Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wingnuts: Epic Fail Edition

Friend Douglass offers this poem:

Yeats's "Second Coming"

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; t...he centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The "debate" over the size of the crowd for the right-wing protests in D.C. on Saturday have been painful to watch the last few days. Absurd claims and bogus photographs abound. This morning, Glenn Beck said a "university" put the number at 1.7 million, but he couldn't remember which one.

All of this has been embarrassing for a few days now, but the story didn't become farcical until today.

Yesterday on his radio program, while discussing the crowds at this weekend's 9/12 protests, Glenn Beck claimed that the London Telegraph "quote[d] a source from the Park Service, the National Park Service, saying that it is the largest march on Washington ever." This led to a good deal of confusion here, as the Telegraph article contains no such quote. Just another case of Beck making things up? Actually, the story behind this turns out to be much funnier than we could have anticipated.

Several conservative blogs have been quoting National Park Service spokesman "Dan Bana" as saying the 9/12 protest was "the largest event held in Washington, D.C., ever." This appears to be a repurposing of this quote from David Barna (who, unlike Dan Bana, appears to be a real person):

"David Barna, a Park Service spokesman, said the agency did not conduct its own count. Instead, it will use a Washington Post account that said 1.8 million people gathered on the US Capitol grounds, National Mall, and parade route. 'It is a record,' Barna said. 'We believe it is the largest event held in Washington, D.C., ever.'"

There are an astounding number of conservative bloggers running with this today, all of whom are telling their readers that Saturday's protest was the largest in D.C. history. (My personal favorite was the one mocking "Democrats and their media acolytes" who refuse to believe it.)

The problem, of course, is that the quote conservatives are so excited about referenced the Obama inauguration. The article that generated all of this right-wing excitement has a headline that reads, "Inaugural crowd size reportedly D.C. record." The very first sentence in the article that the conservative bloggers relied on reads, "The National Park Service says it will rely on a media report that says 1.8 million people attended President Obama's inauguration."

Charles Johnson, himself a conservative blogger at Little Green Footballs, finds the right's approach to this rather depressing. "This is so pathetic I don't know whether to laugh or cry," he said, adding, "An epic, monumental fail."


Many conservative activists want "Tea Party" activists to be considered normal, well-adjusted, mainstream Americans, who just happen to be concerned about taxes and government spending. Or deficits. Or maybe health care reform. Or quite possibly birth certificates. It's hard to keep track.

In any case, the drive is to be taken seriously as a legitimate political movement is complicated by the fact that Tea Baggers so frequently come across as nutjobs. Take Tea Party Express organizer Mark Williams, for example.

Last night, Williams appeared on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" for a group discussion featuring Cooper, David Gergen, and James Carville. It was Williams' chance to present his group's efforts as credible and sensible. He failed spectacularly.

This clip is only a portion of the discussion, but Cooper noted from the outset that Williams has called the president a Nazi. When he denied it, Cooper noted Williams' own website. The right-wing activist responded, laughing, "We have got the philosophy of fascism and national socialism at work here. Of course we do." He then argued he doesn't call "Barack Obama" a Nazi, he calls "Mubarak Hussein Obama" a Nazi, which Williams considers completely different.

Asked if he was offended by some of the vile placards carried by Tea Baggers at their most recent protest, Williams refused to say, instead attacking liberals attending "so-called antiwar peace demonstrations," for carrying signs "where George Bush was portrayed as a monkey, where he was first portrayed as the Joker." He added that these protestors may be "representative of the Democrats and the American liberals."

Cooper noted that Williams has called the president "an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief." Williams conceded that he does describe the president that way. "That's the way he's behaving," he said. Cooper asked if he "really believes" this. "He's certainly acting like it," Williams added.

When Gergen described this madness as "unbelievable," Williams added, "Until [Obama] embraces the whole country, what else can I conclude? He and guys like James [Carville] are totally, totally isolating the rest of this country."

Far be it for me to offer advice to right-wing protestors, but the Tea Party gang really ought to find a less ridiculous spokesperson to represent them on CNN.


Among some of President Obama's more despicable right-wing detractors, there has long been a racial element to their attacks. Generally, however, there's at least some subtlety to the race-baiting. Even the most depraved conservatives realize that unvarnished racism will generate a backlash, so they tend to be cautious.

Yesterday, however, the right came about as close to "straight-up George Wallace-style race-baiting" as we've seen from high-profile conservatives all year. It apparently started with a blaring headline on Drudge: "White Student Beaten on School Bus; Crowd Cheers." In 2009, a fist fight among teenagers on a school bus is now important national news, because the kid throwing the punch was black, and the kid taking the punch was white.

Rush Limbaugh decided President Obama is somehow responsible for this.

"It's Obama's America, is it not? Obama's America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now. You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety, but 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, of course, everybody says the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he's white."

Publius added, "[I]t's not not just Limbaugh. It's also Malkin, and Gateway Pundit, and Drudge, and Tom Maguire."

For those who believe reality matters, the school-bus fight reportedly had nothing to do with race, but rather, a couple of bullies who like to dictate who sits where on the bus. Conservatives who consider the fight of great national importance didn't even get the basics right. (Of course, even if the scuffle had been racially motivated, it takes a truly deranged political observer to hold the president responsible.)

But this isn't about reality. This is about right-wing activists who desperately want to stir up racial hatred of the president. It's vile and disgusting, and continues to tear at our social fabric in dangerous ways. There's no place for these transparently racist tactics in our discourse, but the likelihood of consequences for Limbaugh and his cohorts remains small.

Andrew Sullivan's take rang especially true.

The story was a classic schoolbus bully incident; it could happen anywhere any time and has happened everywhere at all times with kids of all races, backgrounds and religions. To infer both that it was racially motivated and that this is somehow connected to having a black president is repulsive. I know that is almost de trop with Limbaugh, but sometimes you have to regain a little shock. This man is spewing incendiary racial hatred. He is conjuring up images of lonely whites being besieged by angry violent blacks ... based on an incident that had nothing to do with race at all. And why, by the way, does someone immediately go to the racial angle when looking at such a tape?

These people are going off the deep end entirely: open panic at a black president is morphing into the conscious fanning of racial polarization, via Gates or ACORN or Van Jones or a schoolbus in St. Louis. What we're seeing is the Jeremiah Wright moment repeated and repeated. The far right is seizing any racial story to fan white fears of black power in order to destroy Obama. And the far right now controls the entire right.

Do they understand how irresponsible this is? How recklessly dangerous to a society's cohesion and calm?

I think they understand it all too well. Indeed, it's their driving motivation.

To their credit, there were a handful of conservatives who stepped up on this. Rod Dreher said Limbaugh is "up to something wicked." He added that Limbaugh and his ilk "are quite simply tearing the country apart."

If more conservatives were equally willing to criticize these attempts to stoke racial tensions, we'd all be better off.

I find some hope in this poll . . .

Sargent: Poll: Majority Of Republicans Opposes Wilson’s “You Lie” Outburst

If, as expected, many House Republican officials rally behind Joe Wilson for his “you lie” moment during the House debate on Wilson today, they will be putting themselves out of step with rank and file voters in their own party.

Yep, if you look at the relevant numbers buried in this new Gallup poll, you’ll see that a majority of Republicans opposes Wilson’s outburst. Here’s the breakdown of Republican attitudes towards the “you lie” moment:

Support, thrilled: 9%
Support, not thrilled: 30%
No opinion: 8%
Oppose, not outraged: 44%
Oppose, outraged: 8%

As you can see, 44 percent oppose what Wilson did, but are not outraged, while another eight percent oppose it and are outraged. That’s a total of 52% of Republicans who oppose Wilson’s explosion — versus only 39% who support it.

So it looks as if the Republican officials who intend to rally around Wilson today are more beholden to the Glenn-Beck-listening, tea-partying, Wilson-defending GOP base than they are to ordinary rank-and-file Republicans.

Separately, the new CNN poll finds that an overwhelming majority of 85% overall think what Wilson did was inappropriate. It’s another sign of just how far outside the mainstream the aforementioned Beck-listening, tea-partying, Wilson-defending GOP base has drifted.

Benen: IT NEVER ENDS....

A month ago, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) became one of a very small number of GOP officials, and the only member of the House Republican leadership, to criticize right-wing activists' tactics. She conceded that some conservatives were going too far.

That was mid-August. Now, McMorris-Rodgers is trying to get those same activists agitated again, lying to them with rhetoric about death-panels for special-needs children.

Surrounded by a group of parents clutching pictures of their special needs children, two Republican members of Congress stood in front of the Capitol on Tuesday and warned that President Obama's proposed health care system will lead to a rationing of care for children with disabilities.

GOP Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington said at a news conference that government-run health care systems, wherever they exist in the world, inevitably force health providers to refuse care to people with chronically-ill family members in order to reduce costs. Both members of Congress said the issue hits close to home: McMorris-Rodgers has a son with Down Syndrome, and Franks was born with a cleft palate.

"Whenever there is pressure on government to cut costs, and that is ostensibly the purpose here, the reality is a lot of times the doctors take their hands off the situation," Franks said. He also predicted that the president's health care legislation will lead to "the largest expansion of abortion since Roe vs. Wade."

Asked for proof that Democratic proposals would lead to this nightmare, McMorris-Rodgers said she didn't have any, but said parents were worried about it anyway. They're worried, of course, because truth-challenged lawmakers hold ridiculous press conferences like the one McMorris-Rodgers hosted yesterday. (Asked how she'd recommend helping parents with children with disabilities, McMorris-Rodgers recommended more tax breaks.)

I realize this has a dog-bites-man quality. "Republican lawmakers lie about health care reform" isn't exactly a stop-the-presses headline.

But this was nevertheless striking to me. Sarah Palin brought up the notion of panels that would ration care for special-needs children six weeks ago, and it was immediately deemed hopelessly wrong and willfully dishonest. Six weeks later, we have Reps. Trent Franks and Cathy McMorris Rodgers are repeating the exact same lie, knowing that a) some worried families might believe this nonsense; b) the media is reluctant to call out those who tell these lies; and c) there will be no consequences for their dishonesty.

Why has the debate over health care reform been farcical? Why is the notion of "bipartisan compromise" a foolish daydream? This press conference is Exhibit A.

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