Ted Frier

Ted Frier
April 02
Ted Frier is an author and former political reporter turned speechwriter who at one time served as communications director for the Massachusetts Republican Party, helping Bill Weld become the first Bay State Republican in a generation to be elected Governor. He was Chief Speechwriter for Republican Governor Paul Cellucci and Lt. Governor Jane Swift. Ted is also the author of the hardly-read 1992 history "Time for a Change: The Return of the Republican Party in Massachusetts." So, why the current hostility to the Republican Party and what passes for conservatism today? The Republican Party was once a national governing party that looked out for the interests of the nation as a whole. Now it is the wholly-owned subsidiary of self interest. Conservatism once sought national unity to promote social peace and harmony. Now conservatism has devolved into a right wing mutation that uses divide and conquer tactics to promote the solidarity of certain social sub-groups united against the larger society while preserving the privileges of a few.


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AUGUST 31, 2012 11:07AM

Clint Eastwood Skit Exposes Real GOP

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There is a God in heaven. After three days of gaseous and often fraudulent speeches, Clint Eastwood's unscripted sketch in the closing hours of the Republican National Convention in Tampa last night finally managed to say something that was true: The Republican Party is an aging white guy ranting incoherently at an imaginary Barack Obama.

American Prospect's Jamelle Bouie and I must have simultaneously come to that very same conclusion after watching Eastwood's surprise, late-entry performance last night -- which is certain to go down in convention lore as one of the weirdest moments in American political history. But the multiple levels of symbolism produced by this American icon's soon-to-be iconic dialog with a make-believe president were delicious.

Following Eastwood's 10-minute improvisation, the Romney campaign felt compelled to issue a brief statement distancing itself from the performance: "Judging an American icon like Clint Eastwood through a typical political lens doesn't work," said a Romney spokesman. "His ad-libbing was a break from the political speech-making, and the crowd enjoyed it."

Thus did the Mitt Romney campaign repudiate its own convention in the same way its candidate has been forced to distance himself from his own biography and record throughout this inauthentic and thoroughly dishonest campaign.

But it was Eastwood's empty chair that took center stage.  

For the past four years we've had to watch as Republicans have attacked Barack Obama as if he is some sort of dangerous, socialist, radical stranger instead of a President who, time and time again, has embraced Republican positions.

As Noah Millman writes in the American Conservative:  The "Obama Administration has been a quintessentially small-'c' conservative one, in that it has tried its best to preserve the status quo in just about every area."

Daily Beast blogger Andrew Sullivan agrees, saying it would be helpful if commentators from now on acknowledge not only that the Republican Party has become a right-wing populist party rather than a conservative one, "but that the Obama Administration is the sensible, centrist conservative Administration they claim to want."

The most obvious example is Obamacare. There is no disputing that the health care reform Mitt Romney passed in Massachusetts while he was Governor was the template upon which "Obamacare" was based.  As someone who was involved in the formation of both policies finally blurted out in a moment of maximum frustration: Obamacare and Romneycare "are the same fucking bill!!!"

Yet, the author of Romneycare has made it a centerpiece of his campaign to repeal Obamacare as a threat to the very existence of the Republic. How, then, is this any weirder than Clint Eastwood giving voice to an imaginary Barack Obama who tells his Republican rival to go fuck himself?

Or why, as Time's Michael Grunwald has asked, do Republicans think their own $715 billion stimulus passed in the early days of 2008's economic crisis was good public policy while Obama's $787 billion alternative (half of which was tax cuts) constituted the thin edge of freedom-crushing socialism?  

The difference, of course, was that Republicans knew they could regain power by opposing Obama on any new government spending, as their unanimous 0 to 173 party-line vote against Obama's first stimulus bill demonstrated.  

Republicans made the cynical calculation that Obama had to intervene massively in an economy on the brink of falling into another Great Depression (just as Republicans would have done if they were in power) given the scale of the catastrophe Republicans bequeathed to him.

And so this left Obama open to fear-mongering attacks about the government taking on too much debt at a time when average Americans were having to tighten their own belts. And the alarm could be sounded by a Republican Party eager to erase its own record of fiscal irresponsibility under George W. Bush (where the national debt doubled in just eight years) by denying to Bush's successor the fiscal tools they knew he needed to correct the GOP's own grievous mistakes.

An aging actor making it up as he goes along was a pretty good dramatization, when you come to think about it, of the Republican Party in the modern age.

This is a GOP, after all, for whom storytelling is now a substitute for real governing and specific policy ideas are shortchanged in place of nostalgia for simpler, more heroic times -- as well as vignettes aimed at reminding Americans what a proud and self-reliant people they are, who should feel guilty, if not ashamed, turning to government for help. The not-so-subtle subtext of these Republican celebrations of American Exceptionalism is: "You're on your own my fellow Americans, so don't expect any help from us."

The biggest whopper Mitt Romney told during his acceptance speech last night was the one about that brief, shining, mystical -- and mythical -- moment after Barack Obama was sworn in when the new President held Americans - Republicans and Democrats alike - in the palm of his hand. But then, according to Romney's fabulous narrative, he let all that goodwill slip away as he tried to "ram" a radical, left-wing agenda down America's throats, and did so using one-party votes.

"Four years ago, I know that many Americans felt a fresh excitement about the possibilities of a new president," said Romney last night. "That president was not the choice of our party but Americans always come together after elections. We are a good and generous people who are united by so much more than divides us."

Funny, that's not how I remember it at all.

What I remember is watching a rerun of something we've not seen since the South seceded from the Union after Abraham Lincoln was elected, namely an entire wing of a major political party going on strike and taking to the streets in angry protests to "take back" America just weeks after the American people tapped as their president someone many of these self-styled "Tea Party" Republicans didn't think was even an American citizen.

The pretext for these protests was runaway government spending and soaring government debts - most of which had been piled up during eight years of Republican Party rule with nary a peep of Tea Party protest.

I also remember reports from Robert Draper of the New York Times about Republicans plotting with pollster Frank Luntz as early as Inauguration Day in 2009 on how they could retake power. Their conclusion: oppose and obstruct Obama at every turn in order to prevent him from achieving victories - even at the expense of the US economy, and even if it meant preventing the President from solving problems Republicans themselves had created.

"If you act like you're the minority, you're going to stay in the minority," Draper quotes Congressman Kevin McCarthy as saying. "We've gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign."

And as the evening's conspiring was breaking up, Newt Gingrich, playing Henry V, added his own St. Crispin's Day touch: "You will remember this day.  You'll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown."

And lastly, I remember Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying that the Republican Party's "top priority" was making Barack Obama a one term president - a threat McConnell has tried to make good on by establishing a new 60-vote threshold for passing regular legislation in the Senate after effectively institutionalizing minority rule with more filibusters launched in the last three years than at any equivalent period in the nation's 230-year history.

These were the realities that three days of fact-free and fallacious speeches at the national convention tried to cover up as Republicans pretended to offer hope and change amid generous servings of gloom and doom, much of it their own making.

But leave it to an aging film star to make our day by giving us the Etch-a-Sketch moment we've all been waiting for when Eastwood ripped off the mask of the Republican Party's Monty Python-like farce with his own satirical, sarcastic skit.

Life, as they say, imitates art. But sometimes, as we saw last night with Clint Eastwood unintentional imitation of today's Republican Party, it's the other way around.      

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Absolutely brilliant. I'm sending this to as many Democratic campaign offices as I can find. Mr. Frier hasn't just hit one nail on the head; he's hit enough to build a mansion the size of the Romney "hideaway" in California.

Can anybody top this? I doubt it.
Unanimous response I think.
Wonderful post. You've said it all.
Ted, I absolutely concur with your analysis, and your conclusions but I am confused: Are you now a Republican In Name Only because you have refused to drink the Kool-Aid, or are you even a Republican at all. That's the same question I would pose to Kevin Phillips, for the same reason. You've both done yeomen service by elucidating the intellectual poverty of the Republican Party, which has become the latest reincarnation of the American First and the Know Nothing parties of the 19th century.

The Republican Party has yet to explain how they are going to restore economic vitality. All they do is harp on cutting taxes and decreasing services, neither of which will create a single job.

Here's my dilemma: the reason that I now post so infrequently is that I can't figure out what difference my commentaries make. You've got an audience, a following. So does Mr. Phillips. I'm just a mediocre poet with a penchant for bursting bubbles.

The bubble here is that, somehow, the Republican Party has bamboozled a substantial percentage of the American people to voting against their own self-interest.

I view this Republican Party as a totalitarian regime in the making, and they are reaching this goal by using the same techniques developed by the Communist Party in Russia, and the National Socialist Party in Germany....the Nazis.

The hatred of Gay People, the distaste for minorities, the disapproval of immigrants, the constant reiteration of one Big Lie after another Big Lie, these are just some of the characteristics that today's Republican Party shares in common with the Communists of 19 Century Russia and the Nazis in 20th Century Germany.

The question is whether we will wake up from our media induced coma in time to remember to vote our best interests instead of those of the 1%.

Respectfully rated.

You ask a lot of good questions, and I am not sure how to answer. I am not sure it is possible to be a Republican anymore because I am not sure there is a Republican Party any longer, just a lot of refugees, some of whom have wandered into the Democratic camp like me and are happily making new friends, some of whom remain inside what's left of the GOP and are keeping a low profile and the rest wandering like nomads. That is the bitter fruit, I am afraid, of Nixon's Southern Strategy that attempted to acquire, assimilate and control a dangerous species of reactionary politics that has destroyed every party it ever touched throughout our history -- Whigs, Democrats and now Republicans -- because it fundamentally does not believe in democracy, or even "politics." That is why Tom DeLay's Farewell Address was so important -- he spelled it all out. Compromise is for sissies and "preening self-styled statesmen."

Political parties usually assimilate movements and make their positions digestible for the country as a whole, but in the GOP's case the process has been reversed. The conservative movement has consumed the party.

Labels are tricky, but the Republican Party used to be a "liberal" party in the classic sense -- pro-freedom, pro-democracy, pro-free market, pro-Enlightenment, pro-science. Now, as you correctly say, it is an authoritarian coalition which poses a severe threat to the American democracy and every other liberal value we have. These radical Republicans talk a lot about freedom, but it is really the freedom they demand FROM the rest of us and the freedom they demand to construct a society entirely to their own liking without the need to accommodate, or even coexist with, groups that disagree with them and whose freedoms they are more than willing to restrict to get what they want. The blatant and brutal efforts at voter suppression are just the tip of the iceberg on how far they are willing to go to get power.

This period feels a lot like the decades before the Civil War when party alignments were very fluid, to put it mildly, and you had all these weird third parties out there like the Liberty, Free Soil, Constitutionalist and American "Know-Nothings". At present, I am very happy in the Democratic camp. I really can't see myself supporting Republicans for a very long time because I think it will take a very long time to defeat the authoritarian elements that now dominate it, and return them back to the lunatic fringe where they belong.
One further thought. Mr. Frier has given a name to the Republican campaign, which the Republicans will not be able to shake once it gains traction. The name is: "The Clint Eastwood syndrome."

Now it becomes the job of every concerned citizen to help it gain that traction.
Excellent post. Rated, but I am not going to comment in any substantive way just now, other than to say amen and amen. One can look at the Eastwood display (the Eastweird speech as I saw it called on another blog) from any one of ten different angles and from each, see a different way the speech was emblematic of the Republican Party's degeneration in the past thirty years or so. The things you said in this post are just a start--and you are the third person I've heard today call it a gift from God.
"The Republican Party is an aging white guy ranting incoherently at an imaginary Barack Obama." That says it all. Thank you for this post.
I'm 100% with Erica on this one, Ted.

I have always favored the liberal side of politics, but I have appreciated the function of conservatives as the "loyal opposition"...keeping people who sometimes get carried away in check.

That conservative feature of American politics simply does not exist anymore...and the Republican Party is an abomination in my opinion.

Unfortunately, I think they are about to make a huge ascendant move in November. The bat-shit crazy fringe has struck a chord with the frightened, soon-to-be minority white aging population (male and female). They are going to take power...and will set political features in place that will insure they stay in power.

I am not a negative person by nature...quite the opposite, but we are in for a cultural siege that will make some of the shit going on in the world seem like a cakewalk.
I thought the MSNBC folks went overboard. What difference did it make? Pure hoopla. The old man's got balls, fat pockets and a tight rectum. Don't pity him, pity America.
And I used to be a Republican!
Republican crowds also seem to like: booing soldiers, calling Obama a terrorist/socialist/etc, repealing health care for Americans. Historically, crowds like: witch burnings, cock fighting, hangings, book burning.
Well, I'm about to step outside, scare the kids away from my lawn and enjoy the blue moon. Thanks, Ted, you made my evening.
Eastwood said one coherent sentence in his entire speech. "WE OWN THIS COUNTRY." That was a true statement. The other stuff? I think I want some of Clint's drugs.
I wish I had written this. Well done.

Read, rated and shared....
The post- Freud world would interpret this steep discussion of Clint and his aspiring self as something along the schizoid path of the chronically delusional among us. The loyal following would not much care, as their 'day was made'.... They had been endorsed by a true fictional hero ..... Aren't we impressed now? R>>>>>
First of all, that is the best lede in an op-ed piece I've read in a long, long time!! ... A front-page pick and EP are in order here, but this piece really deserves to be read as widely as possible, beyond the walled garden of our beloved OS. Hope it finds its way onto the screens of influential, progressive-minded people. Rated with gusto.
You are exactly right. The other side took to the streets immediately and began a destroy mission. I don't care what someone believes, the fact is that Mr. Obama is our President, and I always respect the office of President because it is the right thing to do. Doesn't mean I agree with him on everything, no matter who is in the office, but I respect what he is, our President. Somehow, that's been tossed aside, as if because he's not the color they want, or the person they want, he has cheapened the office of President IN THEIR EYES, which shows them to be the true racist beings a lot of them are. It's so easy when your life is comfortable to sit there and talk about single moms, babies born out of wedlock, people who can't afford insurance, people who don't have jobs. It's always easy to talk about them because they can't fight back as easily. It takes real people with heart, no matter what religion or non-religion they follow, to be able to care about the downtrodden, and I don't see that coming from the current Republican party. All I see is hatred. It's at such a point that those people believe they can tamper with our personal belongings, such as a personal picture of President Obama, and similar incidents which I believe is a form of bullying. I see the bullying on all levels of the current Republican party. It wasn't always that way. My dad, a very kind and generous person, was a Republican. I feel he would denounce them were he to see them at work today. Until they clean up their act, and get rid of the hate-mongers, that party is doomed to become a party of the past. Thanks for speaking up. Keep it going.

Once upon a time beginning the 1850s America had two political parties, called Republican and Democratic, that shared a common responsibility for governing the country. They had different ideas about war and peace, spending and taxation, as parties generally do and they competed every four years to see which one would have the opportunity to put its ideas to the test.

Then things changed. Beginning 30 years ago with the election of Ronald Reagan, which more than anything else validated for the right wing of the GOP that America was and must be forever more a "center/right nation, Republicans got it in their head that the purpose of politics was not to govern at all but to advance a very specific project to roll back the 20th century and undo all those changes that kept white Christians and wealthy businessmen from running the country as they saw fit. And so anyone who got in their way had to be stopped or destroyed by whatever means possible.

And so it is no coincidence that of the two non-Republicans who have been elected post-Reagan the first was impeached and the second denied the dignity of fellow citizenship.

Looked at this way it makes perfect sense that the right wing of the Republican Party would take to the streets within a few short weeks of the new presidents inauguration in an effort to de-legitimize him for precisely the same thing their own most recent president was most guilty of himself, namely driving the nation into debt.

This is not our grandfathers Republican Party. And within the context of American traditions, history, conventions and democratic norms, it is not even an American one but one rooted in an authoritarian conception of the one-party state and the division of the populace into "legitimate," i.e. god-fearing, conservative and perhaps even Christian Americans and everyone else who supports the Democratic Party. Not all Republicans feel this way, but enough to shape the character of the party and control the behavior of people like Mitt Romney who need it to achieve their life-long dream of doing something his father never did, become President of the United States.
Some commentary on being a R that's way better than I could come up with on my own:


And I hope this will get you there:


If not, it's a picture of Lindsey Graham with his supposed quote: We are not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term. It's from The Other 98%'s facebook page.

It's really about the old, angry white guys maintaining their own power and money, whatever the cost to the rest of us. I think it's a constant in the human species and a pendulum swing in specific societies.
Thank you! What an outstanding opening paragraph!