The Stench in the Room

It’s official. The polls are in. America has given up – it’s all pointless. We might as well curl up and die, and we’d be in despair if we weren’t too depressed to be in despair. There’s no point in getting all upset. Being upset wouldn’t make any difference anyway. Why bother? It’s probably best to sit quietly. That’s about it.

No, really – see CNN’s Political Ticker from Monday, January 17 –

Americans feel sadness, anger and shock in the wake of the tragic events in Tucson, Arizona, according to a new national poll. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday also indicates there’s plenty of blame to go around over the shootings, but two-thirds of the public is pessimistic that the government or society can prevent something like this from happening again.

Changing the gun laws would help, but everyone knows that’s not going to happen. You’re not going to pry that gun from the cold, dead hands of Charlton Heston. People want to keep their guns, even if they’re not sure about your gun, as you might well be a fool or a nut. And anyway, changing the gun laws would be a government action, and everyone knows the government is useless. Ronald Reagan said so – “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” We get it.

And the same goes for mental health programs that might head off heavily-armed sociopathic misfits at the pass – wild-eyed young guys without health insurance and nowhere to turn. You could set up such programs, but the government should keep out of healthcare entirely, and the House will soon vote to repeal all of Obama’s new healthcare law. We should go back to pay-for-it or do without. Man up – take some personal responsibility. It really is a matter of personal responsibility, and a matter of making sure private enterprise thrives, without the government elbowing in. That’s what America is all about – the wonders of the unfettered marketplace. And don’t forget the Invisible Hand.

And maybe politicians should tone down their eliminationist rhetoric – saying that the other guy should just be taken out back and shot, because that other guy hates America and pals around with terrorists and is really Stalin-Hitler-Mao or secretly Kenyan. Politicians could just say that they disagree with the other guy and here’s why. But everyone knows that’s not going to happen. Politicians need votes. That’s how you get votes.

In short, Americans are realists, or clinically depressed, or at least seeing no hope for any of this, after the shootings in Tucson:

“That may not be surprising given the widespread pessimism that government can do anything to prevent an incident like this from happening again,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Two-thirds say that shootings like the one in Arizona will happen again regardless of any action taken by the government or society.”

According to the survey, just under half also blame the harsh rhetoric and violent metaphors used by politicians and commentators as a contributing factor behind the shootings, and 54 percent believe that harsh political rhetoric may lead to other shootings in the future.

Ah, so there is almost a majority that feels all the trash-talk really did contribute to a congresswoman with a bullet in her brain, a dead federal judge, a dead nine-year-old little girl and so on. But note that a clear majority here seems to feel all the trash-talk will continue, as is, and there will be more shootings. Politicians are who they are, and heavily-armed sociopathic misfits are who they are. We’ll probably get a few days of “nice” at best:

“But while a large majority predict that tragedy in Tucson will lead to more civility in political debates, only one in ten think that change will be permanent,” adds Holland. “Seven in ten say politicians will tone it down in the short run but the change won’t last very long, and 18 percent think there will be no change at all.”

Ninety percent of folks seem to think we’re screwed, one way or the other, even if there may be a brief outburst of serious discussion of actual issues. Only fools think that will last – just to speculate – through the NFL playoffs. But then there were some who probably thought the Seattle Seahawks were going all the way this year. It takes all kinds.

But there was good news in the CNN poll:

According to the poll, the public doesn’t blame Sarah Palin’s website for the incident in Arizona. Only a third of all Americans say that the website – which had an image that looked like the crosshairs of a gun marking Gifford’s congressional district – deserves a great deal or a moderate amount of blame.

Cool. Most people do not think Palin is an accessory to murder, or at least guilty of incitement. That doesn’t absolve her from being a diva and jerk, who says stupid things that even most Republicans wish she hadn’t said. But she didn’t cause this.

Of course, save for a few intemperate and stupid initial responses, no one said she had – just that she seems to be good at poisoning the atmosphere and that politics had, because of that, become more repulsive then it had ever been before. She turned it sour and mean. The shootings in Tucson were another matter. And she’s right – that had nothing much to do with her at all. She just provided the stench in the room.

But she’s a diva and she had to defend herself, as CNN’s Political Ticker reports:

In her first interview since the Arizona shootings, Sarah Palin Monday sharply beat back critics who have suggested her at-times charged political rhetoric and use of a graphic featuring crosshairs may have contributed to the shooter’s motivations.

“The graphic that was used was crosshairs. That’s not original. Democrats have been using them for years,” Palin said in the interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, where Palin is a paid contributor.

She is on solid ground there, even if that’s somewhat beside the point. But she was more general, insisting critics were taking issue with her use of the term blood-libel and her other rhetorical flourishes, because there was a sort of a secret and deliberate plot on the part of folks on the left, Democrats in general, and all of the media, except Fox News, to derail her overall message:

“It isn’t about me personally, but it is about the message,” she said. “I know that a lot on the left hate my message, and they will do all that they can to stop me because they don’t like the message. They’ll do what they can to destroy the message and the messenger.”

Meanwhile, when asked about speculation the recent controversies have disrupted any future political ambitions, Palin vowed she will continue to speak her mind.

“I am not ready to make an announcement about what my political future is going to be. But I will tell you … I am not going to sit down. I am not going to shut up,” she said.

In short, everyone was out to get her, but she’d show them all. It was diva stuff. It was Norma Desmond on the stairs (with Sean Hannity as Max) – she was speaking to all those wonderful people out there in the dark, and she was ready for her close-up.

Jed Lewison, being cynical, wanted Hannity to ask questions like these:

Once it became clear that you were the twenty-first victim of the Tucson shooting, how did it make you feel?

As you say, liberals have muzzled you, and your only way of communicating with the public is now through Facebook, Twitter, vimeo, Fox News Channel, and every other media organization known to mankind. How are you handling the oppressive weight of liberal censorship?

Is there anything you’d like to say to the people who are spreading the blood libel about you?

Why do you think President Obama hates America so much? Do you sometimes wish he would move back to Kenya, where he belongs?

What do you think it says about liberal blood-lust that they mistook the surveyor’s mark on your target map for the crosshairs of a gun sight?

Of course those questions weren’t asked – see the video – as Hannity was on her side. He was playing the Max Von Mayerling part, protecting her from embarrassing questions, or reality. And that’s how it has always been. Since the day McCain chose her as his running mate she has never held an open press conference, standing at a podium and taking questions as they come – not once. Why should she? They’re all against here, all those reporters, and everyone knows it. This was more of the same. It’s just that she looked rattled – flustered – even with Hannity in her hip pocket. This was a disaster. There was no fixing it. She knew it.

But she’s not alone. See Alex Pareene on America’s Most Persecuted Minority: Republicans – as he says “on this Martin Luther King Day, spare a thought for America’s forgotten minority: comfortable white conservatives.”

Yes, all this took place on the twenty-fifth annual Martin Luther King Day, and Pareene would like us to remember Orrin Hatch, Phil Gramm, Jesse Helms and John McCain – each of them against the establishment of Martin Luther King Day as a federal holiday. He does note that John McCain did, in 2008, apologize for his vote, but he sees things this way:

Twenty-eight years later, it’s hard to imagine even a deeply Republican Congress opposing a holiday dedicated to Dr. King – in part because some contemporary conservatives like to pretend the civil rights activist was or would be a Republican, but mostly because conservatives have spent years pretending to be a persecuted minority group.

They want in on the action:

That’s why something like Sarah Palin claiming to be a victim of “blood libel” doesn’t raise an eyebrow among the true believers. It’s the myth that keeps the checks rolling in for most right-wingers. The liberals are all-powerful and they oppress us.

And of course it’s absurd:

It’s especially rich coming from Palin, obviously. The only thing the former governor seems to enjoy more than attacking her political opponents is acting like the entire world is aligned against her and her poor family. A tasteless joke from a late night comedian isn’t simply part of the cost of living a public life, it’s more proof that a cabal of liberal elites is devoted to the relentless persecution of innocent conservative Americans. (Part of the game involves purposefully conflating criticism from media figures with organized political attacks. What, after all, is the true difference between David Letterman and the DNC? They’re all liberals.)

And he links to this story from 2008:

“I cannot tell you how special last night was for me and how enthused I am to be John McCain’s running mate,” Palin said in the email solicitation, adding: “Unfortunately, as you’ve seen this week, the Obama/Biden Democrats have been vicious in their attacks directed toward me, my family and John McCain. The misinformation and flat-out lies must be corrected.”

Unless we’re mistaken, neither Obama nor Biden nor the campaign has attacked Palin’s family. In fact, Obama said this after it was revealed that Palin’s seventeen-year-old daughter is pregnant: “I have said before and I will repeat again: I think people’s families are off limits, and people’s children are especially off limits. This shouldn’t be part of our politics, it has no relevance to governor Palin’s performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president. And so I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories.”

Okay. Her unwed seventeen-year-old daughter was pregnant – no one expected that, the Republican campaign had no media plan to deal with it, and McCain’s people felt blindsided – had they had a heads-up there might have been some way to deal with this, or maybe they wouldn’t have chosen Palin. But there it was. And Sarah Palin is angry at organized political attacks to paint her whole family as trailer trash or something. But there was no attack, and Obama slammed down, hard, anyone who was even thinking of mounting such an attack. And that was that.

But Palin denounced all those politicians and everyone in the press who were calling her family trailer trash and mocking and callously hurting her daughter so much – she wouldn’t stand for it, and the American people would rally around her, as she fought off the Obama-media machine. This was an attack by the smug, over-educated elite against all ordinary Americans, who sometimes face these things. All real Americans would be revolted by such tactics.

Huh? It was, at the time, a bit puzzling. There was no attack on her family. And if you keep screaming that you’re not trash and no one can call you that, you just leave the concept that you might be, well, hanging in the air. No one was going to talk about it and it would have blown over. Now it was out there for a few news cycles, and it was guaranteed to return. It’s no wonder she drove the McCain campaign team crazy.

But she was just being a good Republican, as Pareene notes:

The longtime opponents of what they mockingly termed “the culture of victimhood” now revel in every perceived slight. Republicans accused of unethical behavior make great martyrs.

And there Pareene links to this – William Kristol and others saying that any investigation of crimes by a Republican politician is criminalizing political activity. This is the first time anyone criminalized politics – Obama is destroying democracy in America.

Of course it’s nonsense. You’re not supposed to break the law. It was an odd argument, but Pareene sees a pattern:

How bad is the delusion? When they aren’t actually treated like oppressed minorities, they pretend they were.

And he was most amused when young right-wing folks pretended to have been the victims of political violence or even hate crimes:

Every so often, some young Republican will pretend to have been the victim of a violent hate crime. In 2006, there was Justin Zatkoff, who was supposedly beaten senseless by either black people or “a homosexual rights group” who’d sent him an “odd/threatening” e-mail. (He was actually just beaten up by his friends.)

Later that year, a conservative Mormon college student named Francisco Nava claimed to have received hundreds of death threats for a column attacking Princeton University’s “hookup culture.” He said he feared for his safety. Then he claimed he was brutally attacked by men in stocking caps who beat him with a bottle of Orangina. After he became a conservative cause célèbre, the cops got him to admit that he’d invented the threats and the attack.

And then there’s Ashley Todd, College Republican National Committee field representative, who claimed to have been brutally attacked by some liberal black person during the 2008 campaign, because she had a McCain sticker on her car. A “B” – for “Barack” – was even carved into her cheek. As we all remember, the B was backwards, because Todd has “carved” it herself.

When Democrats were complaining of death threats as the healthcare debate raged, then-minority whip Eric Cantor claimed someone shot up his office. Police determined that the bullet that landed inside a window at his campaign office had been fired randomly into the air.

The Tea Partiers, of course, are frequent self-declared victims of brutally unfair media coverage, and in their more feverish fantasies, they are even intimidated by “union thugs.” (Violent, “thuggish” union members are the enforcers of the modern Apartheid-like regime that conservatives are forced to live under.)

And he points out that even when Republicans had the White House, controlled both houses of Congress, and maintained a working majority on the Supreme Court, they still did the victim thing. Back in 2005, Matthew Yglesias was seeing that:

It’s rather odd to see persecution fantasies coming from the right at a moment when Republicans control the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Executive Branch, the judiciary, most statehouses, and most state legislatures. And yet a right-wing persecution complex is evident to even a casual consumer of right-wing media. To hear the conservative blogs, magazines, and radio shows tell it, despite total conservative domination of the political system a coalition of liberal reporters, academics, and Hollywood stars manage to be the real governing force in America.

We’re asked by various individuals to believe that this conspiracy is so vast that it improbably includes the entirety of the American defense, intelligence, and foreign-policy apparatus as well as (needless to say) a judiciary whose membership was overwhelmingly appointed by Republicans.

But Yglesias says it’s not totally crazy:

Biomedical research keeps moving forward, as do gay rights. The government is getting bigger, not smaller. Endless screaming has yet to lead to invasions of even half the countries conservatives want to see overthrown.

It’s just that it’s all a losing battle:

The problem, however, isn’t that a liberal conspiracy is keeping the right down. The problem is that the right’s agenda is patently unrealistic. The United States lacks the capability to implement conservatives’ favored national-security agenda. Nobody has any idea how to stem America’s slow-but-steady evolution toward greater tolerance of gays and lesbians. And the government is big primarily because it provides services people value. Most of all, the elites – who run institutional conservative politics – couldn’t care less about accomplishing anything on this agenda. They’re too busy staying in power and cashing in on K Street.

And their friendly media is not helping them:

The conservative rank-and-file is being exceedingly ill-served by FOX News and right-wing talk radio. These are the outlets that ought to be sounding the alarm about the Republican Party’s abandonment of conservatism. Instead, they’ve decided to join in the party and become GOP propaganda outlets rather than bastions of ideological conservatism. Meanwhile, they seek constantly to entrench the persecution complex ever more deeply in the minds of their followers in order to allow their own betrayal to escape scrutiny.

That’s the plan, the entire plan – a persecution complex?

Well, it’s a plan. It just leaves a stench in the room. It’s no wonder America has just given up – it’s all pointless. The King Day polling from CNN was about Tucson. Or was it?

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
This entry was posted in Palin and Hannity, Playing Victim, Republican Framing Devices, Sarah Palin, Tucson Shootings and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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