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I tell you, this being a Republican just gets better and better every day. Not a week goes by but that I don't find some new and exciting reason why. This week was no exception.
See, I have a confession to make. I'm kind of a jerk. I can be a real mean-spirited jackass on occasion. It's something I've had to deal with all my life. Sometimes it's been a real struggle, and, as people who know me can attest, not always successful.
But a couple of things that I've seen and read recently have made me think that my problem might be solved by becoming a Republican.
The first of these was last week's edition of "60 Minutes" in which Lesley Stahl interviewed
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. Stahl began by quoting a statement Pelosi had made about bringing "civility" back to the political process. Then she began scolding Pelosi by bringing up things she'd said about the Republicans, such as that they're "immoral" and "corrupt," and "running a criminal enterprise."
"I mean, you're one of the reasons we have to restore civility in the first place," Stahl chided.
Doggone right. I mean, how does Pelosi expect to restore civility to the political debate if she's going to be all nit-picky and critical about little things like multiple corruption indictments and sexual harassment of underage boys?
I mean, the nerve! What does she think she is, the leader of some sort of opposition party? Why can't she be more like that nice Joe Lieberman, who never says anything bad about anybody but other Democrats?
Then I heard about the TV ad for a Senate race out in Missouri, in which actor Michael J. Fox appeared and announced his support for stem cell research, and by extension, candidate Claire McCaskill, who's for it. Her opponent, Jim Tallent, opposes it.
Fox, as you may have heard, suffers from Parkinson's disease, and boy, does this ad show it. He looks terrible, all jerky and twitchy. But Republican talk show host Rush Limbaugh was not impressed. Fox, he asserted, was either deliberately off his medication to exaggerate his symptoms or he's faking. Fox is, after all, an actor, said Limbaugh, who apparently never saw "Doc Hollywood." Limbaugh even provided a little mocking imitation of Fox to prove his point.
Or take Wyoming's sole member of the House, Republican Barbara Cubin. After a recent debate in which Thomas Rankin, Cubin's Libertarian opponent, accused her of taking contributions from indicted former Speaker Tom DeLay, Cubin stormed over to Rankin and said, "If you weren't sitting in that chair, I'd slap you across the face."
"That chair" refers to the motorized wheelchair to which Rankin is confined because of multiple sclerosis. Cubin's defense? "He misrepresented her and insulted her integrity during the debate," according to Cubin's campaign. (As it turns out, Cubin had accepted $22,520 from one of Tom DeLay's PACs.)
That's when it hit me. As an independent who leaned Democratic, I would have been ashamed of myself had I looked at some unfortunate person suffering from an incurable degenerative disease and sneered "Aw, he's just faking it. He's just playing for sympathy."
In those days, had I lost my temper and threatened to slap somebody in a wheelchair -- for telling the truth, no less -- people would come down on me like a ton of bricks.
There'd be angry letters sneering about "aren't liberals supposed to be so nice and tolerant," etc. That's what happens when you're a liberal and you say anything negative.
But as a Republican, no one expects anything from me. I can say anything I want, including being nasty to the terminally ill or disabled, and no one says a mumblin' word.
And it's not just the sick. As a Republican, I can even make fun of the bereaved. You may remember a few months ago, Republican pundit Ann Coulter talked about the widows of Sept. 11 victims who were calling for further investigation of intelligence failures in the times leading up to the attacks. "I've never seen anyone enjoying their husbands' deaths so much," she snapped.
I'm not saying that Democrats never say anything nasty or mean-spirited. This is, after all, politics. I'm sure my fellow Republicans, as they read this column, are mentally composing letters in which they detail half a dozen negative things a Democrat or liberal has said.
But that's precisely my point. Democrats get criticized for it. Nationally famous reporters scold them for it. We Republicans get a bye. Do you have any idea how liberating that is?
So thank you, Rush Limbaugh. Thank you, Ann Coulter. Thank you, Barbara Cubin. You've set me free in ways I never was when I was a liberal. You've made it OK in the last few years to be the bastard I was born to be. Now I can relax.
Let's just hope those darn Democrats don't win in November. The last thing we want is for viciousness, meanness, thin skins and bad temper to go out of fashion.