Guns-Why

Guns-Why

Friday, February 24, 2012

"GOP's Radioactive Anti-Obama Rhetoric"

We are blessed with the freedom to say whatever we want about our president. But those who cast Obama as something other than one of us don’t understand him and don’t understand what it means to be American. E. J. Dionne, Jr.
Nowhere is this more evident than with the GOP candidates who are stomping all over each other to win their party's nomination. Their one unifying theme is to demean the presidency of Obama and to assassinate his character - at whatever costs. Since, by all appearances, they are merely appealing to the basest of their base, the cost will no doubt be highly destructive - not only to the country but to their party as well.

John Avlon, CNN contributor and senior political columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, writes about the civic cost that comes with "the radioactive rhetoric that gets thrown out to excite the conservative crowds." He describes the debates this primary season as being less like Lincoln-Douglas and more akin to the punch-drunk boxing of former heavyweight champion Buster Douglas - entertaining but with some great upsets.
It's not just that the most irresponsible candidates can play to the base and get a boost in the polls, while more sober-minded candidates like Jon Huntsman fail to get attention. The real damage is to the process of running for president itself. Because when low blows get rewarded, the incentive to try to emulate Lincoln -- holding yourself to a higher standard -- is diminished. And one barometer of this atmospheric shift is in the increasingly overheated rhetoric by candidates attacking the current president. This serial disrespect ends up unintentionally diminishing the office of president itself.
Who can forget Newt Gingrich accusing Obama of having a "Kenyan anti-Colonial mindset," or invoking the specter of "Obama's secular socialist machine" and then calling him the "most radical president in American history"? But, as Avlon points out, "accuracy - or even aiming in the general vicinity of truth - isn't the point."

Newt's twisted history is bad enough, but Santorum's sanctimonious religious zealotry - also with a large dab of mythology - is, in the opinion of this writer, far and away outside all bounds of decency.
Rick Santorum raised eyebrows this past weekend for saying Obama wants to impose a "phony theology" on America. Santorum has since tried to clarify that he was not trying to raise doubts about the president's religion and I'll take him at his word. Likewise, when Santorum compares GOP primary voters to members of the "greatest generation" called to act against the rise of Nazi Germany, I'll assume that Santorum isn't intentionally comparing the president to Hitler.
But as Dana Milbank writes, "Rick Santorum sees Nazis everywhere: in the Middle East, in doctor’s offices and medical labs, in the Democratic Party, and now in the White House.
In explaining why his remark over the weekend wasn’t linking Obama to Hitler, Santorum said that “the World War II metaphor is one I’ve used a hundred times.” This is not an exaggeration — and that’s Santorum’s problem.
But way back in a 2008 interview Santorum was already criticizing Obama's "liberal Christianity," saying he didn't believe that sort of ideology exists. That was the same year he gave his now infamous Satan speech at Ave Maria saying, "mainline Protestantism," which is in such "shambles," is not even Christian any longer."

This zealot has obviously had his marching orders for some time, so any denials that he is challenging Obama's faith is disingenuous at best. As Maureen Dowd writes, "Rick Santorum has been called a latter-day Savonarola. That's far too grand. He's more like a small-town mullah."

Even the sober-minded Mitt Romney, according to Avlon, has entered the "hyper-partisan" game:
. . . when Mitt was barnstorming through Florida, a standard part of his stump speech was this: "Sometimes I think we have a president who doesn't understand America." This line was straight out of the "Alien in the White House" playbook, a riff that reinforced the worst impulses of some in the audience, as one woman at a Romney rally named Katheryn Sarka eagerly reaffirmed when I asked her what she thought of the line: "Obama doesn't understand America. He follows George Soros. Obama is against our Constitution and our democracy."
When Mitt gave his victory speech in Nevada, he said, "President Obama demonizes and denigrates almost every sector of our economy." This isn't true, of course, but hey, if it works . . . .
Here's what's most troubling about this trend: It doesn't seem remarkable anymore. For the candidates and many in the press, it is just the new normal, the cost of doing business. The overheated rhetoric simply reflects the conversation that's been going on at the grassroots for a long time.
During the as yet unfinished war on how contraception should be covered by insurance plans, Romney declared, “Unfortunately, possibly because of the people the president hangs around with, and their agenda, their secular agenda — they have fought against religion.” 

Once this kind of rhetoric takes hold and becomes the "new normal," can we as a nation return to a time when there is a more civil playing field and where the contestants observe the rules of decency? Avlon doesn't hold out much hope.
It's naïve to think it will stop when Mr. Obama is no longer president, whether that is in one year or five. Because the next Republican president will inherit the political atmosphere that's been created and find that it is almost impossible to unite the nation absent a crisis. Some Democratic activists will no doubt take a tactical page from recent conservative successes. This cycle of incitement -- where extremes inflame and empower each other -- will make our politics more of an ideological bloodsport and less about actually solving problems.
Perspective is the thing we have least of in our politics these days. But perspective is what the presidency is all about -- rising above divisions and distractions to make long-term decisions in the national interest. By pouring gasoline on an already inflammatory political environment, the GOP presidential candidates not only diminish themselves, they diminish the process of running for president, and make it less likely that they would succeed in uniting the nation if they actually won the office.
I don't think any of this radioactive rhetoric is a surprise to liberal bloggers as we have been observing and writing about it and what can only be described as the thug mentality on the part of the Tea Party element within the GOP since Obama took the oath of office.

35 comments:

  1. I'm just disgusted with it all but I've decided that I'm not giving up. I have no other choice and I've signed on to work on Obama's campaign. Part of it is self-preservation but it's also about my grandbabies' future and the legacy of my multi-great grandfather (and four of his five sons) who fought with Washington in the Revolution. This is no time to sit on the sidelines.

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    1. Yes, we must act and not just talk and write. I shudder to think what is going to happen at the polls since these people obviously know no bounds.

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    2. Kay, Signing on to work for Obama does nothing but encourage the shameless behavior of both sides. When Obama doesn't call out these types of comments for what they are, he is acting as an enabler. Why Obama doesn't call these comments out for what they are is because it helps unite those opposed to and afraid of what the Republican Party has become. Obama benefits from the divisiveness and hate. It's hard to imagine a more cynical position Obama could take. Work for something positive, not more of the same. It's time to end fear driven politics. At least consider it. voterocky.org Andy

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    3. I deleted my first comment because I felt it was maybe a little too quick and snarky, However, I do not feel that Obama is the cynical one here. He is the president, after all, and as such, I think he's smart not to "call these comments out" - at least not directly. For one thing, as much as many of us deplore this kind of rhetoric, there is such a thing as freedom of speech. I also think he's smarter to stay above this kind of thing and not get engaged in pissing matches with these cretins. Let them shoot themselves in the feet, which they are doing a good job of doing all on their own. If you've noticed, Obama has very often used humor to deflect this kind of insanity - far more effective as a weapon.

      People who support a third party candidate don't seem to know their history. The one and only third party that has ever survived in this country was the Whig Party. How long ago was that?

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    4. We can agree that Obama is smart. Smart enough to adopt the GWB positions on tax cuts for the wealthy, endless and illegal war, indefinite detention/erosion of our civil liberties, no regulation on Wall Street, and pro insurance company health care policy instead of moving towards a single payer system. By agreeing w/ the Republicans on all these issues he forces them to take even more extreme positions. Unfortunately for us, this does nothing but entrench these positions even deeper. If that's where you want to put your vote, go ahead.

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    5. You know Andy, the pros and cons of Obama's presidency really have nothing to do with the subject of this post. I welcome your comments but please try to stay on topic.

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  2. First, I don't think the GOP candidates have much interest in uniting the country. I think they're enough in touch with reality to know that's not going to happen. What they want to do is get and keep their base excited, contributing, militating and voting in their behalf.

    Not one of them cares about governing in the broad public interest. Special interests that fill their campaign coffers and provide high-paying jobs for them when they leave their elected posts are the ones they intend to serve and keep happy. Everyone else can put up and shut up, as far as they are concerned. Hey, it worked for George W. Bush and continues to work for a whole lot of congressional Republicans.

    Radioactive rhetoric is what excites the Republican base. It's paid off for Republicans repeatedly over the last 30 years. As long as it brings them money and election victories they will do more and worse of it. The only antidote is repeated rejection by a majority of voters.

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    1. I think it's all part of their grand plan. Not only does it appear to the basest of their base, it also keeps the country off balance by serving as a distraction.

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    2. The Republican party has a delicate balance to maintain. They need to appeal to enough of the masses to get elected, but they must not allow any of their supporters to realize that only the wealthiest minority will reap any benefits. The only way to do that is by distracting the masses with anger.

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    3. Anger, fear and hate - that's their mantra.

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  3. One has to believe that this idiocy will ultimately undermine the people committing it. Everything I don't like is Hitler. Everything I don't like is Satan. The cacophony of hysteria becomes so over-wrought that eventually it just becomes silly, if it doesn't vanish into background noise altogether.

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    1. The sooner it disappears, the better it would be for the entire country. But in the meantime, I think the damage is immeasurable.

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  4. Excellent post, Leslie. We keep hearing the pollsters claim that the Independents--the largest voting bloc--are turned off by extremism. Let's hope they're correct.

    Let's also keep in mind the visual of Mitt Romney giving a speech this past week in a stadium where an embarrassing meager number of people are present, and hope that is a metaphor for what will happen to him in November.

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    1. That was an embarrassingly low turnout, wasn't it. Apparently he mistakenly thought he had already won the nomination.

      I'm hearing more and more that Jeb Bush may be anointed the White Knight.

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    2. Jeb Bush? Gods forfend! The man was a terrible govenor, and had his own share of corruption scandals.

      Two Bushes were too many. Another Bush would sink us.

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    3. Well, Republicans aren't known for remembering their history. I kind of wonder if the GOP hasn't damaged itself so much by now that they'll never be able to recover - no matter who heads to ticket.

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    4. With a name like Cthulhu, I trust that he is an authority on sunken countries.

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    5. Actually, I tend to agree with him. What's in a name?

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  5. The fly in the ointment here is that the same thing happened to George W. Of course, it was well deserved as his record proved, but... Obama now has to run on his own record and, frankly, I didn't get the change I can believe in and I don't see any prospects of getting it in the foreseeable future.

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    1. At this point, you would do well to also consider what a McCain-Palin administration would've been like, then summon some appreciation for a whole lot of changes you would've gotten that you most likely did not want.

      That, too, really matters.

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    2. Very true, S.W.

      Don't know why my response to Mr. C. didn't show up directly under his comment, but it should be right below this one - I hope.

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  6. Oh my, I don't even know where to start here. Yep, a lot of folks did refer to George W as a Nazi and a lot of other well deserved or undeserved nasty descriptors. Mostly you heard it in conversations and on the blogosphere or on homemade videos. The major difference is that you never heard - at least to my knowledge - elected representatives or those campaigning for office use such degrading, disrespectful personal characterizations. And by no means should we overlook the thinly disguised racist code talk. Just today, Santorum referred to Obama as a snob. You never heard anyone shout "You lie" in chambers when Bush was president. You never saw an office holder stick their finger in Bush's face. Did you ever see a member of the opposition get up and walk out of a meeting with Bush? A cheap shot and disrespectful as hell. Did you ever hear a candidate question his faith, his patriotism, his heritage? There's a huge difference here.

    In his article, Avlon writes:

    "Look, I know that politics is a full-contact sport: Elbows get thrown and egos get bruised. But ask yourself if Ronald Reagan ever called Jimmy Carter a socialist or a communist on the stump. Sure, there were deep philosophical and policy disagreements between them, and Carter was called a failed president many times. But there was a lingering respect for the office that retained an essential bit of dignity. It was only the far-right fringe who indulged in the kind of rhetoric we now hear routinely from presidential candidates."

    He also criticized Santorum when a Santorum supporter accused Obama of being "an avowed Muslim" who "constantly says that our Constitution is passé" and "has no legal right to be calling himself president" for not standing up for the truth - as McCain had done during his campaign when some woman called him an Arab.

    Instead, Santorum told CNN: "I don't feel it's my obligation every time someone says something I don't agree with to contradict them."

    I didn't get the all the change I wanted either, but you know what? No president has ever been able to deliver every damn thing I think he should have, or everything he promised on the campaign trail - not by a long shot - and none of them have had an organized concrete wall of opposition as Obama has had. I think it's pretty damn amazing what he's been able to achieve despite all the crap from the GOP. The last I looked I didn't see him waving a magic wand.

    I'm going to try to find an article I read very recently and post a link to it.

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  7. When you say it all so well, there is nothing for me to add, so excuse me if I just pick up a teeny little point. What the hell? Gingrich said "a Kenyan anti-colonial mindset?" What does that even mean? I get the "Kenyan" part, and may he rot in hell, but does Newt openly advocate colonialism? What an odd, fat little duck he is.

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    1. I think you misspelled "duck." Heck, I read your posts faithfully and immediately become tongue-tied, so rarely comment. Anything I might add just seems to sound like drivel.

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    2. I think "anti-colonial" is another fog-whistle:-) It wouldn't do to denounce Obama as anti-white-supremacist, but "anti-colonial" doesn't sound as bad, and the target audience will understand what he means.

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  8. Mr. Obama seems to be doing a pretty good job despite the push back and outright obstructionism of the Republican party. It is perhaps a naive hope on my part that the party faithful on the right will take a sober second look at the candidate that the Republican party's machine offers up and say to themselves that this is not acceptable and since Obama is likely a shoo in anyways, choose to vote Obama on the off chance that it might scare the party's deciders into rationality. Besides, given that the Republican chosen one will be either a Catholic or a Mormon, why not vote for the only real Christian in the field?

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    1. Even if the GOP switches course and suddenly starts "sounding" reasonable, it would be very foolhardy to fall for it. Obama may indeed by the only Christian in the field, but I would prefer that one's religion not be an issue in any run for office.

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    2. Your preference aside the reality is that religion lurks as an issue for a significant portion of the electorate.

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    3. "Besides, given that the Republican chosen one will be either a Catholic or a Mormon, why not vote for the only real Christian in the field?"

      This is the same logic that I get from talking to some "Bible Belters", who believe that Baptists are the most real Christians, and Mormons and Catholics aren't at all.

      Personally, though my religious view is different from Shaw's, I agree with her statement "It has no influence on my vote". Even if Obama actually were a Muslim (and no, I don't believe he is one at all), it would not influence me either for or against him.

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    4. Although it's hard to tell for sure (since we don't know who Anonymous is), I think he or she has his or her tongue in his cheek at the expense of the religious righties - especially those who are questioning the president's faith. But like you, whatever the president's religion is, or isn't, should be irrelevant.

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  9. the rethuglican clowns are striving for something they will never accomplish, thank God!

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  10. Speaking of rhetoric, here's a book which might be of interest to many here, It is called The Podium, The Pulpit, and the Republicans: How Presidential Candidates Use Religious Language in American Political Debate. The intro reads:

    "This book is about the convergence of politics, religion, and national identity in the United States since 1971, focusing particularly on the first decade of the 21st century. It is also about the ideological warfare conducted on the unconscious, using nuanced language by political parties in order to gain power. By "nuanced language," I mean words and phrases that are charged with meaning to some audiences, but are often unrecognized by others...the alliance between the political far right and the religious right and the insertion of religious language into political discourse is one subject of this study; a larger question, also addressed, is how this transformation emboldened the right to attack not only liberal government, but also centrist government."

    I haven't read it yet as I'm on the government dole and will have to wait until my next SS check before ordering a used copy from Amazon. I think it looks totally fascinating myself.

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  11. "Besides, given that the Republican chosen one will be either a Catholic or a Mormon, why not vote for the only real Christian in the field?"

    As a nonbeliever, why would I vote for any of the candidates based on religion? It has no influence on my vote, and the father of our Constitution, James Madison, understood very well why Americans need to keep religion out of government:

    "What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not." --- James Madison, "A Memorial and Remonstrance", 1785

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  12. I believe this is one of the most important posts and articles I’ve read in some time. As you know I’ve been terribly discouraged by the unfounded attacks on both our president and our party. Olympia Snowe’s comments on why she’s leaving the Senate amplify Avion’s thesis. I agree with him that it’s not going to get better any time soon. I know that sounds so negative, but I am a realist who doesn’t have a pair of rose-colored glasses to her name.

    The Republicans I know are not at all enthusiastic about the four-man dog-and-pony show in recent debates. What I’m getting is: “It’s both parties” or “Both parties are the problem.” That’s the closest they will come to admitting there’s a problem in the GOP.

    Thanks for the post, Leslie.

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    1. You have to admit that "it's both parties" is a bit of an improvement over "it's all them thar dirty librals." ; )

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