Thursday, May 16, 2013

Revisiting Godwin’s Rule


Godwin’s Rule states, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” I would like to revise this rule and I want it to have my name on it instead of Mike Godwin’s.

Whiteside’s Rule states, “As any discussion with a Republican grows longer, the probability of the subject expanding to include Benghazi approaches 1.”

It really doesn’t matter that you were disputing the merits of outsourcing public services or shifting the tax burden from highly profitable to corporations or high income house to low and middle income households, eventually the conversation will take a surprise detour to Benghazi.

U.S. Consulate, Benghazi, Libya
(September 11, 2012)
You see it doesn’t matter that we now know more about the September 11, 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya than we did on September 12, 2012 or September 13, 2012 when the “fog of war” was still thick and Obama administration officials were choosing their words carefully to avoid mischaracterization of the attack. In the minds of Republicans there is no excuse for any misstatement, misunderstanding or withholding of information while the facts were still being assessed.

And exactly what does the Benghazi attack have to do with expanding Medicaid, outsourcing school transportation services, or maintaining roads at the expense of school budgets so that corporate taxes can be reduced? Absolutely nothing!

For Republicans, just saying “Benghazi” out loud seems to bring them a kind self-affirming reassurance that every problem can ultimately be traced to “that man” … you know, the brown guy who is a secret Muslim from Kenya who wants to destroy everything that is good about America, like mom, apple pie and little white babies.

And before you can say, “But that has nothing to do with Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law and our right to elect our local officers,” they are saying, “And, I’m not a racist!”

Bringing up Benghazi is like crack cocaine for Republicans, it stimulates an endorphin surge that would kill a donkey but just makes an elephant smile … you know, that smug expression that screams, “Gotcha!”

Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI)
Maybe that is why Representative Tim Walberg (R-Tipton, Michigan) just had to get a few words in at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held May 8, 2013 to investigate the U.S. Consulate Attack in Benghazi, Libya? You can watch the entire hearing on C-Span but I don’t recommend it.

Walberg’s opening statement says it all, "It was shocking to just hear a statement that this is rehashing same old stories. These aren't 'old stories’; these aren't 'same old stories'. This is a situation that is atrocious in that it happened and it's about time that we heard the stories for the first time that we are hearing today.”

This will probably shock Tim Walberg, but this committee is doing nothing more than “rehashing same old stories” and yes, they are “same old stories”. This is what Republicans do to distract themselves from the fact that they have no idea how to govern; they hold hearings and shout, “Gotcha!”

If you are a Republican and you are reading this, you are probably spitting nails and kicking the wall. Every now and then you are shouting “Benghazi!” for no reason at all except that you are hoping for a little endorphin surge.

But I’m not writing this for wild-eyed, right-wing, Republicans; I am writing it for progressive and moderately progressive Democrats as well as moderates who are largely non-partisan even if they tend to vote Republican or Democrat. What are you doing right now?

I hate to say this, but you really aren’t doing much of anything. You might have grinned a bit remembering the last conversation you had that unexpectedly took a turn toward Benghazi, but you aren’t getting mad … and you should.

At a time when we desperately need for our representatives in Washington and Lansing to govern, they aren’t governing and we are suffering the consequences locally. I learned something from Michigan State Representative Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline) while working on her campaign, “It’s always about the quality of life where you live.” It really doesn’t matter where you live, you expect the schools to be funded, the roads to be maintained, the business district to offer you the goods and services that you want and need and the jobs to pay you well enough to live a dignified life.

From now on, every time you try to talk about what is important and someone says “Benghazi”, I want you to get mad, say “Whiteside’s Rule” and walk away from them. I promise you this, they will have no idea what you are talking about and they will be robbed of the little endorphin surge that they were expecting.

After you walk away from them, I want you to commit yourself to doing something to make sure that nobody gets elected to office in 2014 that is more interested in saying “Gotcha!” than in governing. That means making sure that Tim Walberg and others like him go even if their replacement isn’t the perfect candidate.

(Watch the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the U.S. Consulate Attack in Benghazi, Libya Hearing, Part 1, held May 8, 2013 on C-SPAN at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/SConsulat.)