Cowards and Crack Dealers: The Shame of Regressivism

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Cowards and Crack Dealers: The Shame of Regressivism

Damn, I’m embarrassed for regressives.

And it’s a good thing I am, too. Somebody’s gotta do it, and it sure as hell ain’t gonna be them.

There are basically two kinds of regressives, and they are both paragons of shameful behavior, though of rather different kinds.

The first type is the trooper. He watches Beck, listens to Limbaugh, and not only takes his cues as to what to think, he also unknowingly receives his marching orders as to what to even think about. Do you imagine, for instance, that tens of millions of fat, white, male, Southern, old farts all of a sudden individually came to the simultaneous conclusion that Obama’s White House has too many czars in it? Yeah, me neither.

These people are all over the place. They’re your neighbor, your uncle, your barber, your nightmare. They are astonishingly lazy and dumb, politically, but it’s important to note that that is absolutely by choice. Because what they really are, at their core, is deathly frightened. So much so that they cling onto the mythologies fed to them, and cannot be moved from belief in those rusty shibboleths, no matter what. If Jesus himself appeared before their eyes and said, “Hey man, knock it off with all this messiah shit, would ya? It was all just an elaborate practical joke which went badly awry, and 2000 year ago at that!”, it still wouldn’t matter. They would say “No, no dude. You are the son of God! We insist!” And, if he persisted in telling him that he wasn’t, they would... well, they’d crucify him.

I can’t tell you how many encounters I’ve had with these regressive shock troops over the years which have brought this home to me. At first I was astonished and puzzled. Entering into discourse with them was like stepping into an evidence-free zone, a place with all the logical integrity of a Dali painting. Upside down. After a while, though, I realized that there must be something deeper going on which causes people to cling so militantly to what is manifestly sheer bullshit.

That something is fear. This is what the Founders and their fellow Enlightenment school travelers (myself included) missed. Only some people some of the time are capable of thoughtful policy decisions based on rational analysis of carefully sifted evidence. Anyone who’s deeply frightened, for whatever reason, doesn’t fall into that category. Religious conservatives love to remind us that there are no atheists in foxholes, and they’re mostly correct. What they don’t get is that this observation doesn’t prove the inevitability of god, but rather the opposite. What it shows is that if you’re scared enough, you’ll believe anything, including that doing deals-with-deities, like “I swear I won’t drink or smoke or use bad words anymore, God, if you’ll just get me out of this tight spot”, would actually work. Exactly how much we really believe in the power of said divinities is reflected in the drunken, cursing and smoking soldiers out on leave the very next night, having survived the firefight.

Well, nobody is shooting at regressives in America right now, but by golly it sure must feel like it to them. You gotta be powerful askeered to act as stupid as these folk do. I’ll give you a recent example of what I’m talking about, which is very much similar to multiple such encounters I’ve had in the past.

This local dude I’ve never met somehow found out about me and my politics and decided he was going to give me a right good education by adding my name to his distribution list for these right-wing email blasts he spews every few days. No doubt you know what I’m talking about – this crap constantly bounces around online – and you’ve probably received many of the same ones from time to time. It’s utterly embarrassing garbage on a good day, and frighteningly dispiriting most of the rest of the time.

He was right, though. It is educational. You can really learn a lot about America by observing this sort of sad foolishness. So I let the email come without objection, until one day I couldn’t take the sheer ignorance of it any longer. The thing that set me over the edge was a quote from some European guy (apparently regressives forgot momentarily that they’re supposed to act all contemptuous of Europeans), which the local yokel sent out to his list, claiming that this was perhaps the most profound thing uttered in the last millennium. And, no, I’m not exaggerating. That’s really what he said. So what was this amazing piece of wisdom? Just a short passage noting that America will probably survive the incalculable devastation of the Obama presidency, but far more troubling is the implication that a great nation would choose this man for its president!

And that was about all I could take. In truth, this was pretty mild – and even quasi-intellectual – compared to most of the stuff you see. And, of course, I even agree that the Obama presidency has been fairly disastrous, albeit precisely because his policies are almost uniformly regressive in nature, a fact which regressives seem to be utterly blinded from seeing because the guy is black and a Democrat and not afraid to not be stupid in public. But I think what set me off about this particular missive was the absolute inanity of it, the complete violation of any sense of historical truth represented in its content, particularly given the presidency before Obama’s, much loved by regressives, which we just got through barely surviving. This is truly Orwellian stuff. This is Winston Smith sitting in the Ministry of Information, rewriting history.

So I sent this guy a note, and I asked him if he could please just give me two or three reasons why Obama was the worst thing to ever happen to the republic. Having gone down this path before, I knew what the very first thing on the list would be (because these troops take their marching orders from above, they are completely predictable), and sure enough, it was what I thought he’d say, that Obama is constantly apologizing for America to other countries. So I asked this guy for one single example of that. And he wrote me back with some vague allusion to an apology for human rights and immigration policy and China. So I said, “Could you please just supply me the quote of Obama making the apology?” And he said he didn’t have it off hand, but I could surely just Google it.

Well, of course, I already had. But I said to him, anyhow, “Let me get this straight. You’re claiming that Obama is the worst thing ever to happen to America. You’re spreading that claim all around to everyone you know, arguing that your indictment represents some profound wisdom and the last-hour warning of a deeply concerned patriot. And the very first item among your bill of particulars is the claim that president apologizes for his country. But when asked for several examples, the best you can come up with is a single one, but you don’t actually know what was said. Do I have that right?”

I should point out here that the actual incident in question involved a low-level bureaucrat who, in discussions with Chinese counterparts, apparently acknowledged that immigration legislation coming out of Arizona does not reflect the highest pinnacles of human rights aspirations. But these words were not an apology. And they were not spoken by Barack Obama, or even his secretary of state (remember her, the 1990s version of regressive fear-driven wrath, who seems to be okay by them now?). Moreover, this was the only ‘example’ given of the what was supposed to be a whole litany of similar transgressions, causing our friend in question to put this item at the very top of his list.

Finally, I can’t help but also note that even if the claim was true, would it necessarily be so wrong to apologize, especially given America’s history in Iran and Guatemala and Cuba and South Africa and Nicaragua and Honduras and El Salvador and Chile, and just about every country in Latin America and a whole bunch more in Africa and Asia and even Europe? I mean, what is the notion here? That we’re perfect? Or is it that we’re simply too bitchen to apologize, even when we do screw up?

Well, by this time, the guy was totally freaking out and telling me that he was going to remove my name from his mailing list and I should just leave him alone. When I asked whether he teaches his children not to apologize when they hurt someone else, he accused me of dragging his kids into a political debate – you know, just like liberals did to Sarah Palin. Even though, of course, I wasn’t doing that at all – I was asking about him, not his kids, and what his moral values are. Finally, I asked him whether he didn’t think that he was effectively committing treason by publically tearing down the American president on the basis of lies.

He wrote me back promising that he would absolutely cease reading my mail anymore. Hmmm. Wonder why?

It would be lovely if that was just one guy out there, frightened of his own shadow, willing to suspend disbelief entirely to assuage those fears, and disposed to the destruction of America out of personal cowardice. Alas, this is, instead, an entire radio audience. This is an entire political party. This is a very large chunk of the third most populous country in the world.

But as ugly as the radio and television audience is, it’s the folks on the other side of the microphone who are truly evil. These are the Rush Limbaughs and Newt Gingriches and Sarah Palins of this country who have recognized that there is some serious adoration and power (oh, and did I mention the money?) in catering to a nation’s insecurities. Can we just be honest about this? These folks are nothing but political crack dealers. They are absolutely capable of saying anything – or of failing to say anything – in order to peddle their sick wares.

This last week has been an absolute case in point. I have searched – in vain, shockingly enough – to find any regressive pundit who had anything seriously positive to say about the president’s obliteration of Osama bin Laden.

In a sane world, that quest would not be such a quixotic-to-the-point-of-being-absurd proposition. I mean, after all, aren’t the folks on the right the ones who have been banging the terrorism drum for a decade now? Aren’t they the folks who adore military solutions to American foreign policy problems? Haven’t they been using 9/11 to justify every imaginable policy, including even tax cuts? Aren’t these exactly the folks among all of us who should be most gaga that Osama now swims with the fishies in the Indian Ocean?

Yes, yes, yes and yes. In a sane world, that is. In our world, on the other hand, this event was a disaster for such folks, who don’t actually give a damn about national security anyhow, but have made whole careers out of pretending otherwise.

Like I said, I’m embarrassed for these people. Check out a sampling of their commentary regarding what was one of the biggest national security developments – on their terms, especially – in contemporary American history:

In “Obama Administration Takes Victory Lap In Clown Car”, Jim Treacher belittles Obama for screwing up his signal achievement. Included among the president’s crimes are the fact that his speech “was originally announced for 10:30 but didn’t happen until 11:30. By that time, the news Obama was supposed to be breaking had broken already. Not the best start”. Wow. There’s an epic screw-up, eh? Trying to get the words of the speech right, the president came out an hour later for the press conference than the time he had just got done surprise-announcing. Such a blunder, that. Imagine how irate Treacher would have been if Obama had, say, declared an American war had ended in “mission accomplished” victory before it had even begun?

Or take Andrew Bolt (please), who writes in “Obama’s Victory Turns Into Farce” that farce is just exactly what happened, “thanks to all the President's familiar traits of ineptitude, regal disdain and fuzzy Leftism”. Ineptitude? Wait, wasn’t Obama announcing that he had taken out Osama bin Laden, Public Enemy Number One? I think Bolt refers to Obama’s decision not to show the world gory photos of bin Laden shot through the head, given that such images might incite violence against Americans. If anyone reading this can discern the fuzzy leftism in that decision, please do let the rest of us know, especially now that about 80 people have already been murdered in Pakistan in reprisals for the attack, less than a week later. But be sure not to mention it to that commie subversive George W. Bush, however, who wouldn’t let photographs be taken of caskets arriving to Dover Air Force Base anymore, after decades of that journalistic tradition.

Thoughtful Sarah Palin also joined that chorus. She tweeted (appropriately enough) that Obama must release the pics, else he’s a girly-man: “No pussy-footing around, no politicking, no drama. It’s part of the mission.” Um, wait, do I have this right? Sarah Palin criticizing Barack Obama for too much theatricality? Oh lord, there actually is a parallel universe on the other side of the looking glass!

This photo conspiracy is one of the great tropes now emerging, to the point where the Baltimore Sun could run a piece entitled, “Do they really expect us to believe bin Laden is dead?” Here, the author opines, “Does anyone believe Osama bin Laden is dead? He supposedly died in 2007, we've heard nothing since, then all of a sudden he's dead again. This would not be the first time the government misrepresented the facts. Are we suppose [sic] to believe a president who wouldn't even make public his birth certificate [sick]? I think it's an Obama ploy to make himself look good for re-election. After all, how does a vastly inexperienced, non-military president eradicate bin Laden when previous, experienced presidents couldn't [sicker]? I want to see bin Laden's body, but we can't. A day after his demise he was disposed of at sea. Why do you think that is? Maybe he was really already dead and someone had to be disposed of to make it seem that bin Laden was killed when he wasn't. Why wouldn't our government want us to see bin Laden's body, unless it wasn't his? Sooner or later the government will figure out that we aren't as gullible or as stupid as it thinks.” No, as a matter of fact, it turns out that some of us are vastly more stupid than any government could have imagined...

Then there’s Good old John Bolton, who criticizes Obama for burying bin Laden at sea. And you know what a great contribution Mr. Bolton has made to American diplomacy over the years. In any case, his criticism is the equivalent of lambasting Babe Ruth for not hitting that 715th home run. Worse, it comes from a guy who sat on the bench in Little League.

Or take the great pundit-warrior, Victor Davis Hanson, who’s really upset about Obama referring to the actions he took as president, labeling his administration “The First-Person Presidency”, and pretending to be unaware that the insecure Lil’ Bush did this far more than Obama does. Like, for example, “Good afternoon. On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against Al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. ... More than two weeks ago, I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands.” Or, “On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war. These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign.” Yo, Vic! Hello?! Is your memory really that bad, or is it just, er, that convenient?

Or how about Peggy Noonan, who wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan and hasn’t had the good sense for thirty years now to deny it? She just penned a piece in which she fell all over herself praising the military for taking out Osama, but couldn’t quite muster the words for the president. Perhaps if he had tucked tail and run from Lebanon, or maybe traded missiles to the Iranian mullahs in exchange for hostages, she would be far more effusive. Who knows?

Not to be outdone, in his latest column George F. Will miraculously managed to turn the whole affair into a call for considering whether NATO should be disbanded. No, I’m not kidding. Bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you?

The only bit of truth (and I emphasize the word ‘bit’) I saw from the right anywhere was Ross Douthat’s remark that “For those with eyes to see, the daylight between the foreign policies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama has been shrinking ever since the current president took the oath of office. But last week made it official: When the story of America’s post-9/11 wars is written, historians will be obliged to assess the two administrations together, and pass judgment on the Bush-Obama era.”

Regrettably, this is precisely correct. Barack Obama is Bush/Cheney. I was stunned to see a regressive say that about a president they’ve spent two-plus years trying to turn into some sort of Neville-Chamberlain-in-drag-doing-bong-hits-wearing-tie-dye-and-campaigning-for-George-McGovern. I thought, “Damn!”, this could get interesting. It didn’t. Instead of knocking around his fellow travelers for being so willfully stupid about politics Obama style, Douthat instead starting taking whacks at Democrats, in the most condescending manner imaginable, for the same thing – that is for excusing what Obama does simply because he has a D after his name. Douthat happens to be right about that (though there are plenty of real progressives who have been scathingly consistent about both presidents’ ugly policies), but the far greater crime is that of the loons on the right. Because, after all, Bush was an order of magnitude worse, simply by invading Iraq (which Obama would not have done), an episode which Douthat seems to have entirely forgotten. In any case, in an act of true weirdness, he then goes on in his piece to rant about the perils of the imperial presidency. As if he was some sort of Neville Chamberlain-in-drag...

In sum, nobody on the right, as far as I could see, had any praise for the president, despite the fact that – whatever one thinks of the deed itself – Obama took a large risk, and he pulled off without a hitch the foreign policy coup of a generation. I mean, really. Yes, it does get bigger than this. But not often.

Ya wanna know why they can’t acknowledge this achievement?

‘Cause here’s what they were really thinking:

“Damn!”

“Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn!”

“Shit!”

“Man, this makes us look stupid. This reminds people that our guy couldn’t do the job in eight years’ time. Some might even remember how he said that he ‘didn’t even think about bin Laden anymore’. This completely blows our whole ‘we’re tough, they’re weak’ line we’ve been using since Truman. This jacks O’Whatshisname up in the polls, while we look like idiots, running around talking about birth certificates.

“Damn!”

“This is all about something way more important than national security.”

“This is about job security.”

“Ours.”

David Michael Green

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (mailto:dmg@regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.

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