He’s Proud To Be An Okie From Manhattan

I don’t think I’ve ever quoted Ed Shultz on this blog, and some of you aren’t going to completely understand today’s offering, but here it goes:

Last night Shultz said something about the birther issue that may strike some folks as odd:

The President of the United States has had to put up with this honky-tonk conversation in the media for too long.

What a brilliant description of the goings-on regarding, among other things, the racist-infected doubts about President Obama’s birthplace, his college experiences, and essentially his love for his country.

“Honky-tonk” can be defined simply as, “a cheap, noisy bar or dance hall,” but in my (considerable) experience, there is a certain ethos that prevails in the kinds of bars I have known as honky-tonks. In terms of the politics of the patrons, they were, and remain, very conservative institutions.

Let me put it this way:  Honky-tonks aren’t the kind of places in which one would expect to find Barack Hussein Obama bellied-up to the bar.

While part of the etymology of the term honky-tonk is a little cloudy—”tonk” may refer to the brand name, Ernest A. Tonk, on the upright piano used in the old Tin Pan Alley bars—here is how Wikipedia describes the “honky” portion of the term:

The term honky was, as a term for whites, derived from bohunk and hunky. In the early 1900s, these were derogatory terms for Bohemian, Hungarian, and Polish immigrants. According to Robert Hendrickson, author of the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, black workers in Chicago meatpacking plants picked up the term from white workers and began applying it indiscriminately to all whites. “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy wrote of “Negroes and hunkies” in his autobiography.

Wikipedia further notes that, “honky tonk eventually became associated mainly with lower-class bars catering to men.”  The piano was replaced, for the honky-tonks I frequented, by a juke box, a juke box mostly loaded with country music. 

And the politics was, well, you can imagine.  Mostly uninformed, bigoted noise, spouted by people who don’t know what they don’t know, many of them I could politely call reactionaries, but because I’m still aggressively saddened about the events yesterday, I will call them classic rednecks.

Okay, so you get what Ed Schultz was trying to say. Which led me to thinking about Donald Trump, who I have called an Ugly American. I think a better description of him would be a Manhattan redneck.

Yes, a redneck from Manhattan.  They exist. And Donald Trump is their hero.  In fact, he’s a hero of rednecks everywhere.

I like this definition of the term redneck from the Urban Dictionary:

A glorious absence of sophistication (Part time or full time)

For the record, Donald Trump is “full-time.”

In his press conference yesterday, Donald Trump said,

I am so proud of myself because I’ve accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish.

It’s as if Trump was in a honky-tonk in 1964 Meridian, Mississippi, bragging to his buddies, “I showed that uppity negro. That’ll teach him to wink at a white woman.

And there on the bar stool next to Trump was his honky-tonk angel, Sarah Palin, egging him on:

Media, admit it, Trump forced the issue.

Which reminds me of an old Conway Twitty honky-tonk song, sort of Donald Trump’s plea to the world:

So tell me if you think it’s over,

And I’ll leave it up to you how it ends. 

‘Cause if you don’t want the love I can give you, 

Well, there’s a honky-tonk angel who’ll take me back in.

Makes me want to pop the top on another can.

The Gullible Americans

As I write this, here is the Number One book on Amazon.com:

In case you don’t know anything about the book, here is the description from Amazon:

Heaven Is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven. He survives and begins talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn’t know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear.

Colton said he met his miscarried sister, whom no one had told him about, and his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born, then shared impossible-to-know details about each. He describes the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how “reaaally big” God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit “shoots down power” from heaven to help us.

Told by the father, but often in Colton’s own words, the disarmingly simple message is heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and be ready, there is a coming last battle.

Get it? “Told by the father,” with, by the way, lots of help from Lynn Vincent, a Republican writer who “helped” Sarah Palin write her own wild tale, Going Rogue.

The reason I mention the book is because of an article I read on The Washington Post, ‘Heaven is for real’ and the immature American mind,” by Susan Jacoby, in which the author explored what it might mean that a book like this is at the top of Amazon sales (113 days in the top 100):

This book, and its commercial success, remind us again of the effectiveness of religious indoctrination early in life…

What is truly disturbing about this book’s huge commercial success is that it attests to the prevalence of unreason among vast numbers of Americans. (The book is way down in the ranks on Amazon.com in the United Kingdom.) The Americans buying the book are the same people fighting the teaching of evolution in public schools. They are probably the same people who think they can reduce the government deficit without either paying higher taxes or cutting the military budget, Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Jacoby was right about the ranking in the U.K.  I checked and it wasn’t even in the top 100.  In fact, it was on the “Religion & Spirituality” bestseller list, for God’s sake.

Just what does that say?  I’m not sure, but I would guess that a significant number of the more than 1.5 million sold copies ended up in the hands of Christian folks who believe other charmingly useful fantasies, like President Obama is a foreign-born Muslim who hates America.

Remarks And Asides

Dear God,

Please talk Donald Trump into running for president. I take back everything I’ve ever said about Your Party, about Michele Bachmann, about Sarah Palin, even about Anson Burlingame.  Just please let him run and let the GOP pick him as its nominee.  Pretty please?

Prayerfully,

Duane

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Everybody’s making a big deal out of Newt Gingrich’s egregious flip-flop on what to do in Libya. First he can’t wait to go in, then when Obama goes in, he says he shouldn’t have gone in.  If a man can’t make up his mind about which woman with whom he wants to live happily ever after, why should anyone think he can make up his mind about which dictator we should bomb?

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A new Pew poll shows that “nearly half (47%) of registered voters say they would like to see Barack Obama reelected, while 37% say they would prefer to see a Republican candidate win the 2012 election.”  The overview of the Pew survey, though, says,

In part, Obama is benefitting from the fact that the GOP has yet to coalesce behind a candidate.

All the more reason, God, to get Donald Trump to run.  Please?

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Speaking of Republican candidates for president, Herman Cain, famous for broiling Whoppers for Burger King (actually, he’s somewhat famous for running Godfather’s Pizza), attended a rally of home-schoolers yesterday in Des Moines. 

Along with other candidates present, he, of course, trashed the public school system, obligatory behavior for anyone wanting to be the GOP nominee.  But Cain, an African-American Tea Party favorite from the South, said something I found interesting. He reportedly denounced all government involvement in education and then said this:

That’s all we want is for government to get out of the way so we can educate ourselves and our children the old-fashioned way.

The “old-fashioned way“?  Hmm.  Was he talking about the real old-fashioned way, back when there were no schools, no books, and no teachers?  That far back?

Or was the 65-year-old Herman Cain, who admits to a working-class pedigree, talking about the old-fashioned days in the 1950s when he would have spent his formative years in Georgia public schools?  

The old-fashioned way in those days in the South was to segregate-then-educate kids like Herman Cain, and despite the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, some parts of Georgia did not even begin to integrate the schools until 1970.

According to Professor Michael Gagnon,

In defiance of Brown v. Board of Education, The Georgia School Board required public school teachers to sign a pledge that they would not teach in integrated schools in 1955 or they would lose their teaching license.

Is that the old-fashioned way the GOP candidate for president pines for?

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Finally, James O’Keefe, the scoundrel whose creative video edits have killed ACORN and wounded NPR, while simultaneously giving Sean Hannity a Viagra-like boner, is in debt.  In fact, he claims he’s in debt up to $50,000.  Fifty G’s.  He has sent out a fund-raising email to supporters, saying he had to finance much of his wonderful work on the credit card:

We made a lot of sacrifices—personally and financially —because we fight for what we believe in.

It’s not clear to me how he can both claim he has sacrificed financially and yet beg others to pay his bills, but in any case, I am setting up the James O’Keefe Relief Fund here at The Erstwhile Conservative.  Just send in your donations and I will be sure he gets the money. No amount is too small.

Trust me at least as much as you trust him.

Remarks and Asides

Jason Linkins of HuffPo, previously a semi-supporter of Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, has changed his mind. Here’s why:

Snyder’s just lost me completely with his apparent desire to enact a law that would impose “financial martial law” upon struggling communities in the form of “financial managers” that would have the power to abrogate contracts at will and supercede the democratic process. There’s been a lot of recent media attention focused on a similar disregard for the public will in Wisconsin, but what’s happening in Michigan really makes Scott Walker look like an amateur.

Linkins quotes the Michigan Messenger:

According to the law, which has already been approved in the House, the governor will be able to declare “financial emergency” in towns or school districts and appoint someone to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, and eliminate services.

Under the law whole cities or school districts could be eliminated without any public participation or oversight, and amendments designed to provide minimal safeguards and public involvement were voted down.

Czars, anyone?

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Politico is reporting on the “conservative backlash” against Sarah Palin, including one Weekly Standard writer calling her an Alaskan Al Sharpton.  Wow.  That has to hurt the pale-faced Palinistas out there.

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Speaking of Palinistas, I saw George Will, who admitted his wife “occasionally advises” the Lady Gaga of the Tea Party movement, Michele Bachmann, dismiss her presidential candidacy as not serious:

We know who settles presidential elections, they’re independent voters. Independent voters are not inflamed, and not inflamed in the way that some of the marginal Republican candidates are.

Oh, George!  “Inflamed”?  That is a perfect description of the Tea Party, whose “energies” you welcomed last year into your party:

But eight months ago, the worry was the worst case analysis for Republicans was that the Tea Party energies would be diverted in a third party candidacy splitting the conservative vote in this country. Sarah Palin, think of her what you will, has brought them into the Republican Party, and they are one of the main reasons for what is going to be probably decisive in November and that is the enormous enthusiasm and intensity gap that favors the Republicans this year.

You see? The unelectable teapartier Bachmann is “inflamed,” but teapartiers in general are endowed with “enormous enthusiasm and intensity.”

Only conservative intellectuals can weave these kinds of contradictions into a seamless defense of the indefensible.

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Democrats have been damning Mitt Romney with praise lately. They have been reminding voters that Romney’s 2006 health care law in Massachusetts was sort of the model for the much-hated “Obamacare.”

Some worry it will backfire, should Romney win the GOP nomination next year and Democrats are left trying to convince independents that Romney is really, truly a scary sort of guy.

Well, I wouldn’t worry.  By the time Romney makes himself fit to win the nomination, he will be a really, truly scary sort of guy.

A Conservative Intellectual Punts On MSNBC

The Republican “News” Channel’s Bill Kristol made a rare appearance on MSNBC this morning on Morning Joe.  He was promoting a collection of essays written by his father, Irving, the New York intellectual who is credited with fathering neoconservatism.

Kristol was asked, of course, about his recent editorial, which criticized Glenn Beck for his “rants about the caliphate.” Kristol didn’t exactly take the bait and go after Beck:

I’m not gonna get in a debate with Glenn Beck here on MSNBC.  I’ll debate him on Fox where we’re  “fair and balanced,” where we have these debates among ourselves.

Ha.  Don’t put too much money on that debate materializing.

But Kristol did make some slight news regarding Sarah Palin, for whom he lobbied hard to make her not only the GOP vice presidential candidate in 2008, but, God help us, the Vice President of the United States.  Willie Geist asked Kristol if he overestimated Palin and if she was still “fit to be a national Republican leader“:

KRISTOL: Well, I think she’s still “fit” to be a national Republican leader. One thing I’ve never liked is a bunch of people like me telling everyone who’s fit to do what. If she wants to run she’s more that entitled to run. She’s earned the right, I think, to put herself before the voters…I have quite a lot of confidence in Republican voters to take a look at these ten or twelve or fifteen people who will be on the stage in debate after debate…and I think we’ll learn a lot as we go through that…I have a high regard for Sarah Palin, but I will say I’ve been a little disappointed since she resigned as governor.  I thought she had a real chance to take the lead on a few policy issues, to do a little more in terms of framing the policy agenda.  I don’t think she’s particularly done that, but she’s a shrewd woman and I certainly wouldn’t underestimate her.

GEIST: Has she lived up to the potential you saw in her in Alaska?

KRISTOL:  Maybe not quite.  But she’s young and she could do it in this campaign or she could do it four or eight years from now.

That, my friends, is the way it is on the intellectual Right these days.

Given a chance to thoroughly discredit Glenn Beck, who is clearly a citizen of a very strange and dark land, Bill Kristol punted. 

Given a chance to say what nearly all right-wing brains will admit after several glasses of Boehner-approved Merlot—that Palin is in over her head and will never become President of the United States—Kristol says he is “a little disappointed,” but she is a “shrewd woman,” who could still live up to her potential.

And so, the intellectual decline of conservatism continues.

Remarks And Asides

Thanks to Moe at Whatever Works, I learned that the fruits of Dan Quayle’s genius didn’t fall far from the tree.  His son, now an Arizona congressman, said:

“When I was a child, President Ronald Reagan was the nice man who gave us jelly beans when we visited the White House.

I didn’t know then, but I know it now: The jelly beans were much more than a sweet treat that he gave out as gifts. They represented the uniqueness and greatness of America — each one different and special in its own way, but collectively they blended in harmony . . . “

I happen to think Congressman Quayle is on to something.  I never saw Ronald Reagan eat a black jelly bean. 

Come to think of it, J. Danforth Quayle himself had that race thing down to a science. Speaking before the United Negro College Fund in 1989, he reengineered the group’s motto:

What a terrible thing to have lost one’s mind. Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is.

He also said this about David Duke, the Lousiana racist who ran as a Republican:

Unfortunately, the people of Louisiana are not racists.

And finally, he told a group of American Samoans:

You all look like happy campers to me. Happy campers you are, happy campers you have been, and, as far as I am concerned, happy campers you will always be.

Genius, pure genius.

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Speaking of genius-ness, it looks like George W. Bush will not be going to Switzerland after all.  The Decider was supposed to appear as the keynote speaker at a Jewish charity dinner in Geneva, but he made one of those courageous decisions not to attend, due to “security” reasons.

Of course, it may be, as some allege, that W. fears spending some time in the hoosegow, since criminal complaints against him for torture have been filed in Geneva courts.  According to Reuters, Reed Brody, an attorney for Human Rights Watch said:

President Bush has admitted he ordered waterboarding which everyone considers to be a form of torture under international law. Under the Convention against Torture, authorities would have been obliged to open an investigation and either prosecute or extradite George Bush,” Brody said.

Whoops. Perhaps world travel is not in the cards for our former president. Looks like Dallas’ Preston Hollow residents will have to get used to seeing W. hanging around there more often. 

_________________________

I did it!  I finally lived long enough to agree with Bill Kristol!  In his column, he said that it is “not a sign of health” that Glenn Beck “rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East…and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left.” That’s great.

But speaking of health, if only Mr. Kristol would get his own check up.  He still believes the Iraq War he helped bring to pass was the right thing to do. He has argued for U.S. military action against Iran. He strongly urged John McCain to unleash Sarah Palin on civilization.  So, I don’t think he’s exactly the right guy to pass judgment on Glenn Beck’s health, but on the right there aren’t too many right guys.

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Speaking of Sarah Palin and her continued assault on civilization, the former fractional governor of Alaska’s 20-year-old daughter, Bristol, will join in on the family’s bilking business as she gets set to release her, ahem, “memoir” this summer.  The much-awaited book is tentatively titled, “John McCain Answers Prayers.” 

Egypt: The View From The Paranoid Right

Since nearly every sensible thing that can be said has been said this weekend regarding the upheaval in Egypt, I thought I would look in on what the right-wing is saying.

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are so far playing it safe, essentially approving of the Obama administration’s cautious response to the crisis. But it’s only Monday.

Unfortunately, Egypt is not observable from Wasilla, so Sarah Palin hasn’t yet tweeted her foreign policy advice to the world.  But it’s only Monday. I’m sure after she catches up on her weekend reading, she will offer up some profound analysis.

Bill Kristol, a Fox “News” neocon who agitated for war against Iraq as early as 1998 and who has urged the U.S. to launch a military strike against Iran, has not yet called for invading Egypt and ousting Mubarak.  That’s always a good thing, but it’s only Monday.  

Kristol, who always knows what we should do in every tricky situation, did say the Administration was “a little slow in reacting to events and said a couple foolish things.”  Apparently, patience and deliberation is not a virtue in the Kristol family.

Speaking of a lack of patience and deliberation: The Glenn Beck News Service, The Blaze, featured this headline:

The story, written by Jonathon Seidl and complete with a Goldline ad, is one of those “connecting the dots” specials, which are the forte of the paranoid Right. It seems that the American Left, some of whom rallied this weekend in support of the Egyptian people, is encouraging the uprising because,

the power vacuum that would result from a government collapse would make the country a prime target for a socialist takeover.

Even though the protests in Egypt have been decidedly unrelated to Western politics, that’s not the way it is seen through the eyes of fearful right-wingers, at least when it comes to the motives of those Americans who support Egyptian freedom:

Is it really about democracy, then, as some of the signs suggest?

Not really. The reality seems to be closer to something like this: when a revolution opposes a leftist dictator, leftists and socialists ignore it. When a revolution opposes an American ally (particularly an ally as pivotal to U.S. security as the Egyptian alliance is) leftists and socialists support it. Succinctly put, the groups have a vested interest in the current American system being defeated (a goal shared by leftist dictators). That’s why they can support Chavez, Ahmadinejad, and even Hussein, but rally against someone such as Mubarak.

In the same vein, Red State, a popular right-wing site operated by Erick Erickson, now a CNN commentator, featured this headline:

The story takes the Beckian view one step further and involves the Obama administration in the plot to make Egypt and the Middle East a socialist paradise:

For all the lack of clarity on where the Obama administration stands, one thing is becoming more and more clear: Signs are beginning to point more toward the likelihood that President Obama’s State Department, unions, as well as Left-leaning media corporations are more directly involved in helping to ignite the Mid-East turmoil than they are publicly admitting.

Meanwhile, Dick Morris, another Foxinating right-winger who sees an Islamic terrorist hiding behind every crisis tree, is urging the U.S. to “send a signal to the military that it will be supportive of its efforts to keep Egypt out of the hands of the Islamic fundamentalists.He wrote:

The Obama Administration, in failing to throw its weight against an Islamic takeover, is guilty of the same mistake that led President Carter to fail to support the Shah, opening the door for the Ayatollah Khomeini to take over Iran…

Now is the time for Republicans and conservatives to start asking the question: Who is losing Egypt? We need to debunk the starry eyed idealistic yearning for reform and the fantasy that a liberal democracy will come from these demonstrations. It won’t. Iranian domination will.

It appears that some on the Right, who night and day lie and stoke fear about Obama’s imaginary disregard for the freedoms of Americans, don’t mind if he helps squash the yearnings of Egyptians who want liberty—and jobs—in their own land.

We really run the risk of some Iranian style regime emerging in the end here,” foreign policy expert Sean Hannity said on Friday.

And even though the real experts discount that possibility (the Muslim Brotherhood reportedly represents around 20% of the population), it doesn’t matter. What matters is that however the situation in Egypt ends, Obama will have either done too much or too little.  He will either have sided with the Egyptian dictator or sided with the Muslim Brotherhood or engineered a socialist revolution.  

And to think it’s only Monday.

 

Remarks And Asides

Apparently, George W. Bush told Brian Lamb of C-SPAN that he is finished with politics.  Damn.  He’s just 10 years too late.

______________________________

It seems Democratic Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia is in trouble again.  On Arabic television, of all places, he explained that the 2010 election shellacking was the result of “a lot of people” who,

don’t want to be governed by an African American, particularly one who is inclusive, who is liberal, who wants to spend money on everyone and who wants to reach out to include everyone in our society. That’s a basic philosophical clash.

Of course, Moran has it all wrong.  The reason for the shellacking was that a lot of people resent being governed by an African.

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The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission finally confirmed what most of us already knew: the financial meltdown was not the fault of poor, often minority, homebuyers who supposedly twisted the arms of helpless bankers in order to get mortgages they couldn’t afford. 

Of course, since the Republican members of the commission issued their own report, that leaves Republicans free to continue to falsely claim that efforts to help the poor own their own homes is the root of all financial evil.

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It was sad to see a once-respectable Wolf Blitzer of CNN waiting with great anticipation for Michele Bachmann to speak the other night, following Obama’s State of the Union Address.  No other network—not even the Republican “News” Channel—carried the speech, but CNN not only thought Bachmann’s speech was news, it promoted it heavily with a countdown clock and everything. And everyone knows that on cable TV, a countdown clock before an event means something really, really, really big is going to happen.

Bachmann was technically speaking only for Tea Party Express, but Blitzer billed her as an “official” spokesman for the entire Tea Party.  It turns out, as Rachel Maddow noted brilliantly, that CNN had a rea$on for promoting Bachmann and Tea Party Express: They’re in bed together. CNN has partnered with the phony—”sleazy,” is how Maddow characterized it—grass roots Tea Party group and will jointly host a Tea Party presidential primary debate in September.

And CNN is not shy about its motives. Its political director claims that,

undecided voters turn to CNN to educate themselves during election cycles, so it is a natural fit for CNN to provide a platform for the diverse perspectives within the Republican Party, including those of the Tea Party.

Yes. More and more, as CNN attempts to outfox Fox, it is perfectly natural for the network to “provide a platform” for extremists in the Republican Party. 

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As Democrats salivate in anticipation, Republicans are half-seriously considering privatizing Medicare.  But don’t worry.  The leadership isn’t quite that dumb.  Here’s what John Boehner said,

We’ll outline our budget in the months ahead, after we see the president’s budget.

This type of “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours” cowardice may disappoint Democrats who want to bash Republicans with the issue, but in the end it will preserve a pillar of our socialistic society.  Unless, of course, the Tea Party pathology spreads and Michele Bachmann engineers a putsch and gets her hands on Boehner’s man-sized gavel.

_______________________________

Finally, just prior to a Knicks-Heat contest, Tracy Morgan said on TNT:

Now let me tell you something about Sarah Palin, man, she’s good masturbation material. The glasses and all that? Great masturbation material.

Naturally, the network apologized for Morgan’s overly-descriptive (and inaccurate) commentary.  But it does explain why some tea party-ish Republican senators missed the inaugural meeting of the Senate Tea Party Caucus.

It conflicted with a rerun of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

Remarks And Asides

Even though Republicans are skeptical, The Washington Post reported on a new government study that revealed:

As many as 129 million Americans under age 65 have medical problems that are red flags for health insurers.

That means, as the headline of the Post article says, “up to half of Americans under 65 have preexisting conditions.”

Meanwhile, the Republicans soldier on with their theatrical repeal of the health insurance reform law, all done in the name of the American people.

_______________________________

John Boehner, fresh off his snub of the Tucson memorial service, has opted out of a state dinner, honoring who? Oh, that’s Chinese President Hu.  My bad. 

Boehner’s excuse for turning down the ride to Tucson with President Obama on Air Force One was that he had to attend a reception for Maria Cino, a former Republican aide in the House who was trying to replace Michael Steele as GOP chairman. She failed, by the way.

Boehner’s excuse for turning down dinner with Obama and Hu is that he doesn’t want to become Charlie Crist, who was famously photographed embracing Obama at an event in Florida and paid for it by getting trounced by the Tea Party last November, as he sought to jump from governor to senator. 

Can you imagine what would happen if Boehner were photographed with two Communists?

________________________________

Sarah Palin said on Monday of her critics, “They’re not going to shut me up.” 

I don’t know one single Democrat who wants to shut her up.  In fact, most of us wish she would talk more and tweet less.

_________________________________

Steve King, Republican congressman from Iowa and a perennial candidate for Goofiest-Gloomiest Conservative, once said terrorists would celebrate the election of Barack Obama and would view him as a “savior.”

Now, he’s at it again. He told Human Events that Democrats passed “Obamacare” due to their “irrational Leftist lust for socialized medicine.”

Not true, not true. There’s nothing irrational about our lust for socialized medicine.

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The newly elected Republican governor of Alabama, Brother Robert Bentley, told his constituents the following:

There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit. But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.
   
Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.

I’m confused, Governor. Are you saying we have the same momma?

Ideas Matter, Otherwise Why Bother?

Naturally, conservatives are on the defensive.

I want to say up front that I will agree with any conservative who protests that what happened in Tucson is not directly related to anything said or done by anyone on the near or middle or even the far Right.

But as George Will demonstrated in his column published today in the Joplin Globe, conservatives have a problem with that choice of words:

On Sunday, the [New York] Times explained Tucson: “It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But . . .”  The “directly” is priceless.

The basis for Will’s snooty objection is that progressives, acting as charlatans and political opportunists, always use “bad sociology” to explain to superstition-riddled minds that there is a connection between ideas and behavior. 

The argument, which Will has used frequently in some form or another, goes like this (using my George Will Disgronificator, the translation is in the parentheses):

1. There exists a “timeless human craving” for “banishing randomness and the inexplicable from human experience.”  (Translation: People don’t like leaving things to chance or mysterious forces.)

2. “A characteristic of many contemporary minds is susceptibility to the superstition that all behavior can be traced to some diagnosable frame of mind that is a product of promptings from the social environment.” (Translation: Non-conservatives are gullible and believe that every single act by a human being can be traced to something in society, often something bad.  Conservatives, of course, know better.)

3. Progressives have created a “political doctrine” (“the crux of progressivism”) that exploits the above two Facts about humanity. The doctrine goes like this: “given clever social engineering, society and people can be perfected.” (Translation: Liberals tell the gullible masses that if we just get rid of all the bad stuff in society, people will stop doing bad things.)

Now, if you are a liberal or a progressive and you don’t recognize yourself as the charlatan in Will’s argument, don’t feel too bad about it.  I am a liberal and I know a lot of liberals and I don’t know one single liberal who believes what Will claims we believe. 

I’m not saying there aren’t such people; I’m just saying that I don’t know any of them.  It may be that, in the lofty world George Will inhabits, people with frontal lobes the size of watermelons say such things.  I suppose that’s possible.

But I and the liberals I know don’t think human beings can be perfected by any means here on earth.  What we do think is that we can make society a better place to live and we don’t have to leave things completely to chance, or to the Darwinian brand of conservatism in fashion today.

Indeed, Will himself has been a critic of that Darwinian brand of conservatism—libertarianism.  Early into the Age of Reagan, he said that the label “Libertarian conservative” is as self-contradictory as “promiscuous celibate.”  He wrote that a misplaced attachment to laissez-faire philosophy makes conservatives,

deeply ambivalent about government, and reluctant to use it as an instrument of conservative values, tempering and directing social dynamism… Real conservatism is about balancing many competing values… and always requires resistance to libertarianism (the doctrine of maximum freedom for private appetites) because libertarianism is a recipe for the dissolution of public authority, social and religious traditions, and other restraints needed to prevent license from replacing durable, disciplined liberty.”

This was, of course, long before the rise of the anti-government Tea Party and a revival of Ayn Rand’s ideas of dog-eat-dog capitalism, but it demonstrates, as does Will’s 1983 book, Statecraft as Soulcraft: What Government Does, that once George Will understood that in any society ideas have consequences, although it is often hard to measure with precision the exact causes and effects.

No, conservatives or libertarians or libertarian-conservatives or Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck didn’t directly cause the massacre in Tucson.  And it is entirely possible that the anti-government propaganda shouted night and day on television and radio by people on the Right—aided and abetted by Republican politicians—had no indirect effect either. 

But it is unworthy of an intellectual spokesman of the Right—who makes a living by sharing his ideas—to argue that liberals are charlatans who exploit the superstition of the masses because we take seriously the notion that cultural ideas do have cultural consequences, as hard as they are to measure.  And it is folly to criticize us because we also take seriously the notion that we may be able to avoid the bad cultural consequences by countering the bad ideas.

As Edmund Burke, one of George Will’s heroes, said,

The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations.

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