14 January, 2009

Positive Reinforcement

It's not often that I praise Republicans in these pages. For one thing, it's desperately hard to find a Republican worthy of anything but derision. And it's even more rare to find one so worthy who hasn't already left the party in disgust.

But there's one who gives me a glimmer of hope that the Cons may eventually be replaced by the Cans - Republicans whose views may still be noxious to a leftie like me, but who actually know a little bit about how to govern, how to think outside of the ideology, and how to be decent human beings. One such is Freshman Rep. Joseph Cao, who in an interview with Think Progress, comes across as an independent-minded, thoughtful, and above all sane man.

When asked about Bush's idea that the government's response to Katrina was not at all slow, but could've been improved if he'd only landed Air Force One in New Orleans - or maybe Baton Rouge - to save the day, Cao said:

CAO: Well, from experiencing the devastation of it and living through it, I believe the federal response was a little slow, given the fact there were people stranded in their homes, people not having foods to eat, not having water to drink. I believe that the FEMA could have been more prepared and more proactive in their response to Katrina.

Q: And do you think that the worst mistake was not landing Air Force One?

CAO: No. Whether or not the President landed Air Force One, I don’t think would have contributed to the federal response of Katrina. It would have conveyed a message that he had a lot more concerns for the plight of the people, but I don’t think that the landing of Air Force One would have improved the federal response to Katrina.

And then he adds this gem that makes me wonder if he ran under the right party affiliation:

When asked about it will take to rebuild the Gulf Coast, Cao replied, “Coastal restoration, health care, and education — you name it, we need it.”

This sounds like a man who actually has his head screwed on straight, is on friendly terms with Mr. Reality, and moreover isn't afraid of government.

He is, however, not quite Mr. Reality's best friend. He still has this strange idea that Republicons might be able to extract their heads from their asses. Asked about right-wing radio freak Michael Savage's comments that immigrants come to America never having seen a piece of toilet paper, fail to assimilate, and then destroy the country with their "destitute ways" while their children join gangs and terrorize real Amurkins, Cao said:

CAO: You know, the Republican party should not have those kinds of views that you just conveyed. A statement like that would be very anti-immigrant, almost to me borderlining to almost being racist, if you ask me. So I take that statement as being quite repulsive, if you ask my opinion. So I hope that the GOP will not tolerate those kinds of views and will not take those positions.

Alas. They already have:

Many of Cao’s fellow Washington Republicans have made similarly inflammatory statements:

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN): Part of that is this whole idea of multicultural diversity, which on the face sounds wonderful. … But guess what? Not all cultures are equal.

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA): There is quite a large number of people that are coming across the border that are of Middle Eastern origin as well as Asian origin. A lot of these are single, they have no families. I don’t think they are coming here to cut our grass or work in our chicken plants.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL): If there are no jobs people will go home. They won’t continue to go here. Now a lot of ‘em wouldn’t go home; you’d have to round them up.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA): We could also electrify this wire [on the border fence] with the kind of current that would not kill somebody, but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL): The numbers [of immigrants] cannot be too great, or it takes jobs from Americans and can, in fact, create cultural problems that wouldn’t occur if it was a little slower.

Freshman Cao has his work cut out for him if he's going to save the party from itself. This is, after all, the party that the xenophobic, racist, anti-government, war-mongering, gay-bashing, religious-frothing, corporate whore, rob-the-government-blind-and-then-blame-the-resulting-mess-on-a-Dem selfish bastards end up in.

But let's hope he does it. Let's hope he can bring a little sanity to the table, dial back the rabid right-wing rhetoric, and turn the opposition party into something less than the complete and total farce that it is now. After all, he's proved that a Con doesn't have to be a freak of the caliber of the above-mentioned Cons to get elected:
Interestingly though, Cao didn’t run on partisan conservatives issues. He received almost no backing from the national Republican party and told ThinkProgress that his top policy concern is the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.
(Okay, granted, he was up against a corrupt Dem who kept cash in his freezer, but still - he won.)

If he can serve a productive two years in the House spending more time solving issues than obstructing for the sake of obstruction, and then gets re-elected because he's actually doing a good job, this could send a signal to the rest of the Cons that it's time to grow up, fly right, and stop throwing screaming tantrums just for the sake of fucking up the adults' day. This could mean an influx of reasonably sane Republicans, and lead to a government that actually functions less like a soap opera and more like a mature superpower.

Look, I can but dream. And a little positive reinforcement never hurts. You go, Freshman Cao!

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