Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Redemption

Dr. David McKalip, the Florida neurosurgeon who got his fifteen minutes of fame by circulating the poster of President Obama as a witch-doctor earlier this year (and scored right-wing cred by instantly transforming himself into the Victim of the Week), is back.

Over the weekend, McKalip emailed a fellow activist, reporting that he had been at a conservative medical association meeting, with leaders of the anti-reform movement, including GOP congressmen Tom Price and Paul Broun, anti-reform writer and activist Betsy McCaughey, and Tea Party coordinator Amy Kremer. Conservative doctors and their allies have been organizing in recent days in response to the White House’s event this morning featuring pro-reform doctors.

McKalip’s email was then forwarded on to a Tea Party Patriots email list.

In the lengthy email, which was obtained by TPMmuckraker, McKalip urged fellow activists to put aside “dissension” in the ranks and to stand up to “Alinsky personal attack tactics” — perhaps a reference to his own downfall. “The American people are counting on us.”

After his racist email was exposed in July, McKalip announced he would be “withdrawing from making media appearances on health system reform.” But his email over the weekend makes clear that he didn’t withdraw from being a behind-the-scenes player, and from working to rally his fellow activists.

This return to favor of Dr. McKalip led Betsy McCaughey, the former lieutenant governor of New York and spreader of lies and misinformation about the healthcare reform proposals, to hail him as a source of knowledge and insight into the legislation working its way through the Senate. (For more on the bizarre career of Ms. McCaughey, see this piece in The New Republic by Michelle Cottle that seems to be an attempt to make amends for publishing Ms. McCaughey’s truth-challenged article about the Clinton healthcare bill in 1994.)

It’s an interesting take on redemption, a concept a lot of conservatives are willing to lavish on themselves; that a person can commit a really obnoxious act — promote a racist, cheat on your wife, pay for the a hooker, hit on a hunky cop in a public restroom — and all you have to do is step away from the mic for a few moments, then come back and claim you’re the victim of a nasty smear campaign, and all is forgiven. Newt Gingrich, for example, was cheating on his wife with a staffer at the exact same time he was trying to impeach President Clinton. He was tossed out on his ass by his party, but now, ten years later, he’s been forgiven by James Dobson and he’s considered — for reasons that pass understanding — to be a wise counselor and possible presidential candidate who’s racking up bookings on Sunday talk shows. They’re either counting on the electorate to be fair enough to give someone a second chance, or they think we’re gullible fools with the memory capacity of a goldfish. Take your pick.

It’s a one-way street, by the way. Republicans can sin like crazy and they get welcomed back into the fold like the prodigal son. But mention the aged and infirm Sen. Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virgina, and every Republican within earshot will remind you that he once belonged to the Klan sixty years ago. In spite of his many expressions of regret and efforts to make amends, the Republicans still wave the white sheets for him (while hiding their own).

Dr. McKalip is entitled to redemption and a return to his public life, but not without an acknowledgment of his actions and making amends, and without the conditional “if you were offended” or “I’m the victim here” crap. It’s a lot more plausible when you accept responsibility for your actions, if for only the simple reason that it’s honest — and therefore rare.

HT to Think Progress.