One of the funnier moments of

the 2008 campaign was the tongue lashing right wing talk show host Kevin James received from Chris Matthews for comparing then Sen. Obama’s willingness to negotiate with our rivals to pre-World War II appeasement of Hitler when it was evident that James had absolutely no clue about that era.

If only Matthews could speak to the rest of the far right who are equally clueless about their new smear word of choice — socialist. The word echoes amongst Republicans in Washington, while National Review, the leading magazine of “conservative thought,” ran a cover story on “Our Socialist Future” warning that Obama would lead the nation to European-styled socialism without ever bothering to explain how Obama’s policies were socialist.

A simple visit to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary would reveal that Obama’s policies have nothing to do with socialism, which is defined as a political theory advocating collective or governmental ownership of the means of production; a society in which there is no private property or the transition stage between capitalism and communism under Marxist theory.

Michelle Bachman, the enlightened Congresswoman who called for an investigation of Obama’s and Democratic members of Congress’ anti-American bias, recently shed light on what the flat earth society is talking about in their recitation of the “S” word. According to Bachman, “if you look at FDR, LBJ, and Barack Obama, this is really the final leap to socialism.”

So socialism to the right means New Deal and Great Society programs such as (i) Social Security which reduces poverty among seniors by 75 percent, (ii) Medicare which has increased seniors’ access to health care and life expectancy; (iii) Medicaid which provides health care for half of the nation’s low-income children and 60 percent of nursing home residents; and (iv) Head Start which increases the likelihood a low-income child will pursue college and not crime. This is the red menace that the right is fighting against in order to return us to the days of laissez faire capitalism that gave us the Great Depression and Hoovervilles.

Bachman’s next statement explained the true reason for the mass invocations of the “S” word, which is that Republicans “need to do everything we can to thwart [Democrats] at every turn to make sure that they aren’t able to … secure a power base that for all time can never be defeated.” Bachman’s statement demonstrates that Republicans are motivated by politics not policy and they are prepared to call the president every name in the book — the “S” word just happens to be the smear word of the hour

We saw the same thing in 1994 when Republicans, who had initially been inclined to work with President Clinton in passing healthcare reform, instead followed the advice of William Kristol to reject the Clinton plan “sight unseen” and kill whatever plan was devised (including abandoning Republican alternatives) because it would revive the Democrats reputation as “the generous protector of middle-class interests” and thereby presented a “serious political threat to the Republican party; [while its defeat would be] a monumental setback for the president.”

One Republican senator conceded to President Clinton that “we just don’t believe in government very much, but we love power.” Power and politics trump policy and progress regardless of the costs. It matters little that 18,000 people die prematurely each year due to lack of health insurance, as that is mere collateral damage.

Kristol again is calling for Republicans to “obstruct and delay” because they cannot win politically. This time the stakes are much higher, but “Party First, Country Second,” remains the creed of the GOP. So despite the fact that we stand on a financial precipice or that President Obama’s stimulus plan included the largest tax cut in history, it was opposed by all but three Republicans.

While Republicans may think the “S” word is their magic weapon in stopping President Obama’s momentum, they fail to recognize that the 2008 election was a mandate for more government.

Republicans already are paying a steep price for their hyperbolic distortions and obstructionism since it exposes the fact that they are ideologically bankrupt and have nothing else to offer. For example, a Google search of “Republicans” and “bankrupt” yields 4.8 million hits — substantially more than the results for “Obama” and “socialist.” That may explain why Congressional Democrats have a 27 point favorability advantage over their GOP counterparts.

If the Republicans continue in this course, they may be using another “S” word on election night 2010 when they discover that Chris Matthews was gentle when compared to an angry electorate tired of Republican obstructionism.

Bennet Kelley can be reached at

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