Page Two

Scooting Toward McCarthyism

Page Two
For a while now, what was once considered beyond bizarre has come to be regarded as normal. George Orwell, who was always inspired in so many ways, now seems to have a Nostradamus-like prescience. There really isn't that much subtlety involved, so this point is more casual than academic. The president's complete changes of direction, while most people seem not to notice, would appear to be a Saturday Night Live Orwell spoof if it weren't happening so regularly on the news. Still, sometimes you smash right up against something so exaggeratedly bizarre that there is no way to conceive of it as normal.

Listening to talk radio (my cross to bear so the rest of you won't have to), I hear a thematically consistent outrage, which takes roughly the following form: This indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney, is making a mountain out of an anthill. The independent prosecutor has spent years and millions of dollars on the investigation. The only indictment is for perjury. Perjury isn't even serious, as we quoted Kay Bailey Hutchison saying last week: "I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars."

All of this is said without a hint of irony, or even acknowledgement of the mushroom-cloud-sized hypocrisy that is obvious to almost all. Without shame! Over and over, callers repeat every variant of this argument.

This new "conservative Republican right" (CRR) is definitely not conservative, nor do they espouse many traditionally core Republican values, positions, or ideas, and they certainly are not right. They are mean-spirited; they delight in their victories; and there is a regular beating of the drums to work up a blood-thirst for further devastating the Democrats. They seem to not just abide but actively delight in hating fellow Americans and blaming half the population directly for all and any problems.

As much as they may say otherwise, they certainly don't believe in the original intent of the Constitution. Very clearly, the founding fathers designed the Constitution to create a democratic, constitutional republic – not a democracy. In the former, the people elect representatives, who are then responsible not to solely impose the ideology of those who elected them, but rather to represent all their constituents. This was about electoral empowerment of all citizens, but especially designed to protect minority beliefs and convictions from the tyranny of the majority. The core idea of the Constitution is that, in compromise and an ever-shifting balance of power, the best governance is achieved.

Now we find the CRR out to silence the Democrats altogether by demonizing them at every opportunity. They ignore the many flaws of the current administration (in the context that even an administration you support has flaws). Their position assumes the right is still being beat up by the government-controlling Democrat bullies (which, in terms of actual reality, makes most of the hallucinations of the Sixties seem downright suburban). Finally, they are all constantly damning the Democrats as being out to subvert the constitutional process because they seem absolutely determined to engage in it.

This latest round showed how little regard the CRR pundits have for history, precedent, the American Constitution, and, most obviously, the intelligence of their listeners and followers. Angry people not only vote but also listen; so, regardless of short- and long-term political consequences, CRR leaders are aggressively and unrestrainedly stirring up partisan hatred and deluded, self-righteous outrage.

Rush Limbaugh, accused by a listener of being a hypocrite because of his very different interpretation of Bill Clinton's situation and Lewis Libby's, gave a strained, convoluted answer that clarified no distinctions but offered a rich harvest of bombast. He concluded with the stunning feat of offering up, as material convicting Clinton, allegations made against either of the Clintons in which investigative groups did not follow up with indictments.

Joe McCarthy is back! As with Joe, you can frequently hear Rush rustling paper, as though he is only citing sources. It's too obvious.

Michael Savage, the talk-show host most likely to melt down or kill himself on the air, was explosively indignant that independent prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald read the charges against Libby, spelling out the specifics, though he noted they were "alleged" acts. Savage was outraged: This was trying Libby before the trial; he had never heard of a prosecutor doing this before! What? I mean we know these people have no integrity, much less shame, but what was he talking about? Does he know anything?

But, you see, it doesn't matter. The idea is to damn the enemy. The idea is to find someone to blame. The idea is identify the bad guys so sympathetic listeners can self-righteously wallow in knowing that they themselves are the good guys.

Let's take a deep breath.

Think about the current administration's apologists and the CRR. Do you think that any of them would hesitate for even a split second in offering the most violent condemnations possible if it were a Democratic administration being accused of leaking the name of a CIA agent to discredit and get revenge on a philosophical opponent? Do you think we'd hear any of this equivocating crap about how she wasn't on assignment, or that it was a bad thing to expose her, but not that bad, because Wilson is so ideologically polluted? Ask the right-wing ranters. Then be prepared to have them lie to you.

This response of blaming the victim is beyond vile. But in these crazy times, what the CRR really wants is to be reassured! This White House is in an overt, explicit, and tragically successful campaign to manipulate the American people by lies and emotionally explicit prodding. They do not seem to have much regard for the best interests of this country or its people. Instead, they are addicted to power and politics, much more excited about fanatically following an extreme ideology than dealing with the complexities of a constitutional republic.

Way too many Americans seem so eager to join the rush, coming across as either hypocritical or willfully simpleminded. You can't massively cut taxes and improve government with rhetoric. It has to be done with vision and discipline, two things so clearly lacking from the party in power.

They say they don't want activist judges, but that's exactly who they want: jurists who place their own personal ideology above the law.

They reinvented the role of the judiciary in a bizarro-world version of what the founding fathers wanted. The idea was that an independent judiciary would serve as a very effective check and balance on elected leaders who might be swayed by the immediate sentiments of the present to ignore the Constitution. Now it's that the judiciary should give in to the will of the party in power and wonder about contemporary attitudes more than it relies on constitutional precedent.

In general, the role of judges is to do their best to understand and interpret the law. I'm going to start crying if I hear one more idiot go on about how easy the Constitution is to interpret or laws are to understand. This simpleminded notion argues not just against the Constitution, but the whole understanding of the rule of law within Western civilization.

Pandering to the voter has always been common political process, but rarely has it been so purely inspirational, while based on virtually no reality, as it is now. In Texas, Republican candidates said they would cut taxes and improve education. They were elected. Then, even though they called three special sessions in order to ram though gerrymandering detrimental to Texas, they gave up on school finance after only two special sessions? This was because they couldn't find a lie they all could agree on and then sell to the voters.

The problem – as postulated by Republicans, from the governor on down – is impossible. They can't cut the minimal amount of taxes Texans pay and still improve the schools. Their desperate search is for this agreed-upon lie that they can sell.

Watch what happens in Iraq. As soon as the administration, with anything resembling a straight face, can assure the American people that the indigenous government is stable and in control, we'll be out of there. Even if we can only get them to appear stable for hours, we'll be gone.

It used to be that the stated, though possibly hypocritical, goal of government was to serve the country and the people. Now the goal is to find a lie the majority of the people will believe and then find some entity (preferably the Democratic Party) to blame when it all goes to hell.

There is no courage, and certainly little honesty, on the right. Think of Bill O'Reilly, one of the most popular conservative pundits. Every thing O'Reilly says, as Mary McCarthy famously said of Lillian Hellman, is a lie – including "and" and "the." O'Reilly constantly refers to his views as representing "no spin," as though all other pundits only offer opinions, but he is presenting the unquestionable truth. Not only is that blatantly dishonest, but he even uses the "no spin" tag when he serves as a paid spokesman on commercials.

The American people are being sold a bill of goods that is astonishing in both its dishonesty and its audacity! And not only is it being sold – people are buying this crap! They're buying the idea that the Libby indictment is pure politics – but Clinton, in contrast, was indicted in a nonpartisan effort to save the country. They buy that Americans are the enemy ... and not just a few Americans, but a significant percentage of them. They buy that when O'Reilly presents his intellectually dishonest, if not completely bankrupt, ideas, there is only truth and no opinion involved. They buy that less government is more and that the war in Iraq is defeating terror rather than encouraging it.

If only the Democrats had a reasonable, responsible vision to offer. Instead, they are letting the CRR set the agenda and are responding in kind.

When I was a kid, my older sister would goad me into stupid acts. "You wouldn't dare break that plate, you wouldn't dare break it right there!" As the plate shattered, she called for our mother at the top of her lungs.

For most of a half-decade now, the Republicans have been telling the Democrats that they can't break plates. Almost puppetlike, they've immediately broken them. Watch how the Democrats blow the next round of Supreme Court hearings – even with momentum, original intent, and long-established legislative precedent for an independent judiciary on their side. end story

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