Silly Scalia Stories: the Obama Exception in Action

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After Justice Antonin Scalia passed away unexpectedly on February 13, the American Left became giddy at the prospect of having an opportunity to see a measure of sanity restored to the Supreme Court — they were making the rather naive assumption that President Obama actually will have a chance to appoint a replacement.

Many of us feel that if you don’t have anything good to say about the recently departed, you probably shouldn’t say anything at all. And while one well might have nothing but contempt for the man’s actions on the bench, he surely must have had endearing qualities as a human being; indeed, colleague Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is about as far removed from him ideologically as humanly possible, was effusive in her praise, and declared that she and the deceased were “best buddies”. And hey, the guy even loved opera, so how bad could he be?

That said, it’s very difficult to remain silent, however, when you see some of the rampant nonsense that has followed his demise. The late judge’s fans went overboard in their accolades, lauding him as a legal superhero. Perhaps the most commonly reiterated motif was that he was a champion of the Constitution. Well, one certainly should hope so, given his job description. But in truth, his championing of the Constitution wasn’t exactly consistent.

When it suited his ideological purposes, he was quite willing to use the Constitution as wrapping paper for gifts to his cohorts. He was instrumental, for instance, in rewriting the Second Amendment to the specifications of the gun lobby. Coincidentally, he belonged to an arcane “hunting society” whose motto translated into English means, I kid you not, “honoring God by honoring his creatures”. Let’s hope we’re not among the creatures they choose to honor.

Lest we forget, he was also a key player in Bush vs. Gore, which twisted the Constitution into a Moebius strip in order to hand the presidency to a man with whom some of the justices had ideological and personal ties. Coincidentally, Scalia was appointed by Ronald Reagan while Bush’s father was vice president, and his son worked for Theodore Olson, lead counsel for Bush in his suit.

A few years ago, he was questioned about whether he had any remorse about the ruling, and he remained defiantly unapologetic, even inserting the baldfaced lie that the margin was 7-2 rather than 5-4, and that it “wasn’t even close”. For good measure he even displayed his much-praised sophistication and elegance by adding the tags “get over it” and “so there”.

Unfortunately, the excessive praise heaped upon Justice Scalia isn’t the only way in which right-wing fanatics have played loose with the facts in the aftermath of his death. They have used the event, as they use virtually any other event, as an occasion to fire a few broadsides against President Obama. In so doing, they have provided even more illustrations of what we could call The Obama Exception: i.e., the unswerving, obsessive conviction that the current president should be judged by a radically different set of criteria than any other mortal — that anything involving him, however obliquely, must necessarily be a thousand times worse than it would be if it involved anyone else.

Many wingers, for instance, are still doing their damnedest to make a “scandal” of the fact that terrorists killed four people in Benghazi three years ago. Yet many of them are among the people who hailed George W. Bush as a hero after terrorists killed 3000 civilians on American soil. There are quite a few of them whom you’d never convince, no matter how much documentation you provide, that the president is an American citizen; they just know he can’t possibly be, since his father was from Kenya. Yet many of them would have no problem with throwing their support behind red-blooded American Ted Cruz, who was actually born in Canada. They built a three-ring media circus around Obama’s “latte salute” without even mentioning George W.’s canine salute.

And so we have several popular narratives built upon the death of Antonin Scalia that illustrate Obama Derangement Syndrome at its looniest and nastiest. To wit:

1. President Obama’s decision not to attend the funeral was unprecedented

There is no established protocol for whether a sitting president should attend the funeral of a Supreme Court justice. But it’s an outright lie that (as many right-wingers proclaim) this has never happened before. Only one sitting justice has died in the past 60 years; but of the past 10 current or former justices who have died, the sitting president attended the funeral in only 4 cases.

2. President Obama’s decision not to attend the funeral was disrespectful

The president paid his respects by sending Vice President Biden to the funeral, and by himself attending the wake and a memorial service at the Supreme Court. Considering what a high-profile distraction his presence would have been at the funeral, the president’s decision not to attend was perhaps the most respectful thing he could have done. In any case, it is quite clear that he is as usual the target, rather than the perpetrator of disrespect — particularly since the right-wing rumor mill insisted that he didn’t go to the funeral because he was busy golfing.

3. There’s nothing unusual about blocking the appointment of a successor

Those poor “conservatives” just can’t seem to keep it straight about what is and what is not unprecedented. Previously, the longest time the ninth seat on the high court has gone unfilled after a death has been 174 days (the longest is 391 days for all vacancies). At Scalia’s death, Obama had some 340 days left in his term; and the GOP has hinted it is willing to extend the record at least an additional 730 days if another Democrat is elected in November. Additionally, it’s important to note that during those previous vacancies, the process of nominating and deliberating on justices proceeded. Congressional Republicans now have declared that they will not even consider a presidential appointment until one of their guys is in the White House. And this is something that truly is unprecedented.

4. Blocking the appointment of a successor would give the voters more of a voice

For this one we can thank Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who offered this side-splitting excuse for the obstructionism:

The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.

But which Mitch is which? Presumably, it was the evil twin of this Mitch McConnell who voted (along with all of his fellow Republicans) to confirm a nominee in the final year of Ronald Reagan’s presidency and, only a few short years ago during the reign of George W. pontificated that

Any President’s judicial nominees should receive careful consideration.  But after that debate, they deserve a simple up-or-down vote. . . . It’s time to move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.  The stakes are high . . . . The Constitution of the United States is at stake.  Article II, Section 2 clearly provides that the President, and the President alone, nominates judges.

Yet now, thanks to the all-powerful Obama Exception, the voters deserve their voices to be heard. Mitch, Mitch. Barack Obama won two elections by very convincing margins. He is the first president since Eisenhower to win twice with a majority of the popular vote. How much louder do those voices need to be before you can hear them too? Do you really believe that President Hillary or President Bernie will appoint someone more to your liking? Or do you believe that President Donald will appoint someone who speaks with the voice of the American people?

5. Democrats who object to the stonewalling are being hypocritical

Over at the ever-entertaining National Review, Jonah Goldberg has been doing what he does best: making an utter ass of himself. This includes some rather asinine “thoughts” on Scalia and how the GOP must “stand firm” on having him replaced any time soon. He has also stated that:

Democrats have been blowing up the appointment process piecemeal since they turned Judge Robert Bork’s last name into a verb back in 1987.

He’s in good, or at least plentiful company here, as other wingnut ideologues have also suggested that it’s hypocritical for Democrats to complain about infantile Republican behavior today, when Democrats torpedoed the Bork nomination 3 decades ago. Media Matters pegs this as a specimen of apples and oranges, though it’s really more like apples and iguanas. As noted above, there is a vast difference between rejecting a nominee and refusing to even deliberate on a nominee, any nominee, put forth by a particular president. As for Robert Bork, he was an exceptionally godawful candidate even by Reaganesque standards (thus Goldberg’s starry-eyed praise for him). Even so, it took the Democratic-controlled Senate 109 days to reject him. (The seat was ultimately filled by Justice Kennedy, who was confirmed in 65 days.)

6. The nomination “controversy”

Why exactly should it be considered controversial? The president nominates, and the Senate votes on the nomination. Period. So there. Get over it. Even Mitch McConnell’s good twin acknowledged as much, once upon a time.

Ah, but there’s always the Obama Exception, isn’t there?  It provides all the justification they need to indulge in frothy-mouthed, faux patriotic eliminationism at the expense of the American public. It’s not exactly a controversy. But it is an outrage and a national disgrace.

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Of Redskins and Red Herrings (Plus Eric Holder On Racism)

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By now you’ve probably heard that the NFL team long known as the Washington Redskins will likely be compelled to change its name soon, thanks to a decision by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. And reactionaries have reacted as reactionaries always do — ridiculing the move and dishing up a generous serving of red herrings.

A red herring, as you may know, is a decoy, a distraction — an irrelevant matter introduced to divert attention away from the real issue. An excellent example occurs frequently with the topic of abortion. “Pro-life” ideologues devote a great deal of time to discussing whether abortions “should” occur (accompanied by a very strong answer in the negative), which in turn is masked by another debate on when life supposedly begins.  All of which steals focus from the vital question of how to prevent abortion.  All the “pro-life” posturing in the world does nothing to answer this question, and, by all evidence, makes the problem even worse.  (See previous posts: Abortion: the Big Lie and the Inconvenient Truth, Part 1 and Part 2 and ACORNization: the Curious Vendetta Against Planned Parenthood.)

And so it is with the Redskins flap. Ideologues lecture the rest of us about whether Native Americans “should” be distressed over the use of demeaning stereotypes (with a very strong response in the negative). Does it really matter whether you or I believe they should be? (Even if you are Native American yourself, does that entitle you to decide that nobody else should disapprove?) The thing is, they do object, or at least a good many of them do. The real question, then, is whether the rest of us are willing to respect them enough to cease and desist the use of such stereotypes. Some people will go to the ends of the earth to evade such a question, leaving a trail of crimson fishlets as substantial as Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs.

Inevitably, for instance, the reactionaries peg the outrage as an instance of “political correctness” run amok — whatever the hell that means. “Political correctness”, like “liberalism” is one of those things people love to hate but hate to define or clarify. Naturally, then, the two are often lumped together. This whole stink about the Redskins, they say, is just another attempt by them librulz, whoever they are, to wield political correctness, whatever it is, to take away our freedom, somehow or other. Never mind that the USPTO’s decision was the result of numerous complaints, over a period of many years, by Native American advocacy groups with no political affiliation, expressing the sentiments of Native Americans of all ideological persuasions. What’s really important is to apply the “PC” and “L” words to as many people as possible, as frequently as possible.

Is that an acknowledgment that only “liberals” respect people of all races? If so, I can’t buy it. I’ve known many “conservatives” who were also quite respectful. They may be a minority, but there are still plenty of them.

Yet right-wing zealots make it standard procedure to politicize/ polarize just about anything and everything to the Nth degree — even climate, for crap’s sake. And they proclaimed the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Hobby Lobby case as a victory for “religious freedom” (which, if not itself a red herring, is at least a deep pink mackerel) and a defeat for “liberalism”. As opposed to, say, a slap in the face for women in general whatever their ideology, a religious incursion into government that ultimately is bad news for people of all religious persuasions, and a judicial precedent that will extend the (already quite extensive) imperious reach of the current unscrupulous bench, ultimately having an impact on everyone.

When it comes to encapsulating the reactionary silliness over the Redskins issue, it would be hard to top this commentary called “20 Other ‘Allegedly Offensive’ Team Names That The Left Isn’t Complaining About” by Justen Charters at Independent Journal Review. It wastes no time attributing the dastardly deed to “The Left” and the “PC Police”. And of course to the big bad black guy in The Formerly White House.  Indeed, Charters even links to another article on Independent Journal Review (Should they be required to put a “sic” after Independent?) titled “President Obama is Stripping Washington Redskins Trademarks After Owner Refused to Give Up Team Name”, that begins with this prize paragraph:

This is how the Obama administration rolls. Get in a confrontation with the president, and some IRS branch patent office makes trouble for you. That’s how “community organizers” do business. That’s the Chicago Way.

Never mind that the USPTO made the same decision, later overturned by court interference, in 1999 — which not only was well before Obama was elected, but probably even before he traveled back in time to plant a bogus birth announcement in a Hawaiian newspaper. Never mind that the USPTO has made many similar rulings for the past 20 years or so. After all, President Obama publicly stated that if he were the team’s owner himself, he would “think about changing” the team’s name. What a severe “confrontation”. What more proof do you need that he must have taken time out from his busy schedule of confiscating your guns and euthanizing your grandma to personally dictate that the Redskins must go.  And those cleverly crossed out words above, of course, are an allusion to the IRS “scandal” we’ve debunked before.

Smears against President Obama, by the way, often not only contain red herrings, but not infrequently illustrate how red herrings differ from, yet neatly dovetail with, straw men, which we’ve discussed before. Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker that said “Political dissent is NOT racism.” That’s a classic red herring — nobody is suggesting that political dissent IS racism. But it’s an obvious reference to a straw man very popular among sufferers form Obama Derangement Syndrome: the premise that Obama hatred is nothing more than “political dissent”, and to attribute the former in some degree to racism is to attribute the latter entirely to racism,

Political dissent consists of expressing/ demonstrating political differences — not circulating wackadoodle rumors about birth certificates, death panels, Islamic roots, Benghazi cover-ups, IRS conspiracies, faked mass shootings or FEMA concentration camps. Nor does it involve reflexively obstructing, or trying to sue or impeach a president just because you don’t like him — or his politics. Obama hatred goes way way way waaaaaaayyyy beyond political dissent, beyond disagreement with or criticism of the president, even beyond all bounds of sanity.

It may not always be rooted in racism, but quite often racism definitely is at least one factor in play. Yet when Attorney General Eric Holder pointed out this indisputable fact, the wingers seized upon and distorted his comments to push the astronomically false narrative that President Obama — who seldom mentions race (and even then it’s generally to the tune of “let’s get along”) and rarely mentions racism — loves to play the race card. Here are Holder’s allegedly inflammatory words:

There’s a certain level of vehemence, it seems to me, that’s directed at me and directed at the president. You know, people talking about taking their country back. … There’s a certain racial component to this for some people. I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there’s a racial animus.

These comments were almost universally spun — not only on talk radio and in the rightwingnutball blogosphere, but also in the supposedly more centrist mainstream media (aka the librulmedia) as “Eric Holder Says It’s Racist to Disagree With Him and Obama”. Holder said no such thing, of course. (Read it again if you really need to. We’ll wait.) On the contrary, he clearly specified that  he didn’t even consider racism “the main driver” in that “animus”. The winger spin distorting his words actually lends them validation. And provides us with another classic straw man.

But back to the Redskins. The Independent (sic) Journal Review‘s 20 additional mascots are essentially red herrings, and quite often sterling specimens of false equivalence, which is something we’ll be examining in the near future. They include The Toronto Raptors (Fine, marginalize all the people who got scared by the Jurassic Park movies.”) and the BYU Cougars: (“Last time I checked, Provo Utah isn’t famous for middle aged women prowling on young men.”) Nyuk nyuk nyuk,

Okay, okay. So the piece is intended to be cutesy-poo satire. But that’s just it. By listing team names for which outrage would be preposterous, Charters hopes to portray the disapproval of “Redskins” as equally petty and laughable. It isn’t.

Also included among the 20 are the Chicago Blackhawks and the Cleveland Indians. Had Charters done just a smidgen of homework, he might have learned that in fact the Cleveland baseball team has been a frequent target of protests over the years by The Left, or The PC Police, or whoever those guys were with feathers in their hair. And the Blackhawks? Not so much so, but there are several probable reasons.

First, Blackhawk, unlike Redskin, is a perfectly legitimate and respectable designation for a particular group of people, (Indian, though not preferable, is also respectful and respectable enough; the clamor over the Cleveland Indians isn’t because the word itself is inappropriate.) Second, it’s the name of a specific tribe rather than an entire ethnic population. And third, the NHL team wasn’t even named after that tribe in the first place. It was named after a combat unit in World War I, which in turn was named (like the tribe) after a single historic Native American leader.

Interestingly, the Independent (wink wink) Journal Review overlooks or deliberately omits one of the most egregious offenders: the Atlanta Braves, whose fan ritual of intoning a “war chant” and mimicking a tomahawk chop has ruffled the feathers of those ruddy-complexioned PC Police on The Left for years. The article does, however, suggest that monikers like the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Boston Celtics should be regarded as equally tasteless.

Which is not only nonsense, but screaming-out-loud nonsense. Because the Irish/ Keltics (the actual spelling of “Celtics”) do not have the same kind of history in this country that Indians do. Furthermore, it appears that those team names were chosen by Irish persons themselves. Native Americans, however, did not choose the Indians, the Braves or the Redskins. Which brings us to the real crux of the problem: a long, long history of white Christian males making choices for everyone else — often through the use of barbarically brutal force.

Native Americans were slaughtered like the bison they depended on, driven from their land and stripped of their religions, their languages, their traditions, their lifestyle and their dignity. All bygones, you say? Not really. The aftermath of that ethnic and cultural decimation is still very much with them. Many of them still live on reservations (paleface lingo for “land we have no use for anyway”).  They still have abnormal rates of poverty, teen pregnancy, substance abuse and suicide. Their traditions have been trivialized and their sacred objects have been lampooned by mass-market gewgaws cranked out in Asian sweatshops. And throughout the sordid history of their interaction with Caucasians, they have been portrayed in mainstream pop culture as cardboard stereotypes at best, and quite often as simpleminded, bloodthirsty savages.

Many Native Americans feel that there is a connection between these things — i.e., that how they are perceived and portrayed has a significant impact on how they are treated. And guess what? Many sociologists agree. Is there any reason we should not give this conclusion the benefit of a doubt?

When we speak of the mascot-ization of Indians as being offensive, we don’t mean that it results in “hurt feelings” — another common red herring. We mean that it undermines respect and dignity. Which brings us to the Independent (snicker snicker) Journal Review‘s concluding red herring, perhaps the mother of them all:

Instead, we should be recognizing the idea that names like Redskins and Patriots are ways to honor the legacy of our ancestors, not defile them.

Now if you really believe that Redskin is an honorific appellation on a par with Patriot, you probably don’t have the cognitive faculties to have made it to this point in the discussion. But for those of you still with us, here are some final questions to ponder.

The reactionaries like to cite a poll indicating that 90 percent of Native Americans have no problem with “Redskins”, and other polls indicating that 79 to 89 percent of the general public don’t (the figure I hear most often is 83); do you really believe that more non-Indians than Indians are bothered by the word? Another poll indicates that 56 percent of Americans believe the term is racist; does this mean that 46 percent of Americans (56 times 83) and 50 percent of Native Americans (56 times 90) think racism is hunky-dory?

Since we’ve been making comparisons here, do you really believe that any sports team today would consider naming itself The Los Angeles Spics? The Memphis Niggers? The San Francisco Chinks? The New York Kikes? What about The Honolulu Japs? Why, then, has it taken so long to get rid of “Washington Redskins”? Why do so many people still think Indians are fair game? Why are they so willing to engage in grotesque distortions of reason in order to justify that predilection? Is it just coincidence that, so very very often, they are the same people who indulge in spittle-flecked, head-banging, pants-pooping delirium about the nation’s first dark-skinned president?

Obama Derangement Syndrome and the Government Shutdown

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Just when you thought Obama Derangement Syndrome couldn’t possibly get any more deranged.  The competition was stiff, but the photo above is surely the silliest  to come out of the shutdown of the federal government.  This blatantly (and comically) Photoshopped image purports to depict how the evil Fuhrer in the White House was being “spiteful” by closing up national parks like Mount Rushmore.  What it really exhibits is the extreme extremes to which ODS victims are willing to go in order to embarrass and humiliate themselves.

There are at least a couple of different versions of this image in circulation, accompanying various and sundry blog posts devoted to the furtherance of Obama Derangement Syndrome. At least one of them ran a disclaimer to the effect that “the photo is fake, but the story is real”.

Despite the disclaimers, it’s certain that many ODS sufferers will interpret the photo literally, and figure that black copters from DC did indeed drape those enormous stone heads on the mountain. But that’s a relatively minor point. The important thing is that the story itself is only marginally less phony than the photo. The essential claims are that (a) President Obama (or “Hussein”, as such ODS blogs tend to call him) blocked all public views of the famed monument; (b) that he did so out of “spite” — or, for some reason or other, to “punish” the American people for something or other; and (c) that he defied requests from the state to remove some of the cones blocking the roads.

But the National Park Service (not the president) closed the access roads for reasons of safety rather than “spite”. It also isn’t true that the NPS thumbed its nose at the state’s request to remove some of the cones; in fact, the NPS complied with this request. Moreover, the federal government even made an arrangement with states to reopen this and two other national parks during the shutdown. Oh yeah, and the closures did not totally block the view of the monument.  Other than that, I suppose the story is somewhat in the neighborhood of accurate.

I wish I could say that rumors like these are rare occurrences.  But with the ODS invasion of our planet in full swing, no rumor is too bizarre to be cranked out; and no rumor that is cranked out is too bizarre for the masses to believe. And the government shutdown was yet another golden opportunity for such rumors to erupt. (Of course, a butterfly sneeze would be construed as a golden opportunity to tack some sinister plot on The White House.) The era of the Obama presidency will be remembered as the age when lunacy became not only acceptable but chic. And the media will have played a huge role in making it happen.

It has become standard procedure for the media to invoke the “both sides do it” refrain every time Republicans or “conservatives” exhibit childish, hateful or arrogant behavior — while in contrast, whenever a Democrat or “liberal” does something wrong, it tends to be characterized as exclusively Democratic or “liberal”.  Right-wingers say the president is a communist socialist Nazi Muslim atheist dictator who tramples on the Constitution and operates behind a veil of secrecy. The president says we need to overcome our differences and work together. The media report that both sides have indulged in partisan bickering.

The shutdown is no different.  The mainstream media consistently referred to it as “an impasse”, ” a stalemate”,  lack of “compromise”, “a game of chicken”, etc., etc., etc.  Which is to say, both sides were doing in it.  Well, to be fair, not all  media outlets said this. Some of them just cut to the chase and ascribed the whole debacle to the president’s  supposed refusal to “negotiate”.

In fact, the president bent over backward and tied himself into knots to compromise and negotiate (to an absolutely alarming degree for many of his supporters) in getting the Affordable Care Act (almost  universally ridiculed as “Obamacare”) passed into law.  But passed into law it was. It was signed by the president. And its constitutionality, which allegedly was in question. was upheld by a stridently “conservative” and shamelessly activist Supreme Court.  Of course, if you point out to ODS victims that the ACA is law, they have a very ODS response handy: slavery was once the law of the land too, and helping people to live and stay healthy is comparable to keeping them in chains, torturing them, and forcing them to do hard labor — in fact, it’s the same thing. No, really.

The time for negotiation and compromise has come and gone. Now it’s a matter of following the law or doing everything in your power to thwart it out of a political an/or personal vendetta. The GOP chose the latter. Not only did Republicans engineer the shutdown, they plotted and threatened to do so for months, and even changed the rules to make such a shutdown inevitable. They were quite willing not only to hold the American public hostage, but even to hold Congress itself hostage. And despite their avowed concern for fiscal responsibility, they have voted to repeal the ACA several times (though they knew perfectly well they had no chance of succeeding) at a cost of at least 55 million. And they show no signs of ever stopping the stupidity. They also knew damn well that this attempt at extortion via shutdown would not derail “Obamacare”, but they were quite willing to subject countless Americans to the pain and inconvenience anyway in order to express their all-important, lemming-brained contempt for the guy in the Oval Office — as if people weren’t already well aware of it.

But couldn’t Obama and the Democrats also have done something to prevent the shutdown? Well, sure. They could have caved in 100 percent instead of only 80 or 90, but that would have set a very dangerous precedent that likely would have had greater long-term consequences than the shutdown itself.

Even some hard-right Obama haters admit that the GOP masterminded the shutdown — before resuming their regularly scheduled hard-wired programming of just laying all the blame at the feet of Obama and the Democrats. Jonah Goldberg of the ever-entertaining National Review, while conceding that the GOP started it, still insists that nonetheless, “President Obama and Democrats deserve the lion’s share of the blame for not only prolonging it but also making it as painful as possible”, whatever that means; and that the president’s putative refusal to “negotiate” is due to a “vindictive streak” that causes him to “punish his enemies.” How many head scratches can we work in there, Jonah?

Or some of them tried to tango around the blame game by arguing that even if the Republicans are to blame, they had some kind of Constitutional authority for their actions, so they’re really not to blame. Cute. Maybe we should point the finger at Thomas Jefferson instead.

Many of them, however, just skip the preliminaries and get right to the Obama blame impulse. When in doubt, blame Obama. The symptoms of Obama Derangement Syndrome, after all are: (a) a passionate conviction that absolutely anything the president says or does stems from sinister motives, and (b) the passionate conviction that anything that goes wrong in the U.S., if not the entire world, is directly traceable to the 44th chief executive.

Lest we forget, Barack Obama was democratically elected president of The United States. Twice. Indeed, he is the only president since FDR to be elected twice with a majority of the popular vote. And one thing he was elected to do was reform the healthcare system. But to the ODS crowd, he is a tyrannical dictator who somehow has unlawfully seized control of “their” country, and is now working his evil plan to control the universe — by, among other things, helping to ensure affordable healthcare. When there is, for example, a turnover of military brass in his administration as in any administration, it must be a “Stalinist purge” to install commanders “willing to kill Americans.” In other versions of the tale, he’s specifically purging Christians from the military. Or his critics. Or Romney supporters. Or all of the above.

And once the shutdown had ended, the president urged that saner heads prevail:

And now that the government is reopened, and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists, and the bloggers, and the talking heads on radio, and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do.

What? Focus on facts more than propaganda? What a radical suggestion. And to the ODS brigade, it was more than just a recommendation. It was an imperious “demand” that you “ignore” anyone who “disagrees” him.

Okay, ODS sufferers, listen up: I’m really tired of having to defend President Obama, or any other politician, from wacky rumors and accusations. I really and truly am — there are other, far more important things I’d rather be discussing here. Can we just agree that you’ve made fools of yourselves enough for the time being and give it a little rest? Mind you, I’m not asking you to abandon hatred and delirium permanently; I realize they’re what gets you out of bed in the morning. But can you just allow a little time for both yourselves and me to catch our breath a little? Pretty please?

Birtherism: The Long And The Short Of It

Whether or not you’re an admirer of President Barack Obama, there’s no denying that the man has an uncanny gift that could almost be called an odd superpower: everything he does triggers an avalanche of reactionary hatred that defies all limits of surrealism. EVERYTHING. Even getting born.

To be sure, there are always grounds for legitimate criticism of any president. But in the case of this president, virtually all of the legitimate criticism has been leveled by those who voted for him. The slime cranked out by the right-wing rumor mill does not in any way, shape or form qualify as criticism. It’s just nasty, juvenile and utterly deranged, rarely bearing any relevance to his actual job performance – or, for that matter, to anything else on Planet Earth. Birtherism is just one example, and it’s an example that has received far more than its share of exposure from the “liberal” media.

President Obama is an American citizen. There is no doubt of that. There has never been any doubt of that. Except in the twisted minds of teabaggers and others of the right-wing fringe, who insist that he couldn’t POSSIBLY have been born in this country, since his father is African, and little Barack spent part of his childhood abroad. But it has absolutely nothing to do with racism, so don’t you even think such a thing.

These people apparently even believe that the socialist/ Muslim/ Klingon cartel that installed the guy in office were scheming even 50 years ago that this lowly kid born in Hawaii – oops, Kenya, or Lemuria, or wherever – would someday be their puppet, so they planted a phony birth announcement in two Hawaiian newspapers. After all, that kind of prescience is a snap when you’re working on behalf of The Anti-Christ.

And unfortunately, it’s people like this who dominate the public forum in the U.S of A. Consequently, the media are STILL treating this non-issue like a major crisis.

Until recently, the president good-naturedly ignored this kookiness like an adult or something. But finally, he caved in to pressure from the loony fringe to release a long form version of his birth certificate (whereupon they began ridiculing him for caving in), saying that it was time to end the “silliness” (an extremely gracious and forgiving choice of words) and focus on weightier matters. (As Stephen Colbert so hilariously pointed out, the “long form” is actually shorter than the “short form”!)

If he really thought this would put an end to it, he was inexcusably naive. As soon as I heard the news, I predicted that it would be a matter of days before the appearance of new conspiracy theories declaring that this birth certificate is also fraudulent.

But I was wrong. It was a matter of MINUTES.

“An OBVIOUS forgery”, they promptly declared. Yes, they did use the word obvious and they did put it in capitals. See, according to the birther gospel, the elements of the evil conspiracy who had the foresight to plant phony birth announcements half a century ago know how to fake documents with Photoshop, but it never occurred to them that anyone else out there also might be familiar with Photoshop.

And so the birthers began latching onto EVERY DETAIL in the certificate and declaring it to be “suspicious”. These claims are often studies in how incomplete information can be used as powerful propaganda – some of the most effective lies are lies of omission.

For example, one detail singled out was that the father’s place of birth was listed as Kenya, East Africa. Aha! Kenya didn’t even exist until three years later. Obvious forgery, right?  Nice try. While it’s true that the independent nation now known as the Republic of Kenya did not formally exist until 1964, the former British colony had been called Kenya since at least 1920.

Naturally, the media pounced on these inept smears and promptly discredited them. Nah, just kidding. The media, as always, figured there is no attack too sleazy or silly to merit the limelight indefinitely, provided it’s aimed at a Democratic president. Instead of “birthers have enough egg on their faces to feed China”, the headlines said, “birth certificate raises more questions than it answers”.

After all, why did the president wait two years to take time out of his schedule to have an official document flown over from Hawaii? It’s not like he had anything better to do like, oh, track down a terrorist mastermind or something.

Frankly, your Professor Of Propaganda suspects that the delay may have been a shrewd political ploy to give the birthers plenty of time to thoroughly make asses of themselves.

Oh. Never mind.

Good For You, Michael Medved

 

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Film critic Michael Medved is a right-wing loyalist, no doubt about it.  Listen to him talk, and you can almost smell the opiates of “free market capitalism” and “traditional values” on his breath. And you might even call him a right-wing propagandist, depending on how you define propaganda. So it’s a bit surprising to see him calling out some of his fellow right-wing pundits in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. After all, these folks generally stick together no matter what.

But unlike most other fanatical pundits/propagandists, Medved is capable of reason and civility, and is not entirely allergic to facts. And thus he was outraged when some of his cohorts crossed the line in their attacks on President Obama. You might ask what lines could possibly remain to be crossed. Haven’t these characters already stooped as low as they can go? But not to worry, they’ll always find a new way to get even lower.

The specific ideologues he singles out include such highly visible (and alas all too audible) figures as Rush Limbaugh and The Former Half-Term Governor of Alaska. The president, the latter claimed,  is “hell-bent on weakening in America” (by no means the nastiest or dumbest thing she’s ever said); while the charming thrice-divorced spokesman for family values went even farther: “I think we face something we’ve never faced before in the country—and that is, we’re now governed by people who do not like the country. There’s no question that payback is what this administration is all about, presiding over the decline of the United States of America, and doing so happily.”

It’s certainly nothing new for people to accuse presidents of weakening or damaging the nation. There are plenty of people, across the ideological spectrum, who’ll tell you that George W. Bush wrought damage that was severe, if not irreparable. But in the past, such impact was generally attributed to incompetence, misguided ideology, or even self-serving motives that simply ignored the long-term national consequences. This is something quite different and quite inexcusable: the accusation that The President of the United States is a traitor, and a willful tool of destruction.

It’s true that during the Bush years, there were people who claimed that 9-11 was an inside job. But such accusations came mostly from the loony fringe, and few people paid attention.

But there is no longer any such thing as the loony fringe. Because while it’s even loonier than ever, it’s moved from the fringe to the heart of the mainstream. It’s especially amusing to hear the folks at Fox rail against the mainstream media of which they are the foremost component. On at least one occasion, Sunny Sarah derided an idiotic statement from the “lamestream media”, blissfully unaware that she was quoting someone on her own network.

And lots of people, far too many people, now pay serious attention to such irresponsible hucksterism. That’s why it’s refreshing and encouraging to see one of their own, in the person of Michael Medved, draw the line.