Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Big Lie

The intertubes will be smokin’ tonight, tomorrow and beyond with commentary on this evening’s rhetorical combo: Dubya’s "Eternal SOTU of the Spotless Mind", and Jim Webb’s two-fisted rebuttal.

In clean, muscular language Webb performed the most important service a citizenry can ever ask of its politicians: To literally speak on our behalf.

On smaller matters we may disagree, but on the big things the job of our representatives is to open their mouths and use the proximity to power we lend them to speak what is in our hearts directly to those who do not want to hear it.

And if they are very good, say it clearer and more magnificently than we ourselves could probably manage if we were standing where they are.

By that measure, Jim Webb was good tonight. Very good. And afterwards watching a simpering puddle like David Brooks try to encompass what Webb’s speech accomplished in his shabby, partisan rags made me laugh. Watching Bobo grudgingly grunt out left-handed admiration for Webb's punctuation and his font choices and ignore the content as anything but “partisan” was like watching Barney Fife, fifty pounds overweight, trying to downtalk Muhammad Ali.

Webb can speak for himself and needs no editorial gilding, and the deconstruction of George W. Bush’s remarks will be the work of many hands over the next many days, so instead I’d like to discuss the goings on in a dusty corner of the radio dial late this afternoon.

Now I usually don’t have the opportunity to listen to any radio, much less NPR (the “Nice Polite Republicans”. h/t Atrios), during the average workday, but today I was booming down the wide boulevards of my city and overheard Neal Conan facilitating this round of mutual masturbation between former Senators Alan Simpson and George Mitchell, each nostalgizing about the Good Old Days and generally pinin’ for the fjords.

Then I pulled over and made a little sick behind some nice lady’s rose bushes.

Then I cleansed my palate with a little Zepplin and resumed my rambles.

Here is what they said (all quotes are rough and approximate except, where I have just made stuff up to make the old guys sound more lively.)

The program was called “Crossing the Divide: Partisan Politics on Capitol Hill.”

First, in fairness, some things that I liked.
Simpson: Trust and respect are the missing ingredients. I trusted them [my Democratic counterparts]. I didn’t have to agree with them.

Mitchell: Preznit Bush [the First] was in office. Democrats controlled the House and the senate…We had our disagreements, of course. But because we maintained a personal respect and a cordiality, we were able to overcome our differences. And we passed a shitload of things. Big, scary, complicated legislation where we spent a ton of time working out our differences and compromising honorably.

Mitchell: We believe in competition. We believe in it in business. In sports. And of course in government. But we also believe in [cooperative and collegial political] relationships that will vindicate our belief in the competitive system.

Simpson: I never voted straight party ticket. I never followed the straight Wyoming party platform because I thought some of it was stupefying. And yet I seemed to get along OK and I never lost an election.
Simpson said many good things. That the last Congress did nothing. That this new arrangement will pull the President towards the center. That it is “tragic” that Harry Reid has been the Dem Leader in the Senate for all these years and yet has been invited to the WH to speak to the Preznit one-on-one only once.

So, as I say, there was some good stuff.

However it was all icing on a big pile of cold dung, because even with the barrel of an elephant gun pressed to the foreheads of their favorite puppies, what you will never get a Simpson or Mitchell to choke out is this, simple reality:
When it comes to partisanship, ideological fanaticism, and the vicious depths to which they will gleefully sink to demonize their opponents, by any measure the Republican Party is far, far worse than the Democrats.
So why is partisanship getting worse in the Senate?
Mitchell: Because you’re getting more people elected to the Senate from the House. And they bring the mores and traditions of the House with them.

Simpson: I agree with George totally. I can name names. I watched the venom come from the House.
Caller Isabelle from New Jersey chimes in and gets the bullshit rolling.
Isabelle: I think the problem right now is not so much between the Republicans and the Democrats as it is between those with an ideological approach to politics and those with a pragmatic approach.

Isabelle: So when you have people like Alan Simpson or Christine Todd Whitman who have a more pragmatic approach to politrics they can discuss [issues] with Demiocrats, whereas when you have a very ideological person like President Bush or Sam Brownback…it’s more difficult to come to a compromise because their ideology is based on ideology not on reality.

And then, completely unprompted, our host helpfully leaps in with this:
“I would suspect to be fair that there are at least a few Democrats who have an ideology of their own too…”
To which the caller replies:
”Yes. I agree. I just couldn’t think of one though.”
The discerning ear can now hear the penny drop.

“To be fair…”?

driftglass translation: Whatever explicitly Republican high crimes, scandals, lie or treasons are under discussion, Something Very Bad will happen to me if I don’t automatically and doctrinally butt in with no evidence whatsoever and assert that, somehow, Democrats are equally bad.

This is GOP Talking Point Number One, repeated so incessantly and so ubiquitously that it has reached the point of reflex.

Everyone is equally partisan.

Equally to blame.

Equally unreasonable.

Everybody knows that…except for some mysterious reason no one can lay hands on a single metric that shows this to be true.

And why? Why this persistent, voluntary blindness?

Well, for the GOP the answer is obvious. I mean, since they can now force the bar to be lowered and the ire to be raised uniformly and robotically for everyone every time they and only they are caught naked, in the apse, fisting the Easter Bunny, they can start every national race no worse than dead-even with any competitor.

But with others – with those who do not follow anything political very closely at all – I think the answer is really very simple. They want to believe it because to believe otherwise is terrifying.

Our political parties have each been on various issues and at various moments shrewd and flawed and cowardly and noble, but our system is formulated in such a way that we ultimately resolve ourselves into two and ONLY two major parties. With rare exceptions we always have been thus, and for the foreseeable future we will certainly be thus. And being a proud Realist I have long since learned to rein in my political fantasies and keep them from straying too far into the “Gee, what if we had nine parties, a parliamentary system, public financing, and heroes and angels as public servants?” territory.

Because we don’t.

We have what we have, and the trick has always been to try to keep this ornery, square-wheeled Conestoga wagon lurching along in generally the right direction. Because sitting by the roadside crying and holding one’s breathe until the magic, smooth-riding, round-wheeled, hybrid Nadermobile glides to a stop to pick you up and take you to the Progressive Promised Land is never, ever going to happen.

The two parties have always ended up soaking up the issues and zealotries and good and bad Third Party ideas of the day like biscuits sopping up gravy.

They have adapted and evolved or devolved where and when they have been forced to, and then like two drunks propping each other up, stumbled along their symbiotic way.

That view of our country is burned onto our collective civic motherboard, so what happens on the day regular, non-political junkie Americans are faced with the no-longer avoidable reality that one of our Parties is no longer just the Opposition, but are the Enemy?

That all of their millions of megawatts of flag-wavin’, good-hairin’, Jebus Lovin’, RedWhiteandBlue Murrican rhetoric has been in the service of a political and economic elite that is deeply malevolent and deeply committed to the extinction of this country as we know it and love it?

What happens then?

There are powerful historical parallels to be found in the Dark Age of our own recent Segregationist past.

The perpetuation of Jim Crow in this country owed as much to the vast number of citizens who quietly went along with or who willfully ignored the terrorism that the Southern states inflicted on their black minorities, as it did to the terrorists who carried out their state-sanctioned campaign of rape, torture, extortion, lies and murder decade after decade after decade.

Long, looong after it was painfully clear to anyone who bothered to open their eyes that the South was owned and operated by openly fascist regimes of child murderers, Americans by and large dealt with the problem by magical thinking. They did not want to believe in an America run by bloodthirsty despots – which is exactly what the Segregated South was – so they just…ignored it.

Just wish-wish-wished it away.

Sometimes, in search of other more intricate answers, I overlook our nearly infinite national capacity for just closing our eyes to terrible problems, pulling the blankie over our heads, and hoping it all somehow goes away. So like the war in Vietnam, year after year this country somnolently whitewashed over the horrors of our Apartheid That Dare Not Speak Its Name until it came screaming out at us from our teevee sets and rammed itself down our throats.

And now we are faced with another grim reality with frightening implications: That millions of our fellow citizens are either hateful morons or clinically insane and that they are almost all packed into the same political Party.

A Party/Media/Corporate Empire which now survives solely by keeping its base ignorant, frightened and berserk with rage.

And the implications that flow from this unhappy revelation that we are two, distinct Americas now -- and that while one is certainly flawed and squabbling and timorous, the other America – the Red/Fox America -- has become so existentially monstrous that it is now inimical to every value we claim to cherish -- are so terrifying to normal citizens that they will not accept it.

And so with the eager help of Hate Radio, Fox News and the Mainstream Media, they invent a bedtime story to help them hide the ugly truth. An opium dream that is now faithfully parroted by every Broder and Brooks and Friedman and Neal Conan in the land. This lie that no matter how low the GOP sinks, somehow, some way the Democrats are equally and oppositely terrible.

Equally steeped in sin and intolerance.

Equally to blame for every bad thing.

Back on NPR, Jim in Oklahoma City would like to know the effect of Religious Fundamentalism on politics.
Jim: “Reasonable people are willing to compromise their political stances, but it is probably extremely difficult for people to compromise what they believe are their religious principles.”
Got it? The question Jim asked is about the dangers that come when Religious Zealots get into politics.

And since political extremism jacketed in fundamentalist religious fanaticism is a particular disease of the Right, this is a clearly a shot right into Simpson’s Party’s political wheelhouse.

So how does Simpson answer?

First he rambles uncomfortably and incomprehensibly all over God’s Little Acre and back again (for Simpson-watchers, this is a sure sign that he is about to lay out a fat line of bullshit), and then fires back with this:
“I can tell ya, when you have zealots on both sides, and they’re getting’ pumped up on one side by Rush Limbaugh or Al Franken on the other, you got problems in River City.”

Rush Limbaugh “returned to radio as a talk show host at KFBK in Sacramento, California” in 1984.

That was 22 years ago.

Al Franken began firing back in the same medium as Limbaugh when he began anchoring a show on Air America, which did not even exist until 2004.

That was two years ago.

So Rush had a twenty-year head start. And in that time his imitators created an entire, integrated radio/teevee/print/cable media Universe based almost entirely on egging the pig people on to mindlessly hate Liberals and blame queers and “feminazis” for every evil on Earth, real or imagined.

For twenty years a polyglot witchbag of sociopaths, Christopaths, Neocons, drunks, demagogues and whores have gotten rich and re-elected by banding together to demonize Liberals and tell the scum of the nation over and over and over again that being the scum of the nation is a noble calling. Or, to misquote H.L Menkin, “No Fox executive ever went broke overestimating the hateful stupidity of the pig people.”

And for twenty years – while the mass purveyors of carefully calibrated hate and rage and xenophobia on the Right gathered more and more power and got more and more vulgar and vicious in their rhetoric – what did the Left try to do?

We tried to find common ground. To meet our opponents half-way.

To compromise…with people who sneered at the very idea of working together and said quite openly that compromise was “political date rape”.

While the Emperor of Weaponized Bile, Newt Gingrich, took over the House with a campaign explicitly based on calling Democrats “traitors” at every opportunity, and Limbaugh was being honored as the “Majority Maker” by those House Republicans, we on the Left were still trying to do and be all the nicey-nicey things that Alan Simpson is now all weepy and wistful for.

And it didn’t work. And while we played by Marquis of Queensbury, the orcs laughed in our faces, overran the joint, and bequeathed to us as its apotheosis the worst, most despicable, most incompetent, most Constitution-loathing Administration in American history.

Al Franken and Air America did not arise in a vacuum. The came into being as a desperate, eleventh-hour attempt to fight back against a twenty year multimedia blitz of unremitting, unrebutted Conservative lies and bigotry.

They arose because no one in the Mainstream Media had the guts to take on the GOP Propaganda Machine head-on. Instead, the MSM collaborated, because collaborating in the Big Lie was a much better, safer career move.

Progressive Radio arose because politicians like Alan Simpson were, for twenty years, perfectly content with looking the other way and harvesting the electoral fruits of the poison tree that their Conservative/Christopath/Racist Hate Radio, Hate TeeVee, Hate Satellite, Hate Cable and Hate Publishing so lavishly watered and fertilized.

Because the GOP was never concerned with the destruction of political comity…as long as it was working to their advantage.

As long as all of the screeching Orwellian hellfire was coming from the Right, they never said a fucking word.

But now, finally, after twenty years of unilateral disarmament, now that the Left has at last decided to fight back hard, suddenly old Republican loons like Simpson get all gooey for the glory days of cellulose collars, nickel candy bars, whale-bone corsets, heroic cavalry charges and a politics of gentle, ruffled fisticuffs followed by brandy, cigars and top-shelf hookers.

Suddenly it is “zealots on both sides” that have torn his beloved Temple down.

Well fuck you, Alan Simpson. Fuck you sideways for your bogus hand-wringing and crocodile tears.

And fuck you, George Mitchell, for sitting there with your thumb up your ass and allowing your good, Republican friend to spread this Big Lie unchallenged right under your nose.


Mister Roboto said...

Another Uncle Drifty classic. Would that you had a column in the NYT instead of Friedmanfries!

Anonymous said...

Same here. Wow! and thanks!

Anonymous said...

Although Air America is the only network, there have been liberal radio personalities who've been on for years, but have never had the opportunity to have national shows. I only mention this because I've listened to Bernie Ward for close to 20 years now. He may be stuck in SF, but he was out there, and a far sight better than Limpdick (who I listened to occasionally in the '80s).

Anonymous said...

I like your choice of words, as in (C)
'Kollaboraters'. Some years ago, I would hear stories about the many French who, although they worked hand-in-hand with the nazi, would claim they were active in the French underground. Probably a few years from now (if we're still around as a country despite the rights best attempts) we may hear stories from people like simpson and mitchell, etc, etfuckingc, how they fought the good fight against the usurpers of our democracy. Let us all remember who is who and not turn our backs like 1975 when ford let the seepege flea and lick tis wounds until, refreshened, it slimed its way back in amongst decent people.

Anonymous said...

In clean, muscular language Webb performed the most important service a citizenry can ever ask of its politicians: To literally speak on our behalf.

And that is the rub. To speak on our behalf, to ACT on our behalf.

Thank you for your clean, muscular language, DG.

I am tired and weary and tired and weary and tired and...angry. An angry dog.

Anonymous said...

Of course Webb offered more "war on terrorism". Now, as predicted, this endeavor will become a Democrats War. Wonderful. So he lectured the boy President. Big deal.

Anonymous said...

Best. Blog. Ever...

And thanks for the memories of Rush's stupid start in Sacto. Back then, I used to commute to work in Sacramento from Rush's favorite enemy camp (he called it "the People's Republic of Davis"), so I got some bumperstickers made up that said simply


slapped one on my 4x4, and enjoyed watching the impotent road rage of the early dittoheads.

driftglass said...


Don't worry about it. Thanks to Diebold the Dems will never win in the midterms.

Also Karl Rove is a frackin' genius.

And so forth.

Oh, wait a minute...

Thanks. Hope you saved a few for the Impeachment Party.

Thank you kindly.

Thanks all most sincerely, and now back to the mining of the salt.

Anonymous said...

I wonder at what point the majority of German conservatives began to realize that the Nazi leaders were not merely a harder-line batch of conservatives than usual, but were genuinely, clinically insane.

I also wonder if a majority of USAmerican conservatives have reached that point yet about the Bushevik leaders.

Robert Parry, over at, states correctly that the USAmerican Left made its biggest mistake in failing to recognize and counter the hostile takeover of the major media by a clique of obscenely wealthy reactionary individuals and corporations. ["The Left's Media Miscalculation", by Parry] These public enemies have built a fascist propaganda apparatus that would make Goebbels weep in envy.

The progressives overestimated the skeptical sophistication of average US citizens, and underestimated their susceptibility to propaganda.

If and when we, the sane, ever regain control of both houses of Congress and the White House, we must restore the Fairness Doctrine and we need to use the anti-trust laws as if they were Mjolnir, to shatter the media conglomerates into a much larger number of pieces. Selah.

Mister Roboto said...

Robert Parry, over at, states correctly that the USAmerican Left made its biggest mistake in failing to recognize and counter the hostile takeover of the major media by a clique of obscenely wealthy reactionary individuals and corporations. ["The Left's Media Miscalculation", by Parry]

I guess I'm just hard-pressed to conceptualize what we might have done. What Big Money generally wants, Big Money all too often gets.

Anonymous said...

Good linkage between the denial about the South and the denial about the modern GOP. There is something else about this as well, part of the denial comes from the knowledge on the part of good Americans that if we face the truth we have to face our responsibilities and if we have to face our responsibilities we have to do something about it and like Lincoln or Martin Luther King battle the forces of evil into submission. This will require sacrifice on our part, hense the denial. But the Republicans should be forwarned, when the nation puts itself to the challange, as it did in 1860 and 1960, we will not rest until our ennemies are defeated no matter what to cost to us or them.

The GOP are going to wish they had never been born.

Anonymous said...

Long, looong after it was painfully clear to anyone who bothered to open their eyes that the South was owned and operated by openly fascist regimes of child murderers...

One of the fascists was finally caught today. A 1964 Mississippi deputy sheriff severely beat, weighted down, then dumped alive into the Mississippi River two 19 year old black hitchikers.

Anonymous said...

I live-blogged it last night but am about to finish writing a better thought out reaction to the SOTE Address (I borrowed a pic from you from long ago, DG, but I gave you credit.).

In the meantime, this little petty bullshit between Charles Johnson's LGF goons and me was mildly amusing, at first, but he's seriously beginning to piss me off.

It's not my fault that Forbes used the wrong picture while I used the right one and at least did my job correctly. But him and his roach hordes are really pushing me at this point...

Anonymous said...

you guys suck and lie somuch grow the fuck up stop blameing the gop for ur lack of power

Anonymous said...

Holy fuck-- my irony meter just spontaneously burst into molten slag. If I'd been wearing it at the time, it'd probably have burnt clean through my wrist.

Anonymous said...

"Pig people"?

Tsk, Drifty, you shouldn't slander a founding species of the Federation like that. The Tellarites had NOTHING to do with it. ;)

Anonymous said...

Speaking of NPR, Monday's "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook had none other than Tom Friedman on, blathering away about Bush's handling of what he always thought of as a great war, if only it had been handled like Tom told them to. When Ashbrook gently reminded Friedman that many had thought the whole enterprise was unworkable from the beginning, Friedman, in a glaring example of spinelessness, said, in effect, "well, I knew they were going to do it anyway, so I thought I'd support them." He's supposed to be some kind of Middle East savant, who's actually been there and talked to people, so for him to attempt to slither out from under his pre-war support with this lame explanation was beneath contempt, as was Ashbrook letting him do it.

Anonymous said...

Why certainly, Drift!

With the republicans looking at preznintial ratings which could reach the high teens in a couple of months, the NEW talking point, is that all the politicians are no good.

And puh-leezegod, make the word "Iraq" go out of existence, and let's cheer bush's foxhole conversion to an environmentalist.

Think domestic; act Mesopotamianly...only, no talking about it.

Anonymous said...

DG - glad to see ya back, at least for a moment. Keep that hardhat on, and one eye on the canary.

Yo Anonymous,


SSSSSooooOOOOOEIYYYY, here piggy piggy pigg pigg, here piggy pig...

BitterHarvest said...

D, please. Are you expecting brave politics from NPR? If they so much as sneeze they could have their funding pulled.

Kudos to Jim Webb. Two-thirds of this country wanted him to say exactly what he did say: if the preznit makes the rights choices we will support him. If he doesn't we'll show him the way.

Of course, a better closing might have been this: we owe it to our soldiers to have a Commander-in-Chief who is not cataclysmically inept AND deceitful. Lives depend on it, including the lives of the 1,000 or so US servicemen who will die in the next 12-16 monthes if the president's plan continues to fail. We will be trying to impeach him. God bless America.

Anonymous said...

I figured out why I keep coming back here. I've tried to read Franken, et al. but the mincing of words makes the sustenance tasteless.

Raw Meat! freshly disgorged, properly plated and presented with minimal fuss and fanfare.


Even when you burp it up hours later, it's still satisfying!

Driftglass, you rock.

Anonymous said...

oh. my. god.
dg, this is a masterwork. save it, set it to the side for quick and easy reference. because when the history of this time is written, of those who fought the good fight to take back the country from the bullies and the stupid and the fist-brains, this is exhibit a.

couple things raised by your post:
the not-unintended consequence of postwatergate campaign finance reform -- which gave us public funding that is about to go the way of the dodo bird -- is that it basically enshrined the two-party system. at the time, it was called an incumbent protection program.

it ostracized the very concept of third parties, raised the bar extremely high for them to get financing, and generally supported the notion that third parties had no place at the debate table. so it became easier to exclude such candidates from presidential debates, and harder to get on state ballots. triumph of the status quo.

confession: it's hard to believe, but in 2000, with the dems looking like a lock against an already discredited right-wing gop, it was possible to dream that a third party might push through. the reps was clearly marginalizing themselves, and the fat happy clinton dems were going to take the center. that was what animated a fair number of green party supporters, myself among them -- a true national party for progressives could be built. (i live in a state gore won in a landslide, so no hatemails, thanks all the same.)
well, we see how THAT worked out. between the coup of 2000, the fraud of electronic voting and the hatemongering authoritarians behind it all, the country was down to one-party rule in a hurry. i still can't believe that the dems were able to get a pulse this november.
lesson learned. make sure you have two functioning parties first. that's got to be the objective from here on out.

Organic Mechanic said...

hmmm...hadn't drifted to the glass house for awhile. really fine. never expect much from npr, though. it's all bubblewrap done by and for elites. their "fairness" keeps them aloft from the dirty masses.
the cyber rabble makes their heads spin, trust me.
DG, as others have said: you rock.

Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

Hey, what happened to my name at 9:56 AM? I thought I logged in as Ivory Bill Woodpecker! :(