So-called reform conservatives such as David Frum, Michael Gerson, and Ramesh Ponnuru often get relatively favorable attention from liberal journalists -- relative, that is, to Tea Party types, which in turn reinforces the Tea Party's belief that the reformers aren't really conservatives.
Two lefty pundits recently examined the state of reform conservatism. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne penned an article for the spring issue of the quarterly Democracy in which he analyzed the work of certain reformers and discussed how they might pull the Republican party toward the center. He also denounced the GOP's current message discipline in the service of its supposedly extremist agenda -- or, as Dionne put it, "the right’s version of political correctness."
As a historian, Rick Perlstein has produced two books about Republicans (Before the Storm and Nixonland) in which narrative almost always takes precedence over the author's lefty politics. As a blogger for The Nation's website, however, Perlstein treats the right far more harshly. On Thursday, for example, he posted an item called "There Are No More Honest Conservatives, So Stop Looking For One."
Perlstein reports that there isn't a single contemporary right-wing journalist he admires, whereas several decades ago, he notes, the estimable likes of William F. Buckley Jr., James J. Kilpatrick, and George Will roamed the earth. (Will, of course, is still around, but Perlstein, as you'll see below, considers the Will of 2014 essentially a generic Fox News talking head.) He perceives a "neurotic refusal" among liberals and centrists "to accept the reality that conservative intellectualism is a tradition that [has] quite nearly died."
Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall contended Thursday that there's been a "relatively consistent pattern" of conservatives lionizing those who "hat[e] or insult...some historically or currently discriminated against group." Some of these newly minted right-wing heroes, Marshall argued, lead with their bigotry; others gain fame for "being kind of nuts" and their bigotry emerges later.
Marshall opined that Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson definitely would belong in such a group, but added that he's "on the fence" about whether Dr. Ben Carson would qualify.
This isn't a golden age for Republicans. The party is out of the White House -- in fact, it's lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections -- and it hasn't controlled the Senate since 2006.
And now here comes Salon's Joan Walsh to argue that things will get even worse for GOPers once they lose their "galvanizing and unifying issue," namely "irrational, implacable hostility to [President] Obama...often fed by a wellspring of conscious and unconscious racism."
According to American Prospect blogger Paul Waldman, the typical conservative is a frustrated grouch for two reasons: 1) most Americans will never want a government as small as conservatives would prefer, and 2) since hyperideological righties refuse to settle for half a loaf, they've "resigned [themselves] to a lifetime of outright defeats, unsatisfying half-victories, and betrayals."
Two prominent lefty bloggers wrote in separate Wednesday posts that even though the Tea Party label might have taken a hit in Tuesday's Republican primaries, the Tea Party ideology is riding high within the GOP.
Charles Pierce of Esquire opined that "[t]he basic lesson of last night's primary elections...is not to nominate morons" and that "this time around, being a crackpot seems to have been something of a liability."
Piggybacking on Paul Waldman's "Who Do You Hate?" American Prospect post in which Waldman singled out Sarah Palin and Scott Walker for special scorn, another liberal blogger, the Washington Monthly's Ed Kilgore, reflected on the politicians ("usually, though not always, on the right side of the fence") who inspire in him "regular fear and loathing."
One of Kilgore's choices is an entire group, "the self-styled 'constitutional conservatives'...[who] don’t just want to beat progressives (and moderates) politically, they want to define us right out of existence."
Liberal pundit and Obama-chronicler Jonathan Alter received a "Sacred Cat" award last Friday from the Milwaukee Press Club, and while in Brew City, Alter complained that "one of...the limitations of journalism is that straightforward descriptions of reality are seen as being biased." To Alter, one somehow-disputed reality is that Obama's a flexible dealmaker and Republicans are rigid obstructionists, and another seems to be that the current GOP is an extreme-right party, while the Democrats are barely left of center.
From a story by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bill Glauber (emphasis added):
In a textbook case of damning with faint praise, the Washington Monthly's Ed Kilgore asserted on Thursday that of all the "dramatically underqualified people" who may run for president in 2016, Ben Carson is the frontrunner.
Kilgore opines that since Carson is black, his popularity with white conservatives "absolve[s] them of any racist motives when they complain about those people on welfare, and indeed accuse white liberals of being the real bigots." (Italics in original.) He adds that should Carson run, "it seems likely he [would] be even more overtly than [Herman] Cain a pure instrument for conservative resentment and—if you will forgive the unavoidable term—whitewashing."
When last seen in these parts, the American Prospect's Paul Waldman was forecasting that if Hillary Clinton runs for president, "[s]ome Tea Party congressman is going to indulge his fantasies about torturing and killing her."
Waldman posted a somewhat more temperate item on Friday (titled Who Do You Hate?) in which he offered a few thoughts about why political activists loathe certain figures from the other side but merely dislike others. His bottom line: a politician's image and persona tend to evoke more intense hatred from opponents than specific things he says or does, though words and deeds are hugely important as well.
Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall thinks that one of the reasons many conservatives despise President Obama is that he's black, but that's basically a micro-issue. The macro version, Marshall contends, is that Republicans' race-based detestation of Obama is inseparable from their discomfort with an increasingly multiracial Democratic party. In fact, Marshall argues that their "crazy...aggrieved and intense" efforts to hobble President Clinton stemmed in large part from their belief that Clinton was committed to the ideals of the civil-rights movement.
Republicans, the American Prospect's Paul Waldman suggested Tuesday, are a bit like Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel inasmuch as they "can't seem to keep themselves from...turning the accusations up to eleven" on matters involving Hillary Clinton.
Waldman discussed Karl Rove's recent "traumatic brain injury" comments about Hillary and then transitioned to the broader issues of GOPers' "infinite loathing" for HRC and its implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, during which Waldman predicts Hillary will be the target of Republican "outbursts...more shocking" than Rove's.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus wants more of a say in choosing the party's 2016 presidential nominee. Makes sense, right? Actually, it doesn't, according to Salon's Jim Newell, who argued in a Monday piece that greater RNC control over pre-primary and primary-season debates will make them boring, thereby causing the many viewers who want to see the candidates snarling and sniping at each other to turn off their televisions or maybe not tune in at all. On the other hand, Newell gives the RNC credit for understanding after 2012 that "[t]he more [GOP] candidates are on public display with each other, the worse it is for the party."
Newell was especially disdainful of the RNC's plan to include conservative pundits on debate panels alongside journalists from so-called mainstream outlets. He alleged that when Republicans identify "the 'mainstream media' as the force behind any sort of intra-party problem, they’re using a reliable scapegoat."
The right has directed most of its anger over the handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack at President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice, but when lefty blogger Martin Longman reflects on reactions to Benghazi, he thinks of a different villain: Mitt Romney.
In a Saturday post for the Washington Monthly web site, Longman recalls that a few days after the attack, he was "seething about Romney’s behavior" re Benghazi, and that within three weeks, he "was in disbelief that the Romney campaign was chortling with glee at the death of four Americans."
A lot of politically engaged persons, right and left, believe that those on the other side are well-meaning but mistaken. Then there's the Washington Monthly's Martin Longman, who in two Wednesday posts (here and here) tried to support the idea that "[m]aking people hate each other is at the core of right-wing politics."
Longman opined that "resentment is the key ingredient in [conservatives'] political toolbox" (italics in original) and that "[a]s long as there is some accountability, they are pretty good at forgiveness, but compassion and empathy are tremendous challenges for them."
One of the Indiana University professors who recently found that almost four times as many journalists self-identify as Democrats than as Republicans doesn't believe that that imbalance causes biased reporting.
IU's Lars Willnat remarked to Salon magazine that "we don’t think that our findings reflect a ‘liberal media bias’...Journalists’ political preferences don’t usually translate into political bias in news coverage unless they are working for openly partisan news media. Their professional norms and values, as well as market pressures, prevent most of them from being biased politically.”
In a Tuesday column for Salon, Heather Digby Parton argued that the Dan Rather Memogate scandal had a sequel of sorts, in which CBS News, attempting to "appease the right wing" -- including the Bush administration -- gave "notorious pro-military war hawk" Lara Logan a prominent role in its programming, only to have it blow up in their faces when Logan's "60 Minutes" story about the Benghazi attack proved seriously flawed.
In Parton's view, Rather at CBS had "a stellar career of war reporting, muckraking and speaking truth to power" and now, on Mark Cuban's AXS TV,"does some really interesting work," though she acknowledges that "only a handful of people see" it.
Chris Matthews's recent book Tip and the Gipper examined how President Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill sometimes set aside their ideological differences in favor of compromising and dealmaking. In a Tuesday post, the New Yorker's Jane Mayer also portrays the '80s O'Neill positively, but in her case it's to contrast his statesmanlike reaction to terrorist attacks that occurred on Reagan's watch with Darrell Issa's hackish exploitation of Benghazi.
Mayer writes that this past Friday, Issa "announced that he had issued a subpoena to Secretary of State John Kerry for a new round of hearings devoted to searching, against diminishing odds, for some dirty, dark secret about what really happened in Benghazi." She goes on:
This past week was the biggest in a long time for Benghazi news. How did some of the leading lights of the lefty blogosphere handle the Ben Rhodes e-mail and related topics? We report; you decide.
1. David Corn of Mother Jones, best known for bringing to light the Mitt Romney 47-percent tape, wrote on Friday that the Rhodes e-mail is "pretty standard stuff" and that "all the fuss about [it]...is smoke, not fire." Corn admits that the White House "certainly has bungled part of its Benghazi reaction" but that the Republicans' case nonetheless "should have been...closed, a long time back."
Liberals seeking examples of conservative craziness often look for the wrong thing. That's the word from California writer Paul Rosenberg, who in a Thursday piece for Salon stated that "the wild-eyed kind of crazy we’ve all been led to expect" is much less common than "the button-down, conservative kind we heard in the Donald Sterling tape — or that we can hear on [Rush] Limbaugh’s radio show, or see on Fox News any day of the week."
It gets worse. Rosenberg notes that "conservatives as a group routinely score significantly higher" for a personality trait that's linked to psychopathy, and reports that some in academia "are beginning to ask, in effect, if [right-wingers are] actually defending, even promoting, evil."
Matt Lewis explored a pattern of conservatives embracing someone [e.g., Cliven Bundy] who is being “bullied by the government or the mainstream media, and turning them into some sort of folk hero," only to wind up with "egg on their face" when that person "says or does something utterly stupid."
On Wednesday, Daily Kos founder and publisher Markos Moulitsas took that point and ran with it, claiming that an affinity for wackos is "baked into [conservatives'] worldview" and that "there is no similar phenomenon on the Left." Moreover, Kos asserted, right-wing "anti-government rhetoric inevitably breeds eliminationist and/or delusional cranks."
Lawyer-writer Mike Godwin says he came up with Godwin's Law to discourage facile comparisons to Hitler and Nazism, but sometimes facile happens anyway: Daily Kos featured blogger Hunter declared Monday that "Wayne LaPierre and Sarah Palin at the National Rifle Association [convention] is what an American Nazi Party rally would sound like if Germany had won the war."
From Hunter's post on the Indianapolis convention (emphasis added):
The scholar and author Garry Wills, a onetime idiosyncratic conservative (he wrote regularly for National Review in its early years) who in the 1960s and '70s turned into an idiosyncratic liberal, blogged this past Tuesday on the New York Review of Books website that many opponents of Obamacare constitute an irrational "cult" that has "a religious commitment" to "certitude about [the law's] essential evil." For such persons, wrote Wills, Obamacare is "haloed with hate."
The headline referred to "partisan asymmetry in motivated cognition," but in his Thursday blog post on the Washington Monthly's web site, Mark Kleiman said it in a more colloquial way: Republicans are "radically more detached from reality" than Democrats.
Kleiman, a professor of public policy at UCLA, asserted that for the GOP, "the fringe has become the base," and that America would benefit from "a series of devastating electoral defeats for the Republicans sufficient to shock them back into contact with consensus reality."
Lefty bloggers often use "get the popcorn" and similar phrases when they anticipate being entertained by conservative infighting. If Salon's Heather Digby Parton is right, popcorn consumption in the netroots will be sky-high a little over a year from now for a "political cage match of epic proportions" between "two grotesque phantasms": the Tea Party and the mega-rich. The prize for the winner: the Republican party.
Digby believes the upcoming clash wouldn't even be happening if not for the GOP establishment, which, after all, "created the Tea Party out of that original white, working-class bloc [of former Reagan Democrats] by feeding their prejudices and stoking their insecurities."
Hardly any members of the demographic group in question are old enough to vote yet, but we may be witnessing the emergence of a Democratic party campaign theme for 2020. Bryce Covert of ThinkProgress wrote Wednesday about a "gender gap" in children's allowances, citing a Junior Achievement survey finding that almost 70 percent of boys get an allowance, while not quite 60 percent of girls receive one.
Covert mentioned other studies which found that even though girls spend more time per week than boys on household chores, the boys are paid more for their efforts, and that while not many boys babysit, those that do tend to receive more money per hour than female babysitters.
Common-ground alert: Salon's Alex Pareene doesn't think much of the New York Times's opinion columnists as a group, and neither, presumably, do NewsBusters readers. As for the reasons why, well, let's just say most of Pareene's almost certainly aren't the same as yours.
Pareene blasts Maureen Dowd for "sloppiness, not to mention rote repetition of themes and jokes and incredibly lazy thinking" and skewers Nick Kristof for his alleged "do-gooder liberalism [which] involves the bizarre American conviction that bombing places is a great way to help them." He likes Thomas Friedman even less, writing that Friedman "is an embarrassment" who "writes stupid things, for stupid people, about complicated topics" and "dutifully pushes a stultifyingly predictable center-right agenda."
Many consider "America -- love it or leave it" one of the quintessential conservative slogans. These days, however, according to Daily Kos writer Mark E Andersen, right-wingers don't seem to love America, but that doesn't mean they're leaving. They're still here, fearful and angry about a changing America, just like they were a few decades ago when they fought against racial desegregation.
In a Monday-morning blog post, Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall commented that ex-CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson appears to have "serious temperament issues" given that she wondered if a liberal organization might have taken money to, in Marshall's words, "go after her because of her reporting on Benghazi and other rightwing bugaboos."
Movement conservatives are on an anti-Obamacare bender and feeling pretty good, but eventually they may pay for it with a painful political hangover.
That, essentially, is what Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall wrote on Friday in an article titled "How the GOP Bet on Failure And Lost." Marshall acknowledged that the Affordable Care Act probably will help Republicans in this year's midterms, but that in the long run, they'll suffer at the polls unless they face the supposed fact that the law is a success.