Democrats & Liberals Archives

Insularity and Authority

I think Republicans care about the truth. I also think their culture compromises that natural ethical and practical drive. Too much goes from the top down in Republican circles.

I can understand somewhat the pickle they were once in- the legislature in the hands of the other party, and quite a few times the presidency, too. It took party discipline to reverse the political order that once existed. That and a number of Democrat officials who cooperated by abusing their “permanent” majority. The price of that discipline, though, has been insularity.

Many Revolutions suffer the same trouble: you got to steel yourself against all those who say you're wrong, maintain the cause against the barbarians at the gate. The best revolutions allow things to settle down, the revolution itself to die and become one with the changed world it has created. That is what happened with our Revolution: it became history. It served it's purpose, splitting us from England, setting us up as an independent nation. In it's place is a system that does not demand fealty to the ideals of dead men, but to the interests of the living.

You never hear of this government charging people as counterrevolutionaries. We have not made the crisis of political change permanent. The post 1994 Republican Party, though, comes damn close. All threats to their continued power are treated as threats to the nation's interests, not merely political disagreements. Sometimes policies can work that way, but most of the time there is room for debate, and the GOP doesn't respect that nowadays. Their response is not polite disagreement. All too often, it ends up being the questioning of the critic's legitimacy.

Logically speaking, it's a fallacious approach, if not properly employed. A person could legitimately argue that Cindy Sheehan's approach would not be in Iraq and America's best interest. This argument could acknowledge the personal pain of this poor old woman. Bush has already done this to some extent. Unfortunately, the rest of the GOP has taken the previously established "defense of the revolution" approach.

What has the conservative media done so far? You would likely be surprised how far it's gotten. The following quotes are from Media Matters:

LIDDY: Well, I think that it's true that there are Americans who feel the way Cindy Sheehan does. Unfortunately, they are Americans who are very anti-Israel and, in some ways, anti-Semitic. She uses the term how the "neocons" are doing this thing -- that's code word for "the Jews in the Pentagon." She has made statements such as --

ALAN COLMES (co-host): Are you calling her anti-Semitic?

LIDDY: Yes. If she gets Israel out of Palestine, then we can get out of Iraq. I mean, check out her statements, she's way out there.

COLMES: Cindy Sheehan's anti-Semitic?

LIDDY: Yes.

We can always count on reasonable discourse from G. Gordon Liddy. Try this from Christopher Hitchens:

HITCHENS: Certainly not. She has, just today, lied about a statement that she made several times before to the effect that her son was killed in a war run by a secret Jewish cabal within the administration. She now says she didn't make that statement. She did make that statement. So as well as being an hysterical paranoid ideologist, or at least being manipulated by people who are, who turned this into Camp Fruitbat and Nutbag, she has decided not to have the courage or maybe the cowardice of her conviction. She now says she didn't make a statement that she definitely did.

Ann Coulter contributes her usual fair and balanced fare:

To expiate the pain of losing her firstborn son in the Iraq war, Cindy Sheehan decided to cheer herself up by engaging in Stalinist agitprop outside President Bush's Crawford ranch. It's the strangest method of grieving I've seen since Paul Wellstone's funeral. Someone needs to teach these liberals how to mourn.

Somebody needs to teach these folks how to treat grieving parents. It's important to point out that these are not fringe folks on the GOP talk circuit. These are not B-teamers. These are the folks whose faces adorn books placed front and center on the racks in WalMart, whose televsion appearances are broadcast nationwide, whose radio shows have similar distribution.

This is not an isolated case, a crime of passion driven by the strong feelings of the moment. This happens to be what these people are paid to do. These are the folks who set the example. These are the folks whose argument end up used by folks around the water-cooler. They don't care that their irresponsible words defame a political opponent. That's the point. They no more regret their attacks than a hitman regrets leaving somebodies brains on the wall at the scene of the crime.

The one question Republicans have got to ask themselves is how they can call themselves a party that honors family, integrity, and American values, and yet condone all this. This is not the kind of behavior one should approve of and sleep well at night.

It all comes back to the insularity of the party. The GOP has done much to make sure that they are the only acceptable route of feedback for what is done, that their members fear and loathe the rest of the media as set against them, set against their efforts, and thereby against the interests of us all.

In the absence of countervailing feedback, of course, an echo chamber comes into existence, where errors are repeated to the point of being accepted as correct, and a certain kind of behavior becomes so common, so rationalized that people no longer consider how out of sync their behavior is with their espoused values.

The political controversies and important events of these past few years have only served to bring that out in starker relief. No longer is the question of who defends America best an academic one. Now it's real. The Right fears losing that argument, but the insularity has come back to haunt it here. Instead of dealing with the applied problems of national security and arguing about that, the GOP is arguing about protestors and liberal politics. Instead of dealing with the meat and bones of what is right and wrong about the war, the GOP is trying to stop people from disagreeing with what seems to have gone wrong.

And now, the GOP pundits, the leading media personalities, are dumping on one little old woman. This from Rush Limbaugh:

LIMBAUGH: I mean, Cindy Sheehan is just Bill Burkett. Her story is nothing more than forged documents. There's nothing about it that's real, including the mainstream media's glomming onto it. It's not real. It's nothing more than an attempt. It's the latest effort made by the coordinated left.

There's more where that came from. The same site that I linked to has confirmed that the Republican's smear that she has lied about her previous position was itself not honest

But they keep on keeping on. This from Limbaugh's explanation:

So the idea that I think that she's making it all up is just another sign of the desperation of the people on the left who love to take us all out of context to try to get their side riled up. What I said was that the media looks at her the same way they look at Bill Burkett, as an opportunity. It didn't matter whether Burkett was telling the truth or not, and it doesn't matter what the specifics of Cindy Sheehan's case are. She is protesting Bush, Burkett hated Bush. That's why they're attractive to the media, and that's why the media is willing to exploit her. [emphasis mine]

I don't suppose he noticed when we dropped those memos like a box of stinking turds. He hasn't dropped his view of her shift from reserved, grieving mother to embittered advocate, despite the truth of quotes he must have (or should have) read. The liberal tradition values truth over convenience. Do you see anybody arguing those documents are not forgeries out there, Rush, the way you argue that Sheehan's position was pro-war- that is, counterfactually?

No sir, we do care what the truth is. The Democrats never wanted to be in the position of taking flack as weak pacifists in the defense of our country. The only thing that drives us to oppose Bush, to criticize his strategies and motivations, is his deception and grievous errors on those counts. We would have let the GOP have its war, and gladly cheered them along, if the truth and their words had coincided.

There is a time when distrust is truly earned, when criticism is due and necessary. The insularity of the Republican party has come back to haunt America as it must now answer for the sorry state of war falsely justified and poorly planned.

If it weren't for all that, Bush could give this woman a straight answer. The trouble is, "Why did you get my son killed?" is the least of the questions he could be forced to give some answer to. It's the least of the questions that most Americans would ask with her. If Bush had been honest before, he could be honest now, and comfort this woman in her grief. As it is now, politics demands he bury her under derision and defamation, because he has no acceptable answer for why he didn't take a better justified course of action.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at August 19, 2005 9:56 AM