Friday, March 16, 2007

Anything You Can Do

With the death of Betty Hutton last weekend, we’ve all been hearing, over and over, her rendition (along with Howard Keel) of “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” from the movie version of Annie Get Your Gun. Each time, I am reminded (of all things) of Republican attitudes towards electoral shenanigans and, of course, of the brouhaha over the firings of U.S. Attorneys.

The Republicans, of course, don’t sing the song correctly. They’ve changed the lyrics to “Anything we imagine you can do, we can do better.” They sing it to the Democrats. And, over the past thirty years or so, it has stood them in good stead. After all, knowing your enemy’s capacity is an important part in developing a successful strategy in war—and the Republicans have long seen politics as war (see my article for The Public Eye for more on this and on David Horowitz’s seminal pamphlet “The Art of Political War”).

Karl Rove, a fan of the Horowitz pamphlet and a master of that song, reprised it again Thursday at Troy University when asked about the resignations (read “firings”) of seven U.S. attorneys late last year: “I'd simply ask everybody who's playing politics with this be asked to comment about the removal of 123 U.S. attorneys during the previous administration and see if they had the same super-heated political rhetoric.” The song, of course, is deliberately childish in intent. And Rove certainly sounds like a petulant little miscreant: “Billy did it, so why can’t I?”

This isn’t the only example of such thinking connected to the U.S. Attorneys scandal. As the 2006 elections neared, Republicans were hit hard by allegations of corruption. Ever since the rumors of voter fraud in favor of John Kennedy in Cook County in 1960 (and from even before that), Republicans have imagined (sometimes with reason, I must admit) that elections were being stolen from them. So, they set out to steal a few of their own. And they succeeded spectacularly. Al Gore won the 2000 election in terms of popular vote. And more people thought they cast votes for him than thought they did for Bush in Florida. In 2004, corrupt practices in Ohio may well have tipped that election to Bush.

By 2006, however, American voters showed themselves as increasingly fed up with such practices. Scrambling to protect themselves from voter anger, Republicans began to throw around that “they did it, too” line, and put pressure on prosecutors to find instances of Democratic malfeasance—and to bring about indictments before the election.

Last month, ePluribus Media Journal published the preliminary findings of a study by Donald C. Shields and John F. Cragan, “The Political Profiling of Elected Democratic Officials: When Rhetorical Vision Participation Runs Amok.” They had discovered that “the offices of the U.S. Attorneys across the nation investigate seven (7) times as many Democratic officials as they investigate Republican officials.” Yet actual indictments were almost exclusively of Republicans.

Certain that Democrats were doing it, too, Republican lawmakers had been leaning on prosecutors, trying to get them to find anything that could make it possible for there to appear (at least) a parity of malfeasance. As Reese Schonfeld writes in The Huffington Post, “In September '06, just before the election, Chris Christie, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, brought subpoenas ‘in connection with allegations of corruption on the part of Senator Bob Menendez,’ the Democratic candidate for the Senate. The subpoenas were leaked and became front page news.” However, not all prosecutors were so willing: “Two other prosecutors (Washington and New Mexico) had refused to bring fraud charges in statewide elections decided by less than 5,000 votes.” They lost their jobs; Christie is still in his, though the charges came to nothing.

The full story of the political uses of U.S. Attorneys has not yet been fully exposed. Christie is not the only one who seems to have bowed to pressure from politicians. The investigators at ePluribus Media are beginning to profile exactly what some of them have been doing to retain their jobs.

So just wait: when it comes to skullduggery, we may soon see just how much better the Republicans have been doing it. They weren’t wrong, as they sang that song.

Any fraud you can do,
I can do better.
I can do any fraud
Better than you.

No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can,
Yes, I can!

Any vote you can take
I can take more of.
Sooner or later,
I’ll take more than you.

No, you can’t. Yes, I can.
No, you can’t. Yes, I can.
No, you can’t!. Yes, I can.
Yes, I can!

I can change an election
With a single deflection.
I can lean on attorneys
Or put them on gurneys.
And make them live on bread and cheese.
And only on that?
Yes.
So can a rat!
Any vote you can reach
I can reach more of.
I can reach anything
Much more than you.
No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I CAN!

Anyone you can bribe
I can bribe better.
I can bribe anyone
Better than you.

Forty cents?
Firty cents! Sixty cents?
Ninety cents! No, you can't!
Yes, I can,
Yes, I can!
Anything you can say
I can say luder.
I can say anything
Louder than you.
No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can.
YES, I CAN!
I can drink my kool-aid
Faster than your aide.
I can drink it quicker
And get even sicker!
I can open any safe.
Without bein' caught?
Sure.
That's what I thought--
you crook!
Any vote you can hold
I can hold longer.
I can hold any vote
Longer than you.

No, you can't.
Yes, I can No, you can't.
Yes, I can No, you can't.
Yes, I can
Yes, I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I No, you C-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-N'T--
CA-A-A-A-N! (Cough, cough!)
Yes, you ca-a-a-an!

Any pose you can take
I can wear better.
At what you claim
I'd look better than you.
In my coat?
In your vest! In my shoes?
In your hat! No, you can't!
Yes, I can
Yes, I CAN!
Anything you say
I can say faster.
I can say anything
Faster than you.
No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can. Noyoucan't.
YesIcan!
I can jump legal hurdles.
I can make you turn turtle.
I can knit a indictment.
I can cause false excitement!
I can do most anything!
Can you bake a pie? No.
Neither can I.
Any mud you can fling
I can fling further.
I can fling anything
Further than you.
No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't, can't, can't.
Yes, I can, can, can

Yes, I can! No, you can't!

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