As I wrote about last week at FDL, I’m still gobsmacked, flabbergasted, you name it, over Supreme Court Justice (!) Antonin Scalia’s comments about the Voting Rights Act, and to my considerable delight, so was the often flaccid and boring Saturday Night Live. Sorry to all about the lame posting, but I’ve been so busy that whores feel sorry for me on Saturday night, and politics are even more than usually repetitive and divorced from reality, which, if nothing else, gets a bit artistically stifling. I promise to improve, especially once CHNN gets relocated to its new World Headquarters, but I’ll at least try not to miss gems like this when they come along until then.
“Gentlemen, we have run out of money. It’s time to start thinking.”
- Ernest Rutherford, British explorer
- quoted sometime after 1910
Political analysts unaffiliated with The Onion suggested Monday that Silvio Berlusconi and upstart challenger Beppe Grillo may have enough votes between them to form a new, coalition government in Italy. If this assessment turns out to be correct, it will be the first time in Italian history (and perhaps world history) where two definitively professional comedians will attempt to lead the Italian people.
Analysts sifting through the basel-laced tea leaves in Rome – while also grappling with the first papal resignation in … oh, several hundreds years anyway – said the only precedent for such a coalition in modern times may be the famed American leadership team of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, in the mid-1960s. Historians in the United States and Europe told reporters in Rome today they were sifting through world election records to determine if there has ever been a more hilarious team of rivals than the one which descended on the American people during the dark days when former senator Chuck Hagel was plotting to become the American defense secretary while actually serving in combat in Vietnam, simultaneously sending secret messages to North Korea, and studying the vast unpublished works of the Friends of Hamas.
Emergency maintenance has been ordered for the CHNN Flying Boat, currently parked in a wheat storage facility in Bismarck, North Dakota, in the event of a special CHNN order for immediate, on-site coverage by famed CHNN special correspondent Harlan Harrington. The crack scribbler will be assisted by the ginormous, unpaid, freakin’ harried, worldwide CHNN stringer team, subject to a relaxation of draconian budget considerations imposed by CHNN management (rumors in Boston also have it that CHNN may issue a ridiculous lowball bid to acquire The Boston Globe from The New York Times).
Harrington, freelancing in Los Angeles for Oscar night, said from the Vanity Fair after hours Oscar ball, he stands ready to pounce on the news from Italy, despite his need to wrap up any number of fluff interviews and fashion blather with stars from James Franco to Myley Cyrus to Kim Kardashian. Harrington, while enjoying a smoothie on the beach, whined on his Twitter account that it “sure would be a hardship” covering real news these days, since he makes so much money covering virtually nothing – virtually. But the grizzled veteran of the Serious International Reporting community said he would try to catch a red-rye into Bismarck, fire up the Flying Boat, and head to Rome, if that’s what the story required.
In an unexpected development, Onion news management issued a statement early Tuesday morning, saying they wanted Harrington to take the Italian assignment for them, and said they were ready to make a sky-high offer to prove it, with the inducement of a mothballed Trump Empire jet, fueled and ready in a private hangar at LaGuardia Airport to whisk Harrington to Italy.
CHNN management had no comment on that competitive gambit from The Onion.
Berlusconi and Grillo both said Monday they had no intention of being funny while ruling Italy. “Serious times demand serious leaders,” Berlusconi said, flashing his toothy grin at a young woman sitting near a gurgling fountain. Across town, Grillo was stone-faced while trying to project a Rushmorean image to Roman reporters. “No funny business today!” Grillo said, assuming a stern pose in front of chortling photographers. The pair also cautioned they could not be held accountable for unintended consequences, such as Italian voters dying of laughter within weeks, while waiting for new leadership team to form, or about rumors that the retired pope might offer his services as a mediator should unprecedented gridlock descend upon the nation. Berlusconi and Grillo each said however that Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the vote-getting center-left Democratic Party, was really funny when he said sensible Italians want him to form a sober, responsible government.
Dario Fo, Italy’s greatest living clown, normally a font of guffaws, said early Tuesday he found it impossible – for reasons he could not explain – to laugh at the Italian election returns. Fo said he looked out his window on Monday, opened his mouth and nothing came out.
Like 10% of the US population, I am what is commonly known as a “lapsed” Catholic, making me part of what would be the third largest denomination in America. Although I’m probably not all that representative of my brethren, given that from about age 8 on I didn’t believe a word of what I heard in church (with the possible exception of the gossip, that is), I can certainly sympathize with them. It must be hard when the religion of one’s baptism, family, and cultural milieu turns into (even more of) a corrupt, authoritarian, crime-tainted, unaccountable political actor as bereft of any moral authority as it is actively hostile to one’s most deeply held convictions.
There were few hints that the Roman Catholic Church would turn into a tawdry, costumed version of the Family Research Council back in the late 1960′s and early 1970′s; we had a kindly old Monsignor who visited my mother in the hospital when she had cancer even though she had long since stopped going to Mass after her divorce and remarriage rendered her a slut in the eyes of the church. We also had younger priests who were outspokenly opposed to the war in Vietnam and South African Apartheid. I served as an altar boy three days a week at 6:25 am Mass, went to Catholic summer camp, and attended CCD religiously (pun intended) until well into high school. The church was opposed to abortion and birth control, of course, but due to the fact that nobody listened or cared, chose to be more outspoken about the death penalty and such.
When I became an adult, I basically adopted Alexander Cockburn’s attitude about religion: he supported compulsory prayer of the sort to which my atheist self had been subjected, because it provided ammunition to debate the faithful and was “an inoculation against future religious infection.” My Catholic upbringing meant I could visit the great cathedrals of Europe and tutor my Jewish traveling companions about making the sign of the cross with holy water and genuflecting, so as not to appear boorish when we were really only there to look at the architecture. When they asked me about the wisdom of spending so much money and centuries of work on buildings that served no purpose compared to something really useful like a library or museum, I had no good answer for them, but I wasn’t, well, embarrassed.
But then things changed. Just as the child abuse scandal began sweeping the globe, the Church decided to become part of the Religious Right, and worse, just another offensive mouthpiece of the Republican Party. Not that I blame them; had they been a business, such a move would have been eminently reasonable. They could clearly see that while freer, more secular countries were abandoning the Church in droves, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia were far more patriarchal and socially backward, and when you’re faced with hundreds of millions of dollars in payouts for despicable crimes, something called “tort reform” has undeniable appeal. But to claim that God would approve of such mercenary cravenness is a stretch at best.
By the time the church hierarchy had joined the worst cracker bible-bangers in their opposition to equal rights for gays, and began meddling in US elections by threatening to deny Communion to pro-choice Democrats, my amiable indifference turned to something closer to loathing, where it remains today. The sheer chutzpah, if you’ll pardon the expression, of an outfit up to its cassock collars in an ongoing sexual abuse scandal running around denouncing the supposed immorality of others about whom it has no knowledge was bad enough; the audacity of being so brazen about it was, to me, nothing short of evil, at least in the way I was taught to understand it.
Last week it was revealed the the Los Angeles Archdiocese emptied $115 million from a fund dedicated to “perpetual” care for the buried remains of its duped flock’s loved ones to pay out abuse judgements at the same time it was spending God knows what to push antigay Prop 8 (in league with the Mormons, no less!), which ought to have been the final straw, but I know I need only wait another week or so for the next, equally horrifying, shoe to drop.
Sadly, the overdue retirement of the Church’s SECOND Nazi-loving Pope is unlikely to change this dreary and repellent dynamic, given that the entire hierarchy, including the recently installed Archbishops in both San Francisco and even here in Portland ought to be wearing black armbands as well. The ship is still sinking, and there are plenty more rats where he came from.
Against my better judgement, I wandered over to Politico for a little look-see at what was passing for Village Conventional “Wisdom” on this dreary Tuesday, and boy howdy, should I have stayed home. Although there was, at the top of the page, one article that mentioned the, uh, President; except for an irrelevant smidgen of 20-year old Clinton nostalgia, Politico was as usual obsessed with the Republican government in exile, even though there was no conceivable news value in any of it.
I know, I know, you can’t spell “Politico” without POO, but even I had to put a clothespin on my nose to ward off the stench of the steaming piles scattered everywhere. The “top” story, if you want to call it that, was a fawning essay (if you want to call it that) about “wonky” Paul Ryan, who understandably is looking for a new “path to power,” since the last path didn’t turn out so well. Although the article was unadulterated hagiography, it nonetheless relied almost exclusively on unnamed sources; I guess even the most shameless Republican hacks don’t want to be caught saying things like “Ryan has no interest in the sheer grind of campaigning,” lest they be pummeled in a hail of rotten vegetables.
Ralph Reed, Grifter for Jesus and all around has-been, is evidently desperate enough for attention these days that he did go on the record, but only to say that the “indispensable” Ryan had “street cred (!) on the right that goes back 20 years,” which is somewhat remarkable for a 42-year old, Randian halfwit or no. Hilariously, every other paragraph had a clickable photo menu, evidently for those who can’t stop laughing (or worse) at the, uh, beefcake shots Ryan unwisely released to Time magazine just days before his well-deserved defeat for the Vice Presidency.
Although I was besieged by pop-up ads at every click, of which there are many because a Politico story invariably turns 600 words into a three-page epic, I could no more resist reading the whole thing than Chris Christie could resist a 16-pack of Ho-Ho’s, and besides, I’d only seen the word “wonk” once. My ill-advised gluttony paid off: the final page was a bit of “original” reporting about a “wonky” meeting wherein the unflappable Ryan fielded “tough” questions from journalists, spending a whole “90 minutes” wading into the “budget weeds,” which would be a lot, if the budget weren’t $3.08 trillion. And if the “journalist” hosts weren’t from Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, it might have been “tough,” too.
Skipping over an article about how “unthinkable” it would be for the House GOP to cut a dime from the Pentagon and another wherein Speaker John Boehner (surprise!) disagrees with the President, I eagerly leapt into a piece about Eric Cantor and the GOP’s latest round of “rebranding,” titled, temptingly, “Cantor 4.0.” For once, a little skepticism has seemingly crept in over this latest round of cynical sloganeering passing for governing, which is as good an indication as any that Cantor is finished. At Politico, the old saying seems to be, “fool me thrice,” and then “you can’t get fooled again.”
Little did I know, Cantor 1.0, circa 2009, was something called “National Council for a New America,” utterly forgotten everywhere but at Politico, where they must have fallen for it and remain bitter to this day. Then there was Cantor 2.0, “Young Guns” (whose average age was north of 45), which was a self-aggrandizing 2010 book utterly devoid of content, but which nonetheless passed for a meaningful political treatise in the fetid air of the Village. Still hoping to kick that football yet again, Politico played Charlie Brown to Cantor’s Lucy in 2011, only to find that “Cut and Grow” was about as popular as crabs in a whorehouse, even as empty slogans go.
Now that Cantor has come out with, wait for it, “Making Life Work,” even Politico is getting bored with this insulting BS, and gets as close as it possibly can to saying so without giving up cocktail weinies forever. Fortunately for Cantor, there is still at least one Villager stupid and credulous enough to treat such errant hogwash as news; Politico reports that Cantor will be appearing on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Even when you’ve lost Politico, there is still David Gregory.
One of the chief reasons GOP politicians and the Village Media who love them are able to maintain any semblance of credibility was on vivid display at the Hagel confirmation hearings: for wrongness, there is always strength in numbers. What really lay at the heart of John McCain’s cartoonishly crabby badgering of Hagel about the overhyped “surge” (which, if nothing else, did cause an additional 1000 American deaths), was just another episode of the big, tough, dumb kids bullying the four-eyed nerds for the crime of being, well, right.
No, you lumpy old ball of carcinoma and impotent rage, forcing someone to say something false, however widely believed, does not make you right and your opponent wrong, it just makes you an asshole. And despite Hagel’s almost universally panned performance, when he deferentially said history would be the judge, that had to leave a mark, not just on McCain, but on every other war cheerleader in the Village, too. Being wrong about something is evidently perfectly okay, as long as you don’t ever admit it, and thus make a lot of Very Serious People look as foolish as you do.
Preference for the counterfactual isn’t just confined to such vividly enormous, groupthink-related debacles like the Iraq War; if fact, nearly every issue being breathlessly fretted over within the beltway is so ethereal as to make cotton candy seem substantial. Tune into the Sunday shows, McCain’s natural habitat, and it’s easy to see why even people who aren’t seething, superannuated rage-oholics get confused sometimes. In this alternate universe, America’s most urgent problems range from things that might happen to things that will, never in a million years, happen, while the mere mention of things that are currently happening goes over like a fart in church.
Thus, we are supposed to worry about the (currently shrinking) deficits while ignoring a half-decade unemployment crisis, scandalously underfunded public services, tottering infrastructure, and third-world inequality. Multiple current wars, declared and undeclared, are far too stale and boring to even talk about when future wars are so much more enticing opportunities for tough talk and jingoistic bluster. Real crime, like the ongoing Wall Street larceny that left the economy in tatters, is shunted aside faster than a pedophile priest can be transferred to a new parish, while imaginary hordes of dusky-hued intruders, be they “terrorists” or “gangs,” are the “real killers” in this OJ Simpson-like beltway operetta.
To this toxic bipartisan litany of imaginary fears, the Republican noise machine piles on ever more fanciful ones, from FEMA camps to creeping Sharia Law, headless corpses in the desert and union-thug beatdowns, and never does anyone mention that the formerly merely naked emperor is now performing unnatural acts with a factory-farmed chicken on Meet the Press.
All this would be tolerable, albeit embarrassing, were there not so many things Americans ought to be worried about right now; urgency and consequence have become inversely proportional to airtime and column inches, and for good reason. A visibly unfolding climate crisis has, just this year, caused an unrelenting and unprecedented drought over vast swaths of the US, record wildfires, a “superstorm” that swamped New York, and freak tornadoes that picked off teabagger-infested areas with almost Godlike accuracy. The increasingly desperate fossil fuels industry lurches from disaster to disaster, leaving a trail of poisonous detritus and dead bodies in its shiny wake, and yet we have to listen to transparent energy shills natter on about a new “boom.”
You see, behind every false narrative that muddies our discourse and stupefies the voters, there is someone laughing all the way to the bank, generally but not exclusively a big Republican donor. The Military/Industrial/Surveillance/Incarceration Complex. The Fossil Fuel Industry. Wall Street. All have grown so powerful that even their most demented fantasies seem within reach, so they’ve simply pulled out all the stops to get while the getting’s good. A preschooler could see through this, but, conveniently, none of the cossetted media are so gifted, or at least that’s what they’d have us believe.
History will be the judge, and I expect that judgement to be harsh.
Republicans have found themselves in an uncharacteristic moment of self-reflection these days, but unsurprisingly, none of this involves actually looking at themselves. At their Charlotte retreat, they gazed into the mirror, declared themselves fairest of all, and went home to continue shaking down billionaires and jury-rigging elections in their favor. You see, each unpopular policy, from immigration to taxes, women’s rights to gun control, is nonetheless perfect, even foreordained by the Baby Jeebus, and must remain inviolate. It’s America that must change to better accommodate the GOP, not the other way around.
I suppose there is a certain logic to this, but how would this approach go over with, say, a therapist?
DOC: Why do you think Hispanic voters reject you?
GOP: Because they’re the real racists.
DOC: You don’t think anything in your behavior might be triggering their feelings?
GOP: Hell, no. It’s not my fault they’re a bunch of gun running, anchor-baby dropping, drunk driving sub-humans who sneak in here to freeload off white people like myself, for fancy stuff like emergency room visits and crappy schools. What part of “illegal” don’t you understand?
DOC: Hmmm. Let’s move along. Why do women seem to reject you?
GOP: It’s not the nice women. It’s those lazy sluts with their baby-killing and free birth control, always claiming to have been raped or something just to get out of producing an innocent life. Oh, yeah, and those other uppity women who think they should be paid the same as men, when a woman’s place is in the home. And don’t get me started on those hairy-legged types always yammering about global warming and fuzzy animals. You know, that Ann Coulter is probably right; letting women vote was as big a mistake as letting darkies do it.
DOC: I see. Speaking of, uh, African Americans, why is it that less than 2% of them vote for you?
GOP: Well, what do you expect from a bunch of shiftless, shuck-and-jive porch monkeys selling crack and shooting each other in between welfare checks? They’re the real racists, except for Clarence Thomas.
DOC: Leaving that aside for the moment, some of your strident language about other minorities, especially gays and lesbians, seems to turn off younger voters. Why do you think that is?
GOP: You know those snot-nosed brats have all been brainwashed by the communistic government schools into thinking it’s okay for Heather to Have Two Mommies, but Jesus says homos, especially Rosie O’Donnell, are worse than terrorists. It’s in the Bible. And besides that, those militant homofascists are all going to burn in hell for their disease-spreading, child-molesting, and skinny jeans-wearing ways. Hopefully, before 2014.
DOC: Very well. What do you say to those who believe your policies are overly preferential to the wealthy?
GOP: I’d tell ‘em to get off their commie ass and get a job, preferably in a right to work state. If you tax the Job Creators, pretty soon they’ll stop hiring maids, gardeners, and lobbyists for their car elevators, and then where would that grabby 47% be? Now, that Bobby Jindal has a good idea about this: you stop taxing rich, uh, successful people and corporations altogether, and let the freeloading spooks make it up by taxing Pampers and Old English 40-ouncers. We have to stop punishing success, and start punishing failure.
DOC: It’s hard to imagine funding a government entirely on the backs of those who can least afford it.
GOP: I’m beginning to think you hate America, Doc. If we just got rid of all those things government does that aren’t in Ron Paul’s copy of the Constitution, those handout-loving moochers wouldn’t have to pay so much.
DOC: What things are those?
GOP: Like the Post Office, the EPA, the Fed, the schools, the FTC, the SEC, the Department of Education, the UN, foreign aid (except for Jesus’ chosen in Israel), the ATF, the FDA, you name it.
DOC: Are there any parts of government you would preserve?
GOP: I used to think the military and police, but then I found out that a lot of cops are union thugs who might take my guns, so now I think just the military.
DOC: Better safe than sorry. Is there anything you might be willing to do differently in the future, in hopes of a better outcome?
DOC: Perhaps a change in tone?
GOP: If you want a bunch of sissy political correctness, vote Democrat.
DOC: Well, our time is almost up. Is there anything you’d like to talk about?
GOP: There is one thing.
DOC: What’s that?
GOP: Why are liberals so hate-filled?
One nice thing about having a blog this long is that this is the second time I’ve “covered,” as it were, a Presidential inauguration for CHNN, and thus could look back at what I might have written about the first one for guidance. Turns out that although I was, back then, then putting out posts at a comparatively feverish pace, I didn’t bother to write about President Obama’s first inaugural address until a few days later, when the righty discontents had all weighed in.
This time, as a card-carrying Firebagger discontent myself, I feel moved to weigh in before they do. With a a couple of fairly significant caveats I’ll get to below, I thought it was a great speech, and as usual one befitting a President who hopes (or pretends to hope) that he will be a better President in the future than he has been in the past. As you can imagine, I was delighted that, barely a minute in, he roundly dismissed the absurdly revisionist history embraced by his Confederate-dominated opponents with skill and aplomb:
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
Take that, “Constitutional” conservatives, who fetishize the Declaration of Independence as a near-biblical document designed to institute a theocratic police state that exists only to protect the wealthy and restrict the freedom of everyone else. Warming to his task, the President continues, with a reference to God that I ordinarily wouldn’t like, but since it makes such a nice knife-twister for the bible-bangers, I’m all for it:
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.
After an annoying passage about “outworn programs” and “reforming our schools” as potential Serious solutions to problems completely of Republican making, Obama goes a welcome step further, undoubtedly to the great chagrin of Fox News aficionados:
We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.
Ouch, said a certain plutocrat with a car elevator and a beak-nosed gym rat with an unseemly affection for Ayn Rand’s womanly charms. The part that was most meaningful to me, as it must have been for many others, came a little later:
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
And, as though specifically linking the struggles of women, African-Americans, and LGBT people weren’t good enough, the President almost made an Obamabot out of me when he went further, drawing the concerns of immigrants, women, the poor, and for the first time in an inaugural address, gay Americans, into the national task at hand. He finished with a fine (and again strategically brilliant) reminder that he is, like all of us, just a citizen, and his oath differs little than that taken by many others. If Obama really fancies himself a “king,” as the right is wont to say, he pointedly doesn’t talk like one. Well, at least most of the time.
One harsh note that spoiled my reverie, but I’m sure won’t escape the notice of his other liberal critics, was the following passage:
We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law.
The first part could have been written by Frank Luntz; the second, by Groucho Marx. Using the “strength of arms” does a lot of things, but “upholding our values” is not among them. And let’s just say that the “rule of law” means different things to, say, Jamie Dimon, than it does to, say, Bradley Manning. Had that been the only thing that reminded me that we haven’t really come nearly so far as other parts of the speech optimistically intimated, there was this New Democrat piece of hogwash, which rhetorically opened the door to all sorts of post-partisan deviltry, and we know how that has turned out in the past:
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher.
Sounds like “tweaks” to the very programs he so fervently defended elsewhere are still on the proverbial table, perhaps lurking behind the gravy boat. Worse, he thinks that the answers to what ails us might lie at least in part in the union-busting, tax-finagling, and of course harder toil from the lower orders that Republicans so relentlessly champion.
The good parts were enough for such perennial skeptics as Charlie Pierce and Ed Kilgore, who both waxed unusually rhapsodic in the afterglow of the President’s admittedly excellent speech; the bad parts, though, weren’t in there by accident. Here at CHNN, we’re guardedly optimistic.
Emphasis on the guardedly.
UPDATE: (somewhat unnecessarily) Sure enough…
And Republicans have to impeach Democratic Presidents with the temerity to beat them. In some ways I’m surprised it’s taken this long; Clinton was denounced as illegitimate before the drapes went up in the oval office, and within months the media was announcing his Presidency was “over,” a meme supposedly “confirmed” by Republicans’ 1994 takeover of the House. As they so often are, Republicans were so convinced that everyone loathed Clinton as much as they did that they thought they could beat him with a dour retread like Bob Dole. After being clobbered in a landslide, they responded as sore losers are wont to do: They threw a tantrum.
Of course, the only beneficiary of their absurd histrionics was Clinton himself, who left office more popular than ever; Democrats lost the Presidency (sort of) at least in part because Gore refused to defend his old boss, even lending credence to the Republican jihad by choosing a turncoat Church Lady like Joe Lieberman as his running mate. Still, recent history seems to show that Republicans have little to gain and much to lose by impeaching a popular, reelected President, but, well, they just can’t help themselves.
Conveniently, the catalyst seems to be exactly the scenario long accepted in the fever swamps of the right and relentlessly parroted by its media hucksters: President Obama was just waiting to be reelected so he could exploit some tragedy as an excuse to confiscate (white) peoples’ guns. They know this to be true because the NRA told them so every day for the last four years. Of course, there’s more to this theory, variously involving false flags, FEMA camps, UN bike trails, Hitler, Stalin, and what have you, but these sorts of things won’t be emphasized in the articles produced by the House, for obvious reasons.
That paragon of Executive Branch accountability, Reagan’s disgraced attorney general Ed Meese, soberly explained that Obama had one foot in impeachment and the other on a banana peel, an opinion I’m sure he holds regardless of the occasion. At least two House Republicans announced support for impeachment before Obama’s gun proposal was released, which undoubtedly saved them from having to read anything, which as we all know is just one step away from communistic (and tiresome) book learning.
Compared to the NRA and the right-wing echo chamber, though, elected Republicans are waxing statesmanlike. Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, Erick Erickson and many others are calling for civil war (fought by others), which does have a way of making impeachment seem tame and civilized. In a bizarre and deeply insulting commercial released to preempt Obama’s announcement, the NRA denounces Obama as a hypocritical elitist who has armed guards for his (worthless, dusky-hued) children, while “your” children go about without so much as a Glock to protect them. Really.
Now, if you’re a Fox-addled halfwit seething with impotent rage about that darky imposter in the White House, this ad will produce its desired effect, which is to sell you more guns and ammo than you can afford. What the ad is not designed to do is persuade the larger public, who do accept that whether they voted for him or not, Obama is President, and like all Presidents he has Secret Service protection for his family. Additionally, unlike all Presidents, Obama has received more death threats than any other, from precisely the sorts of people the NRA courts with ads like these.
The mild reforms the President is proposing today fall into two categories: symbolic regulatory tweaks clearly inadequate to solve the problem, and legislative proposals that stand an ice cube’s chance in hell of passing the House. In other words, this is all much ado about nothing, or would be in a sane world. But as I frequently mention, this is not a sane world, and this pretext is as good as any to begin to do what Republicans now do reflexively: Impeach the hated Democrat, just because.
It’s going to be a long four years.
Note: Last week this blog turned four years old, proving that time flies whether you’re having fun or not.
Today former President (!) Richard Nixon would have been 100, and I’m sorry the ol’ creep isn’t still around; since he would undoubtedly be in a very bad mood. You see, his most infamous legal doctrine, “if the President does it, it is not illegal,” once a shockingly outrageous statement, is now comfortably enshrined as bipartisan consensus; the open corporate bribery that laid him low has been approved by his former nemesis, the US Supreme Court, and all manner of Government spying on citizens once considered anathema are now as American as Nixon’s favorite treat, cottage cheese and ketchup.
As it turns out, Tricky Dick was just unlucky enough to be born about 50 years too early; in the rosy dawn of the 21st century Presidents can openly take bales of cash from corrupt casino moguls and telecom monopolies, wantonly bomb countries out of pique or political calculation, prosecute and/or legally harass legitimate critics, and intimidate (what’s left of) the news media. And even in Tricky Dick’s wildest dreams, he couldn’t possibly have envisioned a day when he could just kill people he didn’t like, but here we are. As something of a Nixon scholar, I’ve often mused about whether Nixon might have finished out his term had he been bolstered by the bell-bottom equivalent of Fox News, but I don’t think so anymore. He wouldn’t need it.
Significantly, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove cut their gnashing teeth in the Nixon White House, and had they dedicated their lives to making Nixon’s worst abuses standard procedure, they could hardly be more delighted with the results. And since they did dedicate their lives to this dubious endeavor, quite openly, I’m sure their only regret is that today they can’t share their triumph with their old boss. As Digby pointed out today in an excellent comment on this subject, the Republican Party of today isn’t the party of Reagan, but of Richard Milhous Nixon, God rest his putrefying soul.
The terrors that haunted Nixon are the same terrors that haunt Republicans today: academia, Hollywood, the “liberal” media, darkies, hippies and what have you, to which Muslims, gays, environmentalists, atheists, unions, immigrants, women, and public servants have been helpfully added to suit the times. Like Nixon, Republicans are completely unable to refute the messages of any of these groups, so they methodically demonize the messengers. Thus, a fictitious “majority,” whether of the silent or moral variety, is relentlessly badgered into a state of false victimhood against anything but the real sources of its anxieties.
And who better to help Republicans bring back the polyester era than the guys who brought us polyester in the first place? Yet rogue industries like petrochemicals aren’t the only ones to have leapt on the pre-Watergate corporate free-for-all, and today’s are bigger (and kookier) than ever. While Sheldon Adelson may be a little less crazy than Howard Hughes, he doesn’t have to sneak around when financing Presidents, and he had many fewer billions to toss in the street. Likewise, the oil industry has consolidated to the point where four phone calls will bring a tsunami of cash wherever it might help, and this fact alone assures that the money might never be needed.
Which brings us back to the role of the media in bringing to life what Rick Perlstein called, appropriately, Nixonland. It is a land of conformity, paranoia, unaccountable and secretive government, casual repression, and simmering resentments. It’s a place where powerless groups are pitted against each other over transparent distractions while the elites clandestinely divvy up the spoils. Most of all, it’s a country that shuns not only self-government, but the very idea of the Rule of Law. All of this might have rightly struck Americans as, well, un-American, in an era when the news media was still robust, competitive, and diverse, but those days are over.
Nixon got the ball rolling when he signed the Newspaper Preservation Act, which in the guise of maintaining editorial diversity, allowed one corporate entity to own both (or even all) newspapers in a given town, and the message was heard as loudly and clearly as were his later threats to withhold licenses from critical broadcasters: subservience to government could be better for the bottom line than anything like real journalism. Later, Reagan eliminated the Fairness Doctrine, allowing AM radio to degenerate into a right-wing fever swamp, and Clinton followed on his round heels with the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which whittled the news media even further, from a dozen or so owners to the handful we are left with today. Today, the Obama FCC is poised to let Rupert Murdoch go ahead and buy both the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune, even though he already owns major TV stations on both markets.
I’m glad Nixon never lived to see this day, but I’m deeply chagrined that I have.
Call your doctor, America; this Boehner has lasted a lot more than four hours.
It was always hard for me to believe that House Republicans, who are if anything more extreme than in the bombastic Newt’s heyday, settled for a colorless ol’ cocktailhag like the Boehner in the first place. In a party bursting with manic energy, Boehner is as slothful as he is passionless. Even his tears and temper tantrums seem half-hearted; just the dues he pays to pretend to lead his merry band of tea party yahoos. Tellingly, the ever-popular Republican rejoinder, “Go fuck yourself” in Boehner’s booze-soaked warble is but a limp imitation of Dick Cheney’s growling sneer.
Yet in what can only be an utter lack of any credible leaders, Boehner will continue to be Speaker. As you’d expect, this development won’t be greeted with much enthusiasm in the Fox/Limbaugh axis, but on some level the Republicans must have recognized that an oily reptile like Eric Cantor could damage their brand even more than the most clownish teabagger, so they decided to, well, choose the intoxicated over the toxic.
And is it any wonder? As we saw in the presidential primaries, what few rising Republican “stars” aren’t certifiable nutcases are shameless grifters, and all of them seem to be blessed with people skills that make Leona Helmsley look like Mother Theresa. This isn’t a function of the spokesmodels; it’s a function of the brand. The only Republicans who aren’t utterly poisonous to audiences outside the bubble are vestigial holdovers like Boehner from a superficially saner era, kept around, apparently, for their antique value more than any semblance of political effectiveness.
Like all Boehners, though, this one will eventually go down, and what will spring up in its place?