Home | Opinion | Columnists | Mark Mellman

Stop the Republican cover-ups

Republicans have had complete control of the United States government for four years. In all that time, what skills, what issues, have they mastered?

Republicans have had complete control of the United States government for four years. In all that time, what skills, what issues, have they mastered?

They promised to tackle the explosive growth in federal spending. Instead, unable to even agree on a budget, the GOP only managed to add $3 trillion to the national debt.

They promised to deal with the complexities of immigration but went home without a comprehensive solution. Neither President Bush nor Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), nor anyone else believes that a $6 billion fence across one third of the U.S.-Mexico border constitutes meaningful progress.

Perhaps they mastered the intricacies of health care. Hardly. The number of uninsured is up 7 million on their watch and costs have skyrocketed, increasing by 71 percent.

Bush came to office as the Education President. No evidence of even minimal mastery there. College costs are up some 40 percent while the GOP cut student loans, squeezing the middle class further. In an almost bizarre twist, Republicans refused to provide $15 billion in needed funding for their own No Child Left Behind Law.

Of course, the GOP claims mastery of national security. But Iraq’s descent into civil war and Republican refusal to institute basic protections, like inspection of in-bound containers, prevent Republicans from making a legitimate claim in this sphere.

So what aspects of the art of governing have Republicans mastered over the past five years? Three really: deceit, deception and cover-up. Here there can be little disagreement. While most cover-ups are revealed and most deception eventually penetrated, the GOP has done a truly marvelous job exploiting these tools.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and the Republican leadership have been aware of former Rep. Mark Foley’s (R-Fla.) perhaps criminal behavior for almost a year. Refusing to act, or even to investigate, was reprehensible. But under Hastert’s able leadership, Republicans used their intimate knowledge of government to keep Foley’s predatory behavior out of the press nearly long enough to prevent impact on his party’s electoral prospects.

Republicans learned the art of deception from the masters now inhabiting the White House. For years Bush deceived us by explaining that in Iraq he was merely following the lead of the commanders on the ground. In testimony before the Democratic Policy Committee the generals who served the President in Iraq gave the lie to his assertions. As Gen. John Batiste revealed, “America went to war with ‘his (Rumsfeld’s) plan’ and to say that he listens to his generals is disingenuous… He reduced force levels to unacceptable levels, micromanaged the war…which tied the hands of commanders while our troops were in contact with the enemy.”

Commanders on the ground needed more troops, but their requests were denied. All the while the president was assuring the country that the decisions were made by those commanders. Deceit, deception and cover-up. Had it not been for the extraordinary DPC hearings, followed by Bob Woodward’s book, the cover up would still be in-place.

President Bush repeatedly reported we were winning the war on terror and that Iraq was a vital front in that conflict. But those statements contradicted the testimony of 19 of his own intelligence agencies.

The president first tried to hide their written assessment, and then sought to deceive us about the contents.

An inventory of the last four years suggests Republicans have mastered only cover-up, deceit and deception. Their absolute power has corrupted absolutely. Ending Republican hegemony is the only way to end the corruption.

Mellman is president of The Mellman Group and has worked for Democratic candidates and causes since 1982, including Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004.