Saturday, April 2, 2011

The 2012 Political Mind Fox

"I misspoke." GOP translation: "I shot off my mouth before considering if the effluence that spewed out had even a tangential relationship to the truth. Turns out it didn't." Or "I fucked up, or just flat out lied, and you busted me." From Michelle Bachmann's hysterical historical revisionism to Preacher Huck's dyslexic snipe at Natalie Portman for having "an out of baby wedlock." Although perhaps that was just a side-snipe at Bristol Palin and her grizzly mama. I guess he didn't have the Huckaballs to take on the bagger queen directly for fear of losing his head, or her potential support, for whatever that's worth these days.

But even more demeaning was Huck's attack on the president for his Kenyan childhood, citing the Mau Mau revolution as the root of his anti-colonialism. It's a mark of this particular kind of idiocy that Huck can begin a sentence with "one thing I do know" and then proceed to get the facts wrong. But, undeterred by the truth, Huck segued into the president's "otherness" citing that he grew up "different." He wasn't a boy scout like the rest of us. (I didn't realize being a boy scout was a prerequisite for running for national office. Wonder how that will effect Newt's candidacy, as clearly the man was no boy scout.) Of course, once it was pointed out to Huck that the president spent some of his early childhood in Indonesia, not Kenya, he walked it back with "I misspoke," yet stuck by his point.  Then there's the birther bullshit's most recent champion -- Donald Trump -- his jowly face and protruding jaw jutting out like a defiant Mussolini as he called for "the truth." Obviously, the obligatory first step in running for the Republican nomination is a long-distance reach-around to the tea baggers. Of course, some pundits say: "It's working because he's getting a lot of attention." True. Although, a 3-year-old child who walks into the room, pulls down his pants, and craps on the rug will get a lot of attention. That doesn't add any depth to the proceedings.

But while it's amusing to lampoon the birther nonsense, it's dangerous to ignore it. In a world where one is guilty by accusation, the birther message isn't meant to be taken literally except by a small segment of mouth-breathers. It's not rational. It's emotional. And subliminal. It's not the words; it's the music. Kenya. Indonesia. Doesn't matter. The "he's different and not one of us" meme is being dusted off again as part of the upcoming campaign, though it's really just a component of the same political mindfuck that's been going on for years. Mike Dukakis was guilty of letting a rapist go free. Max Cleland was guilty of being unpatriotic. John McCain was guilty of fathering a black child. John Kerry was guilty of lying about his combat record. Barack Obama was guilty of "pallin' around with terrorists." And of not being a real American. Not one of us. Not like you and me. Foreign. And he's taking our country away! All because there's that special word they just can't use anymore, in public, but they know a certain Neanderthal segment of the electorate is thinking. But it's not personal. It's strictly politics. That's when the lies go from personal to policy. And they're not always so obviously birther crazy. In this case, the lies hide inside the talking points.

There's the double secret "destructive and costly takeover of our health care system that will do irreparable damage to our economy," as the Repeal it Now ad goes. By calling it "Obamacare" and framing it as "a diabolical plot hatched in back rooms in the dead of night" it's the same lie. The man who's not like you and me is taking away our health care. It's not health care. It's "Obamacare!" It's Socialist! And if it's not repealed you'll soon have Planned Parenthood handing out free abortions in malls, and condoms to fetuses.

Then there was the "don't raise taxes on ANYONE during a recession" talking point repeated ad nauseum by every Republican, despite the fact that it's insane to claim budgets can be balanced by only cutting spending. Anyone knows if you're having money problems you have to make more and spend less. Removing the ability to raise revenue removes one of only two weapons you have. It was also a lie to claim that taxing the wealthier segments of the population another 3% was a punitive attack on job creators. How? These were individual tax rates. Not corporate. Someone has 50k in a business and creates a job with it, the money doesn't get taxed. He takes it out as personal salary, it gets taxed. But there was no job created. So where's the punishment?

It's a lie to frame Social Security and Medicare as "entitlements." The implication is that these are government gifts, which people haven't worked for or don't deserve, as opposed to government programs that have been established because as a society we place a value on helping those who need it. And we will all eventually need some help. Even Republicans get old, retire, get sick, and die. Or is the assumption that they don't need social programs to help them through their golden years as their Lehman Brothers retirement accounts should do the trick?

It was a lie to claim that the problem in Tucson was simply one of mental health screening and had nothing to do with the sale of 31-bullet clips, once outlawed as part of the assault weapons ban. You can't outlaw insanity. All you can do is pass laws against the ability of the insane to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction that can make the difference between murder and mass murder. By taking guns off the table and making it purely a mental health issue, the Republicans lit a candle in the First Church of the NRA.

It's a lie that there is something called "the war on terror." Terrorism is not geographical. It's psychological. And as long as we keep invading that part of the world to wipe out terrorism, we set the table for the mindset that leads to more terrorism. Recently Secretary Gates was in Afghanistan to "discuss the progress of the 9-year war." Exactly how to you assess the progress of a 9-year war? It's been going on for 9 years. That's the progress. Afghanistan is a narcostate ruled by local warlords and Islamic militant fanatics who we armed and supported militarily when their mission was fighting the Russians. Only then, they were the Mujahideen freedom fighters. And what little central government they have is corrupt. Exactly what style democracy are we wrapping up to give them for Christmas? It doesn't matter where the terrorists put the monkey bars to train on. They can join another gym. If it's really about their proximity to Pakistan and its nukes, then shore up Pakistan and its nukes. And don't try to block the ratification of a treaty that was designed to keep loose nuclear material out of the hands of those insane enough to use it. Unless of course, as with 31-clip magazines, the problem isn't the material, it's the user. So let's not bother to restrict it. Nukes for everyone! Let's sell 'em at gun shows.

And as for the uprising in Libya, it didn't matter what the president did. The Republicans would attack him anyway. They're not against bombing. They're against O-bombing. They can't decide if he went in too early, or too late. Yet, if he sat on the sidelines they would've squawked about him being weak and indecisive while thousands of freedom fighters were slaughtered by a repressive dictator. The way that Saddam Hussein's gassing of the Kurds was used as one of the litany of excuses to go into Iraq. Of course, Hussein did that in 1988, when George H.W. Bush was president. And we didn't invade until 2003. So, apparently our moral outrage is on a 15-year delay. It's the GOP's ad hoc morality. Watch them in campaign mode as they moonwalk away from previous stances on cap and trade, health care, alternative energy, as well as alternative approaches to monogamy. Hyping the fear of the ballooning deficit as an excuse to cut social programs, defund planned parenthood, and gut the power of unions is the Shock Doctrine in action. Is it any wonder that Republicans are so desperate to cut aid to education? An uneducated citizenry is a dumbed down and easily manipulated electorate.

It was a lie to claim that public unions need to forfeit their right to collective bargaining, for fear that they'll never give back any benefits in a troubled economy, particularly at a time when they've just given back benefits in a troubled economy. The facts themselves negated Walker's argument and simply painted him as the chinless, beedy-eyed, power hungry little martinet he is. But it was part of a campaign of terror going on in this country, launched by people trying to take America back to some mythical Randian utopia in which abortion is outlawed, there's rampant oil drilling, strip mining, and natural gas fracking, no financial or environmental regulation on business, and no taxes on business. Where business can roam free and workers can't bargain because unemployment is so high and they're so grateful to have jobs that they'll work as long and hard and under any conditions that owners demand. (Why is it when people in the Middle East rise up to oppose a dictator, they're freedom fighters. But when U.S. workers do it, they're evil and greedy?)

Though there's one element of this whole diabolical mess that the Kochs of the world don't seem to get. The business utopia they yearn for has already existed -- in 19th century England during the Industrial Revolution in which abuses of the labor force lead to the writing of Karl Marx, and eventually to the Russian Revolution, the creation of the Soviet Union and most of the mayhem that dominated the latter half of the 20th century. When the Walkers of the world unite, and strip workers of their rights and their dignity, they unintentionally create the environment for their own worst nightmare.

And then there's Fox News and its most Phamous Phanatic, Glenn Beck -- the clown prince of the Murdoch empire with his Ed Wynn on bad acid blackboard ravings. Again many on the left take delight in debunking his idiotic arguments. But there's something else going on here: Beck is misdirection. The pretty girl in a magic act. A way of forcing the audience's attention to something so obviously silly, while the magician slips his hand in his pocket to pull out a prop, letting him pull off the trick. Or, in this case, letting the lies quietly slip through unnoticed. And unchallenged, at least on network news.

We're being played. Manipulated. Propagandized. In short-- lied to. Not the random lie, but a more systematic fucking of the national mindset based on the notion that if you repeat a lie over and over, and no one refutes it, it takes on the patina of truth. After all, how could it be a lie if everyone's saying it? But here's the thing: People with legitimate arguments to make, make their arguments legitimately, through dialogue and debate, not through histrionics and hypnotically repeating the same talking points over and over. Like "Scrap the bill, start over." "Don't raise taxes on ANYONE during a down economy." "Obamacare" is a "government takeover of health care." (And ask yourself this: the Huckabee "repeal the bill" 60-second spot has been running on MSNBC for months, and more than once a day. Who has the money to pay for that? In whose interest is it to have this legislation disappear?) And, of course, there's the fear being stoked about the ballooning deficit and the demands of Social Security and Medicare that could cripple future generations. Why is it that the party that cares so deeply about our grandchildren's economic well-being doesn't seem lose any sleep over the quality of their air, water, how hot the Earth will be, or if the fish they eat will be covered in oil, or radioactive?

So, now it's campaign season, and Republicans are lining up their talking points, and dusting off their lies and fear tactics -- essentially lubing up the public for the mindfuck that's to come. Because the only thing Republicans hate more than taxes and gay people kissing is being out of power. From the moment of this president's inauguration, with Dick Cheney in a wheelchair doing his best Dr. Strangelove impression, President Obama has been hit from every angle, most every day, the goal of which was to weaken his popularity, cripple his presidency and set the table for 2012. They did the same thing in 1992 with the Clintons. But no one asked for Clinton's birth certificate because he was obviously white. They just pondered if he personally killed Vince Foster, made any shady land deals, travel arrangements, or social arrangements. The attacks need to fit the person. But it wasn't really a "right wing conspiracy." It was just politics GOP-style.

So get ready for the attacks on the president to get more frantic, more furious, and more hysterical, as the new Fox news slogan changes to "All Fear - All The Time!" Obamacare will destroy us! The deficit will cripple us! Greedy unions are bankrupting the states! Or Newt's recent clarion call in a speech to the John Hagee crowd in which he said: "I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time [my grandchildren] are my age they will be in a secular, atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

Clearly they're getting desperate. And the obvious reason is that they still lack a true champion to carry the flag. The GOP field is so anemic that their choices boil down to a rich, white guy, an egomaniacal, rich white guy, an evangelical Christian white guy, a fat Southern white guy, a fat, pompous philandering white guy, a few interchangeable, boring Midwestern white guys, a stupid white woman, a crazy, stupid white woman, and a black guy who ran a pizza business. So get ready to be afraid, be very afraid. And as the candidates head to Iowa,  let the squirmish begin!

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