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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

 
Adults Wanted


by digby


Kevin Drum has a whole bunch of good posts up today discussing the right wing reaction to the spying scandal. A more reprehensible group of moral and intellecutual cowards I have never seen.

There are the typical lies and obfuscations to which we've all become accustomed, of course, such as selectively citing passages of Supreme Court opinions that actually came to opposite conclusions and purposefully misconstruing Clinton and Carter's executive orders to imply that they had done the same thing. That's just par for the course.

But there are two things about this that do chap my hide and they are related. The first is that for 40 years --- and certainly for the last 25 since Reagan became president --- we have had to listen to endless blathering about how the Republicans want to "get the government out of your lives." "If someone says 'we're the government and we're here to help you' you should run." Rugged individualist Republicans, taking care of their own, not looking to the state to solve their problems like the betwetting girly men and manly girls on the left.

During the 90's the atmosphere was redolent with militia fevered, anti-government rhetoric that echoed throughout the right wing message infrastructure. Here's a snippet of the zeitgeist of the Gingrich revolution:


My books, such as Circle of Intrigue, Big Sister is Watching You, and Project L.U.C.I.D., tell the absolute truth about the evil powers of intimidation. It documents the crimes and schemes of the black-hooded, jackbooted thugs of the BATF and many other federal Gestapo, alphabet agencies. This hidden elite constitute the true Nazis. In fact, as fascists, they are worse than Nazis. They are "CommuNazis!"

Once upon a time, America had law enforcement of which it could be proud. No more. Today, the BATF, CIA, FBI and other federal bureaucracies continue to drag the good name of law enforcement through the gutter. As my friend, Officer Jack McLamb, recently said in a World of Prophecy interview, "The scum of law enforcement has risen to the top."

"The problem," says McLamb, "is that God is gone from government."


These were extremists, to be sure, but the language on the floor of the congress often echoed this kind of thinking. Tom Delay, for instance, called the EPA the "Gestapo of government ... a bunch of jack-booted thugs.”

They won elections in the west and the south by swaggering around extolling the blessed Bill Of Rights and the need to keep the federal government at arms length because Real Men and Women don't need no Democrat sissy nanny state and her Big Brother taking away their rights.

9/11 changed everything. Suddenly the he-men of WalMart and the NRA leaped into Big Brother's arms and shrieked "save me, save me! Do what ever you have to do, they're trying to kill us all!" They now look to Daddy Government not to discipline the children, but to check under the bed for them every night, reassure them that the boogeyman won't hurt them and then read them a nice bedtime story about spreading freedom and democracy. It turns out that underneath all this swaggering bravado, the Republicans aren't the Daddy party --- they're the baby party.

This article in the Boston Globe from yesterday (via Maha in this terrific post) gets to what I think is the central problem with this country's response after 9/11; the alleged super-hawks who were leading this country wet their pants with fear and behaved like frightened children:

In march of 1933, Franklin Roosevelt, facing the crisis of the Great Depression, said in his inaugural address that ''the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

The fear people felt then was not nameless, unreasoning, nor unjustified, as Roosevelt well knew. In fact, his address went on to say that ''the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone . . . Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment."

What Roosevelt meant was that fear can distort judgment and cloud the mind's ability to perceive right turns from wrong turns in the road to safety.

[...]

The Bush administration's predilection to torture was clearly a result of mind-clouding fear caused by the greatest terrorist attack in history on Sept. 11th, 2001. The same can be said of the excesses of the Patriot Act, and, too, the decision to use the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens without benefit of warrant as required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The Bush administration has shamelessly used fear to get its way. Both the president and vice president have tried to picture a withdrawal from Iraq as resulting in an Al Qaeda takeover of Iraq, and an Al Qaeda-led Caliphate stretching across the Muslim world. In reality al Qaeda hasn't the remotest chance of taking over Iraq, not with 80 percent of the population either Kurdish or Shi'ite, and a timely end to American occupation might sooner lead to an Iraqi-Sunni disenchantment with foreign terrorists.


Of course, the right has traded on fear for so long that we can hardly remember a time when they didn't. If it isn't the commies, it's the hippies or the ATF or the terrorists. And as Kevin points out they make these ridiculous decisions over and over again because they are essentially afraid of their own shadows:


The fact is, superhawks always claim their programs are vital to American security, and they almost always turn out to be wrong. We didn't need to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II, we didn't need Joe McCarthy's theatrics during the Cold War, and we didn't need COINTELPRO during the Vietnam War. And when the Church Committee outlawed the most egregious of our intelligence abuses in the 70s, guess what happened? The Soviet Union disintegrated a decade later. Turns out we didn't need that stuff after all. America is a lot stronger than its supposed defenders give it credit for.


This idea that we are living in a unique time that calls for special measures is what they always say. (And this current fantasy about the unique threat that proved our oceans couldn't protect us is particularly rich considering they fearmongered a communist threat of total annihilation for decades.) Often cooler heads are able to quell the worst excesses (like the fervent belief that we needed to launch a tactical nuclear war against the commies) and satisfy the right wing's other ongoing paranoid fantasy --- the left as a fifth column --- with silly, wasteful surveillance of animal rights groups or Quakers or former Beatles (along with pernicious surveillance of their partisan opponents.)

They are rhinestone cowboys who are scared to death and don't know how to contain their fear. So they lash out at their domestic political enemies, who they can bluster about and pretend to be tough, while hiding behind the military uniforms of their Big Brother and Preznit Daddy (which is a real stretch when it comes to Junior.)

The fact that they continue to win elections as being the tough guys perhaps says more about our puerile culture than anything else. They lash out like frightened children and too many people see that as courage or resolve.

Violent Islamic fundamentalism is a serious problem, not an existential threat. And it's a difficult problem that requires adults who can keep their heads about them when the terrorists put on their scary show, not big-for-their-age eight year olds staging a temper tantrum.





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