Friday, September 08, 2006

HfA: Fighting from the Gutter

Another great post from HfA

When can we speak out?

Being lectured by a Republican, these days, is rather like being given a lesson in school by the dumbest kid in class. They speak - especially the president, perhaps the dumbest of the lot - condescendingly, using logical missteps, factual errors and flat-out lies to not only tell us how stupid we are, but also how right they are. Sometimes, we're good, honest people who just happen to be completely mistaken. Sometimes, we're not. Those times, we're so wrong that, should we actually be allowed to have our voices heard, the terrorists will win, and everyone you know and love will die. Oh, and vote Republican, because your children's lives depend on it!

More recently, however, a sense of abject desperation has crept into the Republican Party. Knowing that not only are Americans angry about the Republican culture of fear, corruption and incompetence, but also that they seem willing to do something about it at the ballot box this fall, Republicans have taken their rhetoric to new lows. And the moment anyone - even another Republican - criticizes even the most minute aspect of administration policy, that critic is placed alongside those who would forgive even the most tyrannical despot. Tell me, however, if that's the way Republicans are going to play it, when can we speak out? I think we know the answer to that question.

Since September 11, which happened, you'll recall, while this president was in office, Republicans have repeatedly suggested a vote for the Democrats is a vote for certain attack, or worse. Remember, shortly before the 2004 election, it was Vice President Cheney saying, "It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States." You could say this sad trend again reared its ugly head last June, when walking national security threat Karl Rove said, "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," adding, "I don't know about you, but moderation and restraint is not what I felt when I watched the twin towers crumble to the ground, a side of the Pentagon destroyed, and almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens perish in flames and rubble."

More than a year later, and with countless Republican-created straw men rhetorically defeated, a White House sensing electoral disaster this fall swung back into action. Just this Tuesday, the president compared Osama bin Laden to Lenin and Hitler*, saying that "Underestimating the words of evil and ambitious men is a terrible mistake". He added that the world "paid a terrible price" for ignoring the despots' writings, urging that leaders can't follow the same path with al Qaeda. "Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them," Bush said, predicting victory in the "great ideological struggle of the 21st Century". Why? Because, in his words, "we have seen free nations defeat terror before". Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, in an interview with Essence magazine, took things a step further or, more appropriately, a step lower. "I'm sure there are people who thought it was a mistake to fight the Civil War to its end and to insist that the emancipation of slaves would hold," Rice said. "I know there were people who said, 'Why don't we get out of this now, take a peace with the South, but leave the South with slaves?'"

But perhaps the worst - or most attention grabbing - outburst in this coordinated campaign came from Donald Rumsfeld. Last Tuesday, speaking before the American Legion, the Secretary of Defense accused the administration's critics of suffering from "moral or intellectual confusion" and of trying to appease "a new type of fascism". "But some seem not to have learned history's lessons," Rumsfeld added, saying, "Can we truly afford to believe somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?" Speaking before the Veterans of Foreign Wars the prior day, Rumsfeld criticized a "Blame America First" mentality, saying, "And while some argue for tossing in the towel, the enemy is waiting and hoping for us to do just that. Early on, I learned from my dad - a veteran of World War II - that if you start quitting things, pretty soon you've become a quitter." He wasn't done. "Surely by now we have learned the lesson that when our country gives our troops a mission, they should have the resources and support to finish the job," he said, without the slightest hint of irony. "And surely, we have learned the dangers of giving the enemy the false impression that Americans cannot stomach a tough fight."

Wow. Take a breath and let that sink in. I know I need to, you latte-drinking traitors to the cause, because I had to resist the powerful urge to vomit as I cited each example. Now then, let's take a look at the caricature created by some of the Republican Party's "brightest" lights. To listen to them, you'd think we were terrorist-forgiving fascist-appeasers who, despite not knowing and/or ignoring history, seem intent on two things. One, taking office, which, of course, would lead to America's ultimate destruction. Two, if you listen to Rice, establishing some sort of alternative universe where she would still be someone's property, not Secretary of State**. I can't, for the life of me, think of a single Democrat who thinks that terrorists can be appeased. I've searched high and low - both at our secret Vast Left Wing Conspiracy meetings and my Global Jewish Conspiracy sessions - and I can't name a single one. And, when asked during a recent Fox News appearance, Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole couldn't, either. So if you can't, Republicans, why are you still saying these things?

I have a theory, and I think it has quite a bit of supporting evidence. Knowing that they are responsible for so much that has gone wrong in this country since Bush took office, the Republicans are simply resorting to doing what they do best - attack. But, as Ann Coulter and the Coulter Republicans have proven again and again, right wingers simply cannot debate their critics on the merits of their arguments. Instead, they retreat to the gutter, from which they hurl baseless, attention-grabbing smears. Criticize Rice or Alberto Gonzales and you're a racist. Criticize the lack of progress on homeland security since September 11 and you're an attention-seeking harpy. Criticize the handling of the war and you would have appeased Hitler. When, Republicans, is criticism valid? When can we speak out? You like to act as though this is all a big game, those taking it too seriously need not apply. Well, nearly 3,000 Americans dead in Iraq and elsewhere thanks to this administration isn't a joke. You may think it is, but no one's laughing.

The White House is telling anyone that will listen - these days pretty much only the Washington press corps - that what they're doing these days not only isn't a coordinated campaign, but also that it's not, hasn't been, never will be, political. But, given the evidence and all that we know about the Bush administration, what else could it be? When you see so many prominent Republicans criticizing their opponents as has happened, it's political. In fact, it's beyond political. To criticize their opponents in the manner Republicans have is undemocratic. It poisons the debate about a topic - the war - that needs to take place. It also cheapens the debate to the point where Republicans can traffic in lies, yet Democrats (or even a Republican willing to join, to borrow a phrase, the coalition of the rational) pointing them out instantly get branded as incompetents supporting the murderous dictator du jour. Funny, too, that Republicans accuse critics of forgetting their history. Consider that, when speaking about terrorism Wednesday, Bush said, "The terrorists who declared war on America represent no nation, they defend no territory, and they wear no uniform. They do not mass armies on borders, or flotillas of warships on the high seas." Yeah, sounds just like Hitler's armies.

* Tell me, which of those three hasn't been found by those who were after them? I thought so.

** Never mind, of course, that Rice hides behind such empty accusations, yet it was her spotted shopping for shoes as thousands died along the Gulf Coast.

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