The Republican contribution to universally accessible health care was to defeat the plan advanced by the Clinton administration, and then do nothing for the next eight years.
Their passion for deregulated markets played a large role in the near collapse of the world financial system.
It is a symptom of the collapse of the Republican Party in Congress that people such as Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh are now seen by many as the party's real leaders.
On May 21, Cheney delivered a speech at the American Enterprise Institute defending the Bush administration's unauthorized surveillance and "harsh" interrogation methods. His performance was vintage Cheney. He thought he had learned during the Bush presidency that you can persuade people by making many false claims repeatedly. That was how he and his clique managed to deceive us into an unnecessary war in Iraq.
Even if (a big if) the press has courage and independence, it can be difficult to expose a cascade of false claims made by government officials based on classified information.
Investigative journalism can take a long time, during which the decisions and policies supported by the government's false claims are often carried out. That is why we find ourselves with 130,000 troops in Iraq years after we learned that we had no business being there.
Yet here was Cheney, in May 2009, years after events had exposed him as a dishonest and dangerous bungler, again suggesting ties between Iraq and the 9-11 terrorists, and that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
He also claimed that the "enhanced" interrogation methods used on detainees were justified by the attacks they prevented.
He even insisted that techniques such as waterboarding were not torture (according to his definition): "Torture was never permitted." What kind of mind could produce such an utterance? Ordinary psychological terms (such as "lie" or "delusion") fail us here.
This time around, the press and Congress quickly demolished Cheney's claim that his "harsh" methods had worked. Former FBI interrogators such as Jack Cloonan and Ali Soufan testified that only traditional, non-"enhanced" methods gained useful information from Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. We also heard evidence that the torture of these two men was prolonged in order to get them to support Cheney's false claim of a connection between Iraq and 9/11.
In addition to Cheney, the Republican "Base" can always count on Rush Limbaugh (and similar voices such as Bill O'Reilly and Michael Savage) to get them salivating again. He is such a force among the Base that Congressional Republicans issue public apologies if they happen to sound critical of him.
Here are some samples of the world, according to Rush:
* "I mean, let's face it, we didn't have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I'm not saying we should bring it back; I'm just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark."
* "Can I redirect you to feminist truth No. 24, Undeniable Truth of Life No. 24, written by me in the mid '80s: Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society."
* "There are more acres of forest land in America today than when Columbus discovered the continent in 1492."
I think, or rather, I desperately hope that no political party will ever gain power with a base made up of admirers of Dick Cheney or Rush Limbaugh.
Cheney stands for a government that can violate the law and lie to its people anytime it secretly decides the country is in danger. He even thinks the government can detain American citizens without court review and "harshly" interrogate them.
Limbaugh shares Cheney's reckless disregard of facts. Their notion of patriotism is obedience to the government rather than concern for the well-being of Americans.
Limbaugh and his fellow talk-show hosts substitute shouting and insult for argument.
The Republican symbol should be changed from elephant to woolly mammoth.
Brian Cooney is the Stodghill professor of philosophy at Centre College.