I touched on this point earlier, but I think it’s worth a bit more thought about how President Obama’s coolness, in both his actions and his words, is really getting under the skin of the right wingers. The more he chills, the more hysterical they get. At some point they’re going to go completely off the rails and lie there in a puddle of their own excretions. It’s not pretty, but, like a train wreck, you can’t help but marvel at the crumpled wreckage.
This was pointed out to me in an exchange at The Reaction, where I often blog (or, to be perfectly candid, cross-post). In response to one of my posts, an anonymous commenter went into full froth mode against me and another commenter, labeling me and him as “haters,” all the while calling me schoolyard names in relation to my sexual orientation and accusing the other commenter of having an unnatural attraction to children. About all you can do in a situation like that is get some popcorn and watch.
This isn’t just limited to blogging, which, after all, lends itself to anonymity and over-the-top rhetoric from both sides; I remember some pretty classic volcanic activity from the left during the Bush administration. But to give credit where credit is due, the progressives have got nothing on the right wing for working themselves up into a fit of righteous outrage. Newt Gingrich seems to have cornered the market — at least in the last week — with his fulminations against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling her charge that the CIA mislead her “the most despicable, dishonest and vicious political effort I’ve seen in my lifetime.” (Apparently he wasn’t around for the impeachment of a president for committing adultery; it must have escaped his attention because he was doing the same thing at the same time.) The attack on Speaker Pelosi took on a life of its own this weekend on the chat shows because it was a very nice diversion from the fact that what Ms. Pelosi was talking about — the Bush administration authorized torture and did it to some of their captives in order for them to confess to a link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda where none existed. It’s a hell of a lot easier for the Republicans to thunder about what Nancy Pelosi knew, when she knew it, and what she could do about it than it is to own up to the fact that they supported a president, a vice president, and a Department of Justice that committed torture in violation of the law and several treaties and lied about it. This is the classic diversion — “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” — and the pliant media like David Gregory on Meet The Press and George Stephanopoulos are buying it. For instance, when Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president and now a Republican strategist warned darkly on ABC’s This Week that the Obama administration was trying to consolidate one-party rule and that it would set a dangerous precedent, nobody on the panel, including James Carville and Katrina van den Heuvel, reminded her of Karl Rove’s goal of a permanent Republican majority, or noticed the steaming hypocrisy lying on the table like a pool of cat vomit.
The larger point is that the conservatives, and specifically the Republicans, have been cast aside by the electorate and they have no idea what to do. Time after time they’ve been out-maneuvered by the president — and very deftly so — or been caught flat-footed in their hypocrisy. So far their response has been impotent outrage, a complete capitulation of the leadership of their party to the ravings of a radio talk-show host who demands absolute fealty — and gets it, and these diversions over everything from the president’s use of a teleprompter to what present he gave to the Queen of England. It takes up the time on the 24/7 cable TV shows, but when you’re in the middle of the worst economic crisis in eighty years, that’s not what people are looking for from a political movement; they want ideas and deeds, not blaming and alibis.