Sore afflicted with that debilitating-but-financially-advantageous strain of Memento disease which prevents him from forming any new political memories past 1992, Conservative-by-Choice Andrew Sullivan is always perpetually shocked and amazed when leading American Conservatives sincerely aver the kind of ludicrous, paranoid, hateful, destructive beliefs that Liberals have always told him are at the core of American Conservatism.
And so, every week or so, Mr. Sullivan treats his readers to another post shot through with Sullivan Brand stunned indignation that another rapacious plutocrat Conservative asshole or bigoted halfwit Conservative asshole or anti-science, bible-rigging Conservative asshole is behaving in a way that would be tediously predictable to any honest observer of American politics and culture for the last 30 years.
In today's exciting episode, Mr. Sullivan is appalled at the whole line of "Obama is a Socialist Monster!" line of Conservative free-form ass-whistling given how pro-business and pro-Wall Street this Administration has acted over the last five years:
There has been plenty of well-deserved derision directed at the billionaire fretting in the Wall Street Journal that the super-duper-rich like him are headed for concentration camps. Paul Krugman fires an AK47 into the world’s smallest barrel here; while Josh Marshall has a must-read. Josh is actually trying to understand rather than simply excoriate the completely bizarre idea that the Obama administration is a populist, socialist threat to a capitalist system it all but saved from itself...I’ve been a little taken aback too by the attitude of the Wall Street class, after they royally fucked up the entire global economy, were bailed out by the rest of us, still get Dimon-style compensation, and have enjoyed one of the sharpest booms in stock prices since 2009. At some point, you have to ask: WTF?
Of course, the point at which the WTF's should have begun was the day Ronald Reagan decided to slalom down the Laffer Curve with the American middle class tied to his bumper, but aside from recommending that Mr. Sullivan settle in with Thomas Frank's entire collection, he gets no argument from me...
...right up until this (emphasis added):
Well, yes, they have returned to pre-Reagan levels of taxation. But the tax take is still roughly where it was in the mid-1990s and I don’t recall Clinton being perceived as a socialist or howls of protest from the wealthy...
And that's where the laughing begins...
Just for fun, let's reintroduce America to John "Johnny Smooth" Daggett (Motto: "You might remember me from such political hit-job supporting roles as "One of the clowns the GOP tapped to napalm Anita Hill because who can resist Johnny Smooth!") circa 1999:
CLINTON'S SOCIALIST MANIFESTOPublished: 01/22/1999 at 1:00 AMBill Clinton’s State of the Union speech reveals a socialist who wants to take away your freedom. Bill’s speech drips with his contempt of our free market economic system. Bill’s speech is a declaration of war against America’s heritage.Bill says that the government can do a better job of spending your money than you can. Bill says that you are not smart enough to take care of your children, your parents or your communities without government direction. And if that is not enough to boil your blood, Bill also wants to destroy the stock market, steal your money and federalize your schools....
Exit Johnny Smooth, pursued by bears.
Enter Newton Leroy Gingrich circa 2011. A man who, unlike Mr. Sullivan, believes that all of the Socialist Monster talk about the Kenyan Usurper is perfectly justified Because!Socialism!, but like Mr. Sullivan, believes that certainly no one was slinging around the "S" word back when Bill Clinton was in the White House:
In 1993, you had nothing like the current focus on the 10th amendment. You had nothing like the current desire to get power out of Washington. And you didn't have the sense of radicalism that Obama has injected into the system, in the sense of drifting toward a socialized bureaucratic structure that runs the whole country.
Which would come as a shock to America's leading “advocate of civilization, defender of civilization, teacher of the rules of civilization, arouser of those who form civilization, organizer of the pro-civilization activists, and leader ‘possibly’ of the civilizing forces.” circa 1993, who was throwing charges of Socialism around like Mardi Gras beads (from Political Correction):
Here's Gingrich, quoted in the February 17, 1993, New York Times:Representative Newt Gingrich of Georgia, the House Republican whip, welcomed Mrs. Clinton to Capitol Hill today. But in an interview, he said proposals being considered by her committee looked like "washed-over old-time bureaucratic liberalism, or centralized bureaucratic socialism."And the December 17, 1993, New York Times:On Tuesday, Representative Newt Gingrich of Georgia, the House Republican whip, said the Clinton proposal would lead to too much central planning and could bring socialism" in the health care system. Mr. Clinton made light of that criticism today after listening to some of his supporters from the ranks of medicine.And the Boston Globe, from December 2, 1993: "Gingrich [...] criticized Clinton's health-care proposals as being 'based on West German socialism.'"
Which should not come as a surprise to anyone who did not spend the 1990s with his head up his ass. After all, this is the same Newt Gingrich who spent an enormous amount of time and effort developing and rolling out an entire Orwellian language training system for the Republican Party designed to standardize, routinize and ramp up the by-then-already-routine slandering and demonization of Liberals and Democrats to levels that would make a North Korean propaganda minister proud.
To punish him for his key role in helping to dumb Republicans down to the point where they will swear on the grave of Imaginary Reagan that Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are geniuses, the Mainstream Media finds as many ways as possible to stuff as money as possible into Newt Gingrich's pockets, and to loyally re-re-re-re-rehabilitate his reputation every time he publicly shits the bed.
Shine on you crazy diamond!
Where was I?
Oh yes! Just this, repeated for the hundredth time -- like most Conservatives, Mr. Sullivan has lost his capacity to look the past squarely in the eye.
Which is not surprising.
After all, for Conservatives, what awaits them in the rear-view mirror is downright terrifying.