Sunday, September 27, 2009

Just Another Wingnut Sunday

If you missed it, the National Review's Michael Ledeen had a rather remarkable item the other day, which speaks to a larger truth.
Is Obama Naive? I don't think so. I think that he rather likes tyrants and dislikes America. I think he'd like to be more powerful, I think he is trying to get control over as much of our lives as he can, so that he can put an end to the annoying tumult of our public life. As when he said (about health care) to the Congress, "Okay, you've talked enough, now it's time to do the right thing (my thing)." And he's trying to end American power in the outside world. He's saying "I'm going to stop us, before we kill again."
There is nothing unusual about elitist hatred of freedom. Back in the 18th century, when book publishing really got going, British authors were infuriated that they had to submit to the judgment of a marketplace. They didn't want to be judged by people who were obviously inferior to them, and there was a great rage among the intelligentsia, including some very famous men. And in modern times, we can all name famous intellectuals who fawned all over Mussolini, Stalin, Fidel, and even Hitler.
American politics are very fractious, and always have been. Leaders are constantly frustrated, and some of them come to yearn for an end to our freedom. They think they know best, they just want to tell us what to do and have us shut up and do it. I think Obama is one of them.
National Review's Andy McCarthy enthusiastically endorsed the argument, noting the president's "personal terrorist pals like Bill Ayers."
I'd like to think it goes without saying, but for the record, Leeden's (and McCarthy's) observation is strikingly dumb. It's almost a parody of unhinged conservative apoplexy -- the president "likes tyrants," "dislikes America," "hates freedom," and wants to be an authoritarian tyrant. This is Glenn Beck-like derangement under the banner of National Review.
And that was the angle that stood out for me reading Leeden's nonsense. To be sure, National Review's record of conservatism has at times been humiliating -- it's staunch opposition to civil rights, for example -- but in time, the magazine tried to position itself as a source of serious political commentary.
Now it's paying Michael Ledeen and Andy McCarthy.
The larger trend is hard to miss. Over the last couple of decades, the line between the GOP establishment/leadership and the unhinged GOP base has become blurred. At the same time, the line between the analysis offered by "serious" and "respectable" conservative voices and the unbalanced tirades put forward by the nutty conservative fringe has all but disappeared.
Think Progress: Bachmann dodges question about murdered Census worker. 
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was in St. Louis, MO today for the right-wing How to Take Back America Conference, which features panels such as “How to stop feminist and gay attacks on the military” and “How to recognize living under Nazis & Communists.” The Washington Independent’s Dave Weigel attended the conference and attempted to catch up with Bachmann to ask her about the murdered Census worker in Kentucky, but she evaded his question:
After the speech, Bachmann had only a few minutes to sign autographs and collect a stack of CDs and books from fans who’d followed her into the lobby. I caught up to her as she headed outside and asked if she had any response to the murder of a Kentucky census worker, having noticed that the Census, a constant target for Bachmann, did not figure into her speech. Bachmann recoiled a little at the question and turned to enter her limo.
“Thank you so much!” she said.
Over the summer, Bachmann waged a high-profile, wildly-dishonest campaign against the Census, going so far as to claim that the data collected had been used to round up and intern Japanese-Americans in the 1940s.
I have no way of knowing if every anecdote from Matt Latimer's "Speechless" is accurate. For that matter, it's certainly possible that some are true and some are less true.
But Eric Zimmermann highlighted a story that that certainly seems plausible. It's about a speech in which then-President George W. Bush decided to endorse a cap-and-trade policy in a high-profile speech, but no one could figure out exactly what he meant.
Connaughton, Bolten and others wanted the president to give a climate change speech. They thought that it would make our allies in Europe happy, and they were constantly pushing the president to the left on the issue. The small but merry band of conservatives in the White House -- who were suspicious of climate change and the movement behind it -- were opposed to any shift in our policy. They were adamantly against any speech supporting a cap-and-trade policy -- a mandate on business to curb their CO2 emissions.
At one point, the words cap and trade were put into the climate change speech, with the president expressing his support for the policy. Then somehow this leaked to the conservative press. Republicans on the outside of the White House sent furious objections, and the words were removed. But only those words. The rest of the speech endorsing that policy remained. After days and days of postponements and fights, the president finally gave the speech. Conservatives in the West Wing were deflated by their loss in the policy battle.
And then something miraculous happened. Because the speech had been so parsed and litigated, no one could quite understand what the president was saying. The press therefore assumed nothing had really changed. So the next day the media reported that the president had in fact come out against cap and trade. A White House spokesman even said that the words cap and trade had never been included in any drafts of the speech, which was flat-out false. The president marveled at his good fortune. He'd changed his policy to please one side, but since he seemed not to have changed a thing, he'd also pleased the other. Indecipherable speechwriting at its finest. [emphasis added throughout]
Again, I haven't seen independent confirmation of this, and I'm not even sure exactly what speech is at issue here. But this doesn't seem especially hard to believe.
For that matter, the notion that a conservative Republican president could come around to embracing a cap-and-trade proposal is a reminder that the right need not throw a fit about this. On the right, it's entirely too common to ignore evidence of global warming altogether, but for those willing to concede the need to limit emissions, cap and trade is a market-based mechanism, which has worked in the past, as compared to command-and-control directives.
Hell, even McCain and Palin offered at least tacit support for some kind of cap-and-trade mechanism last year.

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