Between practice and principle is a laughable chasm

Some people believe that comedy and craft go hand in hand. There is a notion that comedy requires thought, timing and precision. I, on the other hand, am of the opinion that if you keep your eyes open long enough, something funny will simply come along.

This latter approach netted me a wealth of laughs as I stumbled across the Web site of The College of New Jersey Republicans. The site contains a list of Republican principles, supposedly held by the organization’s members and the leaders they bow down to … er … admire.

Here’s the punch line – the nation’s Republican leadership has significantly violated nearly every one.

For instance, the site proudly tells us, “We believe that government operates most effectively when it is closest to the people.”

Yet anyone who has been keeping an eye on the Republican leadership lately knows this isn’t true in practice. How is attempting to federalize the Schiavo case keeping the government close to the people? Did I miss something or was the Republican attempt to take gay marriage (a state issue) to the federal level a move away from the people rather than toward them?

The site goes on to explain that Republicans “believe in accountability, flexibility and local control for public schools.”

Of course, if this were the case, the No Child Left Behind program would have never seen the light of day. The program weakens rather than strengthens local control by making schools responsible for meeting federal, rather than local, standards.

Libertarian Presidential candidate Michael Badnarik put it best when he said, “No matter how I read (the Constitution) – forward, backward, upside down or with my Captain Liberty Secret Decoder Ring – I can’t find anything in it that empowers the federal government to be involved in education.”

Perhaps the Republicans are using special glasses that enable them to read what the rest of us believe isn’t there.

The most snicker-inducing claim the site has to offer is the idea that Republicans believe in “equal rights and opportunities for all.”

Debunking this assertion would require a column all its own, so for the sake of expediency, I’ll limit myself to one issue.

While many egalitarian Republicans do exist, it is clear that the neoconservative leadership does not believe in equal rights for those they suspect of having connections to terrorism.

This belief – exemplified in the Heritage Foundation’s support for strengthening and expanding the USA PATRIOT Act – basically says that the only people who have anything to fear from the war on terror are terrorists, in which case they don’t deserve the protection of the law to begin with.

Again for the sake of expediency, I shall refrain from pointing out all the people who have falsely been accused of being terrorists since this “war” began. I will, however, point out a glaring inconsistency between Republican rhetoric and Republican practice.

The rhetoric would have us believe all people are equal under the law. The same law that allows us to try criminal and punish them for their crimes affords them certain rights and protections, which cannot simply be waived because the crime in question is an act of terrorism (as opposed to a less onerous offense).

Furthermore, the law also operates under a presumption of innocence until guilt is proven. This means no one is a terrorist – and hence deserving of having his or her rights taken away – until he or she is convicted of an act of terrorism (after which point you can impose the death sentence with a smile for all I care).

“Equal rights and opportunities for all” means precisely that – it doesn’t matter if John Q. Enron, upstanding citizen and churchgoer is on trial for illegal campaign contributions or Mohammed al Hussein bin Mohammed is on trial for blowing up a building and killing 23 people.

The same rights, protections progressives … all while still trying to forge a populist image.

Comedy thrives in the wide gap that exists between practice and principle. The next time you want a good laugh, listen to a Republican try to quote Russell Kirk or Ronald Reagan with a straight face. Listen to Democrats attempt to evoke John F. Kennedy or Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Listen and ask yourself: can these people really be that oblivious?