The more Russian President Vladimir Putin cracked down on gay rights, the more U.S. conservatives discovered a fondness for the Russian autocrat. Indeed, support for Putin among social conservatives and leaders of the religious right movement only seems to be growing.
But in recent weeks, the right’s embrace of Putin seems to have expanded well beyond social conservatives and anti-gay activists. Eric Boehlert reported on Friday on Republican media figures backing Putin with growing enthusiasm as U.S. tensions with Syria escalate.
Note that late last month, just hours before Obama addressed the nation regarding Syria, Matt Drudge bizarrely tweeted that “Putin is the leader of the free world.”
More recently, the Putin admiration society has been on full display all across the right-wing media landscape. On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh also seemed to side with Putin…. Limbaugh appeared to be impressed by the fact Russia had compiled a 100-page report blaming Syrian rebels for the chemical weapons attack, not Russia’s longtime ally, President Bashar al-Assad. Limbaugh told his listeners: “Now, I don’t know about you, but what does it feel like to have to agree with a former KGB agent?”
RedState published a piece late last week arguing, “We’ve reached a sad state of affairs when the Russian president has more credibility than [sic] the American president but that is where we are.” Pat Buchanan defended Putin after the Russian leader prosecuted a rock band that played songs Putin didn’t like.
The Washington Times‘ Ralph Peters told Fox viewers last week, “I don’t like Putin, but I respect that guy. He is tough. He delivers what he says he’ll deliver. He knows his people. He presents himself as a real He-Man.”
How far has the right’s wild-eyed contempt for President Obama gone? Far enough that conservatives can barely contain their increasingly creepy crush on the former KGB official with an authoritarian streak.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 9, 2013
We can’t be surprised by the right-wing ignorance about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the politics of the 1963 March on Washington. Today’s conservative leaders are the political descendants of the forces who fought the civil rights movement as a radical, most likely Communist plot. When the movement turned out to be wholesome and all-American, when a quarter of a million marchers descended on the capital without riots or violence 50 years ago, well, then, it had to be co-opted, it had to prove that America was living up to its highest principles, that those noble people were satisfied with what the system gave them — a Civil Rights bill and a Voting Rights bill — and they went home, and marched no more. Dr. King’s assassination five years later made it easier for them to do that.
There are so many ignorant right-wing reactions to this anniversary to talk about, but the award for the most vicious and stupid has to go to radio host Laura Ingraham, who insists that those of us who are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the march this week are trying “to co-opt the legacy of Martin Luther King into a modern-day liberal agenda.”
Actually, Ingraham is so wrong, she’s sort of right. Liberals did co-opt King’s radical, anti-corporate and antiwar agenda long ago. The King we commemorate today is a friendly shadow of his challenging, radical, visionary self. (Read Harold Meyerson on “The Socialists Who Made the March on Washington,” for a necessary corrective.)
But that’s not what the ignorant and vicious Ingraham was saying. She’s pretending King was some kind of conservative hero whose message of colorblindness – and that wasn’t his message at all – has been co-opted by liberal race-baiters and whiners and malcontents, who just won’t accept that Bobby Jindal is right when he talks about the “end of race,” because a first-generation Indian immigrant’s experience of racism is identical to that of people who were enslaved for hundreds of years, and he gets to decide when racism is over. Ingraham’s co-opting comment was just dumb. Typically dumb. What was unusually vicious, even for the often nasty radio host, was that she decided to interrupt an audio clip of the heroic Rep. John Lewis, the youngest person to speak at the march 50 years ago, speaking on Saturday, with the sound of a crackling gunshot.
A gunshot. After the assassinations of Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King, after the gunning down of so many civil rights workers over the years, Ingraham thought it was funny, or clever, or provocative, to “symbolically” cut off Lewis’ speech with the sound of a gun. The civil rights hero, who had his skull fractured on the first 1965 Selma march, falls silent in mid-sentence, as though he’d been hit by a sniper while addressing the crowd. (Listen to it on Media Matters; it’s more disturbing than you can imagine just reading about it.)
Lewis is in mid-speech, talking about the unfinished business of civil rights in America. “We must say to the Congress: fix the Voting Rights Act. We must say to the Congress: Pass comprehensive immigration reform. It doesn’t make sense that millions of our people …”
And then a shot rings out. Ingraham picks up what Lewis was saying. “OK. ‘It doesn’t make sense that millions of our people … are living in the shadows.’ They’re not only not living in the shadows, they’re appearing at the State of the Union speech. They’re actually visiting with the president in the White House. I think we have to drop that ‘living in the shadows’ thing. They might be standing on the street corner, but they’re not living in the shadows.”
Ingraham’s entitled to her opinion on immigration reform – she’s implacably against it, with her nativist buddy Pat Buchanan, who also appeared on the show – but I have to wonder why she chose to silence Lewis, symbolically at least, with a gunshot. It’s no coincidence she’s also an NRA mouthpiece whipping up fear that the government is coming for our guns. All of the white-grievance mongers are getting angrier, and their brew of pro-gun paranoia and white racial resentment is toxic. Ingraham should be ashamed of herself, but she’s just another rodeo clown, and she has no shame.
By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, August 27, 2013
Best I can tell, the furor over Jack Hunter, a long-time South Carolina-based neo-Confederate who co-authored a book with Rand Paul and then joined his Senate staff, is more or less “blowing over.” But Hunter himself may be keeping it alive by protesting his innocence and trying to cover his tracks. Even Will Folks, the famously provocative South Carolina conservative blogger (and Paulite fellow traveler) who regards the original Washington Free Beacon piece about Hunter as a neocon “hit job” on his boss, thinks he’s jumped the shark:
“The role of a radio host is different from that of a political operative,” Hunter said in a statement responding to the story. “In radio, sometimes you’re encouraged to be provocative and inflammatory. I’ve been guilty of both, and am embarrassed by some of the comments I made precisely because they do not represent me today. I was embarrassed by some of them even then.”
That certainly seems to be at odds with what Hunter said eight years ago when The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier filed a report on his controversial commentary. Back then he was totally unapologetic about his racially tinged comments – saying he “stood by every word.”
An even stronger pushback to the Hunter apologia came from his one-time editor at the Charleston City Paper, Chris Haire:
Long before last’s week Washington Free Beacon story kicked up a two-day media storm, Jack Hunter knew that the Republican establishment was working to out him as a neo-Confederate and a racist, a move he believed could hurt the one-time City Paper columnist’s boss, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. He’d even sent me an e-mail asking me to remove dozens of posts, ones that he said no longer reflected his current worldview.
While I told him that I would have removed one or two posts — it’s not uncommon for writers to hastily pen a column they later regret — I found the breadth of the request to be excessive, and to be honest, quite cowardly. Doing so, I told Jack, was a repudiation of the very persona he had created as a writer and radio personality. It was a denial of the very views that had made him a local media celebrity and a rising star in the so-called liberty movement, and as such, a slap in the face to all those who had ever supported him. It was best, I said, that if those points of views no longer applied to him, Jack should pen a column detailing how he had changed his mind, but he declined. And frankly, that told me all I needed to know about Jack’s conversion. It was solely for appearances only.
After reading Jack’s statement about last Wednesday’s controversy du jour — the one that let the rest of the U.S. know that a neo-Confederate secessionist was part of Sen. Paul’s inner circle — I still haven’t changed my mind. In his statement, Jack — much like Rand himself — tends to treat the damaging information as something akin to a youthful indiscretion, a one-time accident, or as something that was nothing more than an over-the-top personality that he had created while he was a member of the 96 Wave crew and had long-since abandoned. Rubbish. The Jack Hunter of the Charleston City Paper years was every bit as radical as the Jack Hunter of [local radio] 96 Wave.
Then Haire kinda gets mad:
Over the course of editing Jack for years, it was clear to me that when he spoke of Southerners, Southern values, and the Southern way of life, it was as if the South to him was solely populated by white people, and everyone else was an intruder or at best a historical inconvenience. Jack Hunter may have never railed against miscegenation, championed segregation, uttered a racial slur, or participated in a lynching, but it was my opinion then and it is my opinion now that Jack is the most common kind of racist, the one that doesn’t realize that he is one. In fact, like many on the right — from Pat Buchanan to Newt Gingrich to Rick Perry to Rush Limbaugh — Jack traffics in race-baiting rhetoric and repeatedly aligns himself with racists but then refuses to own up to the meaning and purpose of his actions….
And the same applies to Rand Paul.
This is why if Jack Hunter really cares about Rand Paul he’ll quit his staff and find himself a new career. The more he talks and the more his very recent history is discussed, the more it raises questions about Paul–not just for associating with the likes of Hunter, but for the parallels between Hunter’s views and his own, if not on race, then on many elements of public policy and history that touches on race.
As for Paul, he should probably spend less time lecturing African-Americans on why they should be conservatives and a lot more time convincing conservatives to listen to his arguments about the invidious racial effects of the War on Drugs. Then we’d have a lot less reason to suspect that Rand Paul is a friend of Southern Avengers everywhere.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 19, 2013
Political revolutions leave chaos in their wake. Republicans cannot shut down their presidential nominating contest just because the party is in the midst of an upheaval wrought by the growing dominance of its right wing, its unresolved attitudes toward George W. Bush’s presidency, and the terror that the GOP rank and file has stirred among the more moderately conservative politicians who once ran things.
When Pat Buchanan ran for president in the 1990s, the conservative commentator lovingly referred to his partisans as “peasants with pitchforks.” The pitchfork brigade now enjoys more power in Republican politics than even Buchanan thought possible.
Mitt Romney is still the Republican front-runner by virtue of the delegates he relentlessly piles up. But Romney keeps failing to bring this slugfest to a close. No matter how much he panders and grovels to the party’s right, its supporters will never see him as one of their own.
One senses that the conservative ultras are resigned to having to vote for Romney in November against President Obama. They are determined not to vote for him twice, using the primaries to give voice to their hearts and their guts. They will keep signaling their refusal to surrender to the Romney machine with its torrent of nasty advertisements and its continuing education courses in delegate math designed to prove that resistance is futile.
The more they are told this, the more they want to resist.
Rick Santorum is a superb vehicle for this cry of protest. He is articulate but unpolished. He has pitifully few resources compared with the vast treasury at Romney’s disposal, but this only feeds Santorum’s David narrative against the Goliath that is Team Romney.
Santorum’s purity as a social and religious conservative is unrivaled, and his traditional family life — he’s always surrounded on primary nights by a passel of kids — contrasts nicely with Newt Gingrich’s rather messy personal history. It is no accident that, while Gingrich narrowly carried the ballots of men in Tuesday’s Alabama and Mississippi primaries, he was routed among Republican women who were decisive in Santorum’s twin triumphs. It was the conservative version of the personal being the political.
And while Republicans shout to the heavens against class warfare, they are as affected as anyone by the old Jacksonian mistrust of the privileged whose football knowledge comes not from experience or ESPN but from their friendship with the owners of NFL franchises. In Mississippi and Alabama, Romney again prevailed among those with postgraduate educations and incomes of more than $100,000 a year. He was defeated by those with less money and fewer years in school.
The revolt of the right-wing masses means that Romney stands alone as the less than ideal representative of a relatively restrained brand of conservatism. The growing might of the conservative hard core, reflected in its primary victories in 2010, led other potential establishmentarians to sit out the race in the hope that the storm will eventually pass.
But having decided to run, Romney must wage a campaign of denial. He buries his old Massachusetts self and misleads about what he once believed. He even tries to run to Santorum’s right. Recently, he denounced Santorum for voting in favor of federal support for Planned Parenthood, a group to which Romney’s family once made a donation. It is an unseemly spectacle.
Bush’s efforts to craft a “compassionate conservatism” friendlier toward those in the political middle collapsed into ruins years ago. This year’s Republican candidates almost never speak Bush’s name. It is to Santorum’s discredit that he did not dare defend his perfectly defensible vote in favor of Bush’s No Child Left Behind education program. Santorum, too, fears the pitchforks wielded by those who see any exertion of federal authority as leading down a road to serfdom.
And so it is on to Illinois, the next place Romney has to win to keep the resistance at bay. The Land of Lincoln would be a fine setting for a stand in favor of a more measured form of conservatism. But it won’t happen. Romney is anxious about the power of the Republican right in downstate Illinois — the very region that opposed Honest Abe in his celebrated Senate race 154 years ago.
Once again, Romney will take the moderates for granted, ignoring the last remnants of the old Lincoln party as he chases after an elusive right. And once again, Santorum’s battle cry will challenge conservatives to have the courage to complete the revolution they started the day Barack Obama took office.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 14, 2012
During his long career as the most famous talk radio host in modern history, Rush Limbaugh has only rarely apologized for his rhetoric — so when he does, it’s worth pondering the contrition’s deeper meaning. Was his apology last week for calling a Georgetown student a “slut” just a shrewd move to undercut a potential defamation lawsuit? Was it a frightened response to an intensifying backlash from advertisers? Does it prove the power of the liberal political organizations that have an ideological ax to grind against Limbaugh?
The answer to all those queries is yes — but none of those factors is the genuine news of the matter. Instead, what makes Limbaugh’s apology so important is its context. Capping off other similar brouhahas from across the mediasphere, Limbaugh’s mea culpa — however insincere — is significant because it is proof that America may be both setting some basic standards for political discourse and rejecting the right-wing shrieks about “censorship” and “political correctness.”
Consider what preceded Limbaugh’s apology. Only a few weeks ago, MSNBC announced it had terminated its relationship with Pat Buchanan, who had become a television mainstay despite the Anti-Defamation League documenting his long record as an “unrepentant bigot.” Just prior to that, Los Angeles radio station KFI suspended two hosts for calling Whitney Houston a “crack ho”; CNN suspended commentator Roland Martin for his homophobic Super Bowl tweets; and MSNBC suspended liberal host Ed Schultz for calling a competitor a “right-wing slut.” And before that, there was the seminal big-bang moment that kicked off the whole trend: the removal of Glenn Beck from Fox News — a decision that traced its roots to an advertiser boycott after Beck insisted that President Obama has a “deep-seated hatred of white people.”
In all of these examples, as with Limbaugh’s “slut” comment, the speech in question set off a firestorm not just because it was ideologically extreme, but also because it was indisputably inappropriate. To paraphrase the jurisprudential terms surrounding pornography, it crossed the line from merely offensive to overtly obscene.
Of course, this kind of slander was tolerated for decades without so much as a peep of objection from the media powers that be. Thanks to that silence, talk radio and cable television came to be wholly defined by such political obscenity — a development that made spectacularly lucrative careers for hate-speech demagogues.
That downward spiral seemed destined to continue because any time there was even a hint of protest, the conservative movement’s powerful media intimidation machine trotted out self-righteous rants against “political correctness” and odes to the First Amendment. Looking to manufacture its own insipid version of “political correctness” that crushes dissent, this machine typically portrayed conservatives as victims, marshaling anti-censorship arguments to insinuate that bigotry, anti-Semitism, homophobia and sexism are somehow entitled to a constitutionally protected place in major media outlets.
Not surprisingly, this same argument is now being made by conservatives in defense of their disgraced heroes.
“He has every right to his ideas, as we all have the right to our own,” wrote conservative Cal Thomas in an emblematic screed criticizing MSNBC for firing Buchanan. “It’s called free speech.”
It’s certainly true that all Americans have a right to their own ideas and to advocate for those opinions on their own. But having one’s ideas broadcast to millions of Americans over the public airwaves by major media corporations is not a right. It’s a privilege.
Limbaugh’s apology, made under pressure and designed to safeguard his privilege, concedes that indisputable truth. In doing so, the talk-radio icon is implicitly acknowledging a welcome change — one in which media executives, advertisers and the larger American audience are finally declaring that privileges can be withdrawn from those who violate the most basic standards of decorum.
By: David Sirota, Salon, March 9, 2012