how to dismantle a democracy (without really trying)

Posted by on Sep 8, 2009 in extremism, politics | 0 comments

Just too good to pass up… picking ripe fruit over at Hot Air…

Ed Morrissey thinks he’s got it all figured out how the Obama education speech controversy went down. It makes for mediocre fiction. It needs a good scare in the third act. And some sex.

Ed tries to lay blame for the speech controversy on the Obama White House. He uses four different deceptions to pull it off. The first deception:

In fact, had the White House skipped the study guide and simply released the speech from the beginning, it seems unlikely that this would have created much controversy at all.

Essentially, Ed is saying: “if Obama had done what conservatives wanted in the first place – dump the liberal stuff we hate and release the speech in advance so we could vet it and criticize it at face value  – the controversy could have been avoided.” It’s bully logic, since we all know that liberal presidents base their agenda on what conservatives want and vet their upcoming speeches with right wing bloggers and right wing pundits all the time!

It’s all about the right wing asserting its role in the White House. They don’t care that a liberal is in the chair. They want the access and the control they had back, by hook or by crook. Rove and Co. listened to them. This White House does not. (Well, now they do.)

The second deception: (Emphasis added)

Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush both gave similar speeches in similar circumstances to students without creating a lot of hard feelings. That isn’t to say that their political opponents all yawned…

Ed then cites several unhappy Democratic responses to Bush’s 1991 speech at Alice Deal Junior High School. Ed’s assumption is that “They did it, so we can do it too.”

The thing is, and this is important: the Democratic responses to Bush’s speech were made after the speech was delivered at the school, not before the speech was even released. Ed is making a really ham-handed attempt at defending the controversy over Obama’s unreleased speech by saying “Democrat’s trashed Bush’s speech too”. It’s apples and oranges. You can’t equate attacking a speech before it is released with attacking a speech after it is released. Not the same thing at all.

The third deception is a bit of historical revisionism:

I think the White House and Obama fouled this up from the beginning, making it look much more political than necessary, and gave their critics a boatload of ammunition with which to attack them. The speech, included in its entirety below, turned out to be entirely innocuous.

Which is amusing since everything Obama does is political to conservatives. Everything. They are so paranoid that not releasing the speech as they demanded meant it was sure to contain an opus indoctrination of our children.

The fourth deception shines a light into the deep rooted paranoia that pervades so much of conservative thought these days. Ed writes:

But by asking teachers to impress upon children the need to “help President Obama,” they made it look blatantly political. They seem to have forgotten that they’re the public servants, and that the people do not live to serve political masters.

Apparently, the difference between a president asking citizens to help and a president ordering citizens to help is simply too nuanced a concept to grasp.

Here’s George W. Bush in a speech and press conference on October 1, 2001:

We are asking every child in America to earn or give a dollar that will be used to provide food and medical help for the children of Afghanistan. […]

This is an opportunity to help others while teaching our own children a valuable lesson about service and character. […]

Ultimately, one of the best weapons, one of the truest weapons that we have against terrorism is to show the world the true strength of character and kindness of the American people.

Americans are united in this fight against terrorism. We’re also united in our concern for the innocent people of Afghanistan.

One could certainly categorize that as indoctrination of children into the “fight against terrorism”. Where were the conservatives screaming about indoctrination then?

Both Bush and Reagan used school children in a much more partisan manner than Obama’s speech even hints at. Where were conservatives then?

Asking school students to help is a long standing tradition. It instills a sense of public duty into their lives. In the least they get to do something different that day. And speeches to students are always more about the presidency than about the president. By the time the students he will be addressing are able to vote, Obama will be long gone from the White House, and that seems to be a hard truth that is lost on conservatives like Ed: President’s come and go. The presidency does not come and go.  And, one of the essential strengths of a democracy lay in the citizenry working with elected officials on everything from governmental oversight to contracts for construction of roads and bridges. Anyone who knows government and democracy understands that it’s mostly citizens, and very few elected officials.

The people are the government. And, sometimes, those in the public chairs ask the people for help. What’s the big deal? Conservatives make it sound like a bad thing. But, of course, they bend light and reality to make everything not of the conservative mind set a bad thing.

The power struggle between Obama and conservatives is about ideology, so they see every forward movement by Obama as a threat. As they’ve said many many times: they want Obama to fail. Damn the consequences. And, that’s the important point to be made here.

When Bush asked American citizens to help (on a number of occasions) by going shopping, conservatives did their patriotic duty by trumpeting this news over hill and dale and then sauntered down to the Mall and bought some stuff they probably didn’t really need. Conservatives certainly didn’t object and scream that Bush was overreaching in his authority as president by asking citizens to (gulp!) help with the economy. And, the argument could have been made (and probably was made) that going out and shopping -most likely with a credit card – was not what most Americans needed to be doing at the time.

The mere hint of a liberal president asking for anything is just too much for conservatives to handle. They’ve been fed a steady diet of “liberals are evil” for so long, they jump straight into paranoia and fear. And, there are plenty of propagandists out there to stoke the fire once it’s been ignited.

Word games and disinformation has replaced cogent discussion and the simple reading of a speech after it comes out. Why wait until you know what a speech says to attack it? It’s pre-empitve disinformation! And, once the deed is done, they don’t even have the balls to take credit for it, so they try to blame the other guy.

It just shows how ridiculous conservatives have become.

But, what is most alarming and rather new is the shrill fear based attacks on standard ceremonial presidential duties like giving a speech about staying in school to students.

The polarized atmosphere is so bad that arch conservative Newt Gingrich – who one might usually expect to be fully on board with an all out attack on Obama – felt compelled to state the blindingly obvious:

It is good to have the president of the United States saying to young people across America stay in school and do your homework. It’s good for America.

It’s staggering to think that we’ve come to a point where that actually has to be said out loud in an effort to refute ignorance and blatant disinformation. Gingrich is the consummate politician, so I expect he is playing both sides, or sees the deep hole that is being dug by a rudderless conservative movement and plans to be the rudder to bring it back from the abyss. But, I think it’s a rogue ship. No captain can steer her at this point. The base has gone off the rails.

Therein lay the disconnect: conservatives are engaging in lies like “word frequency” analysis of a speech,  choosing hypocrisy over higher values such as instilling a strong desire to be educated in our children – all in the name of their ideology – which by most modern metrics very likely caused the current economic debacle which is endangering national security.  And they pound away on a historically minor speech to school students like it was a matter of life and death.

The speech controversy comes down to this: why is it wrong for students to see and hear a great example of a successful American student – the president of the United States- talk about his experience and offer himself up as an example to be followed no matter what his political affiliation?

Conservative answer: “Obama is a Muslim extremist radical Black Christian, an illegal alien Manchurian Candidate,  a 1/2 black, 1/2 white racist who hates whites but wants to be white, a Marxist, a Communist, a Socialist, a Nazi, a  and the Antichrist all-in-one.”

That is where the conservative movement is at in the year 2009.  What can any rational and intelligent human being say in response to such an onslaught of completely asinine nonsense except that they are bat shit crazy.

By attacking Obama in a fear mongering, paranoid and blatantly deceptive manner, conservatives are hurting the presidency – and it could be argued – hurting the country in the long run, because their tactics are shutting down the debate and thus the information structure that makes government work. It’s also creating an atmosphere of hatred.

Perhaps that is the point.

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