There are at least 4 good reasons, each one of which would be sufficient by itself, to brush aside right-wing pundit Gregg Jackson’s book Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies without wasting your time reading it all. The existence of all 4 in the same book is sufficient reason not only to brush it aside, but to hurl it with great force, straight into the mulch pile. And, as we shall see, there are many, many more beyond the 4 — these are just 4 that stand out like a rioter in the Capitol. There are limits to how many assaults against truth, reason and sanity we should be willing to tolerate in one volume. Jackson absolutely explodes those limits.
The most conspicuous of those 4 indicators glares at you from the inside of the book’s cover. It’s a publicity photo of the author working the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference. In case you’re not familiar with it, CPAC is an annual orgy promoting the most extreme, toxic, spittle-flecked, unhinged conspiracy theories and rants in the world. Its roster of speakers invariably reads like a who’s who of the tin hat fringe — which is, alas, no longer the fringe, but center stage in the GQP. There is absolutely no reason that any sane and reasonable individual would give an address there. None.
Another problem is that the book, written in 2006, has already dated itself with some severely inept prognostications. Jackson not only declares flatly that without major intervention Social Security would be bankrupt by 2018, he also issues solemn and grave warnings about how the world would absolutely go to shit if gay marriage were ever legalized. Ouch.
Then there is about as definitive a disqualifier as one ever could hope to find in a single sentence. Swear to God, this is an actual quote:
Even the worst mother is better than daycare.
In case you didn’t know (maybe Jackson didn’t) some mothers have starved, tortured and murdered their children. Yet he says that even they are preferable to even the best of daycares. Pretty much sums up what you need to know about “conservative family values”.
And fourth, in case you really still need another reason to steer clear of this tome (and mind you, there is so much more), it pays major homage to the “Clinton body count” meme, a stupid (and perennially thriving) Internet urban legend about how numerous individuals who at some point crossed paths with the Clintons ending up dying “mysteriously”. Hey, what are the odds that a person who’s in the public eye for decades and encountered millions of people would meet a few people who later die — and that somebody at a keyboard would find reason to consider some of those deaths “suspicious”? Well, let’s just say that you can compile such a roster for absolutely anyone, especially any celebrity. It would be interesting to take a peek at Jackson’s own “body count”. Would it have some of the same “victims” on it as the Clintons’? Would that mean they put aside their ideological differences to collaborate on a few homicides?
But despite such ineptitude blaring at the reader like a four-alarm dumpster fire, this volume has been and still is a treasured resource among right-wingers. After all, it promotes the same ignorant talking points that every other such book does, the same litany of creeds its fans really want to hear. And its dust jacket carries ringing endorsements from such heavyweights as David Limbaugh, Phyllis Schalfly and Michael Medved. Oh, and also the celebrated “conservative intellectual” (Don’t you just love that particular combination of words?) Thomas Sowell, who bloviates thusly:
[In this book] political and media spin are shot to pieces by hard facts.
Those “hard facts” predictably regurgitate the standard right-wing pantheon of cherished myths: America is a “Christian nation“; school prayer has been banned; there is a Second Amendment right to own guns; guns make us safer; brown-skinned immigrants are a threat; abortion is murder; gays are twisted; the media is dominated by liberal bias; welfare causes “illegitimacy” and crime; and, of course, liberals are Satan worshipers.
But they also include numerous other pronouncements that don’t exactly qualify as myths. They’re just good old-fashioned conservative bare-ass lies. Such whoppers that, if you didn’t know Jackson’s targeted audience, you would be astonished that anyone with access to Google and a few minutes to spare would dare to utter them. Here are just a few:
Countries who have banned firearms have higher crime rates than the U.S. [In a few cherry-picked instances, maybe.]
Government run socialist-style healthcare has been a dismal failure everywhere it has been instituted. [Meaning it doesn’t rack up enough profit for insurance companies?]
Abortions are never medically necessary. [Well, no, if you don’t care about saving a woman’s life.]
Violent crime has increased since — and presumably because of — the “school prayer ban”. [Even when the book was written violent crime already had been on a steady decline for a good 15 years.]
There has never a been a single case in the United States in which an innocent person has been executed. [No, not just a single case. At least 20 in the past century or so. And nearly 200 death row inmates have been exonerated before execution in the past 50 years alone. And those are just the ones we know about. ]
Illegal immigration is draining our economy. [That ain’t what the numbers say. Nor the economists who study them. But hey, who cares?]
Muslim males have committed the vast majority of domestic terrorism. [For your next guess, try white “conservative” Christians.]
The NRA has consistently supported many guns laws focused on making it more difficult for criminals to obtain firearms. [Say what??]
And when he isn’t busy lying his ass off with his arsenal of “hard facts”, Jackson is using them to deflect — to change the subject hoping no one will notice. For example:
Claim: Abstinence-only education is old fashioned, unrealistic and ineffective. Response: Abstinence until marriage is the only 100 percent effective way to avoid STDs and out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
The second statement may be true enough, but it has zero impact on the first statement. Sorry, but simply telling kids not to fuck just won’t cut it, and it never has. To the warning that criminalizing abortion will cause women to die from illegal procedures, he responds that
Some women die during legal abortions.
Follow that logic? Since a handful of women may die during operations under safe medical conditions, then we may as well cause a lot more of them to die under unsafe conditions. And he appears to be clueless, by the way, that outlawing abortion will necessarily result in its numbers being vastly under-reported. And it goes without saying that his examination of abortion is limited to trying to paint a picture of how horrible it is (as if anyone didn’t know) rather than addressing the factors that contribute to it, and the net consequences of government policies regulating it.
Claim: the religious right dominates the Republican Party. Response: Voters who consider themselves Christians are fairly evenly divided among Republicans, Independents and Democrats.
Here he simply substitutes “Christians” for “religious right” and hopes you will be too dense to spot that he is dealing from the bottom of the deck. And by the way, this argument that the Left and Right are equally religious undermines the common right-wing claim that they have an exclusive hotline to God.
Claim: The Constitution mandates the separation of church and state. Response: The former Soviet Union’s constitution mandated a “separation of church and state”.
Aside from the fact that the second statement has no relevance to the first, he is trotting out the hoary old tactic of suggesting that if the Soviets (or whoever you don’t like) did something, then it must be bad. By the same logic, because Hitler was a vegetarian, then vegetarianism must be a symptom of fascism. (Don’t laugh, some right-wingers have claimed exactly that.) Jackson is not willing, however, to apply the same reasoning to his own precious religion.
Nazis were not Christians.
Well now, that depends on how you define Christian, doesn’t it? And right-wingers are willing to redefine it as it suits their purposes. But whether one considers Nazis Christians or not, it’s indisputable that they were believers in Christian dogma and, like American right-wingers, considered themselves agents of God.
Continuing with his sage observations:
Colonialism/ imperialism has not been unique to America and the West, and has been standard practice throughout world history.
“Because it’s always been done, then it must be okay.” That’s conservatism in a nutshell.
Claim: We need targeted tax cuts for middle-class, working families. Response: Income redistribution is called communism.
When all else fails, dust off a straw bogeyman. And don’t forget to label it with the C-word.
Claim: The attacks of 9/11 occurred because of the failure of George W. Bush to take the threat of terrorism seriously. Response: Preparations for the 9/11 terrorist attacks began well before Bush was even elected to office.
Once again, the second statement does not obviate the first. How many right-wingers do you suppose would invoke the same defense for President Clinton in regard to the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center? Furthermore, he turns around and says
Claim: The invasion of Iraq has not made us any safer. Response: There have been no terrorist attacks on American shores since September 11, 2001.
Got that? Bush gets no blame for 9-11 because terrorist attacks can be years in the making. Yet he’s clearly effective in combating terrorism because there have been no new major attacks in the 5 years (at the time) since 9-11. Who needs consistency when you have an ideology?
He brushes aside concerns about the legitimacy of the 2000 election thus:
Under any proposed standard of methodology, Bush won every recount.
Never mind that the vote counting was halted by an unprecedented Supreme Court ruling (so egregious that it included the stipulation it should never be used again) with a very strained argument concocted by justices who happened to be Bush family cronies. Never mind the many many many many many shenanigans the Bush family connections pulled to get valid voters disqualified. Never mind that an independent review of the Florida ballots determined that, contrary to what Jackson indicates, Gore would have won any statewide recount under any “standard of methodology”.
If Bush is “illegitimate” and “lacks a clear mandate” because of a 5-4 Supreme Court vote, then other 5-4 decisions are illegitimate as well.
Is this intended to suggest that all 5-4 Supreme Court decisions are equally corrupt and partisan? This is a good illustration of the absurd contortions Jackson makes in an effort to defend Bush. He even tries to fend off the many observations that have been made about Dubya’s lack of acuity. How? Well, for one thing he reminds us that Bush was “elected” president. (See connections, family) and that he has a degree from a prestigious university (ditto). But most of all, he does it by deflecting — by trying, for instance, to claim that the opponent in the election was really the dumb one.
During a tour of Monticello during Clinton’s 1993 inaugural campaign, Vice President Al Gore looked at two carvings of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and asked the curator, “Who are these guys?”
This anecdote has been repeated, pretty much verbatim, by many right-wing screechers, including the “conservative intellectual” Ann Coulter. But it’s not true. Gore actually asked, “Who are these people?” And the sculptures depicted John Paul Jones and the Marquis de Lafayette. What do you suppose are the odds that Jackson could pick those two out of a lineup? He also considers it obligatory to impugn the intelligence of Bill Clinton:
What is stupid is getting blowjobs from interns your daughter’s age in the Oval Office.
Monica Lewinsky was 22 at the time the affair began. Chelsea Clinton was 15. Who knew it was actually possible to look up these things? More important, Jackson is clueless about the distinction between stupid actions and stupid people. Even the most intelligent of individuals, as Clinton proved, sometimes do stupid things. Or make occasional verbal gaffes. But with Dubya, the stupidity was a constant rather than an exception. And it wasn’t just the sheer number of his “Bushisms”, but also their nature. His verbal blunders weren’t those such as anyone can make, but manifestations of a deep ignorance about not only the English language but of how government works. On the campaign trail, for instance, he stated that Social Security was not a federal program, and he expressed confusion about the number and respective functions of the three branches of the federal government he was angling to lead.
While such relatively minor details as the exact location of White House sexual episodes, and the ages of Monica and Chelsea might seem nitpicky in light of President Clinton’s behavior, they, along with the unquestioning repetition of the Gore story, illustrate the tendency of Jackson and other “conservative intellectuals” to simply cut and paste standardized soundbites without bothering to conduct even a modicum of research. Which includes the obligatory dogpile on the Clintons:
The Clinton administration was the most corrupt in the history of the Republic.
Oh? He spent all of his time having people killed, and yet he still managed to indulge in garden variety corruption? Then riddle me this, Mr. Jackson. If Clinton and/ or his administration was really so corrupt, then considering that right-wingers have spent literally decades working full steam to dig up dirt on him, why is it that they’ve never been able to make anything stick with any substance at all — and had to settle for impeaching him over a “blowjob in the Oval Office”? Why is it that when you juxtapose the actual unlawful offenses of the Clinton administration with those of… oh, say the past few Republican administrations, he comes out squeaky clean in comparison?
And this, mind you, was before The Former Guy came along and tipped the scales all the way into another galaxy.
Not content merely to saddle Clinton with the “corruption” whopper, he heaps on another one.
There has never been as polarizing a political figure in U.S. history as President William Jefferson Clinton.
Really? More polarizing than Jefferson Davis? Spiro Agnew? George Wallace? Orval Faubus? Lyndon LaRouche? Whether by design or willful ignorance, Jackson is conflating “polarizing” with “polarized”. There’s a huge difference. People are polarizing because of their actual words and actions. They’re polarized because of the words and actions of people who don’t like them. Abraham Lincoln was heavily polarized, but that doesn’t make him polarizing (though many people regarded him as such). The same is true of Bill and Hillary Clinton. They are often classified as controversial figures not because they actually did anything controversial — well, except maybe for the Lewinsky thing — but because their detractors have worked around the clock for a couple of generations to concoct controversy around them. Emails Benghazi emails.
Yet President Clinton was not at all extremist in his positions, and he made every effort to reach out to political opponents — even those who despised him. The real polarizing figures, on the other hand, not only take stances designed to benefit their base and no one else, they also show open disdain for those who do not share their ideology. This includes Ronald Reagan and many of his Republican enablers, and many Republicans since his time. It includes almost every Republican since George W. Bush, who haughtily declared that he had earned “political capital, and I intend to spend it”, and that Democrats could either “get aboard or be left behind”. When did Clinton ever strike such an arrogant posture?
In sum, Jackson’s opus is virtually a carbon copy of every other similar tome. It’s very, very short on genuine “liberal lies” but very heavy on straw men, and very heavy on “conservative comebacks” to them. The word comeback conjures up snarky juvenile retorts such as a schoolyard bully might make, and that’s exactly what Jackson et al traffic in. Their objective is to reduce political discourse to bumper sticker slogans, catch phrases and soundbites to attract attention and inflame hatred. (“Triggered!””Wokeism!” “Snowflake!” “Critical Race Theory!” “Grooming!”) For the unthinking, low-information mob they cater to, that’s all it takes.