Saturday, March 6, 2010

More Lying Liars Abound (McCarthyites in Our Midst) & GOP War On Knowledge (Or How Skids Are Being Greased for America’s Decline and Fall)

They're making it up as they go along, I guess. Reminding me more and more of the insidious events leading to the horrors of pre-WWII Germany. Remember the Reichstag fire? Outsider groups being made to identify themselves to authority agencies by wearing special clothing? In our time, our German leaders, Rove and Bush, are b-a-c-k and claiming that they didn't lie with Rove in the lead as usual. My take on Rove has always been one of disbelief that anyone thinks he's intelligent instead of just seemingly "clever" and impressive to the inadequately prepared (and incredibly smarmy to boot). According to the reported statements of Bush concerning his opinion of him, even Bush thought he wasn't that smart. But you decide. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

George W. Bush’s political adviser Karl Rove claims “one of the biggest mistakes” of that presidency was not aggressively challenging critics who charged that Bush “lied” to the American people about the reasons for the Iraq War, an accusation that Rove insists was false and unfair.

In his forthcoming book, Courage and Consequence, Rove calls the “lie” charge “a poison-tipped dagger aimed at the heart of the Bush presidency” and blames himself for “a weak response” that underestimated “how damaging this assault was.”

But the problem with Rove’s account is that not only did Bush oversee the twisting of intelligence to justify invading Iraq in March 2003 but he subsequently lied – and lied repeatedly – about how Iraq had responded to United Nations inspection demands.

So, while it may be impossible to say for certain what Bush believed about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction, it can’t be argued that Bush didn’t know that Iraq declared that it had destroyed its WMD stockpiles and let U.N. inspectors in to see for themselves in the months before the invasion.

Nevertheless, Bush followed up his false pre-war claims about Iraq’s WMD with a post-invasion insistence that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had barred U.N. inspectors from his country, a decision that Bush said left him no choice but to invade. Bush began reciting this faux history just months after the invasion and continued the tall tale until the end of his presidency more than five years later.

Tellingly, throughout that period, as Bush blithely lied about the Iraq War history, he was never challenged to his face by the mainstream U.S. journalists who politely listened to the lies. Indeed, some big-name journalists even adopted Bush’s false narrative as their own.

Now, it appears Rove is intent on rehabilitating Bush’s record by insisting that the ex-President never lied at all. The historical record, however, is clear: Hussein and other Iraqi officials did say they no longer possessed WMD and they did let UN arms inspectors into Iraq in the fall of 2002 to search any site of their choosing.

Another reason for the speed of the hanging of Saddam Hussein, I suppose. Read all about it here.

Mark Crispin Miller reports that "Rove is getting richer by the day," and that he is "all over the news with the release of his book congratulating himself, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for the invasion of Iraq."

Yesterday, too, there was another news item that, unlike Rove’s book, has received scant attention. It speaks directly to the legal culpability of Bush, Rove and the other criminals who should be arrested rather doing book tours.
CBS News reports, “Doctors and parents in the Iraqi city of Fallujah are blaming a sharp increase in the number of birth defects on the highly sophisticated weapons U.S. troops have used in the city during the war.
“The BBC reported Thursday the staggering statistic from doctors in the city that the number of heart defects found in newborn babies is 13 times the number of similar birth defects in Europe.”
Bush ordered Fallujah to be essentially destroyed in 2004.

Glenn Greenwald (I just love the way this guy thinks, so please pardon my running almost the whole article) is one of my favorite sources of intelligence-laden information and his latest essay on Who Are the Actual "Crazy" People in American Politics? is a case on point. To test out my theory, see how much of the following you disagree with, and how much of it only emphasizes the purposive "crazy" used by the rightwingers (nice to see how our term "wingnuts" has now been applied by those rightwingers to non-nutty intellectuals isn't it? I guess it seems only fair to those tuned in to the rightwing agenda (and, yes, several do write for Salon)). (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

My Salon colleague, Mark Benjamin, writes about last night's Larry King Show - featuring a debate between Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson and GOP Rep. Michelle Bachmann - and does so by repeatedly branding Grayson as being every bit as "crazy" as Bachmann. Beginning with the article's headline ("Bachmann and Grayson: A diary of crazy") to his sarcastic description of "these two towering intellects" to his claim that Grayson and Bachmann are "the Candy Stripers of Crazy of their parties," Benjamin denigrates Grayson's intellect and mental health by depicting him - with virtually no cited basis - as the Democratic mirror image of Bachmann's rabid, out-of-touch extremism. This view of Grayson has become a virtual Washington platitude, solidified by The New York Times' David Herszenhorn's dismissal of Grayson as "the latest incarnation of what in the American political idiom is known as a wing nut."

There are so many things wrong with this analysis. To begin with, it's a classic case of false journalistic objectivity: the compulsion of journalists to posit equivalencies between the "two sides" regardless of whether they are actually equal (since I'm calling a GOP member of Congress "crazy," I now have to find a Democrat to so label). Benjamin cites numerous Bachmann statements that demonstrate her penchant for bizarre claims (and there are many he omitted), but points to only one Grayson statement: his famous floor speech in which he claimed: "If you get sick in America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly."

One could reasonably object to that statement as unduly inflammatory rhetoric, but Grayson was one of the only members of Congress willing to forcefully connect health care policy to the actual lives (and deaths) of American citizens. There's nothing crazy about dramatically emphasizing that causal connection; far crazier is to ignore it.

But more important, Grayson has managed to have more positive impact on more substantive matters than any House freshman in a long time (indeed, he makes more of a positive impact than the vast majority of members of Congress generally). He has tapped into his background as successful litigator and his Harvard degrees in law and public policy to shape public discussion on a wide range of issues - from his highly effective grilling of the Fed Vice Chair regarding massive, secretive Fed activities and aggressive investigation of the fraud surrounding the Wall Street bailout to his unparalleled work exposing defense contractor corruption, his efforts to warn of the unconstitutional underpinnings of anti-ACORN legislation (a federal court proved him right), his creative (if not wise) legislative proposals to limit corporate influence in politics, and his successful, bipartisan crusade to bring more transparency to the Fed. What conceivable basis exists for disparaging as "crazy" one of the few members of Congress who is both willing and able to bring attention to some of the most severe corruption and worst excesses of our political establishment?

The most significant point highlighted by this attack on Grayson as "crazy" is that, in our political discourse, the two party establishments typically define what is "sane," and anyone outside of those parameters is, by definition, "crazy." "Crazy" is the way that political orthodoxies are enforced and the leadership of the two political parties preserved as the only viable choices for Sane People to embrace. Anyone who tiptoes outside of those establishment parameters - from Ron Paul on the right to Dennis Kucinich on the left, to say nothing of Further Left advocates - is, more or less by definition, branded as "crazy" by all Serious, mainstream people.

The converse is even more perverse: the Washington establishment - which has endorsed countless insane policies, wrought so much destruction on every level, and has provoked the intense hatred of the American citizenry across the ideological spectrum - is the exclusive determinant for what is "sane." As long as one remains snugly within its confines, one will be shielded from the "crazy" appellation regardless of how many genuinely crazy views one embraces. Positing proximity to the Washington Establishment - of all things - as the Hallmark of Political Sanity is about as irrational as it gets, yet that continues to be the barometer of Political Normalcy.

Just consider who is supported and embraced by those who slap the "crazy" label on the forehead of every perceived dissident. Hillary Clinton - the ultimate embodiment of Democratic Party Seriousness and Sanity - supported the invasion of Iraq by warning of scary weapons and Al Qaeda ties that did not exist ("Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members"), and she spent her campaign beating her chest and doing things like threatening to "totally obliterate" Iran.

While in office, Barack Obama has endorsed putting people in cages with no charges, assassinating American citizens with no due process, eavesdropping on Americans en masse with little oversight, increasing military spending beyond its shockingly inflated levels while searching for ways to cut Medicaid and Social Security, and blocking judicial review of presidential felonies and war crimes on the ground that those criminal acts constitute vital "state secrets" and must be protected. Most Serious, Sane Democrats have supported all of that insanity.

Meanwhile, the GOP establishment from top to bottom spent a decade cheering on torture, disappearances, abductions, unprovoked wars, chronic presidential lawbreaking and truly sick McCarthyite witch hunts. Both of the Sane Parties conspired to transfer, with little accountability, massive amounts of public wealth to the very Wall Street firms which virtually destroyed the entire world economy, while standing by and doing very little about tragic levels of joblessness or the future risk of Wall-Street-caused financial crises; kept us waging war for a full decade in multiple countries (while threatening others) even as we near the precipice of bankruptcy, the hallmarks of under-developed nation status and the disappearance of the social safety net; and are so captive to the corporate interests which own the overnment that they viciously compete with one another over who can be a more loyal servant to those interests.

While all of that is happening, those whom all Serious, Sane people agree are Crazy - people like Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul and Alan Grayson - vehemently oppose most if not all of that and try to find ways to expand the realm of legitimate debate and political alliances beyond the suffocating stranglehold of those responsible. So who exactly is Crazy? That Grayson sometimes treats our political discourse as the ludicrous freak show that it is, rather than pretending that it is substantive, sober and Serious, is evidence of his sanity - not the opposite.

. . . back in mid-January, a mere six weeks ago, Grayson went on Hardball and advocated that the Democrats pass health care reform through reconciliation, which would enable them to avoid a GOP filibuster. But back then, all Serious People (i.e., dutiful Party Loyalists) insisted that the mere suggestion was crazy (because neither party's leadership had yet deemed it acceptable), and Matthews thus angrily berated Grayson as crazy, unrealistic, an "outsider" and "pandering to the netroots" for suggesting such a thing (Beltway journalists are nothing if they're not mindless amplifiers of establishment orthodoxy).

But now? Thirty-three Democratic Senators are calling for the passage of a public-option-inclusive health care reform bill via reconciliation, and the President himself wants to use that process as well (albeit without a public option). Now that Party Leaders have embraced reconciliation, it's been magically and instantly transformed from Crazy Fringe Loser Talk into Serious, Sane, Responsible Advocacy - all within a matter of weeks. That's virtually always how the "Crazy" label works: as a means of marginalizing those who advocate ideas that the Washington Establishment rejects.

Read the whole essay here. And please, please, please read The Full-Scale Collapse: From Murrow to Blitzer. I'm not going to test your patience by running much of it here, but it merits a very careful reading. Heck. I may go ahead and run more of it tomorrow (yeah - right - I'm working the weekend as usual). I'll never forget my run for the toilet when I heard that the powers-that-be awarded an Edward R. Murrow award to Wolf Blitzer. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

When discussing the McCarthyite DOJ witch hunt spawned by Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol, I wrote yesterday: now that "we have real, live, contemporary McCarthyites in our midst - Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol - launching a repulsive smear campaign, we'll see what the reaction is and how they're treated by our political and media elites." On Twitter yesterday, I wrote: "How media figures treat Liz Cheney after her vile McCarthyite smear campaign will say a lot about their character."

CNN's Wolf Blitzer spoke volumes today about himself and his "news network." First, on Twitter earlier today, he excitedly promoted his upcoming story about what he called the "intense debate about Obama Justice Dept bringing in lawyers who previously represented Gitmo detainees." On March, 9, 1954, Edward R. Murrow famously devoted his entire broadcast to vehemently condemning Joseph McCarthy's witch hunts, declaring: "This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent." By contrast, Wolf Blitzer - recipient of an Edward R. Murrow award - sees such smear campaigns as nothing more than an "intense debate" to neutrally explore and excitingly promote.

The last thing I would ordinarily do is watch a Wolf Blitzer broadcast, but I knew that this was going to be a heinously illustrative episode in modern political journalism - at best the vile McCarthyite campaign was going to be presented in the standard "each-side-says" format which defines modern journalistic "objectivity" - but it was far worse than even I expected. Blitzer first teased the segment as this on-screen logo appeared, taken directly from the Cheney/Kristol ad: "HAPPENING NOW: DEPT. OF JIHAD?"

Read on MacDuff (if you can stomach it)! And now for the pièce de résistance that rocks from the Inverse Square blog: The GOP War On Knowledge . . . Or How the Skids Are Being Greased for America’s Decline and Fall. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

I’ve got a backlog of stupid and dangerous ideas and claims out there I want to blog about — one of the nice things about being a self-selected watchdog for duplicity and useful ignorance on the web means I’ll never lack for targets — but I want to highlight a theme that links a lot of what I’m raging about these days.

That would be the escalation in the Republican and right wing’s Thirty Years War on the idea of knowledge and the significance of expertise in public life. You can see it everywhere these days, and I’ll be blogging over the next several days about the latest forays in this from all the usual suspects in this, from the incomparable (and I don’t mean in a good way) George Will, to that genial tribute to mediocrity in high places, David Brooks.

Those two — and many others — share this particular incoherence: they stake their claim to authority through an assertion of a peculiar kind of expertise, in particular, the ability to interpret technical knowledge and to divine social patterns, while at the same time decrying the authority of the more specialized skills that produce facts and interpretations with which they disagree.

More simply: no one knows anything except me.

The animating motive behind such bathos is not simply self-aggrandizement (though that is surely a feature and not a bug). Rather it is aimed at discrediting genuine expertise, actual specialized knowledge and/or craft skills. Both men (and many others) are actively and overtly trying to reclaim power for an aristocracy of birth, institutions, or certain interests, and hence find claims of authority independent of unearned descent or association a deep threat.

Simply: as long as, say, Paul Krugman, exists to tell them they don’t know what they are talking about, then those who would rather accelerate the transfer of wealth from the middle to the top, have to find ways to deny his credibility, his authority-born-of-knowledge to label their stupid claims for the folly they are.

More broadly, the game now is to paint one side — the side that did not author our current disaster — as a hopelessly out of touch and inherently incapable group of impractical experts, folks who know only theory and have none of the so-called common sense needed to recognize that the succour of the rich and powerful is the alpha and omega of sound policy. It’s Spiro Agnew updated for the digital age, with the pointed-headed intellectuals now turned into mindless social engineers recrafting America to match some abstract (probably French) social theory.

A type specimen of this kind of “thought” (sic!) comes from one of the perennial suspects, Michael Barone, of Town Hall. You know you are in for a familiar ride when you get an invocation of both the patron (if more admired than read) saint of self-styled American conservatives, Edmund Burke . . . and a peculiar (given Burke’s essentially elitest bent) appeal to mass opinion.

In one of the more mindlessly dog-bites-man bits of analysis he writes that the reason Democrats lost in Massachusetts, and will and should lose this fall, is because they are too slavishly antipathetic to Edmund Burke’s view of governance. That’s right — according to this giant of the political idea wars, the reason the Democratic Party is in trouble is because it is still partying like it’s 1789

. . . they take the very un-Burkean view that those with elite educations can readily rearrange society to comport with their pet abstract theories. These often secular Americans have a quasi-religious faith in government’s ability to, in Barack Obama’s words to Joe the Plumber, “spread the wealth around” and to recalibrate the energy sector to protect against climate dangers they are absolutely sure are impending.

Ordinary Americans, even in Massachusetts, may not have heard of Edmund Burke, but they share his skepticism that self-appointed experts can reengineer institutions in accordance with abstract theories.

That is: a party that seeks to return the regulation of the financial markets to the American norm of about 1988, say . . . and to introduce into oligopolic structure of the American health insurance market just a smidgeon of quality control and the possibility (not the certainty) of price competition in certain areas, not to mention access for those increasingly pushed out of a shrinking employer-provided health care system . . . and to construct a market structure for pricing known externalities of energy use has gone all Rousseau and Robespierre on us, instead of presenting what is barely distinguishable from a plausible Republican party platform from the 1950s through at least the candidacy of Gerald Ford.

Of course it’s nonsense, and I’d even wager that Barone in some lizard brain moment of intellection might realize that while what he spouts are words, they lack any meaningful connection to the reality he purports to document.

But that’s the point. It’s not that what my party wants to do is so dangerous, in fact. It’s that the existence of an alternative claim on reality – or rather, reality itself — is unacceptable . . . so instead of engaging in an argument one might lose, the real mission is to make sure that the whole idea an argument is possible (much less a loss) gets destroyed.

So, despite the fact that the right is exercising a near monopoly on abstract theories (tax cuts raise revenues, e.g.) that engineer institutions (think, for example an explicitly anti-market Medicare drug benefit, and/or a non-regulating financial regulatory apparatus) to produce through massive transfers of both wealth and power from the middle and poor to the rich . . . it’s imperative to ensure that folks who actually know stuff in detail about the critical decisions we are in fact making don’t actually get a place at the table.

Because we know what happens when they do. Folks like the ones Barone wants to see in power get their heads handed to them.

This is what is going to make today’s farrago so fascinating, by the way.

Here’s hoping for a massacree.

Image: Dósa Géza ”Gábor Bethlen among his Scholars” 1870.

Please read the rest of this superb essay.

And if you have a few coins for the Pay Pal button, you can be sure that it will be used for a dire need and sincerely appreciated. Suzan _______________


Jack Jodell said...

Man alive, Suzan, you have covered so much ground here I can't possibly do your post justice with a short and condensed series of statements. But here's my penny's worth:
1. Karl Rove and all the top echelon of W's administration ARE liars. Period. Rove is SUCH a pathological liar, in fact, that he would continue lying and spinning long after a near-fatal dose of truth serum had been administered him.
2. Michele Bachmann, NOT Alan Grayson, is the liar and is crazy. Grayson may speak in hyperbole on occasion, but his pronouncements are based on fact and empirical evidence. Bachmann, on the other hand, simply spouts off made-up or twisted nonsense which is easily disproved and can't be substantiated.
3. While not as bad as Fox "News", CNN's reporting often leaves a lot to be desired. Let's face it: Dana Bash and John King are Republican shills; Wolf Blitzer is a play-it-safe milquetoast with no backbone at all, and, by and large, CNN's major personalities are parrots for celebrity or GOP talking points. The only real journalists on that network are Christianne Amanpour, Candy Crowley, Suzanne Malveaux, Rick Sanchez, and, on occasion, Anderson Cooper. All the rest are mindless pretty boy/pretty girl talking heads we can all do without nicely. As for Blitzer, the guy is comatose and Murrow is surely spinning in his grave at the speed of light over Wolfie baby getting a Edward R. Murrow award...

Beekeepers Apprentice said...

That was quite a post!

Ok, so here's what I think, for what it's worth (admittedly not much, haha).

Rove's mistake wasn't in not attacking the claims of lying more agressively, it was LYING IN THE FIRST PLACE. He can spin it from here to the fifth ring of Saturn, but it will always come down to that simple fact.

The GOP war on knowledge: I've got a post brewing in the back of my mind on this very topic, too. That is what will kill this country in the end - because that is probably THE common denominator in all the problems facing this country. It's all about to come to a head, I fear.

Suzan said...

Thanks, sweetie, but you're going light, aren't you Jack?

Wolf Blitzer is a play-it-safe milquetoast

And Candy Crowley? Yuk!!!!

I'll never forget how she licked her lips every broadcast over Clinton's mis-impeachment. She has no credibility with me.

In fact, outside of Keith and Rachel and very few others - asshats on teh TV (not to mention yell-loud-because-I-think-that's-how-I'll-win radio) do not hold any interest for me at all. Life is waaay too short. And I"ll be darned if I give one more second of my life to Murdoch mania.

Bee - thanks, sister!

You have no idea how much I agree with you. What they are calling the coming "double dip" has got nothing to do with double. It's a trip straight to the bottom.

That is what will kill this country in the end - because that is probably THE common denominator in all the problems facing this country. It's all about to come to a head, I fear.

Thanks again for your time and comments, friends.


Jack Jodell said...

I read you loud and clear on Murdoch's lie machine. As for Crowley, I think she's mellowed a bit with age---I've noticed of late a tendency on her part to stick Republicans a bit when they try to lay their baseless talking points on her. Sorry if I disappointed/offended you, my fellow Sagittarian. :-)