Rebranding Sour Milk

Over the past couple of months, there’s been quite a bit of talk about rebranding the GOP. Apparently the thought is that peccadillos by party members has damaged the Republican image (as if both parties didn’t have their fair share of opportunists, liars, and hypocrits), along with Bush’s unpopularity rating, and that a little bit of dusting off and polishing up will let the American public see again just what a gem the GOP is. Maybe add a new jingle just to catch their attention.

Which just shows how out of touch the party leadership remains with the public. Rebranding can’t sell sour milk. Let me give one example.

On Thursday last week, House Minority Leader John Boehner criticized the new president’s commitment to close Gitmo by saying that the detainees there “are terrorists” and that bringing them onto U.S. soil gives them rights they wouldn’t have otherwise.

I’m not arguing with Mr. Boehner’s concern about closing Gitmo before knowing where to put the detainees. What I am arguing with is his characterization of all of them as terrorists—at least eight have been recognized as innocent by the Gitmo authorities themselves. The very fact that they’re called “detainees,” not “convicts,” is in keeping with the American justice system’s belief in innocent until proven guilty, something Mr. Boehner seems to have forgotten.

As for Mr. Boehner’s complaint that bringing these people onto U.S. soil gives them rights, our founding fathers believed these are inalienable rights, not able to be given or taken away. So Mr. Boehner is confusing legal “rights” with inalienable rights. And that’s a good part of what the American public is fed up with, what you can’t polish and rebrand.

Now, I recognize that this week we also learned that one detainee released a year ago (under the Bush administration, mind you) has since rejoined Al Queda. This might make us reconsider, in fearfulness, our commitment to a justice system.

I’d argue that our founding fathers, all the soldiers who fought for our independence from Britain, those who fought on both sides in our Civil War, those who have fought in every war since—including those individuals who joined in the Spanish Civil War against their own U.S. government’s wishes—fought not for our safety, but rather for our ideals.

The GOP has gotten it the other way around, of late. And that’s a sour taste you just can’t rebrand.

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