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The ‘They Did it First’ Excuse

By Chuck Ansbacher

Friday March 6, 2009

One of the most unfortunate scripts currently playing out in America is our inability to forgive each other’s various mistakes and move forward to face our problems as a united country. Instead of abiding by the ethics of reciprocity, pundits and policy makers on both sides of the spectrum are doing exactly what has been done unto them (and they hated) for the past eight years, and using “well, they did it first” as justification. With Obama striving to make good on his ambitious campaign promises, the backwards rhetorical finger pointing is heating up. Of course, we should never ignore our mistakes — we should learn from them — but using the bad behavior of the past as an excuse to do the same thing in the present is childish, toxic and inexcusable.

Of course, toxic, childish and inexcusable is conservative America’s middle name — it’s practically their slogan. These people are to ethics what Carrot Top is to comedy, so the fact that they aren’t abiding by the golden rule shouldn’t shock anyone. Rush Limbaugh wants Obama to fail, and he excuses his lust for disaster by reasoning that liberals wanted Iraq to fail-. So he’s whining and lying at the same time. Sur-fucking-prise.

At this point it would be impossible for the right wing of this country to disappoint me any more than they already have; it’s the left I’m disappointed in. Yes, we’re all suffering through the aftershock of one of the most disastrous presidencies of all time — we know that the current economic situation was ‘inherited’, thanks for endlessly reminding us — but the last thing liberals should ever do is use the shittiness of the past eight years to defend any shittiness that may occur during the coming four.

And yet this excuse making is happening like hotcakes. On this past weekend’s This Week, for example, George Stephanopolous had Karl Rove and a few other people over for a bit of round table chit-chat. Of course, they discussed Obama’s proposed budget, and of course, Karl Rove bitched about it. Rove is a slimy, gutless fuck, but his criticism of the budget’s fiscal recklessness is valid. Obama talked a big game of ushering a new era of responsibility and tightening America’s proverbial belt, but he didn’t follow through. He’s raising taxes on the rich and ending the Iraq war (both of which I’m all for), but he’s still leaving America with massive annual deficits and not engaging in true fiscal responsibility. A more thorough budget is due in the months ahead, and hopefully his ‘line-by-line’ scouring will have found a way to trim a few hundred billion from the final document, but it’s unlikely. I’m very much in favor of the policies he’s proposing, I’m just not excited about them being paid for with borrowed money.

Policy aside, this was essentially Karl’s beef with the budget as well, but once he finished crapping on Obama, the liberal guests on This Week crapped on him. The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel laced into Karl especially hard, relishing the opportunity to take shots at one of the most disgusting men in America. Instead of defending Obama’s budget, she super seriously went down the laundry list of fuck-ups that Rove and the Republicans can take credit for.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have ZERO respect for Karl Rove and would gladly pay to see him suffer a Promethean fate (preferably in public). He was the architect of the most fiscally irresponsible administration of all time, and he or any other Republican who criticizes Obama on reckless spending is a double-talking hypocrite with dick for credibility. But really? You guys started a retarded war so we get to fuck up our budget? No! That is not the way this is supposed to go down.

“But the Republicans hit us first!” is not a valid excuse. It may feel good to kick Karl Rove in the nuts, but it will feel a lot better to use the positive results of Democratic leadership to prove him wrong, and then kick him in the nuts just for the hell of it. The GOP is in its current state of ruin not only because Bush was a horrible leader and had no business being president in the first place, but because the entire Republican party went along with everything he did and said, no matter how incompetent or outlandish. If we don’t hold Obama accountable when he messes up in the early stages of his presidency and instead engage in the petty back and forth that the right relies on so heavily, Obama may fall short of achieving his great potential, and we’ll never move forward as a nation. We need to learn from the past, not use it as an excuse.