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“My Break With The Extreme Right”: Mass Hysteria That Cares Nothing For Truth Or Dignity

Gosh! When did I end up in bed with Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber? Could it be because I did specialize in blowing things up while serving my country for four years as an airborne combat engineer? I also watched human beings blown up. I had friends and Navy SEALs I was in battle with blown up. My own intestines exploded on the first of my four combat embeds, three in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Took seven operations to fix the plumbing. I later suffered other permanent injuries.

Yet now I find myself linked not only with the Unabomber, but also Charles Manson and Fidel Castro. Or so says the Chicago-based think tank the Heartland Institute, for which I’ve done work. Heartland erected billboards depicting the above three declaring: “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?” Climate scientists now, evidently, share something in common with dictators and mass murderers. Reportedly bin Laden was scheduled to make such an appearance, too.

You see, I’ve published articles saying I do “believe in global warming.” Yes, I’ve also questioned the extent to which man-made gases have contributed to that warming and concluded that expenditures to reduce those emissions would be as worthless as they’d be horrifically expensive. No matter; just call me “Ted.” Or “Charlie.” Or “Fidel.”

This is nuts! Literally. As in “mass hysteria.” That’s a phenomenon I wrote about for a quarter-century, from the heterosexual AIDS “epidemic” to the swine flu “pandemic” that killed vastly fewer people than seasonal flu, to “runaway Toyotas.” Mass hysteria is when a large segment of society loses touch with reality, or goes bonkers, if you will, on a given issue – like believing that an incredibly mild strain of flu could kill eight times as many Americans as normal seasonal flu. (It killed about a third as many.)

I was always way ahead of the curve. And my exposés primarily appeared in right-wing publications. Back when they were interested in serious research. I also founded a conservative college newspaper, held positions in the Reagan administration and at several conservative think tanks, and published five books that conservatives applauded. I’ve written for umpteen major conservative publications – National Review, the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, among them.

But no longer. That was the old right. The last thing hysteria promoters want is calm, reasoned argument backed by facts. And I’m horrified that these people have co-opted the name “conservative” to scream their messages of hate and anger.

Extremism in the defense of nothing

Nothing the new right does is evidently outrageous enough to receive more than a peep of indignation from the new right. Heartland pulled its billboards because of funder withdrawals, not because any conservatives spoke up and said it had crossed a line.

Last month U.S. Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican recently considered by some as vice-president material, insisted that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party, again with little condemnation from the new right.

Mitt Romney took a question at a town hall meeting this month from a woman who insisted President Obama be “tried for treason,” without challenging, demurring from or even commenting on her assertion.

And then there’s the late Andrew Breitbart (assassinated on the orders of Obama, natch). A video from February shows him shrieking at peaceful protesters: “You’re freaks and animals! Stop raping people! Stop raping people! You freaks! You filthy freaks! You filthy, filthy, filthy raping, murdering freaks!” He went on for a minute-and-a-half like that. Speak not ill of the dead? Sen. Ted Kennedy’s body was barely cold when Breitbart labeled him “a big ass motherf@#$er,” a “duplicitous bastard” a “prick” and “a special pile of human excrement.”

The new right loved it! Upon his own death shortly after, Breitbart was immediately sanctified and sent to lead the Seraphim. He was repeatedly eulogized as “the most important conservative of our time never to hold office,” skipping right past William F. What’s-his-name Jr.

There was nothing “conservative” about Breitbart. Ever-consummate gentlemen like Buckley and Ronald Reagan would have been mortified by such behavior as Breitbart’s – or West’s or Heartland’s. “There you go again,” the Gipper would have said in his soft but powerful voice.

Civility and respect for order – nay, demand for order – have always been tenets of conservatism. The most prominent work of history’s most prominent conservative, Edmund Burke, was a reaction to the anger and hatred that swept France during the revolution. It would eventually rip the country apart and plunge all of Europe into decades of war. Such is the rotted fruit of mass-produced hate and rage. Burke, not incidentally, was a true Tea Party supporter, risking everything as a member of Parliament to support the rebellion in the United States.

All of today’s right-wing darlings got there by mastering what Burke feared most: screaming “J’accuse! J’accuse!” Turning people against each other. Taking seeds of fear, anger and hatred and planting them to grow a new crop.

Conservatism has also historically emphasized empiricism. Joe Friday of “Dragnet” must have been a conservative: “All we want are the facts, Ma’am.” When President Reagan famously said, “Facts are stupid things,” he meant to quote President John Adams’ observation that “Facts are stubborn things.” But how much fact was there in Heartland’s billboards, whose shock purpose has been likened to tactics of the hard-left animal activist group PETA, with whom I’ve repeatedly locked horns. Or in West’s assertion? Or Breitbart’s tirades? Rush Limbaugh compared Breitbart, who never wrote a single investigative report, to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the dynamic duo who brought down the thoroughly corrupt presidency of Richard Nixon. He actually said Breitbart’s work was superior. Oh, dear!

I know these words coming from somebody identified with the right are heresy – as defined by this new right. An invite to a marshmallow roast with you as guest of honor. Or worse. It’s to be labeled with the ultimate epithet: RINO. Republican in name only. GOP Sen. Scott Brown bears that mark of Cain. Coming from super-liberal Massachusetts, he only has a 74 percent American Conservative Union rating. There you go, then!

So there’s an auto-da-fé out there right now with my name on it. Torquemada is holding the torch; the wieners and s’mores are flying off the shelves. Truth be known, though, I haven’t considered myself a Republican since 1982. Why? That was the year of the massive Reagan tax hike. I figured that’s what liberal Democrats are for. Tore up my donor card and never gave again. By being a conservative at that time, I was a RINO. By being one now, I’m also a RINO. A very curious animal, that.

The hate, anger and fear machine

A single author, Ann Coulter, has published best-selling books accusing liberals, in the titles, of being demonic, godless and treasonous. Michelle Malkin, ranked by the Internet search company PeekYou as having the most traffic of any political blogger, routinely dismisses them as “moonbats, morons and idiots.” Limbaugh infamously dispatched a young woman who expressed her opinion that the government should provide free birth control as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

As a conservative, I disagree with the political opinions of liberals. But to me, a verbal assault indicates insecurity and weakness on the part of the assaulter, as in “Is that the best they can do?” This playground bullying – the name-calling, the screaming, the horrible accusations – all are intended to stifle debate, the very lifeblood of a democracy.

Meanwhile, these people who practice shutting down the opposition through shouts and smears accuse President Obama of having dictatorial dreams? A recent email I received, based on accusations from umpteen right-wing groups, blared in caps-lock fury: “BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA HAS SIGNED A MARTIAL LAW EXECUTIVE ORDER!” This specific message, from a group calling itself RightMarch.org, goes on: “THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! BARACK OBAMA IS TRYING TO VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTION, BECOME A DICTATOR, AND TAKE AWAY OUR RIGHTS!”

Outrageous, indeed. Obama’s order updated a National Defense Resource Preparedness act, which was essentially identical to one signed 19 years earlier and actually originated in 1950. It granted no authority to Obama that he did not already have under existing laws.

President Obama is regularly referred to as a Marxist/Socialist, Nazi, tyrant, Muslim terrorist supporter and – let me look this up, but I’ll bet probably the antichrist, too. Yup, there it is! Over 5 million Google references. There should be a contest to see if there’s anything for which Obama hasn’t been accused. Athlete’s foot? The “killer bees”? Maybe. In any case, the very people who coined and promoted such terms as “Bush Derangement Syndrome, Cheney Derangement Syndrome and Palin Derangement Syndrome” have been promoting hysterical attitudes toward Obama since before he was even sworn in.

No, I’m not cherry-picking. When I say “regularly referred to,” interpret literally. Polls show that about half of voting Republican buy into the birther nonsense (one of the more prominent hysterias within the hysteria). Only about a fourth seem truly sure that Obama was actually born here. In her nationally syndicated column Michelle Malkin wrote regarding Limbaugh’s slut remarks, that “I’m sorry the civility police now have an opening to demonize the entire right based on one radio comment.” In a stroke she’s expressed her disdain for civility and declared the new right’s sins can be dispatched as an itsy-bitsy little single faux pas, “one radio comment.”

No, Michelle, incivility – nay, outright meanness and puerility – rears its ugly head daily on your blog, which as I write this on May 23 has one item referring in the headline to “Pig Maher’s boy [Bill Maher]” and another to “Jaczko the Jerk,” [former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko]. She calls Limbaugh target Sandra Fluke a “femme-agogue” and her supporters “[George] Soros monkeys.” Pigs? Monkeys? Moonbats? It’s literal dehumanization.

Sure, there are enough hate-and-anger mongers on the left to go around. Among the worst was Keith Olbermann, who once called Malkin a “mashed up bag of meat with lipstick on it.” Very edifying, Keith! But as the Christian Science Monitor reported, his ratings recently collapsed from an average of 354,000 viewers a night when he debuted on Current TV, to 58,000 viewers by the first quarter of 2012. He was recently fired. Again. Air America was intended to counter right-wing talk radio, especially Rush Limbaugh. I was on Al Franken’s show while he made fun of a soldier from my first battle who is now permanently paralyzed. Touché, Al! But Air America also failed.

Malkin, who revels in playing the victim, says that she’s been called all sorts of horrible things, many based on her Filipina heritage. But most of what she cites come from email or anonymous comments on blog sites. It wasn’t usually from paid professionals with large audiences, like her, aimed at paid professionals like her. It’s thus hard to compare with the host of the most popular talk show host in history taking shots at an unknown 22-year-old woman. (She’s hardly that now; Limbaugh himself promoted her to a national spokeswoman.)

Incivility is hardly the domain of the new right. American society grows ever coarser. But this is cold comfort. Conservative ideology demands civility of conservatives; demands, yes, self-policing. Let others act as they will, bearing evidence of the shallowness of their positions. It also demands respect for official offices, such as the presidency. When our guy is in office, you give him that modicum of respect – and when your guy is in office, we do the same. The other party is to be referred to as “the loyal opposition,” not with words the FCC forbids on the air.

Muckraking becometh buckraking

In the grief-fest at Breitbart’s death, forgiven (and indeed practically forgotten) was his crucial role in building the single most popular liberal website, the Huffington Post. Some of Breitbart’s friends admitted he was absent of ideology. “I don’t recall Andrew Breitbart ever mentioning electoral politics,” wrote Tucker Carlson. “It bored him.” Breitbart’s inspiration, then? George Washington through Benjamin Franklin – printed in primarily green ink on cotton stock.

Limbaugh pulls down a stunning $38 million annual salary. Leaked Heartland Institute documents revealed it’s gotten over $14 million in the past six years from a single individual. RightMarch.com accompanied the Obama-cum-tyrant message with an offer to “Blast Fax” every member of Congress for $139 – for a profit of about $139. Surely these people have their fingers crossed that President Obama is reelected.

I personally know a lot of the leaders of this new rabid right. Most are very nice on a personal basis. Honestly, you’d be shocked. Unlike Breitbart, some began as real conservatives. One called me her mentor in her first book and attended my wedding. Many once sang my praises. Again, unlike Breitbart, Malkin was once a true investigative reporter. You can still see elements of actual research in Ann Coulter’s work, too.

But when times changed, and it became profitable to move from honorable advocacy to shrill name-calling, they changed too. They cashed in their reputations, as well as their ideology, for lucre. Those who didn’t – because conservatism runs against screaming, extremism and sensationalism – began disappearing from the talk shows, magazines and store shelves. They were replaced by pod people.

Conservatism, RIP

You cannot be identified by what you oppose, only by what you stand for. But this curious creature’s main claim to the title of “conservative” is that it hates liberals – as do liberals and lots of others on many points of the political spectrum. Obama is routinely bashed in such places as the Nation. The right-wing Nation?

Indeed in any violent anti-democratic revolution – Jacobite, Bolshevik, National Socialist – the first goal is to eliminate the real competition, those with ideals. The guys who really believed in liberty, fraternity and equality or rule by the proletariat were identified, isolated and eliminated early on to leave only two extremes to choose from. “It’s us or the Bourbons! It’s us or the Romanovs!” In Germany, the conservatives and liberals were dispatched to the labor camps before the Nazis felt safe to send the Jews to the death camps.

The new right cannot advance a conservative agenda precisely because, other than a few small holdouts like the American Conservative magazine or that battleship that refuses to become a museum, George Will, it is not itself conservative. Pod people are running the show. It has no such capability; no such desire. I find that disturbing for obvious reasons. But, based on my own conversations with liberals, I think – nay, I know – that if more of these allegedly godless, treasonous people understood real conservatism a lot would embrace many conservative positions.

Thus everybody realizes government spending has lost its airbrakes. But while the new right screams the most about big government, it nonetheless supported President George W. Bush as he presided over the largest expansion of government spending since uber-liberal FDR and left us with a massive debt before President Obama was sworn in. Why? Silly rabbit! Because the left opposed him.

The same has been said for the right’s otherwise seemingly unfathomable enchantment with Sarah Palin; it’s a defense of their damsel in distress. The veracity of the left’s claims about her are irrelevant. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Or so thought that uber-liberal FDR about good ol’ “Uncle Joe” right to the end, even as conservative Winston Churchill tried desperately to convince him otherwise. And so fell the Iron Curtain.

Eating its own

Obsessed with attacking, the new right will carpet-bomb positions of the old right if the left comes around to it.

Thus the right has traditionally opposed government subsidies. My first cover story was in Buckley’s National Review, arguing against ethanol subsidies that ultimately grew to $6 billion annually. But when the Senate sought to repeal the subsidy last year, right-wing guru and Jack Abramoff henchman Grover Norquist fought it – with the stunning argument that cutting a government subsidy is actually a tax hike in disguise!

And how ironic that for decades liberals unfairly accused conservatives of “McCarthyism” to shut down debate. (Oh, how I remember!) Yet now the right countenances a prominent congressman who has literally outdone “Tailgunner Joe.”

McCarthy’s infamous list comprised only 57 Communists who were merely State Department employees, not “78 to 81” of the nation’s top elected officials.

Pity the poor Onion; there’s nothing left to satirize.

Gridlock

Apart from gaining fame and fortune for a select few, all the new right is accomplishing is turning Bismarck’s words upside down, making politics the art of the impossible. It demonizes the opposition even as it brutally enforces “team loyalty.” So nothing gets done, and bad trends just get worse.

For many, the American dream became a nightmare long ago. It’s little wonder that Americans are afraid and angry.

One member of the new right seemed to acknowledge that reckless character assassination was merely stalemating the system. “Let’s come back to the issues,” he told NPR in an interview last year. “Let’s come back to talking about how do we set the conditions here in Washington, D.C., for long-term sustainable economic and job growth.” Unfortunately, that was congressman Allen West.

The right didn’t create this reservoir of fear, anger and hate. But it has both tapped into it and roiled it. Indeed, the right-wing mass hysteria is what sociologists call a “moral panic.” It occurs when a society is undergoing a wrenching transformation. Somebody then comes along and creates a “folk devil” both to provide an explanation for bad conditions, real or imagined, and a target. Kill the devil; eliminate the bad conditions. But the right has no serious incentive to help solve or ameliorate these problems. Indeed, as with the reelection of Obama, it will benefit from their continuation or worsening.

So animosity has now reached levels both hysterical and historical. The last time anything like this occurred was during World War II, when at least it was aimed outward. Before that? Just before the Civil War.

Back then a tall bearded Republican declared, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Just another one of those idiot, moron, “duplicitous bastard” RINOs.

By: Michael Fumento, Salon, May 24, 2012

May 26, 2012 Posted by | GOP, Ideologues | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mean Girl Racist Cheerleader” Sarah Palin: Obama Wants to Make White People Slaves

Sarah Palin is back in the news again for all the wrong reasons. Last night on The Sean Hannity Show, she proclaimed that President Obama wants to take America back to the days before the Civil War. Yes, you read that correctly. The African-American president wants to make us slaves again. Sigh.

Palin’s over the top proclamation was coded in one of her specialty word salads that few can translate. Since I have been called the Palin Whisperer by one of my Twitter followers, let me give you the short version: Obama wants to make white people slaves!!!! In case you don’t want to watch the video, here’s the transcript:

PALIN: Well, what we can glean from this is an understanding of why we are all on the road that we are on and it’s based on what went into his thinking, being surrounded by radicals. He is bringing us back Sean to days that… you can harken back to days before the Civil War, when unfortunately too many Americans mistakenly believed that not all men were created equal. And it was the Civil War that began the codification of the truth here in America… yes, we are equal and we all have equal opportunities, not based on the color of your skin.

You have equal opportunities to work hard and to succeed and to embrace the opportunities, god given opportunities to develop resources and work extremely hard and as I say, to succeed.

Now, it has taken all these years for many Americans to understand that that gravity, that mistake, took place before the Civil War and why the Civil War had to really start changing America. What Barack Obama seems to want to do is go back to before those days when we were in different classes based on income, based on color of skin.

Why are we allowing our country to move backwards instead of moving forward with that understanding that as our charters of liberty spell out for us, we are all created equally.

Palin’s civil war screed was in the middle of a longersegment about the supposed smoking gun video from the late Andrew Breitbart, with then law student Barack Obama, introducing Prof. Derrick Bell at Harvard. Bell, a noted scholar on race who passed away recently, is being vilified by conservatives as one of the terrorist types, like Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright that the president had associations with. The video has been seen by the public before, and was shock-edited by Brietbart and his minions in much the same way that the Shirley Sherrod video was. The video is at best innocuous, but Palin, in her Fox News role as mean girl racist cheerleader, is still beating Breitbart’s fake drums of scandal even after his death.

Palin’s offensive word salad on Sean Hannity was a Tour de farce in her attempt to turn people away from the HBO movie Game Change which focuses in on the choice of Palin as the vice presidential candidate and the trouble that ensued from bringing her on the Republican Ticket. Palin has been in full-tilt mode, bringing out her supporters to condemn the movie, in an attempt to deflect the depiction of her performance as a troubled, unstable VP candidate. Palin’s obsession with President Obama’s vetting as a candidate only serves to put the spotlight back on how unprepared Palin was not only as a candidate, but to take the office of vice president.

Make no mistake Palin may not be running for president, but she is trying every way she knows how to get back into play. By dog whistling “race” through a convoluted reinterpretation of the president, Palin is tuning up her white-mother-of-the-nation racist rally-cry back in full-throated roar. Palin may confound the media, but her loyalists completely understand her scrambled message.

Palin is also teasing about a brokered convention, and being willing to serve. These are merely code words to try to rally her flagging base of supporters to give money to SarahPac. To push back on the HBO movie, SarahPac commissioned a video, “Game change we can believe in,” a highlight reel of Palin on the 2008 campaign trail. Of course, the Pac is fundraising on the movie, hoping to get $20.12 for the 2012 race.

While Rick Santorum has taken Palin’s 2008 role over as Super Christian out on the campaign trail (with songs being written about him, no less), Palin’s star is on the wane. Since proclaiming she would not run for president in 2012, Palin has been in political limbo. Her followers at Conservatives 4 Palin have waned, and she even accepted a speaking role at CPAC, a convention she turned down three years running. Palin’s glory days are in her rearview mirror, but if she wants to keep up, she needs a Game Change. Bumpits, high-heeled shoes, and a bad attitude just aren’t working for her like they used to.

 

By: Anthea Butler, Religion Dispatches, March 9, 2012

March 10, 2012 Posted by | Civil War, Racism | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Message Is Always The Same”: The Race-Baiting Continues

I’ve been holding off on writing something about the bizarre spectacle of the Derrick Bell “exposé” that has consumed the nuttier corners of the right in the last couple of days, simply because it’s so weird and pathetic that I wasn’t sure exactly how to talk about it beyond simple ridicule.

In case you missed it, here’s the story, briefly: Just before he died, conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart said his web enterprises would soon release an explosive video that would transform the 2012 election by revealing Barack Obama’s radical ties.

The video turned out to be of something that was not only utterly unremarkable, but had been reported before. In 1991, when Obama was a student at Harvard Law School, the school was embroiled in a controversy over the under-representation of minorities on the faculty. Derrick Bell, the first black tenured professor at the school and a widely admired figure in legal circles, announced that he would take a leave until the school made efforts to hire more minority faculty. Obama spoke at a rally in support of Bell, and in support of more minorities on the faculty. And that’s the shocking revelation. Oh, and one more thing that conservatives are up in arms about—they hugged. Really.

Over at Breitbart’s web site, I count eight separate pieces on Derrick Bell (who died last year), trying to make the case that he was some kind of insane radical pushing radical theories of radicalism, all with the intention of oppressing white people, which is obviously what Barack Obama is up to as well. Just to get a flavor, here’s an excerpt from one of the articles:

Racialism is so woven into the thinking of Bell, and many believe Barack Obama, any white individual, regardless of ideology or personal attribute lacks the ability to understand and relate racism in America. Consequently, the notion of racial quotas is not simply based upon some idea of equality of opportunity, they must be imposed as white’s [sic] are inferior to blacks in an area Bell and Obama see as critical. While we like to think of equality as color blind, that is not the view Bell shared as a “truth” Obama embraced and encouraged others to do, as well.

You’ll notice the chain of logic, though I use that term loosely: Here’s an exaggeration of something Derrick Bell once said, “many believe” Obama thinks in the same way, here’s a leap to a parody of policies Obama doesn’t actually support, here’s a conclusion about how Obama hates white people and wants to screw them.

From the beginning of Breitbart’s enterprise, race-baiting was a key element of his attack on Barack Obama, one that continues even after his death. And he always had plenty of company, from Glenn Beck saying Obama “has a deep-seated hatred of white people,” to Rush Limbaugh’s repeated insistence to his white listeners that Obama was motivated by racial hatred in everything he did. “Obama’s entire economic program is reparations,” Limbaugh proclaimed. “The days of [minorities] not having any power are over, and they are angry,” he said. “And they want to use their power as a means of retribution. That’s what Obama’s about, gang.” When in 2009 he found a story about a white kid getting beaten up by a black kid on a school bus, Limbaugh said, “In Obama’s America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, ‘Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on.'” And yes, he did that last part in an exaggerated “black” accent.

The message is always the same: Obama and the blacks are mad, and they’re coming for you. Yet people like the Breitbart folks and Limbaugh have two problems. First, they’re running out of material. There aren’t any more shocking revelations to be had. The best they can do is try to make mountains of racial resentment out of the most innocuous molehills, like the fact that Obama supported Derrick Bell’s effort to diversify the faculty when he was a law student. And second, by now anyone who can be convinced that Obama is a secret Black Panther never thought otherwise. The guy has been president for three years. Americans are pretty familiar with him. He hasn’t actually started herding white people into concentration camps, and it’s an awfully tough sell to tell people that he might any day now.

This is a version of the larger problem conservatives have as we get into the 2012 election. The argument many of them will be making, in various forms, is this: Forget about what Obama has actually done. That doesn’t tell you anything. Let me tell you a story about his secret desires, his wicked thoughts, his venomous heart. That’s what your decision should be based on. You hear it from media bloviators, you hear it from interest groups, like the NRA screeching that if he’s re-elected Obama will outlaw guns, and you hear it from Mitt Romney, who is forever claiming that deep down Obama doesn’t much love America and wants to turn it into a European-style social-welfare state. Who are you going to believe, them, me, or or your own eyes?

Watching this stuff is immensely dispiriting, I’ll grant you. But it should be some consolation that it doesn’t seem to be working.

 

By: Paul Waldman, The American Prospect, March 9, 2012

March 10, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Alert The Media: Newt Gingrich Will Never Be President

It’s beginning to look like when Haley Barbour shuffled off into the Mississippi sunset, saying he just couldn’t commit to a 10-year presidential crusade, he left his draft campaign playbook sitting on a garbage can, and Newt Gingrich picked it up. Barbour, you’ll recall, was trying out a new approach to race in the Obama era: Jim Crow wasn’t “that bad,” the white-supremacist White Citizens Councils kept down the KKK, and nobody could make him denounce an effort by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to dedicate a license plate to KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, either. “I don’t go around denouncing people,” declared the man who denounced Democrat Ronnie Musgrove for efforts to remove the Confederate flag from Mississippi’s state flag. I said at the time that Barbour was trying out the notion that post-Obama, people — particularly white people leaning Republican — are ready for an approach that says let’s quit all this whining about racism, it wasn’t that bad, it’s time to get back to the business of cutting taxes for the rich and programs for the poor.

Well, Newt Gingrich seems to have wandered by the garbage can to pick up Barbour’s draft playbook, and it’s all unfolding as planned. He’s getting hit for calling President Obama “the food stamp president”; even David Gregory heard the racial imagery in the term, given the way Republicans have long loved to associate welfare programs with black people. Ronald Reagan famously railed against Cadillac-driving “welfare queens” and “strapping young bucks” buying “T-bone steaks” with food stamps; Barbour actually praised Head Start, because some of the kids in it “would be better off sitting up on a piano bench at a whorehouse than where they are now.” I called Gingrich’s remarks “coded racism” yesterday, and today right-wingers were up in arms, pointing out that most food stamp recipients are white. This is absolutely true of most welfare programs, which is why the GOP association of welfare with black people has always seemed, well, racist.

But let me be clear: I might not have paid attention to Gingrich’s “food stamp president” jibe had it not come along with a panorama of images designed to make clear Barack Obama is blackity black black. Praising right-wing Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Gingrich said he’ll make the U.S. more like Texas, while Obama only “knows how to get the whole country to resemble Detroit.” In the speech to Georgia Republicans where he tried out the “food stamp president” slur, Gingrich also told the bastion of the old Confederacy that 2012 would be the biggest election since 1860 — you know, when Abraham Lincoln got elected and the South began to secede over slavery, commencing the Civil War. He also suggested the U.S. might need to bring back some kind of voting test, banned under the Voting Rights Act. Last year, of course, Gingrich denounced Obama’s “Kenyan anti-colonialist behavior,” which made him “outside our comprehension” as Americans, spreading the lie that Obama inherited angry African anti-colonialism from his absent African father, though he was raised by his white mother and grandparents. Oh, and he headed the drive to label Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor “racist” when she was nominated in 2009.

So let’s review: Welfare slur? Check. Tie to a troubled, mainly black city? Check. Specious association with African anti-colonialism? Check. Dire reference to Lincoln and the start of the Civil War, while campaigning deep in the heart of Dixie? Check. Suggestion we need a voter test? Check. Oh, and for good measure, calling liberals concerned about racial injustice “racist”? Check. Awesome: They’ve hit pretty much every way the GOP has used to divide Americans by race in the last 200 years!

Great job, Newt. You’ve developed the perfect platform to run a spirited GOP campaign that attracts a cadre of aggrieved white people. You’ll never be president of the United States, but you’ll be the champion of the declining share of the country that still thrills to what we used to call dog-whistle politics: coded varieties of racism only understood by their intended audience. And all the efforts by Gingrich defenders to claim I’m the racist are just funny. One of Andrew Breitbart’s minions is leading the charge, and he lamented Monday morning on Twitter: “Would prefer to hammer Newt today over throwing Ryan under the bus, but @joanwalsh, @davidgregory, & @ebertchicago had to go & do this.” (Roger Ebert was kind enough to Tweet my Sunday Gingrich story.)

I’d advise the Breitbart gang to get back to hammering Gingrich over Paul Ryan’s politically suicidal budget plan; they should focus on the shard of people who want to debate whether Gingrich or Ryan is the leader who can lead their party off a cliff. Anyway, they’ve mistaken me for someone who cares what they have to say. Gingrich is doubling down on racial politics, and I’m going to continue to call it out when I see it.

Oh, and this is one in an occasional series of pieces on folks who will never be president, which began when Sarah Palin unraveled over the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. I didn’t get to Barbour or Mike Huckabee; they realized they would never be president all on their own. It seems silly to write the same piece on Donald Trump; it’s like saying “pigs will never fly.” But I’m sure there will be a few more to come.

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, May 16, 2011

May 16, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Conservatives, Democracy, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Newt Gingrich, Politics, Racism, Republicans, Right Wing, Taxes, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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