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Frank Rich’s Big City Values

John on September 14, 2008 at 4:15 pm

Frank Rich of the NY Times has written the follow-up to Joe Klein’s absurd diatribe for Time magazine. I fisked Klein here, now it’s Rich’s turn.

Rich’s piece is titled The Palin-Whatshisname ticket. It relies on many of the same tropes as Klein’s piece, as you’ll see:

The specifics have changed in our new century, but the vitriolic animus of right-wing populism preached by Pegler and McCarthy and revived by the 1990s culture wars remains the same. The game is always to pit the good, patriotic real Americans against those subversive, probably gay “cosmopolitan” urbanites (as the sometime cross-dresser Rudy Giuliani has it) who threaten to take away everything that small-town folk hold dear.

First off, populism is not a dirty word in a Democracy. One of the first politicians to speak over the press to the people was Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Democratic party. He was also found to have paid off a muck-racking journalist to attack the sitting President and help get himself elected (in 1800), so Rich fits right in with the history of his party.

In any case, “the game” is not what Rich says at all. The real game is for left wingers to lay siege to whatever new right they feel is theirs: marriage for gays, abortion on demand paid for by the public, 50% of talk radio via the fairness doctrine, habeus corpus rights for enemy soldiers, etc. Then, when half the country objects they claim that the pushback is an unfair attack motivated by bigotry. You see mischievous kids do this sort of thing. They poke a sibling in the ribs and then scream bloody murder when the sibling hits back.

Obama has clearly mastered this form. He announces on at least 3 or 4 occasions that he “doesn’t look like” the other Presidents on our money. Then, when McCain points out he’s injecting race into the election, team Obama and their friends in the press turn around and note that the word race just crossed McCain’s lips. How dare he!

Not surprisingly, Rich wades deep into the racial “subtext” of the GOP convention:

The racial component to this brand of politics was undisguised in St. Paul. Americans saw a virtually all-white audience yuk it up when Giuliani ridiculed Barack Obama’s “only in America” success as an affirmative-action fairy tale — and when he and Palin mocked Obama’s history as a community organizer in Chicago. Neither party has had so few black delegates (1.5 percent) in the 40 years since the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies started keeping a record.

Thanks for proving my point, Frank. Giuliani never said a word about “affirmative-action.” You’re inserting your own racial fantasy into what he said. And the point of both Giuliani and Palin’s comments was to highlight Obama’s inexperience. He was the one, after all, that touted his three years as “community organizer” as a serious part of his resume. Rather than acknowledge this as pretty thin soup for a Presidential candidate, liberals like Rich prefer to find some racial subtext and change the subject to Republican perfidy. He can howl all he wants, but what’s true is that his party is the one trying desperately to inject race into this election. His column is just one more data point making that case.

Rich’s only real innovation in the article is a new conspiracy theory. Given how quickly these things take off on the left, you’re sure to be hearing a lot about this in weeks to come:

Most 20th-century vice presidents and presidents in both parties hailed from small towns, but she just happened to alight on a Democrat who ascended to the presidency when an ailing president died in office…The more voters see that McCain will be the figurehead for a Palin presidency, the more they are likely to demand stepped-up vetting of the rigidly scripted heir apparent.

So in little more than a week we’ve gone from articles about McCain’s chances of dying in office based on actuarial tables to Rich’s idiotic claim that there’s a plot! Palin’s people are going kill the old guy! Or if not kill him, at least control the levers of power while he takes a nap or has a senior moment. In Rich’s view, it’s something McCain has acquiesced to:

McCain is turning over the keys to his administration to ideologues and a running mate to Bush’s right.

If any of this nonsense were to appear on a left wing blog (well, I’m sure it has somewhere) we would all laugh at the idiocy of the author. A right-wing coup?!!! Are you off your medication? But here comes the NY Times printing the same garbage and now it’s supposed to be serious. Well, no, not really. You’re still a pathetic excuse for a columnist, Rich. In fact, there are many Daily Kos diarists offering a less stupid, less jaundiced view of the world, albeit with far less of a megaphone. You should be ashamed to have your name associated with this. Your party should be ashamed to call you a leading light.

Rich goes on to say that Republicans have no answers for the economy, health care, etc. In short, we’re all doomed once Palin sheds McCain and takes power. Without a touch of irony he ends his piece:

As Republicans know best, fear does work. If Obama is to convey just what’s at stake, he must slice through the campaign’s lipstick jungle and show Americans the real perils that lie around the bend.

Boil it down and Rich’s advice to Obama is to frighten Americans about the “perils” of a Palin presidency. Scare them into doing what’s best, i.e. electing Obama. Not because he’s best qualified. Not because McCain is unqualified. FEAR HER. That’s his core strategy.

And yet, even as he himself counsels the use of fear as a campagin weapon to achieve the highest office in the land, he simultaneously wants us to recall that fear-mongering is a Republicans tactic.

Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. You want to call people racists and try to scare the electorate into voting for your guy, fine. But don’t play it off as someone else’s mischief. You’re the cynical, race-baiting, conspiracy-making, fear-monger. That’s all you, pal.

So much for big city values.

Addendum: Rich’s piece has elicited 780 comments. My favorites:

  • they’re singing “Springtime for Hitler”. I’m praying the rabbi’s prayer for the Czar. – Recommended by 67 readers
  • This country is turning into “Nazi” America. Watch! McCain/Palin are rallying people by bringing out the worst in them. – Recommended by 385 readers
  • My real fear is that we risk America’s very existence as we know and love it if we ignore it. Germany’s Hitler of the 20s/30s and America’s McCarthyism of the early 50s are two devastating examples of what can happen when obvious signs of intentional misinformation are ignored in the name of promoting an ideology early in the game. – Recommended by 532 readers and an Editor’s Choice
  • Does anyone else remember learning about the rise of the Nazi party in high school history class? I find the tactics currently employed by McCain/Palin, as well as her record in Alaska, truly chilling. – Recommended by 267 readers
  • Wasn’t Hitler elected as second in command to an ill old man? – Recommended by 27 readers
  • McCain/Palin plan has “military draft” written all over it. These plans were also put in place by Napoleon and Hitler. – Recommended by 15 readers
  • Sarah Palin? Who cares? Unless you really believe she can get McCain / Republicans back in power she is just scary. And I’m talking scary the way a Nazi “book burner” might seem scary to the American Jewish public. – Recommended by 3 readers
  • Didn’t NAZI Germany start this way? A failing economy on the brink, then over the brink, and a right-wing party that said the answers were in hatred, blaming others, and re-statements of acts and history? Sounds familiar in many ways, and for the first time in my life (now at middle age) I am TRULY SCARED! We are actually talking about leaving this counrty should a McCain-Palin ticket make it. GET OUT AND HELP OBAMA, FOLKS, or we may be doomed. – Recommended by 7 readers
  • Even more striking than Palin’s use of the Pegler quote in her speech was McCain’s chant of “my fght” in his speech — the German translation of that is of course, “Mein Kampf.” Rove and now McCain carefuly follow Hitler’s strategy for victory as he laid it out point by point in “Mein Kampf” – Recommended by 5 readers.
  • This urban/rural dichotomy or disctinction made by conservatives that what is authentic and real comes from small town and rural areas, and what is corrupt and elitist comes from urban areas was already made by Hitler in Mein Kempf. – 2 recommends

I’d say that fear-mongering thing is off to a good start.

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