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Democrats are trying to recapture some of their market share. It’s a cross-attacking of each other’s bases, like the Republicans going after Hispanics and the black vote. When I worked undercover as Bush campaign volunteer in 2004, we talked about how, if we could only take 10 percent of the black vote away from Democrats, we’d win every election for the rest of American history.
The Democrats are seeing where the Republicans are vulnerable, and they see that some religious conservatives feel betrayed that Republicans haven’t delivered on abortion, stem cell research, and that kind of thing. They’re going to appeal to that base, whereas they didn’t even try in 2000.
reason: Are you offended by Democrats implying things such as, “Jesus wants us to have universal health care”?
Taibbi: It’s all disgusting. You have to commit so many moral atrocities to be a Washington politician that any kind of religion you actually maintain after that experience has to be not entirely sincere. So when I see these guys invoking the name of God, it’s comical.
reason: You reported on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A lot of liberals say the government at all levels didn't do enough, but your chapter in Smells Like Dead Elephants suggests the government was way too active: preventing rescue workers from doing their jobs, not allowing civilians with boats—who were rescuing “dozens” more refugees than FEMA’s boats—to get to areas where people were stranded, “aiming guns at women in children.”
Taibbi: There was an enormous amount of hostility toward the government by the people left in New Orleans. The government sent in this massive force that treated everyone like they were criminals. The government’s response was so ineffective and so adversarial that it really drove people to distrust any program that they were offering. That kind of phenomenon in general is why more and more people are becoming disenchanted with the government and gravitating toward candidates like Ron Paul. They’re pissed off with a government that has become so distant from their actual concerns.
reason: In your Iraq chapter, you lay out how
defense contractors are bilking the American people out of billions
of dollars. Libertarians say that the military-industrial complex
is a bastardized capitalism, but liberals say that it’s the result
of an unregulated market. What’s your stance?
Taibbi: It’s not capitalism at all. It’s more like an authoritarian socialism. It’s forcibly extracting money from the customers and distributing the profits to companies that aren’t selected by market choice but government fiat. Critics call it the free market, but it’s not that at all. You can’t have a war that’s realistically market-based.
reason: You say Republicans are perverts because they never had any fun as kids, and also that “the American left has no sense of humor and no sense of fun at all.” What is it about politicos that make them passionate about the issues but no other areas of their lives?
Taibbi: Anyone who is willing to put up with as much shit as necessary to become a U.S. senator or president has to be a sociopath. That’s why you see all these crazy behaviors popping up with Sen. Larry Craig [R-Idaho] and [former Rep. Mark] Foley [of Florida]. These people have to drive their true selves so far beneath the surface to present this clean face to the world, and that’s why they end up indulging in these subterranean weirdnesses.
reason: Speaking of weirdness, why does so much of the institutional left—including many who believe that marijuana should be legal—have a vendetta against tobacco and fast food? They demand freedom of choice and then want to punish the enjoyment of Marlboros and McDonald's.
Taibbi: That part of the left drives me crazy. Americans no longer feel the need to be ideologically consistent on anything. If you believe adults should be free to do drugs or engage in any sexual behavior they want, you should also believe they’re free to smoke or eat shitty food or do anything they want. You can’t just pick and choose which absolute freedoms you want to endorse. On the right, people say they want to have prayer in schools for instance but they don’t want to have anyone doing drugs in other states. We no longer have that consistent political orientation with broad underlying themes like individual liberty, and that’s unfortunate.
If this was Sweden or Great Britain I might say something different, but that’s not what America is all about. America is about getting the government off your back, a reprieve from having your life interfered with, and we keep forgetting that.