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How Your Heart Is Wired October 2, 2009

Posted by monty in politics.
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Let’s talk about anger.

I’m well aware that I spent much of the last eight years in a perpetual state of frustration with the various failings of the Bush administration.  From the way he handled the run-up to the Iraq war to the brouhaha over his authorization of warrantless wiretaps on U.S. citizens to his condoning of torture to his response to Hurricane Katrina to the way he repeatedly appointed (or nominated) his incompetent buddies to positions of authority. Even the self-satisfied smirk he employed in his speeches made me grind my teeth in agitation.  Even so, here are some things I never did:

I never compared him to Hitler.

I never called him a terrorist.

I never accused him of being a racist.

I never speculated about whether or not he should be assassinated.

Yet all four are those actions are just the tip of a much larger iceberg of hate and intimidation the right-wing is currently employing, supposedly in reaction to Obama’s policies.  But surely you can see this isn’t really about his legislation.  Let’s say, for instance, that you have a logical, reasoned opinion about why his health care proposal is wrong for this country.  My guess is that if you were genuinely concerned about the issue, you would attempt to debate the opposition in a way that intelligently establishes either A) why your proposal would be more effective than Obama’s plan, or B) specifically why Obama’s plan would be ineffective.  That would, I imagine, be an interesting discussion.  I don’t have a complete understanding of the workings of the health care system or the proposed reforms, so an intelligent discussion would be illuminating to me.

But we don’t get that from the right.  Instead, we hear only damning generalities that appear to be based in half-baked conspiracy theories. Obama is a socialist.  Obama wants to kill your grandma.  Obama wants to bankrupt your children.  Obama wants to see a full-fledged government takeover.  The criticisms, such as they are, aren’t about the plan, but about the right wing’s fear and hatred of Obama.

Consider some of the other arguments currently coming from the right-wing. Obama is a Muslim.  Obama was born in Kenya.  Obama wants to use his school address to indoctrinate America’s youth.  Obama wants to give free health care to illegal immigrants.  Combine this kind of thinking with the signs and the rhetoric seen and heard at Ye Olde Tea Bag Party ™ a couple weeks ago – and with the manufactured outrage accompanying something as innocuous as his trip to Copenhagen to argue in favor of Chicago as the host city for the Olympics – and it’s hard to keep insisting, as some in the Republican Party do, that this is all just a reaction to Obama’s policies.

One thing I will cop to immediately is this: I know that there were those on the Left who engaged in some of the exact same extremist dialogue during Bush’s presidency.  And I think they’re just as much to blame for the coarsening of our national dialogue as the people speaking in such a way about Obama.  Comparing Bush to Hitler is stupid.  Hitler was a much better public speaker (zing!).  In all seriousness, though, it’s not productive, and it doesn’t advance any sort of meaningful dialogue.  But I will also say this: Some of the criticism about Bush’s administration was justified, and the facts bear this out.  The 2000 election – and, arguably, 2004 – was won through shenanigans.  Bush, at the very least, manipulated intelligence (or allowed it to be manipulated by others) in order to go to war with Iraq.  His warrantless wiretaps did violate the Constitution.  But I don’t believe, with all due respect to supreme jagoff Kanye West, that the shoddy response to Hurricane Katrina is evidence of racism.  I think it’s evidence that Bush and his buddy that he appointed to head FEMA were borderline incompetent, but I don’t think it’s fair to say he hates black people.

So what’s the difference?  Much of the criticism of Bush focused on things he actually did. As far as I can tell, the only thing for which criticism can fairly be leveled at Obama is his bailout of the banks.  And, I suppose, if you’re a fan of torture and indefinite detention, his desire to close Guantanamo Bay.  But the amount of things Obama’s actually done during his nine months in office is completely disproportionate to the anger directed at him.  A vast majority of the criticism of the right-wing criticism is either delusional speculation or outright lying.

But what really bothers me about all the ranting and raving going on after Obama has only been in office for nine months is the fact that the ranters and ravers sat back for the last eight years and let Bush do anything he wanted, without reproach.  And when the Left criticized him for his policies, we were called unpatriotic.  UnAmerican.  Traitors.  Apparently, to criticize Bush is tantamount to treason; to criticize Obama is the civic duty of any good American.

What the Republicans need right now are the moderates to step up and cool things down.  To chastise the Joe Wilsons and the Michelle Bachmanns in their own party, and to encourage the public to actually – and intelligently – debate policy, as opposed to simply trying to carpet-bomb Obama’s character because they saw Glenn Beck crying on TV the other night.  Because if the Republicans in office continue to allow the fringe to be their dominant voice, I have serious worries about where all this is going to end.  We need look no further than the dead census worker found in Kentucky last week – hanging naked, bound and gagged, from a tree, with “Fed” scrawled on his chest – to see the most extreme outlet of misplaced anger.

Healthy disagreement is a good thing.  But we should all want more – and better – than what we see happening now.

*****

Current listening:

do make say think s-t

Do Make Say Think – Self-titled

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Comments»

1. Fred "Col. Matrix" Mowery - October 2, 2009

The GOP braintrust is waiting to the next election to see how the “let the crazies run the party” goes with the general population. If they get some of the House and Senate back, it will be full fledged looney time. If the gains are small, they’ll divorce the fringe completely and try to re-invent themselves. Look how quiet the more moderate Repubs. are right now. They’re positioning themselves.

My prediction – things remain status quo next cycle. A few losses and gains here and there, and Obama finds his footing after a crazy first year.


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