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Grand Old Parry

The Republicans want me to help them set their agenda? Don’t mind if I do.

By September 2006Comments

To: Ken Mehlman, Chairman, Republican National Committee

From: Paul Burka, humble voter

Re: Your mailed invitation to take part in the official Census of the Republican Party

I’M SO GLAD THAT you have chosen me to represent all the Republicans living in my “voting district.” I’m particularly honored that my answers, as you wrote, “will be used to develop a new blueprint for the Republican Party for the next 10 years.” I guess you must have noticed that I have been trying to develop such a blueprint for the Texas Republican party for several years now, but for some reason Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, and Tom Craddick seem not to be paying attention. Frankly, I’m not sure how Republicans in this district will feel about having me represent their views either. They may have read some of those letters to the editor in Texas Monthly—did I forget to mention that I’m a member of the media?—accusing me of being a liberal. But you wouldn’t have chosen me if you weren’t well aware that I’m a regular Republican primary voter.

Let me see if I understand how this works: “Based on your response,” you tell me, the Republican National Committee plans to print and mail a Republican party census to 5.5 million Republicans so that the RNC can get “a statistically reliable sampling of our Party.” However, “at a cost of $.40 each, our census of the Republican Party will cost the RNC over $2.2 million.” So you want me to enclose, along with my GOP census document, a contribution of $500, $250, $100, $50, or even $25 to the Republican National Committee. Why, the envelope you provided even asks if I’ll use a stamp in the “No Postage Necessary” space. Uh, here’s the problem. I don’t think the boss man would go for my contributing to a political party. He already thinks I’m in the tank for George W. Bush. But perhaps I can help anyway. You know, we have a bunch of rich Republicans down here in Texas. You might try calling James Leininger, of San Antonio. He dropped $2.5 million on Republican candidates in just five legislative races last spring—and he was trying to defeat other Republicans. There’s no telling how much he’d give you for a survey to help beat Democrats. And Bob Perry, the Houston-area homebuilder and funder of the Swift Boat Vets, contributed $3.8 million in the 2002 election cycle. That would almost pay for two surveys.

But I do want to do my part to help the RNC save money, so I’m going to answer the census document questionnaire right here. And we’ll pay for the printing.

DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY

1. Do you support President Bush’s initiatives to promote the safety and security of all Americans?
Absolutely yes. It’s Dick Cheney’s initiatives I’m worried about.

2. Do you support the use of air strikes against any country that offers safe harbor or aid to individuals or organizations committed to further attacks on Americans?
I was going to say yes, but what if the CIA gets a tip that Osama bin Laden is in a hospital in Beijing? Better put me down as undecided.

3. Do you continue to support increasing the amount of security at airports, train stations, and all government buildings including monuments and museums?
I’d answer yes if they’d just let me take my laptop into court.

4. Do you agree with President Bush’s call for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that secures our borders, meets the nation’s economic needs and protects the rights of legal immigrants while not unfairly rewarding those who came here unlawfully?
Yes. Too bad the Republican House doesn’t.

ECONOMIC ISSUES

1. Should the inheritance or “Death Tax” tax be permanently repealed?
Undecided. I’m for repealing it up to a point—say, $10 million. But I’m not for allowing the top one percent of the wealthy to become a permanent aristocracy in this country, and neither are a lot of that one percent.

2. Do you support President Bush’s pro-growth policies to create more jobs and improve the economy?
Yes. I just hope they start creating more jobs and improving the economy.

3. Do you think Congress should focus on cutting the federal budget deficit by reducing wasteful government spending?
Like earmarks? You bet.

EDUCATION ISSUES

1. Do you support President Bush’s plan to make our schools more accountable to parents and to restore local control of education?
Yes. And I wish he would start right here in Texas, where Republicans seem to have abandoned local control. School districts can’t even decide when they want to start school anymore.

2. Should students, teachers, principals and administrators be held to higher standards?
No, I’m for lower standards. Just kidding, Ken, but this is kind of a dumb question.

3. Do you agree that teaching our children to read and increasing literacy rates should be a national priority?
Yes, but let me ask you a question: Does this include the children of illegal immigrants? Because if we don’t include them in Texas, we won’t have an educated workforce in twenty years.

SOCIAL ISSUES

1. Do you support President Bush’s initiative to allow private religious and charitable groups to do more to help those in need?
Yes. I’m for anything that works.

2. Do you support the law, passed by the Republican Congress and signed by President Bush, that bans partial birth abortions?
Yes, I’m for all reasonable restrictions on abortions. But I notice that you didn’t ask whether I favored overturning Roe v. Wade (I don’t). That was smart, Ken, very smart. The day the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade is the day when soccer moms in the suburbs start to abandon the Republican party.

3. Do you support the President’s efforts to save Social Security for future generations?
The hell with future generations. I want mine next year.

4. Do you think Congress should pass legislation on the Federal Marriage Amendment?
Undecided. I don’t care if Congress passes a statute, but I’m against any amendment that trivializes the Constitution for the political advantage of either party.

DEFENSE ISSUES

1. Do you think U.S. troops should have to serve under United Nations’ commanders?
You mean furriners? Call me undecided, because I haven’t spent ten seconds of my life worrying about this.

2. Do you agree that our top military priority should be fighting terrorists?
Undecided. The Heathrow airport incident reminds us that terrorism is still a threat. But our true military priority should be, and I suspect is, protecting the free flow of oil from the Middle East to the world.

3. Should the U.S. continue work on building a defense shield against nuclear missile attack?
Of course. But I’m much more worried about port security than missile security.

REPUBLICAN PARTY

1. Do you support the election of Republican candidates across the country and rebuilding our majorities over the next ten years?
I’m for McCain for president in ’08, but I’ll never be a straight-ticket voter.

2a. Did you vote in the year 2000?
Yes. For Bush.

2b. Did you vote in the year 2002?
Yes. For Perry.

2c. Did you vote in the year 2004?
Yes. For Bush.

2d. Do you intend to vote in the year 2006?
Have you ever heard of Kinky Friedman?

All right. I’ve had my fun. These mailings shouldn’t be taken too seriously; they are, after all, primarily fund-raising gimmicks and efforts to rally the faithful. Still, the low intelligence level of the questionnaire is appalling. I’m sure the Democrats think the recipients of Republican mailings are dummies, but does the Republican National Committee think so too? Does the RNC think Republicans haven’t heard the old saying “Don’t look at what they say. Look at what they don’t say?” Do they think readers won’t notice that virtually all of the big issues of the Bush presidency are missing? Where are the war in Iraq, the stem cell veto, domestic surveillance? Also unmentioned are gasoline prices, the budget deficit, hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Medicare drug program, global warming, and the most controversial items in the immigration bill (a guest-workers program and the deportation of illegal aliens). Where is Iran? Where is North Korea? Where is the Palestinian question? Where is reform of the lobby? I’m not naive; I know why they are not there. But a lot of the people receiving this questionnaire will have the same reaction I did—that it is downright stupid to ask about the UN’s commanding American troops when anybody who follows politics knows what the real issues are.

Let’s not leave the Democrats out of this. Here they are, approaching a midterm election that (if the polls are to be believed) offers them a great opportunity to regain a majority of at least one house of Congress. Winning control of the House of Representatives—a likelier prospect than the Senate—would enable them to showcase their agenda, head-to-head against the Republicans. And that agenda is … er, exactly what is it? As best as I can tell, it’s to leave alone whatever the Democrats have done in the past and to oppose whatever the Republicans want to do in the present or future. They still have no clue what to do about the war in Iraq except withdraw—a “strategy,” if that’s the word for it, that would be disastrous in diminishing respect for the U.S. in the region that is the center of our concerns. With each passing day, I’m more and more convinced that the Democrats are going to blow it, that they won’t be able to nationalize the election as the Republicans did in 1994 and again in 2002. They don’t even have a credible spokesperson. Harry Reid? Nancy Pelosi? Howard Dean? Puh-leeze.

For somebody who loves politics, as I do, these are not the best of times.

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