Part 3—Students of war to the left: Is the GOP in the grip of a “nihilistic base?”
That may be what Thomas L. Friedman says in today’s New York Times. In his second strong column about the shutdown, he offers this sweeping claim:
FRIEDMAN (10/9/13): The reason so many mainstream Republican lawmakers want Obama to give something to Cruz & Co. is that they want to get out of this mess, but they’re all afraid to stand up to the far-right fringe themselves—with its bullying network of barking talk-show hosts and moneymen. But Obama shouldn’t take them off the hook. Only Republicans can delegitimize the nihilistic madness at the base of their party. (I wouldn’t exaggerate this, but I think Boehner underestimates how many mainstream Republicans feel their party is being stolen from them by radicals—and hunger for a leader who will take them on.)Does that highlighted statement refer to the GOP’s base voters? Are they the ones who are in the grip of “nihilistic madness?”
That’s the way the passage sounds, and the claim feels good. Such phrases denigrate millions of people all in one feel-good dose.
Back when we were in the ninth grade, we were instructed not to do that. (By the late Peter Drobac, a young teacher at Aragon High in San Mateo, California.) But then, we come from an upwardly mobile educational environment, as we admitted yesterday.
Is the base of the GOP nihilistic? That’s a sweeping claim. Here’s a second sweeping claim, one we’ll endorse: such voters have been conned for decades by that “network of barking talk-show hosts.”
They’ve been conned about taxes; they’ve been conned about debt. They’ve been conned about Social Security; they’ve been conned about the Affordable Care Act.
During all this time, the Joan Walshes of our sad, slow-witted tribe were mainly off diddling themselves in the deep, dark woods. Our intellectual leaders didn’t try to develop ways to talk to “those people.” Our intellectual leaders slumbered, snored and burbled their way through life. They learned to offer sweeping insults and to stick money into their pants.
Last night, the GOP base got conned again. For perhaps the ten millionth time, Sean Hannity pulled a standard con concerned deficits and debt.
In this presentation, Hannity helped the base see through Barack Obama’s latest bold-faced lie:
HANNITY (10/8/13): We turn our attention back to the president's hyper-partisan press conference from earlier today. While he spent most of his time demonizing Republicans, something that he always does, he also worked in a few bold-faced lies about his own economic record. Watch this:Did Obama tell a bold-faced lie in that short video clip? Well actually no, he didn’t. But so what? Effortlessly, Hannity conflated two terms to give his viewers the impression that they had been lied to.
OBAMA (videotape): If you're concerned about long-term debt, that's a good thing to be concerned about. But don't pretend as if America's going bankrupt at a time when the deficits have been cut in half.
HANNITY: Cut in half? $16.7 trillion in debt? He wants to lecture us on the economy? It's just reckless comments like those that have caused my next guest to become one of the most vocal and effective critics of the president and his left-wing agenda.
(At that point, he introduced Donald Trump, the “best-selling author, world-renowned businessman, TV personality,” “one of the most vocal and effective critics of the president and his left-wing agenda.”)
Are Hannity’s viewers nihilistic? Or have they been conned down through the years, the years in which people like Walsh has been kissing the keisters of wealth, fame, position and power?
Following the lead of the late Dr. King, we’re inclined to avoid the most negative possible characterization of millions of people we can’t even name. Beyond that, liberal voters are now being conned each day at the slimy Salon.
Conservative voters are relentlessly conned about budget topics. When we liberals got conned by our own “network of barking hosts,” we tend to get conned about race.
Race is the game our barkers play. Consider the latest hate-fueled philander from Salon crackpot Andrew O’Hehir.
In theory, O’Hehir is Salon’s film critic. That said, he enjoys letting his freak flag fly in his reactions to films.
Over the weekend, O’Hehir really went to it! We were still recovering from Walsh’s hate-filled mind-reading during the week, in which she told us that millions of people she doesn’t know can’t even look at Obama without thinking of miscegenation.
(And yes, that actually is what she said. By now, Walsh is blatantly out of her mind. As Dr. King understood and explained, that’s where the haters end.)
We were still recovering from that deluge of mind-reading. Then we read O’Hehir’s piece, in which the critic describes his reaction to a film about the disastrous bombing of MOVE in Philadelphia in 1985.
Needless to say, this fatal, 28-year-old bombing reminded O’Hehir of what the GOP base is thinking today, during the moments when they can get their minds off miscegenation. These are the headlines some overwrought “editor” propped atop his piece:
White America says “Let the Fire Burn”Predictably, we’re told that the Philadelphia firebombing of 1985 can tell us about “the culture of white rage” which led to the current shutdown. Indeed:
What the Philadelphia firebombing of 1985 can tell us about the culture of white rage that led to the shutdown
In the headline, which O’Hehir presumably didn’t write, “white America” is said to be saying, “Let the fire burn.” That phrase was uttered in 1985 by Wilson Goode, Philadelphia’s mayor.
Mayor Goode was black. Inside the brains of O’Hehir and/or his editor, “white America” is now shouting that unfortunate phrase.
Alas! In the modern context, liberals get conned by people like O’Hehir, just as conservatives get conned by Hannity. As a general matter, they get conned by overwrought and inaccurate statements about deficit and debt. We get conned by overwrought and inaccurate statements about race.
As is often the case in modern “liberal” race writing, O’Hehir’s statements are so overwrought that they are often hard to paraphrase and critique. That said, the analysts were already wailing by the time they hit this fiery passage:
O’HEHIR (10/5/13): Statistics and recent electoral history paint a deceptive picture of an increasingly diverse society that mostly appears harmonious, despite worsening economic inequality: White births are now a minority, the white majority population continues to shrink toward 50 percent, and a moderate biracial Democrat has been comfortably elected president twice, winning several previously conservative states. But a great many white people, more than anyone really wants to admit, find these facts profoundly troubling. They have been pandered to for generations by conservative politicians who assured them that their mythological vision of a white-picket-fence, exurban America was more authentic than anyone else’s. I remember covering George H.W. Bush on the campaign trail in 1992–the son of a senator and Wall Street banker, raised in Greenwich, Conn., and educated at Phillips Andover and Yale–when his stump speech included lines about “rural America, real America.”That passage could provide the motto for the new Salon: Our diverse society may appear harmonious. Liberals, don’t be fooled!
As Candidate Reagan once famously said, there [they] go again! Mind-reading beautifully, O’Hehir is able to tell us that “a great many white people, more than anyone really wants to admit,” find it “profoundly troubling” that white births are now a minority.
Presumably, these white people have this reaction after they stop obsessing on miscegenation, the involuntary reaction they suffer each time they see Obama’s face. At any rate, a large number of these white people seem to have this reaction, based on O’Hehir’s statement.
But what exactly is this number? O’Hehir doesn’t say, for an obvious reason. In point of fact, he doesn’t have the first f*cking idea what he’s talking about when he makes that sweeping, ominous claim. He’s simply talking hate.
In the words of the old Negro spiritual, he is teaching Salon’s misused readers to “study war.”
Can we talk? It isn’t that nobody wants to admit how many “white people” feel that way! In fact, nobody has the slightest idea what that number might be! Nobody except the haters, who always think they know such things about the groups they despise.
That claim is part of O’Hehir’s unintentional comedy, which runs all through his piece. But we summoned our research team from their stalls when we saw that quotation from Bush.
There is no doubt that Candidate Bush did some semi-slimy campaigning in 1992. (In 1988, he was worse.) If memory serves, and it sometimes doesn’t, this was especially true down the stretch, as polling began to suggest that Clinton was going to win.
(That’s when Candidate Gore became “Ozone Man.” That’s when the stories began to spread about the time Candidate Clinton, then a Rhodes Scholar in England, had gone to the Soviet Union.)
That said, we couldn’t help wondering: did Candidate Bush’s standard stump speech include lines about “rural America, real America?” If memory serves, voters were pandered to by Bush that year. But is it true that they were pandered to in that particular way?
O’Hehir put quotation marks around his four-word phrase. Except when haters get their hate on, that means the person in question actually said the actual words inside the actual marks.
In this case, O’Hehir was a bit fuzzy in his claim, as such people often are. We were told that Bush had lines about that quoted phrase in his stump speech. Did Bush’s stump speech have any such lines? We summoned our research cadre.
In fairness to the overwrought O’Hehir, who suggests that he may be working from memory, it’s impossible to prove that a candidate didn’t say something. That is especially true if we’re going back 21 years.
That said, let’s get literal, and let’s do the best we can. The Nexis archive includes no record of Candidate Bush ever using the phrase O’Hehir gave the impression of quoting: “rural America, real America.” That certainly looks like a quotation. But the Nexis archive records no instance in which the quotation was quoted.
That doesn’t mean it never was said, although we’ll guess it wasn’t. Searching further, we split that apparent quotation into its two parts.
Bush was sometimes quoted referring to “rural America,” as candidates always do. But uh-oh! In the Washington Post, the AP and the New York Times, we could find only one instance where Bush was quoted referring to the “real America.”
Beyond that, only one such statement by Bush turns up in the Nexis archive of news broadcasts from that year. In September, with the race slipping away, CNN recorded the candidate saying this:
ANCHOR DAVID FRENCH (9/26/92): Questions about the past continue to dog both presidential candidates. For President Bush, it's the Iran-Contra affair and how much he knew about it. CNN's Mary Tillotson reports the issue keeps seeping into the campaign.According to Bush, Ohio and Michigan were “the heart of America, the real America.” For ourselves, we regard that rather familiar type of statement as an obvious form of pandering.
TILLOTSON: President Bush is traveling in a time warp, by train this weekend, borrowing a page from Harry Truman's historic comeback campaign of 1948, hoping for the same happy ending too.
BUSH (videotape): And now we're off to Marysville and Arlington and Bowling Green and then on into Michigan, the heart of America, the real America, and with this spirit we see here today, we are going to win this election. Thank you all very much.
TILLOTSON (videotape): If there's one issue that concerns you about this election, it is?
OHIO CITIZEN (videotape): The economy and how it affects me when I raise my kids.
OHIO CITIZEN (videotape): I think jobs. Jobs are the most important thing right now. I have a lot of friends who are out of work.
TILLOTSON: Here in Ohio, unemployment is 7.6 percent, the national average. Ohio's a bellwether state that went for George Bush in 1988 but polls this year are showing Ohio may be Clinton country. Next door in Michigan where Mr. Bush campaigned Sunday, unemployment is even higher and so are Clinton's chances of winning. The President's mission as he rides the rails this weekend—persuade voters Clinton would be a change for the worse, not the better.
BUSH (videotape): And he's not going to stop at just taxing the rich, he's going to raise taxes on the middle and I'm not going to let him do it.
TILLOTSON: While Mr. Bush is telling voters not to trust Clinton, a new CNN-Time poll says a lot of voters do not trust Mr. Bush's contention that he was 'out of the loop' on the Iran-Contra scandal...
But here’s something else we regard as pandering: relying on your sacred memory to embellish a statement like that. Then using the embellished quote to tell gullible liberals that it helps us see that “a great many white people”—all in the other tribe, of course—find it “profoundly troubling” that white births are now a minority.
O’Hehir has no f*cking idea who does or doesn’t think that. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He is simply pimping hate speech, the way Dr. King never did.
In all honesty, O’Hehir’s entire piece reads like something composed on some compromised acid. The following passage precedes the paragraph we’ve already quoted. O’Hehir, a genuine flyweight, records the way the film about MOVE hit him:
O’HEHIR: Welcome to America, people, where the past, as Faulkner famously observed, is not even past. That wrenching story of hope and hatred from 28 years ago hit me especially hard in this year of white rage and white derangement, the year of George Zimmerman and Paula Deen and a government shutdown engineered entirely by a small group of congressmen who represent a lily-white, neo-Confederate nation within a nation. Half a century of evil and insidious racial politicking has brought us to this point of right-wing wish-fulfillment apocalypse, along with the profoundly racist congressional gerrymander of 2010 and the creeping fear among many white Americans that the country they thought they understood—thought they owned—has been yanked out from under their feet.Was this “the year of Paula Deen?” You really have to be obsessed to write something as silly as that—obsessed, or a pandering clown.
O’Hehir is such a person! Quickly, he moves to the claim that the people our tribe hates are “a lily-white, neo-Confederate nation within a nation.” We’re not sure what “lily-white” means at this point, but the so-called Tea Party plainly isn’t all white. And when we start throwing “Confederate” around, aren’t we dropping the domestic equivalent of “Nazi,” the ultimate N-bomb?
By the way: How would liberals react to the claim that some branch of the Democratic Party is “jet black?” And by the way: what makes the 2010 redistricting profoundly racist? Eventually, the R-bomb isn’t enough for desperate haters like these. They have to find ways to jack up their claims, sending more rush through their veins.
Hannity is an obvious hustler. O’Hehir is a rather obvious nut. This is the way he follows his claim that Candidate Bush went around talking about “rural America, real America:”
O’HEHIR: Of course “real America” hasn’t been rural since the 19th century, and white panic about the changing nature of American society goes clear back to “No Irish Need Apply,” the “gentleman’s agreement” that barred Jews from elite universities and the housing covenants that prevented black families from moving to the suburbs even in states where there was never legal segregation. (F. Scott Fitzgerald specifically mocks this racial paranoia in the character of Tom Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby,” published in 1925.) Every time we suppress that stuff in American life, it comes boiling back up in a different form, and the government shutdown strikes me as a long-delayed sequel to Pickett’s Charge, a self-appointed and doomed crusade on behalf of White America, flipping the multicultural usurpers the double-handed bird as it burns down the house. It would almost be noble, if it weren’t evil and pathetic and damaging.It’s certainly true that racial and religious bigotry play key roles in American history. But is there really a “white panic” going on about the changing nature of American society? O’Hehir uses episodes from our brutal history to let him advance his hate-filled claims, which the rubes will gratefully purchase. And eventually, for people like this, it’s all about the way a bunch of things “strike you.”
Good lord! Inside O’Hehir’s very weak brain, the current government shutdown “strikes him” as a version of a battle from—what else?—the Civil War! But then, everything that happens on earth “strikes” this overwrought fellow that way! That’s what it means to be obsessed, to be driven by the love of hate.
(Quick note to the flyweight O’Hehir: being “struck” a certain way isn't a form of evidence!)
If you really want to punish yourself, read O’Hehir’s entire piece, including the part where he aligns himself with Walsh’s mind-reading from last week. You might even click the link to his recent piece about New Orleans and Detroit, where his ability to construct pleasing racial narratives is shown to its fullest advantage.
Anyone can “prove” any thesis if they’re allowed to trip in these ways. If they’re allowed to mind-read the thoughts of millions of people they can’t even name, people they love to hate.
Does race play a role in American life? Yes, it certainly does! By light years, race has been the most destructive force in our brutal American history.
Here’s something else that has played a key role in our history—hatred, especially hatred of groups. Gullible liberals learn that kind of hate at the brain-dead new Salon.
Dr. King didn’t play it this way. Tomorrow, we’ll recall some of the things that famous man actually said. For today, let’s peruse a few of the barkers’ favorite things.
Last night, Hannity played the rubes for the ten millionth time about the deficit and the debt. We don’t know if his viewers are “nihilistic.” But they’re certainly disinformed!
Hannity constantly cons the rubes. So do the ridiculous haters at the new Salon.
Tomorrow: Things Dr. King once said
In RE the statements of Candidate Bush: Back in 1992, what did Bush say in his stump speech?
We’d be happy to find out. Do you think O’Hehir checked?
For extra credit, here's Anthony Lewis, trashing Bush for the way he campaigned as the campaign ended.