The Brooks Brothers Rioters and Their Discontents
Karl Marx famously said historical events occur twice, first as tragedy and then as farce. And so it is with the Republican "filibuster nation," the manufactured mob displays designed to disrupt, derail and destroy Democratic health care events. As I detailed yesterday, today's GOP astro-turfers are simply taking a page from the Republicans' 2000 playbook which featured the sinister "Brooks Brothers Riot" in Miami that shut down the recount in Dade County, Florida and effectively made George W. Bush president. And for that tragedy, it turns out, at least one of the legendary conservative hatchet men feels some remorse.
Roger Stone, the notorious Republican dirty trickster and heir to the likes of Lee Atwater, played an essential role in ginning up that Miami mob scene. As GOP protesters later told Time, the organizers of the Dockers Rebellion "were led by hardball Washington strategist Roger Stone, had phone banks churning out calls to Miami Republicans, urging them to storm downtown."
But as The Daily Beast reported last November, even a hardened political hit man like Stone experiences pangs of guilt, if only momentarily. As he told Benjamin Sarlin:
"There have been many times I've regretted it," Stone told me over pizza at Grand Central Station. "When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, 'Maybe there wouldn't have been a war if I hadn't gone to Miami-Dade. Maybe there hadn't have been, in my view, an unjustified war if Bush hadn't become president.' It's very disturbing to me"...
I think across the board he's led the party to its current position, which means losing both houses of congress and now the White House," Stone said. "How can you be conservative and justify wiretapping people without a warrant? We're supposed to be the party of personal freedom and civil liberties. Big brother listening in on your phone calls--I got a problem with that."
Not much of a problem, though. Stone's web site proudly displays quotes lauding his cloak-and-dagger reputation on behalf of the right-wing, such as the "professional lord of mischief" (Weekly Standard) and "a dashing, colorful artist of the underhanded" (David Brooks).
But for the most part, the conscience of the conservative is untroubled by the Dade County coup. As The Hill reported today, while many former Bushies running for Congress are running away from their wildly unpopular boss, Brooks Brothers rioter Matt Schlapp is not among them.
In 2005, the Washington Post's Al Kamen provided an update on the "Miami Riot Squad," including Schlapp. Schlapp, the Bush campaign aide who went on to become White House political director, is unrepentant:
Regardless of whether it would be helpful to one's campaign, a candidate should embrace his or her past, said Matt Schlapp, a former White House political director who briefly considered a bid for Congress earlier this year in a heavily Republican district in Kansas.
"You should be proud of your views and you should be proud of the people you worked with," Schlapp said. "To back away from either the people you worked with or the policy objectives you were trying to achieve may have some short-term political benefits, [but] in the long run it's better to dance with the one who brung you."
As for Congressional Republicans and their amen corner, they've decided to dance with the incendiary amalgam of tea-baggers and birthers trying to drown out the message of health care reform favored by a majority of Americans. Whether that gambit is ultimately successful, the GOP will always have Miami.