HuffPo Shames TeamSarah

TeamSarah is a web site established by a right wing anti-choice group and its mission is to tout Sarah Palin for VP this year, and for Pres in 2012. There’s been a whole lot of ugly racist and hateful talk there of late, and it was exposed by Geoffrey Dunn of Huffington Post. Amazingly, he shamed them into controlling their trolls. Wow!


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Shame? Could it really be that a Republican web site has shame? It seems so today. And that most Christian emotion of shame was brought to the TeamSarah web site by Geoffrey Dunn of HuffPo, among others.

Geoffrey wrote an article at Huffington Post the other day detailing the racism and ugliness at the web site deidicated to boosting the Sarah Palin legend, TeamSarah. Seems there were watermelon jokes, nasty comments suggesting assassination of Obama, attacks on Michelle Obama. Heck, the folks on TeamSarah were living up to Ann Coulter’s fine example as they rallied for their hero, Sarah Palin. (Evidently, some members of Palin’s Administration have been caught in the ugliness as well.)

Hey, I’m not sure there’s a direct causal relationship here, but after Geoffrey Dunn’s article on HuffPo, one of their moderators wrote a piece asking the folks on Team Sarah to tone it down. Here’s Moderator Emily’s words, direct from the TeamSarah web site:

On Team Sarah, we uphold the supreme dignity of all humans, born and unborn. We do not tolerate comments that can be perceived as racist or hateful. This is not in spirit of our mission and certainly not representative of Sarah Palin’s values. Any comments deemed demeaning or inappropriate will be removed from the site immediately, even if they are made in jest.

This may be the very first time a right wing whack job web site (and how could they not be whack jobs if they are boosting Sarah Palin) has commanded its constituency to tone it down on the racism and hatefulness. I’m betting that spells the death knell for the TeamSarah web site, as the haters and racists will now go somewhere else to play. Not a smart marketing decision is they are trying to attract the whack jobs, is it? But I suppose I’ve got to give them points for trying.

Meanwhile, has anyone heard whether Bristol Palin has finally given birth? Hey, and what is the boy’s name going to be? I’m pushing “Lugnut,” but what do I know? Given the boy’s grandmother’s plight, maybe he’ll be called Oxy?

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Food Stamps for US, Let World Eat Cake

With the world economic downturn upon us, hunger is speading like a plague, to El Paso, to San Diego, to our entire nation. Indeed, to the world, and the Bush Administration voted against a UN resolution supporting food as a basic human right. They deny responsibility for the economic mess, and then tell the world to go eat cake.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

With the economy worsening, it appears the number of Americans qualifying for and taking advantage of the WIC (food stamp) program is increasing. Yes, more and more people in the United States are at the risk of going hungry, and it’s on Bush’s watch (no matter how he protests, Bush must take SOME responsibility for the economic collapse). In San Diego, a city proud of its record of having a relatively small number of citizens taking advantage of WIC, the applications for the program are skyrocketing. Same in El Paso and across the country the applications for the WIC program are skyrocketing. The Nation’s food banks are recording record numbers of people lining up for assistance in getting the basics to sustain life, food. The Bush response?

Well, the first Bush response is to attack anyone who tries to lay the blame for the economic downturn on them. Let’s all remember that Republicans don’t take responsibility for any of their errors. Yesterday the Bushies slammed the New York Times for an article linking their policies to the downturn in the mortgage markets. The scoop from Rawstory:

Citing his declaration earlier this year that America was merely suffering from a “rough patch” and his complete avoidance of the word “recession” until earlier this month, the article said such “dismissive” policies are directly linked to the downward spiral of the economy.

“When the economy deteriorated, Mr. Bush and his team misdiagnosed the reasons and scope of the downturn … The result was a series of piecemeal policy prescriptions that lagged behind the escalating crisis.”

If that doesn’t sound like an example of fiddling while Rome burns I don’t know what does. It is an example of more than Bush Administration incompetence, though. But is it merely an example of a callous attitude towards the American citizens hard hit by the Bush economic crisis? Terrence Heath at Billerico, at least, argues that the goal of the Republicans is to drive down the asperations of the middle class. I’m not inclined to protest too much, especially when we note the UN resolution concerning the right to food by the citizens of the world. It was overwhelmingly passed, with just four dissenting votes, from the Bush Administration, and three of its sure votes, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and Ukraine.

Ugly. The Bush Administration can’t take responsibility for engineering an economic crisis that has plunged millions across the world into poverty and hunger, and it even comes out against a philosophical statement in the United Nations to declare that food is a basic right of people. In the waning days of this most incompetent of administrations, they are showing venality of an order we have rarely seen in history.

There is hope, I suppose. The Obama Administration has announced that Joe Biden will be using his clout to focus on the plight of the working stiffs in the middle class. I’m not so optimistic that such a project will pay benefits in the near future, but this sure is action that wouldn’t even show up on the bush Administration radar, so you’ve got to give Obama credit for that.

Hey, there’s a lot of work to do for Obama to counteract the appallingly immoral and incompetent policies of the Bush Administration. The problem of hunger is just one of the areas that needs to be addressed. Here I sit this morning, privileged as can be. I returned yesterday from a cruise in the Caribbean. The poverty of such islands as Dominica and Grenada took my breath away, but at least those people have fertile soil with which to support themselves. Sure, I saw three legged dogs and children begging, but observation told me they had food, if not a nintendo. The world is different. The entire world depends on the economic structure of our society to acquire food. And the Bush Administration told the entire world to go eat cake.

It is hard to figure how Republicans can overcome such callous disregard for others and still claim their mantle of the Christian party. Are evangelical Christians so stupid?

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Christmas in Baghdad, Shamelessness on Fox News Sunday

Iraq is celebrating Christmas and CNN is making it out like there never was such freedom before the US invaded, forgetting, perhaps, that Saddam did not persecute Christians. This is not an excuse for the US invasion, as it will be played, nor is it an excuse for the excesses defended by Dick Cheney on Fox News Sunday.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

My first reaction to the story on CNN about the first public Christmas to be celebrated in Baghdad was quite wary. A hot air balloon supporting a huge poster of Jesus is not going to go over very well among the Muslims there, is it, no matter whether they are Sunni or Shiite. And I am not often impressed by the kumbaya nature of the depiction of the celebration, with one woman, a Muslim, explaining why she attended.

On a large stage, children dressed in costumes representing Iraq’s many ethnic and religious groups – Kurds, Turkmen, Yazidis, Christians, Arab Muslims not defined as Sunni or Shiite – hold their hands aloft and sing “We are building Iraq!” Two young boys, a mini-policeman and a mini-soldier sporting painted-on mustaches, march stiffly and salute.

Even before I can ask Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul Karim Khalaf a question, he greets me with a big smile. “All Iraqis are Christian today!” he says.

Khalaf says sectarian and ethnic violence killed thousands of Iraqis. “Now that we have crossed that hurdle and destroyed the incubators of terrorism,” he says, “and the security situation is good, we have to go back and strengthen community ties.”

In spite of his claim, the spokesman is surrounded by heavy security. Yet this celebration shows that the security situation in Baghdad is improving.

Many of the people attending the Christmas celebration appear to be Muslims, with women wearing head scarves. Suad Mahmoud, holding her 16-month-old daughter, Sara, tells me she is indeed Muslim, but she’s very happy to be here. “My mother’s birthday also is this month, so we celebrate all occasions,” she says, “especially in this lovely month of Christmas and New Year.”

I suppose this celebration of Christmas in a country wracked by violence ever since the US invasion seven years ago is going to be touted as a good thing. Heck, Dick Cheney may use this as evidence as to why it was OK to torture, spy on Americans, get hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, etc., etc. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. But Cheney is trumped by the celebrants themselves. On display at the celebration are some dioramas made by school children, and in them you can see the kind of terror and pain Bush/Cheney’s invasion of Iraq brought (from CNN):

In the middle of the park there’s an art exhibit, the creation of 11- and 12-year-olds: six displays, each about three feet wide, constructed of cardboard and Styrofoam, filled with tiny dolls dressed like ordinary people, along with model soldiers and police. They look like model movie sets depicting everyday life in Baghdad.

Afnan, 12 years old, shows me her model called “Arresting the Terrorists.”

“These are the terrorists,” she tells me. “They were trying to blow up the school.” In the middle of the street a dead “terrorist” sprawls on the asphalt, his bloody arm torn from his body by an explosion. Afnan tells me she used red nail polish to paint the blood. A little plastic dog stands nearby. “What is he doing?” I ask. “He looks for terrorists and searches for weapons and explosives,” Afnan says.

Afnan was likely six years old or so when Dick Cheney and George Bush invaded Iraq on the series of false pretexts Cheney is still defending. As I understand it, Christianity was not persecuted in the days before the US invasion, so Cheney and Bush cannot lay claim to having brought freedom of religion. Afnan’s diorama of ethnic and religious violence was brought to her directly from Bush and Cheney. Indeed, in a remarkable performance for its baldfaced defense of wrongdoing, Dick Cheney appeared on Fox News Sunday and laid out a case for Bush Administration successes, a performance stunning in its tenuous grip on reality, at least the reality young Afnan sees. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Cheney, speaking less than a month before he and President Bush leave the White House, was blunt and unapologetic about his central role in some of the most controversial issues of the last eight years, including the invasion of Iraq, warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens, and harsh interrogation tactics. Cheney also said he disagreed with Bush’s decision to remove embattled Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2006, saying that “the president doesn’t always take my advice.”

“I was a Rumsfeld man,” Cheney said. “I’d helped recruit him, and I thought he did a good job for us.”

The interview was the second in less than a week for the normally reclusive vice president, and it comes as part of a broad effort by Bush and his aides to focus attention on issues that they consider major accomplishments of their two terms in office. In an interview with ABC News last week, Cheney suggested the administration would have gone to war with Iraq even without erroneous intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein had developed weapons of mass destruction. Cheney also said in that interview that he approved of the administration’s use of coercive interrogation tactics, including a type of simulated drowning known as waterboarding, against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and others.

Dick Cheney seals his reputation for all time as the puppetmaster behind the throne who supported policies of spying on US citiznes, invading Iraq, supporting Rumsfeld’s failed strategies, torture, etc. Perhaps because the performance was on Fox News Cheney’s immediate viewing audience did not sit in shock at the man responsible for the disasters of the last seven years. Perhaps those viewers even cheered. The rest of us know that Cheney’s policies have mangled our constitution, have destroyed our reputation in the world, have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents, and have led to the terror in young Afnan’s art project.

Again, a Republican such as Dick Cheney proves he has no sense of shame.

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

One Leg Raised on the Bush–Cheney Legacy: Deconstructing the Spin and Propaganda

The Republican Party, in the person of its lame duck Chair, Mike Duncan, has already begun its campaign to vilify the supposed leftist Obama government, but the same extremist Republicans ignore their history of trampling on the constitution, of incompetence, of fearmongering, etc. The Party of Honest Abe has lost touch with honesty, opting for distortion as usual.


Commentary By: Walter Brasch

by Walter Brasch

The chairman of the Republican National Committee may have begun an irreversible descent into a future as a fear-bound paranoid victim of functional amnesia, possibly caused by a hysterical post-traumatic event such as the overwhelming victory of Democrats in the 2008 election and the nation’s repudiation of Republican policies.

In a two-page vitriol-loaded letter dated “Friday morning”–he apparently was unable to remember the exact date–Robert M. (Mike) Duncan, RNC chairman, told Americans that the Democrats plan to “impose their radical leftist agenda on America,” and that Republicans “must work vigilantly to guard our country’s freedoms from the inevitable assault [by Democrats] they will face.” He didn’t mention that not one of Barack Obama’s proposed cabinet members nor any of the members of the current Congress is a “radical leftist.”

It’s really sad that Mike forgot that fear-mongering, obstruction of justice, reduction of public information, distrust and resentment of the worker, and curtailment of civil liberties–with the complicity of millions of Americans and much of the Democratic leadership who willingly crumpled under unremitting Neocon assaults–have been the base of the Bush–Cheney Administration and a Republican-dominated Congress for most of the past eight years. Perhaps I can shock what little memory Mike may have left in the hope that some of his brain cells may once again function.

It was the Republicans, not the Democrats, who systematically violated the Constitution, while screaming “The terrorists are coming! The terrorists ar

Sunday, December 21st, 2008 by Walter Brasch |

Boot Camp – Thousands of Iraqis Protest Detention of Shoe Throwing Journalist

George Bush may have ducked a pair of flying shoes, but he’s going to have a hard time ducking history’s judgment.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Duck and cover.

I practiced this exercise many times in elementary school in the 1960′s. Perhaps George Bush did, too. And if he did, it served him well this past weekend. He made a farewell tour stop in Baghdad, and held a press conference with CheneyCo’s man in Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki.

To recap, as Bush was making his remarks, an Iraqi journalist removed his shoes and hurled them toward the podicum. Bush ducked the first one, and showed some moves as he avoided the mate. The video shows the journalist being wrestled to the ground and detained. As of today, the journalist is still in custody:

Thousands of Iraqis have demanded the release of a local TV reporter who threw his shoes at US President George W Bush at a Baghdad news conference.

Crowds gathered in Baghdad’s Sadr City district, calling for “hero” Muntadar al-Zaidi to be freed from custody.

Officials at the Iraqi-owned TV station, al-Baghdadiya, called for the release of their journalist, saying he was exercising freedom of expression…

Here’s the video, in case you missed it:

There’s many things I don’t understand about Arabic culture. One of those things is that showing someone the bottom of your shoe is a high insult. Indeed, al-Zaidi was quoted as saying (as the shoe flinging incident unfolded):

“This is a farewell kiss, you dog,” he yelled in Arabic as he threw his shoes. “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.”

One of the great tragedies of the U.S. actions in Iraq is that the full extent of the tragedy will never be known. It’s clear that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died since the March, 2003 invasion; hundreds of thousands more will carry the scars of war, both physical and emotional, for the rest of their lives.

The Western press has largely ignored the magnitude of the civilian toll in Iraq. If and when President Obama finally pulls the plug on the U.S. involvement in Iraq, everything that’s happened in the past five years will become little more than a footnote in Western history books. Not one person who served in a war leadership position in the Bush Administration will serve a moment in prison for perpetrating crimes against humanity.

We are not safer from terrorism, despite the thousands of wasted lives, both American and Iraqi.

Many months ago, I wrote something like: “This is the military’s war. It isn’t America’s war.” George Bush never asked anyone, other than the troops and their families, to sacrifice anything in the pursuit of his (and Cheney and Exxon’s) war for oil. A few companies made billions on the war.

I guess the expense of hundreds of thousands of brown skinned people, half a planet away, was just the cost of Bush doing business. He has no regrets. Neither do most Americans.

That’s the frustration of Muntadar al-Zaidi, and his countrymen, that most Americans will never begin to comprehend.

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 by Richard Blair |
Category: Iraq

Hello, World!

Time flies when you’re having fun.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

It seems like years since I posted (even though it’s only been a bit over a month). A lot has happened in the world – both mine, and the planet at large.

Just before the election, I became just another Bureau of Labor statistic. I was laid off. It hasn’t been an easy thing, especially for someone like me who has been living on the financial edge for quite some time. Unemployment insurance doesn’t begin to cover basic expenses – so scrambling and hustling become the order of the day. My current situation doesn’t leave much time or energy for blogging.

That being said, I’m hoping that my muse has returned. I’m indebted to Steve for carrying the load as long as he did in my absence – and I’m sure that he’ll return shortly. One thing that happened shortly after the election is that a fatigue set in for many progressive bloggers. We’ve been pounding the keyboards for so long, spilling our guts and our passion for the causes that drive us, that once the dust had settled, an emotional exhaustion set in.

But I’m finally feeling the energy of a new day that dawns tomorrow.

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, on a whole lot of levels.

This could be interesting.

Or not.

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 by Richard Blair |
Category: Meta

Sweet Caroline

The public is clamoring for the appointment of Caroline Kennedy to the Senate, and that’s a good thing for Democrats as it takes the media away from corrupt Illinois Governor Blagojevich. I’m thinking Governor Patterson will be talked into making an announcement early to get a handle on positive news in the weekend’s news cycle.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Is it true that the Neil Diamond hit, so loved by Boston Red Sox fans, is about Caroline Kennedy? Man, is that a big Eww or what? Still, I’m enamored of the mature Caroline Kennedy, and it appears the voters in New York are as well. That’s what the polls are saying as they gauge public support for Caroline Kennedy replacing Hillary in the Senate. I know the arguments about not putting her in because of her name, that it is something like nepotism or maybe a celebrity appointment. I’m confident she’d do a good job, and she’s a bit symbolic, and I think symbols are just fine.

Speaking of polls, Barack Obama is enjoying huge approvals (73%!) as we sneak our way towards the inaugural. In contrast to the Bush Administration, garnering huge poll numbers isn’t exactly tough. The Blagojevich scandal will likely hurt Obama in this regard, and any replacement for him in the Illinois Senate seat is going to be tainted now, but that Caroline Kennedy possibility counters the bad press from Illinois pretty well, in my view.

Expect an appointment soon so that the weekend news cycle is not dominated by the auto bailout and Rod Blagojevich.

Thursday, December 11th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Gun Nuts Charged with Boyslaughter

The case happened in October, where at one of those gun nut exhibitions they allowed an 8 year old boy to test fire a micro Uzi. The boy couldn’t handle the kick, and thus shot himself dead. Now the charges are being filed, and finally some gun nuts are being held responsible for their actions, in this case with charges of manslaughter.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Today’s first news is a mix. The Bush Administration has bowed to the NRA over a regulation that used to disallow some finds of gun possession in National Parks. The Bushies are relaxing the rule so that people will be able to carry concealed weapons into the parks. But all is not bad news on the gun front. Many will remember that tragedy where an 8 year old boy was killed at a gun show when they allowed him to try firing an micro Uzi. Christopher Bizilj, the boy, will have his death avenged, at least somewhat. Some folks are being charged for even allowing the boy to handle such a gun. From the Boston Globe:

A small-town police chief who authorities say promoted, organized, and profited from a firearms exposition where children were encouraged to shoot machine guns and where an 8-year-old killed himself with a Micro Uzi was charged yesterday with involuntary manslaughter.

. . .

Bennett said [Police Chief] Fleury took a portion of the proceeds from the event. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Fleury was also charged with four counts of furnishing a machine gun to a person under 18, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Bennett said three of the counts stemmed from other instances in which minors were allowed to fire machine guns at the expo.

In addition, the Westfield Sportsman’s Club, a 59-year-old, all-volunteer organization, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and four counts of furnishing a machine gun to a person under 18, charges that could result in fines to the club but not penalties against its officers.

Two Connecticut gun dealers who supplied the Micro Uzi and other machine guns for the expo, Carl Giuffre of Hartford and Domenico Spano of New Milford, were each charged with involuntary manslaughter. They were not charged with furnishing a machine gun to a minor because they had “reasonable reliance” on Fleury’s authority as a police chief that the gun expo was legal, Bennett said.

But Bennett said state law is clear that it is illegal to give a person under 18 a machine gun, under any circumstances, with or without parental consent.

The Micro Uzi Christopher fired was designed for Israeli special forces and is known among some gun enthusiasts as the “fifty-fifty,” a grim reference to the chance the gun will hit its target or kill its user.

That last line is important. The gun is known among gun enthusiasts as so totally unreliable that it is as likely to kill its user as hit its target. There’s the stark view of how completely stupid these gun nuts are, that they would think such a weapon should ever be fired, much less by amatuers, much less by an eight year old. And this guy did it for a profit?

I’m going to follow this story. I’m sure the NRA will be paying for the defense lawyers, after all. It will be good to expose that.

Saturday, December 6th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Generals Take a Stand Against Torture

Several retired Generals are taking a stand against torture, and they want Barack Obama to be public on the subject, including talking about and denouncing it in his Inaugural Address. Such sentiment would go a long way to showing the world the US has left the Cheney/Bush regime and moved in the direction of freedom, for a change.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Several Retired United States Generals are asking Barack Obama to take a stand against torture in his inaugural address. This is perhaps the biggest signal Obama could send around the world that there is real change afoot in this nation. Here’s the scoop from Reuters:

Barack Obama should act from the moment of his inauguration to restore a U.S. image battered by allegations of torturing terrorism suspects, said a group of retired military leaders planning to press their case with the president-elect’s transition team on Wednesday.

“We need to remove the stain, and the stain is on us, as well as on our reputation overseas,” said retired Vice Adm. Lee Gunn, former Navy inspector general.

Gunn and about a dozen other retired generals and admirals, who are scheduled to meet Obama’s team in Washington, said they plan to offer a list of anti-torture principles, including some that could be implemented immediately.

They include making the Army Field Manual the single standard for all U.S. interrogators. The manual requires humane treatment and forbids practices such as waterboarding – a form of simulated drowning widely condemned as torture.

Other immediate steps Obama could take are revoking presidential orders allowing the CIA to use harsh treatment, giving the International Red Cross access to all prisoners held by intelligence agencies and declaring a moratorium on taking prisoners to a third country for harsh interrogations.

“If he’d just put a couple of sentences in his inaugural address, stating the new position, then everything would flow from that,” said retired Maj. Gen. Fred Haynes, whose regiment in World War Two raised the American flag on Iwo Jima.

What we really need is for some Republicans to change their party’s stance on issues like torture and spying on Americans. I won’t be holding my breath on that one, but it would go a long way towards showing the world that we have finer principles than the Bush Administration exhibited in its War on Freedom over the last seven years.

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

GOP Intellectual Center: Goldwater, McCarthy, Reagan, Elmer Gantry?

Neal Gabler points out that today’s Republicans are more like Joe McCarthy than Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater. Alas, such comparisons are becoming as trite as that comparison Godwin’s Law describes. Let’s forumulate another analogy. Is Elmer Gantry too trite to use? Paradise Lost? How about D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation?


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Neal Gabler has a nice column in yesterday’s LA Times where he ponders the notion of the Republican intellectual center. He’s following avidly, as we all are, the infighting among the GOPers as they fight to remake themselves. Will the GOP follow the extremist social conservatives, or will they hearken back to a philosophy from an earlier time, to Reagan, or Goldwater? Gabler’s thesis is that there is not intellectual center for the Republican Party, that all they’ve got left are angry and ugly talking heads like Hannity and Limbaugh, and that, as such, what plays for an “intellectual enter” for the Republicans is more like the McCarthy of the HUAC era. Here’s a bit from that LA Times article:

McCarthyism, on the other hand, which could be deployed by anyone, thrived. McCarthyism was how Republicans won. George H.W. Bush used it to get himself elected, terrifying voters with Willie Horton. And his son, under the tutelage of strategist Karl Rove, not only got himself reelected by convincing voters that John Kerry was a coward and a liar and would hand the nation over to terrorists, which was pure McCarthyism, he governed by rousing McCarthyite resentments among his base.

Republicans continue to push the idea that this is a center-right country and that Americans have swooned for GOP anti-government posturing all these years, but the real electoral bait has been anger, recrimination and scapegoating. That’s why John McCain kept describing Barack Obama as some sort of alien and why Palin, taking a page right out of the McCarthy playbook, kept pushing Obama’s relationship with onetime radical William Ayers.

And that is also why the Republican Party, despite the recent failure of McCarthyism, is likely to keep moving rightward, appeasing its more extreme elements and stoking their grievances for some time to come. There may be assorted intellectuals and ideologues in the party, maybe even a few centrists, but there is no longer an intellectual or even ideological wing. The party belongs to McCarthy and his heirs – Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Palin. It’s in the genes.

I’m not here to say Neal Gabler is wrong, as there seem to be many McCarthyite tendencies among the Republicans nowadays, but it seems to me that he doesn’t fully describe this intellectual vacuum of the Republicans. Changing a vision of Republican lineage from Goldwater to Joe McCarthy seems too obvious to me. Surely such a move might have rigor, but it seems almost a Godwin-like move. Or maybe I should say that he adequately doesn’t cover the contradictory elements of Republican strategies. Isn’t Elmer Gantry a more apt metaphor, bringing together as it does the notions of deceit, religion, and collective anger? Of course, Elmer Gantry is a bit of an allegory about Mr. McCarthy, is it not?

It’s a nice little intellectual exercise. What best represents the Republican intellectual center? It’s just too easy to imagine that center to be My Pet Goat, or The Very Hungry Caterpillar, or even the Bible. I suppose Paradise Lost, with the Devil as the tragic hero, might be a nice work by which to describe the Republican intellectual center. Even then, though, such a highly moral text doesn’t seem to me to have the kind of irony necessary to describing Republicans in their present state of sin. But one look at a guy who supposedly represents the intellectual wing of the GOP, William Kristol, nails this question, I think. Here’s Kristol giving Bush advice, from next week’s Weekly Standard:

In addition, Bush can explain to Americans just how his administration’s detention, interrogation, surveillance, and other counterterrorism policies have helped keep us safe. If he lays out the case for them publicly–as his appointees are surely doing to their transition counterparts privately–he’ll make it easier for the incoming Obama administration to back off rash promises and continue most of the policies. This would be a real service to the country. It would also force a rethinking, by those capable of rethinking, of the cheap and easy demagoguing on issues like Guant–namo and eavesdropping. Over time, Bush might even get deserved credit for effective conduct of the war on terror.

As it happens, a Rasmussen Reports survey last week found about half of U.S. voters say the United States should not close the terrorist detention facility at Guant–namo, while less than a third think it should. So, on this and other war-on-terror-related issues, Bush’s positions are reasonably popular–even though the Bush administration has done very little to make its case. Attorney General Michael Mukasey did a good job of laying out the argument for the administration’s conduct of the war on terror in remarks to the Federalist Society a little over a week ago. Bush should take up this cause.

One last thing: Bush should consider pardoning–and should at least be vociferously praising–everyone who served in good faith in the war on terror, but whose deeds may now be susceptible to demagogic or politically inspired prosecution by some seeking to score political points. The lawyers can work out if such general or specific preemptive pardons are possible; it may be that the best Bush can or should do is to warn publicly against any such harassment or prosecution. But the idea is this: The CIA agents who waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the NSA officials who listened in on phone calls from Pakistan, should not have to worry about legal bills or public defamation. In fact, Bush might want to give some of these public servants the Medal of Freedom at the same time he bestows the honor on Generals Petraeus and Odierno. They deserve it.

OK, maybe this extended quote represents just what Gabler meant with the McCarthy metaphor. Kristol is talking the straight Bush line on terror, cherry picking polls when they support him, and calling for a hard line backed by the kind of jingoistic rhetoric that might make McCarthy proud. Kristol goes so much further, though. The man wants to give the Medal of Freedom to people who tortured prisoners, who kept some innocent prisoners at Gitmo for years? No, this is far more Orwell than McCarthy. This is just bizarre, and more bizarre still is that someone like William Kristol has a job writing this drivel.

Monday, December 1st, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |
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