In a brief Thursday post on the Atlantic’s website, "reform conservative" pundit David Frum cited Eric Cantor’s primary loss to Dave Brat as further evidence that “Republican leaders” need to emerge to confront the “the destructive leadership of fanatics (and the cynics who make their living by duping fanatics)."
He cited Tony Blair as a model, someone " who revived his party by standing up to its most extreme elements," and asserted that if such leaders fail to appear, the GOP “might just as well already rename our dysfunctional party the Committee to Elect Hillary Clinton.” Frum’s entire post (emphasis added):
Early reporting on Tuesday’s Republican primary upset in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District indicated that Dave Brat’s stand on immigration reform was the main reason Brat defeated Eric Cantor, but Esquire political blogger Charles Pierce isn’t buying it. In a Wednesday post, Pierce argued that the immigration issue was less important than Brat’s opposition to the idea that “the national government should work at all.”
Pierce also claimed that Brat’s victory shows yet again that President Obama will never find common ground with today’s hard-right GOP, and quipped that Brat’s efforts to synthesize Christianity and Randian economics are “more appropriate to the Cirque du Soleil than to a political philosophy.”
According to an article last Sunday in the online magazine Salon, there's a new intellectual dynamic duo in town: French economist Thomas Piketty and American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who've become media superstars almost simultaneously over the past few months thanks to Piketty's book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" and Tyson's TV series "Cosmos."
Writer Paul Rosenberg places Piketty and Tyson at the forefront of an evidence-driven pushback against faith-based right-wing doctrine. He lauds each for offering "a big-picture story that helps us collectively make sense of our lives. In Piketty's case, this comes from his insight that capitalism does not just naturally evolve to a state of broader general prosperity." For Tyson, it's his "almost quasi-religious" quest for knowledge about the universe - a quest which evokes "terror" in devoutly anti-science conservatives.
In a Sunday post, Washington Monthly blogger Martin Longman charged that a combination of unyielding ideological extremism and efforts to prevent many who might oppose said extremism from voting mean that the Republican party’s creed has “really beg[un] to resemble fascism.”
Longman noted that the DNC recently announced a campaign designed to find and register likely Democratic voters and remarked that while that project is “certainly in [Democrats’] self-interest…it’s also wholly consistent with traditional American values about...the right of everyone to vote…There is no corresponding effort to prevent likely Republican voters from registering to vote or to kick registered Republicans off the voter rolls.”
The belief that President Obama is aloof and detached is found on both the left and the right; the major difference between the two sides on that topic is that liberals don’t always see those qualities as negative.
Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum wrote in a Friday post that he finds it “almost impossible to blame” Obama for “tak[ing] the long view and ignor[ing] all the childish nonsense” generated by both the superficial mainstream media and “the insane tea-party style of no-compromise governing adopted by the modern Republican Party.” Drum says he hopes against hope that the media – the GOP apparently is hopeless -- will join Obama in “act[ing] like an adult.”
Watch your backsides, conservatives, because your vituperative, ill-considered criticism of both Bowe Bergdahl and the deal that freed him from the Taliban may come back to bite you.
That was the main message from Brian Beutler in his Thursday post on the New Republic's website. Beutler argued that the compulsively anti-Obama right's inclination to believe that "a massive scandal must be lying just below the surface" of the prisoner swap "precipitated a deluge of ugly actions and pronouncements" from many conservative leaders, including "a bunch of unseemly innuendo" about Bergdahl himself.
On Wednesday, Salon's Simon Maloy suggested that the Attkisson-Heritage relationship is a match made in conservative heaven given that Attkisson's Benghazi-related resignation from CBS was an "act of career martyrdom" which made her "a candidate for canonization by right-wing pundits and activists."
"Conservatives," Maloy snarked, "love [Attkisson] for her willingness to flog Obama scandals long after they’ve been debunked and/or ceased being relevant." He added that as it stands, "the Daily Signal will have to lean heavily on whatever gravitas Attkisson provides because the rest of the site is just awful."
Two of the leading lights of the lefty blogosphere weighed in Tuesday on the Bowe Bergdahl matter. Daily Kos founder and publisher Markos Moulitsas, who served a three-year stint in the Army just after graduating from high school, blasted the anti-Bergdahl rhetoric of bloodyhanded neoconservative "chickenhawks" who aren't ashamed to opine despite being "wrong about everything in the last decade."
Kos claimed that since the Afghan war "is now over," the five Taliban exchanged for Bergdahl had to be released anyway "under international law." From Moulitsas's post (emphasis added):
Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum favors reducing the federal workforce...by one position. Specifically, that of White House press secretary.
In a Monday post, Drum argued that junking the position would eliminate the routine posturing at White House briefings from journalists who are "less interested in gaining actual information than in simply playing gotcha." The source of that approach, opined Drum, is reporters' post-Watergate "habit of treating everything like a scandal."
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."