Forget that this administration and its most prominent mouthpieces are the most reviled, despised, un-Christian and un-American citizens ever to infest the government and the airwaves. Forget their attempts to cover up and hide details of torture, 9/11, cronyism and the multitude of lies that have been the foundation of the most morally corrupt administration in American history. They’re going to pose for the cameras again and they hope people are dumb enough to fall for it – again.

But the fact is that this photo-op, like all the others, is no more than an effort to hide the fact that this is the most vile and dangerous group of people ever to hold power. George W. Bush, his administration and those who support them are the greatest threat to real American values and principles that we – as a once proud and respectible nation – have ever faced. It’s that simple. And no amount of staged compassion can erase that fact, as hard as they and their compliant media buddies may try.

It’s just another dog and pony show and a dangerously misleading one.

*** ENDS ***

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