Addendum at the end of the post
As noted in the previous post, I’ve been ill for the last two weeks.
Nothing life threatening, just a horrible spring cold and a touch of the flu.
But for a while there, I was wondering if maybe I’d contracted the Ebola and was in the throes of fever induced hallucinations.
Seriously, when you flip on the news and see Jeb Bush, Jeb Bush of all goddamned people, waxing philosophical and complaining about how the Republican party has moved so far into rightwing extremism that neither Ronald Reagan or his father, George Holy War Bush, would be welcome in today’s GOP, well, you really have to wonder if maybe your illness is far worse than the the doctor led you to believe.
"Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad, they would have a hard time if you define the Republican party, and I don’t, as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground."
Bush then goes on to lament how back in his dad’s time, and especially during Reagan’s administration, “they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support,” but nowadays, the GOP would disown both former presidents for making the compromises they made – i.e. for putting practicality and the needs of the nation over the ideology of their own political party.
In a previous post, The Deification of Ronald Reagan, I said much the same here on Stonekettle Station. It’s long been my observation that conservatives are in love with the idea of Ronald Reagan, not the actual president himself (sort like how many of the same folks appear to regard Jesus, but I digress). As Jeb said, it’s unlikely that the real Reagan could get the GOP nomination today.
Republicans haven’t been the party of Lincoln for a long, long time, and they haven’t been the party of Teddy Roosevelt since the Taft administration – and the really scary part is that they’re no longer the party of Reagan either.
Bush cited the budget deal his father worked out with a democrat dominated congress and broad bipartisan support which “created the spending restraint of the ‘90’s” (note, I think Jeb might be stretching the definition of the word “restraint” here, but I won’t argue the point). Of course, that bipartisan deal, which raised taxes and made a mockery of George H. W. Bush’s now infamous campaign promise “read my lips, no new taxes” sent conservatives into paroxysms of apoplectic rage and ensured, as Jeb noted, that dear old dad would be a one term president. However Jeb Bush also noted that those tax increases were “helpful in creating a climate of more sustained economic growth.”
Well fancy that.
If you read the article, you’ll note that Jeb pointedly didn’t mention how his brother cut taxes or how that’s currently working out for America’s “sustained economic growth.”
Jeb Bush then called the current extremely partisan political climate “disturbing.”
That’s when I started to wonder if maybe I should have paid closer attention to those dire warnings on the bottle of cold medicine.
I mean, come on, Jeb Bush and I agree that the GOP has been taken over by a cadre of dogmatic Jesus-flinging jingoistic ass-monkeys?
Holy Hell! The end must be near!
Of course, I shouldn’t have worried.
After fortifying myself with another mug of foul tasting TheraFlu, I read the rest of the interview and the universe snapped back into its proper focus.
See, according to Bush, well, it’s all Obama’s fault.
Ah, yes, of course. He’s campaigning for vice president, I should have seen that right up front. Damned cold.
Bush went on to say that Obama’s first year in office could have been a time of great accomplishment. Could have. If only he’d been more, oh, you know, conservative. More willing to compromise. More willing to give in to republicans (of course, that’s what leftwing extremists hate about Obama the most, right? His unwillingness to give in to conservatives… oh wait, that’s not right. Never mind. These are not the public options you’re looking for, move along, move along). Bush didn’t offer an opinion on why the Congressional Tea Party Caucus and other conservative hardliners who vocally proclaimed their steadfast refusal to compromise in any fashion whatsoever are not at least partially to blame, but then he really didn’t have to, did he?
It’s the Bush Doctrine – a trait which seems to run in the family. You’re either with us or you’re against us. Period. Jeb was talking about his father, but he was talking for his neocon brother. Compromise and bipartisanship means do it our way and we won’t have any problems. Disagree and you’re a traitor to America, prepare for immediate Nazi tossing.
Now, obviously, petulant refusal to compromise and placing dogmatic adherence to political and religious ideology over national interest is hardly exclusive to conservatives, but it continues to astound me just how doggedly the right reviles Barack Obama – even if they have to make up reasons to hate him. It’s one thing to disagree with somebody because you think you can do the job better, but so many conservatives hate the president with an utterly irrational passion that goes beyond any political ideology and verges on actual madness. Birthers are one obvious example, there is no rational basis for their bizarre fixation, their ridiculous accusations have been debunked time and time again – and yet they publically and vocally persist in their baseless delusion. It’s madness.
But, you know, it’s not just the Birthers and the other obvious cases of mass hysteria, it’s the little things as well.
A conservative relative and I were discussing Obama a while back. The relative declared “Obama is just like Hitler!” Das Führer? How so? “He just is,” was the answer. Yeah, but how is he like Hitler? “He’s Hitler,” the relative insisted, getting angry. What? Did Obama invade Poland when I wasn’t looking? Did he attempt to conquer Europe? Subjugate France? Did he try to create a master race based on some goofy medieval Germanic fairytale and a half-assed misunderstanding of evolutionary biology? Is it the little mustache? Gosh darn it, did he kill six million Jews? Is that it? Really what? “Hitler! Hitler! I just feel that’s how he is. Hitler.” And that’s where we left it because there is no polite response to irrational behavior. How in the hell can you reason with that? They might as well have been proclaiming their belief in alien abductions or the healing power of “magnetic” copper bracelets.
You just can’t reason with unreasonable people.
Case in point, Bloomberg Business Week posted a piece complaining about a joke Obama made at George Clooney’s expense, a joke that apparently got a lot of laughs at a recent fundraiser but wasn’t factually true (Yeah, new rule, political jokes during a celebrity roast now need to be factually correct – somebody call Don Rickles). Because really, that’s the level of petty peevishness you want in your financial reporting.
An aside: is it just me or is there no end of hysterical irony in a bunch of creationists insisting on provable facts? No? Just me, huh? Ok.
The president ribbed a famous celebrity who also happens to be one of his personal friends and a supporter, cracking wise in an obvious joke, and Bloomberg declares this an egregious example of the White House’s lack of “fact checking.” Ironically, the Business Week article ends with the author speculating on how the White House Press Office was “probably fairly embarrassed” by the whole thing (emphasis mine). Probably. No actual facts to back that up in an article where you’re complaining about fact checking, but yeah let’s just go ahead and guess at what the White House is feeling. Probably. Sure. Of course, it’s not like Business Week’s readers are really interested in actual facts, people engaged in irrational behavior rarely are. Under the piece in question (linked to above), commenter Michael is a pretty good example of the kind of people Bloomberg was aiming this article at:
“Some of you people do not have a clue, This country was founded on religious
freedoms and Obama is doing his best to destroy what rights we have left of
that freedom. It canceled nationa prayer day, is working with Hillary
Clinton to take away our right to bare arms and turn gun control over to the
United Nations. NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO TAKE OUR RIGHTS AWAY.
Wake up it is time to stop blame Bush for everything. Obama is a rookie that
is a proven lier and does not meet the qualification to be President of the
United States of American.” [sic]
Mike’s comment went up three days ago and so far one hundred and eighty-five Bloomberg readers have given him a “like” on Facebook. At least they know why they hate Obama – he’s destroying religious freedom by cancelling National Prayer Day! Why that Nazi bastard! He’s just like Hitler!
Except, of course, “National Prayer Day” wasn’t cancelled.
The actual fact is that President Obama has issued a proclamation observing the “National Prayer Day” for each of the three years of his presidency – just like every other president before him all the way back to Truman in 1952. What? What’s that you say? Oh, yes, that’s right, it’s the National Day of Prayer, not “Nationa[l] Prayer Day” but hey, at this point under an article about fact checking the president’s Clooney joke we’ve already pegged the irony meter anyway so what the hell, eh? (Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Forget it, he’s rolling. – Two points if you get the ref without looking it up on IMDB and help yourself to some punch and cookies).
In point of fact, the Obama administration went to court in 2010 to defend the National Day of Prayer against a constitutional challenge. I guess the outraged evangelical chain mail going around forgot to mention that. Apparently the bearing of false witness isn’t a sin for Christians after all so long as they’re doing it from the pulpit, somebody want to double check with Jesus on that just to be sure?
Look, even if he wanted to, the president can’t cancel the “National Prayer Day”, just as the president can’t make you observe the obnoxious event either. The president can’t cancel the National Day of Prayer anymore than he can cancel Christmas or the 4th of July or Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Seriously, if this silly prayer day thing is so damned important, you’d think people would actually look it up and learn something about it and then pass that information around in order to allay other believers’ fears and false information – since it’s supposed to be truth that matters to these people, I mean. Isn’t prayer supposed to be about comfort and guidance? And the National Day of Prayer is supposed to be about encouraging Americans to turn to the divine for said comfort and inspiration? Yes? But what have certain Christians turned it into? Another opportunity to spread hate and fear and false information – I’m pretty sure Jesus would kick your ass for that. And it’s not like the actual information is hard to find in this modern age. But the simple truth of the matter is that these people want to believe this kind of crap. They need a reason to justify their fear and hatred of Obama, even if they have to make that reason up whole cloth. This is a natural result of creationist thinking: 1) consult dogma for the desired result, 2) rationalize up some “facts” to support it (Step 3, get Texas to put it in the school books – and now I’m just being a smart Alec. Sorry).
But let’s not stop there, as long as we’re just making shit up, let’s toss in a fib about Barry and Hillary scheming to take away our right to wear sleeveless shirts too!
Huh? Oh. See, Mike said “right to bare arms” and I thought … Oh, heh heh, sorry. So they’re coming to get our guns? Oh noes! Not the guns!
Obama’s coming for our guns and our religion!
Oh that Barack, what a stinker.
Remember back when Midwestern conservatives got all soggy and hard to light when candidate Obama said something about them clinging to their guns and their religion? Boy, was he ever wrong, wasn’t he? So, is it just a coincidence that guns and religion are always the first, and often the only, rights conservatives worry about? When folks like Michael complain about Obama taking away our rights, they never mention the right to petition the government for redress of wrongs, or freedom of the press, or protection from the quartering of troops in our homes, or freedom from self incrimination or the right to a speedy trial. Nope, it’s God and guns first and second, and maybe a passing reference to state’s rights a distant third (because states are better at protecting God and guns, see?). Why is that, do you suppose? Think about it for a minute, which right to do you think will yield actual results? The right to gather in your church and ask Jehovah to turn the onrushing tide (which by definition He sent in some sort of cosmic act of extortion apparently) or the right to petition the government for redress when the Corps of Engineers fails to secure the seawall? Which right do you think is more likely to bring down, has brought down, a corrupt Administration? Freedom to own a firearm or freedom of the press? Do you really think that you and your raggedy-assed band of beer-bellied militia brothers, all ten of you waving your pistols and bibles, are going to stand against the US military and law enforcement if the government really wants you? Really? What’s that? Oh, your neighbors will rally to your cause? Like Braveheart maybe, For Frrrrrreeeeeedom! Yeah, those same neighbors you can’t stand and wish would leave the country, right? But yeah, guns and god, those are the two most important rights. Especially guns.
Of course, there isn’t a single bill presently before either the House or the Senate that would restrict Second Amendment rights. Not one. Nor has President Obama advocated for one. And in fact, the last gun related bill taken up was HR 822, which passed the House in November of 2011 with a comfortable margin of 272 yeas to 154 nays (note that to get 272 to 154, a significant number of liberals had to vote for the bill, but I digress). What is HR 822? Well, if it becomes law it would allow you to carry a concealed handgun anywhere in the United States providing that you have a valid concealed carry permit in your state of residence – kind of like how your state driver’s license lets you operate a motor vehicle in any other state you happen to be passing through. HR 822 would significantly expand gun carry rights across the board. One of the bill’s sponsors was North Carolina’s Heath Schuler, a democrat. Those opposed to the bill wrote to the White House urging Obama to issue a veto threat, he refused and took no official position. The measure is working it’s way through the Senate presently. But yeah, Obama, he’s coming for our guns. Him and Hillary Clinton – because, as any good God-fearin’ American knows, the Secretary of State can do things like that. All liberals can, it’s their magic super power. See, they want our guns and our god so they can turn “control” over to the United Nations! Yeah. Just like Hitler did.
Of course, what do you expect from a guy who doesn’t even meet the qualifications for president, right?
Again, you can not reason with unreasonable people.
It’s madness that every single thing Michael fears, every single line he wrote, is provably false and as utterly irrational as any other phobia. Sure he has a right to believe the nonsense he posted in his comment – despite the very fact that being able to freely speak such paranoid bilge without consequence is proof that he’s wrong. Sure he has a right to believe it, he also has the right to be an idiot. The worst kind of idiot, a willful idiot. Because his cognitive defect isn’t something he was born with – he deliberately chose to be an idiot. That’s not just stupid, that’s pitiful.
It’s madness that people like Michael have to literally make up reasons to hate and fear the president – and by extension half the country. Oh sure, we’ve been making up irrational reasons to hate and fear each other since before we climbed down from the trees. None of Michael’s fears can stand the light of reason but that doesn’t keep him from being afraid anyway, from wanting to be afraid. Sure he has a right to act like a gibbering panic monkey caught between fright and flight, baring his teeth in a rictus of fear and hate simian-like at whomever he wants to. But he’s the worst kind of hater, he hates from reflex. All of the justifications for his fear are false, provably so. He doesn’t even know why he hates – he just does.
It’s madness that Michael is hardly alone in his irrational beliefs. He’s got plenty of company in his fear and hatred of Obama, from the other commenters on the same article to conservative talk radio pundits to prominent businessmen with bad hair right on up to members of congress. Sure he has the right to say what he likes no matter how false and irrational. And sure others have the right to agree with him and repeat his words – just as he blindly repeats somebody else’s. But it’s the worst kind of togetherness, it’s the togetherness of mass hysteria, it’s the group think of the mindless stampeding herd, it’s the mob mentality of irrational fear, and it’s the subjugation of reason to the hypocritical dogma of the clergy and the shaman and the huckster. It is fear of the dark (literally in this case), fear of the unknown, fear of the other – it is the small whimpering terror of a small child afraid of what might be hiding under the bed.
And it’s madness that politicians and pundits deliberately prey on the fear and hatred of the foolishly weak minded like Michael. These people proclaim the greatness of America, the strength of its institutions, the enduring exceptionalism of its very existence, and above all its favored position in the mighty baleful eye of their fearsome God, and yet – and yet – they have so little faith in their nation, their institutions, their system of governance, their ideals, and all the things their ancestors wrought, they have so little faith in their assertion that their God loves America best of all, that they fear one single man can destroy it all with a simple wave of his dark-skinned hand.
It is the madness of fear for fear’s sake and nothing more.
Democracy depends for its very existence on an educated and informed citizenry.
A republic depends on educated and informed and rational representatives of the people.
In the United States, no president can take away your freedoms or your rights. No president can destroy the nation.
But willful idiots and fearful fools like Michael most certainly can.
You know some days you just have to wonder at serendipity.
Two of my favorite journalists are NPR’s Terry Gross and The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer.
Today on Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewed Jane Mayer about her latest piece in The New Yorker. It’s a fascinating and appalling article about Bryan Fischer, the extremist evangelical (is that redundant?) talk-radio host who has become the driving force behind the GOP’s hard shift to the far right. There are few republican candidates, Romney chief among them, who don’t out and out fear Fischer – because he directly influences a very large segment of Midwestern/Southern Evangelicals, without whom no conservative candidate stands a prayer in hell of winning the White House. Fischer is considered by many to wield far more actual power and influence than even Rush Limbaugh.
Fischer is vehemently anti-gay, you might say he’s obsessed with gays and has even declared war on homosexuals. Fischer is specifically responsible for the campaign against Richard Grenell, an openly gay man who served for nine days as Romney’s security advisor and spokesman before being forced to resign amidst an appalling display of fear and open hatred (yes, one has to wonder what the hell a openly gay man was doing in the middle of a republican campaign in the first place – typically Republicans like to keep their gays confined to airport bathrooms and secret junkets to Cancun, but I digress).
Fischer wants to literally implement biblical law in America, this isn’t hyperbole it is actual fact and an understated one at that.
Fischer believes that the constitution applies only to Christians, again this is not hyperbole or an exaggeration but an exact quote of his publically expressed belief.
He’s a racist of the most vicious stripe.
He and his organization, The American Family Association, are labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
And he is the source of much of the misinformation many, many conservatives now parrot as “fact” including most of the things I pointed out in my post above.
Least you think that my analysis of the Evangelical right, and increasingly the entire GOP itself, is off base, take a look at one of the most influential voices within the modern American Republican party. Then get back to me. // Jim