Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's scurrilous accusation (John McCain's word, not mine) that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Islamic, American-born aide used her position to secretly support the Muslim Brotherhood was the straw that finally broke the camel's back for one-time Bachmann campaign aide Ed Rollins.
In a blistering letter to Fox News, Rollins scolded his former client for her "false" and "far-fetched" claims against Clinton's long-time top staffer, warning that unless Republicans pushed back against contemptible bile like this the GOP was in danger of becoming "the party of intolerance and hate."
A veteran of California Republican politics and National Campaign Director for the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1984, Ed Rollins is one of the gray beards in GOP politics who says "there is little that amazes me and even less that shocks me." But Bachmann's "unsubstantiated," "extreme" and "dishonest" charges against, Huma Abedin, was the exception.
"Having worked for Congressman Bachmann's campaign for president, I am fully aware that she sometimes has difficulty with her facts," said Rollins. "But this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level."
Rollins recommended that, as penance, Bachmann prostrate herself on the floor of the House (well, stand anyway) and apologize to Abedin and to Secretary Clinton "and to the millions of hard working, loyal, Muslim Americans for your wild and unsubstantiated charges."
Rollins said that since Bachmann was a "devoted Christian" she needed to ask forgiveness for her "grievous lack of judgment and reckless behavior." Rollins concluded: "Shame on you, Michele!"
Sadly, I did not have to go farther than my own Facebook page to see that Rollins was right - about Republicans becoming the party of "intolerance and hate" I mean.
A friend had linked to an urban legend that's been around for awhile and was being promoted by an obscene right wing website called "I pledge allegiance to my country, not my President" whose idea of cleverness is a picture of the UN logo perforated with bullet holes and a poster showing a car with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, with the caption: "When the shooting finally starts, don't forget the drivers of these cars. Obama is only the symptom. THEY are the problem."
The apocryphal story promoted by this site has been knocking around since at least 2008. It tells of a US Marine in between assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan who was attending a college course taught by "an avowed atheist and a member of the ACLU."
One day, the professor shocks his class when he says: "God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I'll give you exactly 15 minutes."
The class falls silent. 10 minutes go by. Nothing. The professor then says: "Here I am God, I am still waiting."
As the 15 minutes were about to expire, the marine gets out of his seat, walks up to the professor and cold-cocks him, knocking him off the platform. When the shaken professor comes to he asks the marine: "What the hell is the matter with you? Why did you do that?"
The marine calmly replies: "God was too busy today protecting American troops who are protecting your right to say stupid shit and act like an asshole. So, he sent me."
The deafening roars of "Ooh-rah!" and "Semper Fi!" could be heard from the 2,100 or so readers who "liked" the story. Only a handful of the hundreds who commented seemed to grasp the horrible irony of people cheering a US Marine putting his life on the line to defend our constitutional right to speak our mind who then cold-cocks the first person who exercises that right by saying something that offends him.
Most of the rest were like these:
Derric Donaldson: AMEN!!!!!!!!!
John Todd: Good for him he did it. It's too bad that there aren't more like him.
Maurie Ock: Way to go!
Bob August: Pledge to uphold the constitution, not the Kenyan born muslim in chief.
Erika Vogel Hoffman: Great. How many of us have felt like doing that to teachers and profs who say idiotic things and expect you to believe them?
Donald Wall: Let's hope that America wakes up and sees this socialistic dictator for what he really is and rids this country of the most reviled president in history.
Frank Villegas: God bless the Military...
Peggy Balcom: We all need to do God's work whatever, wherever. Amen!
Susan Ward: AMEN! It is hard to believe that people are so stupid as to not believe in GOD and see all the miracles he does.
Ann Vamplew Griffiths: Amen to that. You gotta love a Marine,:)
Byron White: God, I love it..What else can you say..Give that marine a bigasshug. from me.
Mary Simms: How many times have we wanted to do something like that? I am glad the Marine had the courage to do it. His statement says it all.
Butch Gunnin: I'm gonna share this one ..... See who reads every word of it...Lmao !!!
Stephen Smith: God acts in mysterious ways....doesn't he?
Sam Brandt III: YES! I have read this many times and no matter how many times I will still love it!!! Yippiieee for the Marines, Our Army USAF and Navy. Never has one Country been blessed with such an Amazing Military to defend it from Evil. May God continue to Bless everyone of them past Present and future. Our Veterans who stand as a reminder of our past. The Spouses, families and Friends of those who serve.
Karan Chambley Chaffin: Good for him!!
Sean Free: That rocks and is so true thanks to all the troops and may god bless y'all. I'm stealing this bro.
Laura Denney Tabor: I hope that is a true story. Love that!
Emily Walsh: Awesome. Ooh-rah!!!!
Doug Howard: Freakin' awesome!
Charleen Owen: That's awsomeee!!!
David Schwartz: Works for me!
Ken Wiseman: Anyone who disagrees with this should be given the right to leave the country-if they refuse they should agree with it or be deported.
The house-of-mirrors vertigo the reader suffers after hearing so many people applaud free speech at the very instant they so obviously cheer its curtailment, is just one manifestation of a right wing conservative movement that likes to adorn itself in patriotic red, white and blue while espousing values and ideas that are so clearly undemocratic, or worse.
Another familiar feature of this incoherence is the standard reply you get from conservatives whenever their ideas or behavior are challenged, even from one of their own. Instead of defending their conservative ideas honestly and openly, the right prefers to play word games and accuse their liberal antagonists of hypocritically betraying their own liberal tolerance by not more openly welcoming non-liberal, or even illiberal, points of view that are in many cases hateful, violent and - like those expressed on the website mentioned above -- borderline fascist.
The incoherence and inconsistency occurs because the radical right cannot speak openly or plainly about its real intentions, which is to move American democracy in much more economically, socially and politically autocratic directions. Instead, conservatives must constantly strive to undermine public confidence in the credibility of America's prevailing liberal values and norms with deceptive games like these.
This, more than anything else, explains the laconic elusiveness of a Mitt Romney presidential campaign that hopes to win the election by default and by remaining mute as to what its candidate intends or who that candidate really is.
Ideas do not "cause" people to act but that does not mean they are politically insignificant, for "there is no behavior without ideas, without language," writes historian Gordon Wood in his new book, The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States.
"Ideas and language give meaning to our actions," he says, "and there is almost nothing we humans do to which we do not attribute meaning. These meanings constitute our ideas, our beliefs our ideology and, collectively, our culture."
What this means in practical terms, says Wood, is that since "democracy" is a highly valued concept in our society - maybe the highest -- political antagonists will compete to wrap their actions and agendas, however controversial, in the appealing "democratic" label. But if the deed does not match the word - if those who oppose our actions are able to convince others that our agenda is in fact "undemocratic" - then we are inhibited in behaving as we prefer.
The definitions or meanings that we seek to give to our behavior "cannot be bizarre or arbitrary," says Wood. "They have to be to some extent acceptable to the culture, to be part of the culture."
Our actions are thus meaningful and legitimate only "with respect to an inherited system of conventions and values," says Wood. What is "liberal," what is "tyranannical," what is "democratic" and what is "aristocratic" are all determined by this "cultural structure of meanings."
Do you see now why right wing conservatism is so intent on changing "culture" and why a right wing conservative like Frank Luntz whose special talent is altering the popularly-accepted meaning of words and concepts makes the big bucks?
Luntz has clients becauase, while everyone in America may claim to be a "democrat," the truth is that "democracy" in America is not universally acclaimed. There is not just one American political "tradition," but several, and not every one of them subscribes to the notion that all men are created or that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.
The sorry spectacle of the Gilded Age robber barons and their protectors on the reactionary Supreme Court offered just one example of a conspicuous break with even the rudiments of democracy we've enjoyed. And early American colonial society itself, writes Wood, "was a lot more hierarchical and patriarchal" than is generally allowed.
Pity the poor aristocrat, then, who must hide his true mossback nature as he twists and turns trying to make his reactionary beliefs fit into democratic terms like liberty and freedom, or makes a fool of himself pretending to be "a man of the people" as did those upper-class Whigs who tried to impersonate the unwashed masses during the famous "log cabin and hard cider" election of 1840.
But the truth is, you can't fully appreciate the changes that have overtaken American politics over the last 30 years unless you understand that, for more than a generation, wealthy billionaires like Charles and David Koch, who were traumatized by the upheavals of the 1960s -- and who were appalled by the progressive political assumptions that underlay the New Deal and Great Society -- have ultimately lost faith in democracy as a form of government capable of protecting their property and preserving their position atop the American hierarchy, and so assiduously now try to undermine that democracy - without anybody being the wiser.
Think minority voter disenfranchisement as "fraud control" and the tens of untraceable millions in campaign donations touted as "free speech" thanks to Citizens United.
What the New American Oligarchy wants, in short, is the respect and groveling deference from the American people more commonly demanded by deposed aristocracies during those periods in world history known as "counterrevolutionary." And lest we think it can't happen here, don't forget that our own American Revolution is just 230 years old.
It turns out that the rich really are different from you and me after all, as Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times today.
"Even the hint that sometimes the rich aren't completely praiseworthy has been enough to drive plutocrats wild," says Krugman. "Not only do many of the super-rich feel deeply aggrieved at the notion that anyone in their class might face criticism, they also insist that their perception that Mr. Obama doesn't like them is at the root of our economic problems. Businesses aren't investing, they say, because business leaders don't feel valued."
As both the plutocrats' presumptive candidate for president and a perfect representative of their class, Mitt Romney clearly believes, as Krugman says, "that he could run for president while remaining safe inside the plutocratic bubble."
Romney is therefore "both shocked and angry," says Krugman, to discover "that the rules that apply to others also apply to people like him."
Such rules, for example, as the commonplace demand made of all candidates running for president that they make their tax returns public so that the public can, among other things, judge for itself whether the candidate might have conflicting agendas or interests that would impede his or her ability to govern.
Now, most rich people in America today do have a sense of perspective and don't believe their achievements and success entitle them to live by different rules, says Krugman. "But Mitt Romney, it seems, isn't one of those people."
And maybe that is why "those people" can't stand Mitt Romney any more than we do - because Romney is too much of a stumbling, bumbling clown to appear in public without giving the game away about how "those people" intend to take over.
The cold calculation of economic self-interest is never enough to fully propel a political movement, as Professor Wood surely knows.
"There are always forces larger than reason driving events," says Wood. "Passion, not reason, are the ruling element in all human action," he says, and among the most powerful are "fear, fury and resentment."
Ed Rollins needed to cast a wider net than the hapless Michele Bachmann when he warned Republicans about becoming the party of "intolerance and hate."