Who are the left-wing haters to point fingers at John McCain?
In his endorsement of Barack Obama last week, former Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell said that "I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated [with] terrorists.' "
This is a serious accusation to level, and Powell ought to have had the courage to name names.
Nonetheless, the notion that the McCain campaign, and conservatives more broadly, have stooped to an unprecedented level of "sleaziness" with negative, nasty and mendacious campaign tactics has become the accepted media narrative over the past several weeks. "Smear" is the word you most often hear nowadays next to "Republican." But while it may be true that some in the conservative fever swamps have resorted to ugly tactics, they don't hold a candle to the left's rhetoric over the past eight years.
Liberal pundits are attempting to outdo one another in describing just how unscrupulous conservatives have become. In The New Yorker last week, Hendrik Hertzberg referred to McCain-Palin rallies as "blood-curdling hate-fests." Frank Rich went one step further in The New York Times, decrying the "Weimar-like rage" of the Republican Party base, evidenced by a few attendees at a Sarah Palin rally who shouted "terrorist" and "off with his head" when she mentioned Barack Obama. Rich's fellow Times columnist Paul Krugman remarked that attendees at GOP gatherings have been "gripped by insane rage" at the prospect of an Obama presidency. Ascribing the oafish behavior of a handful to an entire political party, The Nation magazine slams the "GOP's machinery of hate" in an editorial patronizingly entitled, "Waiting for the Barbarians."
If my inbox is to be believed, there are certainly people on the right who believe that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim lying in wait to foist jihad upon the United States. And there are people who oppose him because of his name or his race. But one has to have been asleep during the Bush years to think that nuttery is exclusively a conservative phenomenon.
What about the left's conspiracy theories? A not insignificant portion of liberals in this country believe that a small group of Jews, er, the "neocons," took control of the government following 9/11 to fight wars on behalf of Israel. Is not this slander as odious as the Internet rumors about Barack Obama?
Time columnist Joe Klein fits the profile of the liberal hypocrite beset with disappointment over McCain's alleged degradation. He recently apologized to readers for writing earlier that John McCain was "honorable." This from a man who just a few months ago alleged that "Jewish neoconservatives" were disloyal Americans because their "plump[ing]" for war in Iraq and now Iran "raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel."
Rich's use of the term "Weimar-like rage," ironically in a column decrying Republican scare tactics, is but one example of the left's careless usage of Nazi allegories to describe people and policies they don't like. Since 9/11, major anti-war rallies have included people holding signs and puppets comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler. Leftist writer Naomi Wolf, who has expressed fears that the feds were monitoring her children's letters from summer camp, recently published a book titled, "The End of America," which likens the Bush administration to a fascist junta.
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann spews over-the-top, hateful rhetoric in his "Special Comments" on a regular basis. He has said that the Bush administration threatens America with a "new type of fascism," referred to the GOP as the "leading terrorist group in this country" on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and has said that Fox News is "worse than Al Qaeda" and "as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan ever was."
Have the journalists now bemoaning the low tactics of the McCain campaign and its supporters never set eyes upon the wildly popular Huffington Post? That Web site hosts countless angry rants, many examples of which are too vulgar to document in a family newspaper. In 2004, Nicholson Baker wrote a novel imagining the assassination of President Bush. Last week, Fox's "Family Guy" depicted Nazis donning McCain-Palin buttons.
If these fringe (and most of them are hardly fringe) individuals don't speak for American liberalism writ large - as most "respectable" liberals will tell us when confronted by the examples enumerated above - then the stray hecklers at McCain-Palin rallies cannot represent American conservatism.
By imputing the crazy views of a few right-wing extremists to all conservatives, Obama supporters cut off legitimate concerns about their candidate's positions and qualifications for office. Anyone troubled by the Democratic presidential candidate's years-long association with unrepentant terrorist William Ayers and his dismissal of that individual as "a guy who lives in my neighborhood" becomes a right-wing lunatic. Anyone who raises the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is answered with an eye roll.
To be sure, the McCain campaign has made its fair share of exaggerations and distortions about its opponent's record. But nothing he or his surrogates have done is any more egregious than the lies, hysteria and ad hominem attacks that have poured from the mouths and keyboards of the left. So pardon me for being a little skeptical about the pundit class' selective indignation over gutter-ball campaign tactics. It would have been nice if they paid attention the last eight years.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Very powerful article by the New Republic's James Kirchick that touches on the theme of my earlier post. Again I will say it - it does not matter whether or not the writer is a conservative or a liberal. The truth is the truth is the truth.