Monday, September 14, 2009

The Death Party

On 60 Minutes President Obama again lamented that thanks in part to 24 hour cable news (which isn't strictly accurate, unless you include infomercials and prison documentaries) that the loudest voices dominate the political dialogue.

The loudest voice lately was Joe Wilson shouting at him during his speech to Congress, and the louts who are now loudly supporting the shouter. In a way it was inevitable, especially after the Daily Kos brigades, perhaps appropriately but certainly predictably, expressed their umbrage by raising money for Wilson's electoral opponent. Then the Rabid Right screamed forth to raise money for Wilson. There may not be a causal link, but it's happened before.

It was the talk of Rabid Right talk radio, and also (reportedly) of black talk radio, where the first outburst calling a President a liar in such an official setting was made by a white southern male to the first American American President were judged not coincidental. Before long, white commentators were voicing that same suspicion. Maureen Dowd did so in the Sunday NY Times, and E. J. Dionne in Monday's Washington Post. Meanwhile, Wilson, seeing which side his bread is buttered on, has more or less withdrawn his apology, and looks upon the imminent possibility of a House motion to disapprove or censure him as more grist for the fundraising mill.

The Saturday gathering of teabaggers in Washington was a signal event, in the ugliness and racism of signs and remarks, and in the baldfaced lying involved in bragging of a crowd of between one and one and a half million, when reputable sources estimated it in the tens of thousands, well under the size of the crowd in Ohio that watched the Buckeyes fall to USC.

But what these folks lack in numbers they can make up in violence, such as the fourfold increase in threats to the President that the Secret Service is reportedly receiving. Or the hatespeech uttered by a preacher in Phoenix a day before the President's visit in which he expressed from his Christian pulpit his desire for the President's death, which was heard by a man who showed up at that speech carrying a gun.

I'm beginning to wonder just how far this racism extends. Because I can't believe that this incident would have gone by with so little official notice or consequence, had the President been George W. Bush.

What this rising tide of ugliness portends has many facets. One is the shameless use of baseless lies--the Big Lie comes to America bigtime--which is related to another that I intend to get into at proper length, the elevation of ignorance to supreme virtue. But for the moment, I give you E. J. Dionne's emphasis on what this says about the American character--something that President Obama spoke about the other night.

Dionne quotes Rush. "This administration is not your average presidential administration," Limbaugh declared. "This is not a garden party. This is not a lecture at Harvard or any other university. We are in the process, we are in the midst of an administration that is trying to totally tear down the institutions and traditions that have made this country great."

Dionne then asks: And what evidence is there that Obama is tearing down our "institutions and traditions"? There is none, unless you see it as an affront to our traditions that we have our first president whose father was born in Kenya, or that the American people decided to elect someone other than a conservative as our commander in chief. The far right has decided that extremism in assailing Obama is no vice.

But Dionne's main point is about what made Joe Wilson so angry--the President said it was not true that "our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants." But Wilson and his ilk are maddened by even the phantom possibility of some bleeding illegal getting free stitches or emergency surgery, or some sick illegal child getting treated for flu. Dionne mentions the practical consideration of public health that affects everyone, but he focuses on the character issue: " But I am not at all at peace with the fact that the one issue about which a member of Congress chose to rise up and accuse our president of being a liar related to the charge that our chief executive wasn't doing enough to build walls between illegal immigrants and health coverage. "

So with the White Supremacist Party, who needs Death Panels? Just let them all die. It's the Death Party now. That's all they're about.

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