It's About Discussion and Democracy

12 Aug

During its tenure, the Bush Administration ran roughshod over civil rights, wiretapping phone calls without a warrant, detaining people without charge, violated the Geneva Conventions repeatedly, he and Cheney systematically grew the power of the Presidency and the Vice-Presidency at the expense of the other two, constitutionally co-equal branches of government.  The power of the state was used repeatedly to trample constitutional rights in the name of national security.  Here’s a handy list of ways in which constitutional rights were eroded during Bush’s tenure. And yet, astonishingly, there were no tea parties.  No indignant people screaming to drown out Republicans at town hall meetings.  When Medicare Part D expanded drug coverage under the single payer plan we have for seniors, there were no angry Freepers screaming down anybody about euthanizing grandmas or socializing medicine.

There were no teaparties over the Bush Administration’s genuine infringement on constitutional liberties. Not. One.

Something must be different about Obama to bring out the lunatic fringe in this particular way.  The problem for the Republicans is that they have nurtured the ultra right for many, many years, and they’ve suddenly found that the Freepers have become the Republican activist base.  They were out and about during Clinton’s terms of office, blowing up federal buildings, setting off bombs at the Olympics.  Code Pink! you might say.  Yes, Code Pink made a lot of noise about being anti-war and stuff, but when they disrupted events, they got led away almost immediately.  This isn’t happening with the health care disruptions happening now, unless they turn physical.  To their credit, the Democratic legislators have been giving everyone a chance to speak, even if they’re yelling other people down.

But the rhetoric this time around is much more ominous.  They hated Clinton, alright.  But they really hate Obama. I mean, Clinton may have slept around and fired the people in the White House travel office, but Obama wasn’t born here, they say.  He’s an America-hater, they say.  He’s a communist muslim sleeper agent, they say.  That’s some crazy stuff, and if you dehumanize and demonize a guy like that, it can suddenly become ok to crazy people to do bad things.

Whereas Barry Goldwater had the balls to tell the Birchers to go to hell back in the 60s, recognizing that the JBS was a lunatic fringe, net liability to the conservative movement, contemporary conservatives are either actively encouraging, or else politically unwilling to do the same to the birthers, the deathers, and every other black helicopter weirdo who decides to say something stupid.

You know, if a guy who’s a little stupid and a little unhinged watched Glenn Beck enough and started believing that Obama was racist, and that a pretty benign health insurance reform plan would kill his grandma and make him go in front of a death panel, that guy might do something irreversibly illegal.  I’m genuinely afraid of that, and I’m also very concerned about the fact that the conservative movement and Republican Party are unable or unwilling to call out the lunatics among them.  John McCain tried, when some woman at a campaign event last year said that Obama was an Arab.  But that was the exception.  The big spokespeople for the conservative movement, Beck, Limbaugh – they’re deathers, which is dumber and more dangerous than being a birther.

How does any of this nonsense serve the people who are concerned or opposed to Obama’s health care plan and want to ask non-confrontational questions, read the bill, and debate it rationally with facts? How are they served by the disruption of town hall meetings?  I wish Obama and the Democrats would find a set of balls and do a much, much better job promoting this and tamping down the crazy. More choice, not less.  Health insurance access is improved.  You keep your current coverage.  If you change jobs, you can’t be denied due to pre-existing conditions.  Obama’s Communard death panel doesn’t exist and won’t kill your granny or your kid with Down Syndrome.

My only hope is that the silent, centrist majority of Americans are quietly watching all this and are appalled by it.  You know, the people who have shown up at the town hall meetings to learn about the health care bill and speak with their congressman about it – the ones who are undecided, and don’t believe the crazy shit, but don’t trust the promises.  Those are the people who are ill-served the most by all this, and it’s where most Americans find themselves.  It’s basic courtesy and a pillar of our democratic republic that patriotic people can disagree about a proposed legislation, and discuss it rationally.  One side in this battle has tactically decided not to do that.

I wonder why.

38 Responses to “It's About Discussion and Democracy”

  1. Ike August 12, 2009 at 10:38 am #

    also some more reading to hopefully break you of this absurd meme

  2. Ward August 12, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    Pundit’s outrage:
    Nobody was pissed at Bush;
    everybody is pissed at Obama.
    Shame on everybody.

    Reality: according to Scott Rasmussen polling, support for Obamacare is down five points in two weeks, to 42%. Among those over 65, only 39% support.

    From the lefties who used to disrupt pretty much everything during the sixties and seventies, and who set up a camp-chair village in Crawford, TX, the current whining about “disruption” of the Town Hall dog-and-pony shows is ringing a tad hollow. But keep it up–it’s also quite amusing.

    • Alan Bedenko August 12, 2009 at 11:13 am #

      Got it, Ward & Ike.

      Lefties do it = bad.
      Righties do it = good.

  3. Ray August 12, 2009 at 11:36 am #

    Where are the mass throngs of lefties, where is the outrage now that Obama and his congress has done nothing to restore those constitutional rights eroded during Bush’s tenure??

  4. Stan P August 12, 2009 at 11:39 am #

    Haven’t been following this too closely since I have been out of the country since spring, but coming back into this I get the feeling that health care reform is dead. These weak-kneed politicians will not hold up to this kind of badgering. I just can’t believe that there are so many people who are willing to believe the sound bites and go out and yell down people who are trying to dicsuss and learn about the programs. Better to throw it all away than iscuss and develop much needed reform. You can bet that this effort will cause so much fear in politicians, that if it is voted down, we will not see another reform effort for at least another 10-15 years. Maybe we need to stay with the status quo until all these people see their premiums continue to rise until they can’t afford medical coverage.

  5. Anthony August 12, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    Pundit- great post. There is nothing more dangerous than a dummy riled up by ultra conservatives. You don’t see Democrats blowing up Evangelical Churches, or killing anti-abortion activists.

    I was listening to NPR last night and they were interviewing protesters outside of the President’s Town Hall meeting. These people are nuts one of the uniformed actually said:
    “If I want socialized medicine, I would go back and time to Pre-World War II Nazi-Germany. I hate the Nazi’s and I hate Hitler.”
    I almost drove off of the road laughing at this clown. Apparently he is not aware that Nazi-Germany was a fascist regime whose mortal enemy was socialism/communism. Nor was he aware that the health care system in Pre-World War II Germany was a product of the Bismark regime.

  6. Mike In WNY August 12, 2009 at 11:58 am #

    There were plenty of protests of Bush’s policies. When Cheney came to town for a fundraiser at the Park Lane, I was among hundreds of people protesting on a cold, damp, rainy night. The Buffalo Police were being dicks and threatening arrest for anyone taking one step off the curb or straying from the designated protest area – far removed from Cheney. Fencing was set up to contain the protesters.

  7. Ethan August 12, 2009 at 12:01 pm #

    Where are the mass throngs of lefties, where is the outrage now that Obama and his congress has done nothing to restore those constitutional rights eroded during Bush’s tenure??

    Where indeed? I’d like to join them, probably Splett would be with me on that. I knew Obama was a corporate centrist, but I expected he’d at least roll back the Constitutional abuses of the Bush/Cheney administration. Alas, not so much. wtf was he teaching all those students at U Chicago, anyway? Farkin’ hypocrite.

  8. Ward August 12, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    It appears that only certain kinds of “Community Organizers” manage to pass Pundit’s litmus test.

    Wonder if he’ll come down as hard on the rudeness and “ominous rhetoric” of in his former home state.

  9. Ward August 12, 2009 at 12:51 pm #

    Oh, and here’s an alarming example of the “lunatic fringe” and “ominous rhetoric” which has so alarmed Pundit.
    Nobody should be offended that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee took a cell call during this wingnut’s question:

    Pesky cancer survivor.

  10. Chris Smith August 12, 2009 at 1:32 pm #

    Over on Brian Castner’s site here at WNYMedia, we’ve been kicking around the whole “Code Pink is the same as AFP, CPR, AEI, FreedomWorks” equivocation that is made by people on the right. If you guys REALLY think they are the same, well, this argument is perfectly pointless.

  11. Russell August 12, 2009 at 1:48 pm #

    Anthony, just for a point of clarification, the term Nazi is derived from National Socialist. It was socialism combined with nationalism. Germany and Russia were always mortal enemies. It wasn’t about their political systems. I do not support the absurd comparisons to Nazi Germany. I am merely correcting a point.

    I do agree that the antics at the town hall meetings are unproductive, but I do not agree that this is all the fault of the right. I think it’s much deeper than that and this is the state of discourse in our country today, not just on this one issue. It has eroded into this over many years. First our social ties eroded away (see Bowling Alone) then our civil society followed.

  12. Byron August 12, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    MSM –> JSM (a href=>Jerry Springer Media).

  13. Magicrat August 12, 2009 at 2:22 pm #

    Where were the crazy, screaming, stupid citizens when Bush sent our troops and trillions of dollars to Iraq?
    Where were they when Bush provided a trillion dollar tax cut to people in income brackets these dimwitted folks can’t even dream of inhabiting?
    Why is it there are so many seniors and vets involved-both of which receive single payer care?

    It’s really pretty simple, the lack of quality education in the united States, and more specifically in the south.

  14. Jon Splett August 12, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

    Yep, I’m with Ethan, and the lack of demonstration during the Bush presidency just flat out isn’t true. There and still is an anti-war movement in this country with as many or more participants than these retarded white guys bitching about their taxes in stupid colonial hats but the media flat out ignored them.

    But beyond that, the fact the left failed so miserably at successfully protesting the Bush presidency isn’t something we should be proud of. This is why the democrats have no balls. The right isn’t afraid of it’s fringe like the left is. The wingnuts come out, make asses of themselves but the tone of the argument shifts from the center to center right. No one takes people like birthers literally, but they continue to help the right frame the argument in their favor while the left scrambles to find a way to respond to crazies. It’s pathetic.

    And whenever Obama feels like rolling back all those presidential abuses of power Bush took, he can go right ahead and do it because as of right now, he’s got just as much ability to abuse it as GW did.

  15. Ike August 12, 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    Pundit, I am a fan of protests and putting the feet of powers that be to the fire regardless.

    I never voted for bush, so don’t paint me with that brush. Everyone is always allowed to challenge their elected officials. They have in the past, and godwilling will continue to do so. it’s not somehow more malevolent because they’re “organized”…politics is organization, plain and simple

  16. Magicrat August 12, 2009 at 3:03 pm #

    I don’t recall the girls of Code Pink carrying knives and guns….

  17. Magicrat August 12, 2009 at 3:05 pm #

    Paul Elisha

    August 11, 2009

    News that a former CIA Director, for George W. Bush, has publicly discredited the former President’s devoutly announced ‘world-wide anti-terror crusade,’ reminds this commentator of an earlier career in music, before politics deflected my focus. As a violist with the New York City Ballet, I was mesmerized and enlightened by the Fokine-Stravinsky opus: “Petrroushka.” It’s based on an old folk-tale, also known as ‘Punch and Judy,’ a puppet show in which a timid little hero is killed, trying to save his secret love from a villainous captor. The real villain, of course, is the puppeteer, who always sees to it, that the hero loses. The Bush ‘anti-terror’ sham is a grim reminder of how villainous puppeteers pull strings, that decide a travesty’s ultimate outcome, to make them the real winners. The CIA director’s confessional rightly exposed the “world-wide terrorism campaign,” as a deceptive ploy; to cover a multitude of sins; which is just how Bush spin-agents, with the help of the Hard-Right media, used it.

    Unlike Petroushka, true terror is far from a simple folk-tale. It’s a vicious, many-headed monster, adaptable for use by villainous puppeteers, to enthrall and propel public interest to their shady ends. In the heat of the French Revolution, an ardent colleague chided Robespierre for using a distortion to arouse the people. His answer? “The people is a dumb and ugly beast!” Not much different from today’s sinful schemers who force-feed public fury, to spin the healthcare reform effort out of control. Like the microphonic loud-mouth, Rush Limbaugh, who overlays a White-House logo with his own crude ‘SWASTIKA’ drawing, to identify it as a Nazi lookalike. Obvious fakery for his ilk but others are more adept, like corporate healthcare connivers. Bent on protecting outsized profits and facilitating the acquisition of more, they’ve added a new twist, teaming up with Republican Right-Wing rejects, to subvert common courtesy and constitutional rights, inciting mass attacks on our oldest and most respected tradition: the town meeting.

    Careerists who peddle political influence, have settled on a strategy of Hooliganism, to defeat the healthcare reform, that Americans were demanding just months ago. The storm troops for these un-American goon squads are Heaven-sent minions, fresh from the faith-based front, with newly minted scripts in the ‘bullying’ mode. Gone is their “Golden Rule.” The new modus is drown-out! Crash other peoples’ gatherings! Bury the right to speak under a blitz of barbarous bellows. The watchword? “Intimidate!” Give no-one a chance to speak. A great family value, for fundamentalist Christian kids to copy. In the process, they’ve profaned the selfless sacrifice of every man and woman who gave their lives, so that other Americans might enjoy our singular system, with its revered town meeting tradition, that they’ve heartlessly trashed. A crime, by-the-way, the severity of which ranges from disorderly conduct, to menacing and threatened bodily harm; all subject to fines/or imprisonment. Veterans, especially, should condemn this and demand that violators receive a full measure of punishment, especially those who travel to other states, specifically to inhibit the lawful rights of local residents.

    Adolf Hitler boasted that ‘terror’ was the one means of his easiest victory over reason. Those who truly love this democracy must never allow such a victory to occur here.

  18. Magicrat August 12, 2009 at 3:39 pm #

    I don’t recall the girls of Code Pink carrying knives and guns

  19. The Humanist August 12, 2009 at 5:03 pm #

    I think Code Pink’s disruptions were counter-productive and, ultimately, pointless and, while I agreed with their aims, I disagreed and do not support their tactics.

    That said, what does Code Pink have to do with a discussion of the astroturfed, carefully choreographed mobs showing up at town halls currently? Dick Armey certainly never issued marching orders to the Code Pink ladies and Fox News never trumpeted their actions. As Pundit said, Code Pink protesters are usually shown the door moments after they leave their seats.

    What we’re dealing with now is a toxic combination of craven Republican obstructionism (personified by the GOP operatives infiltrating every town hall because Democrats, unlike the GOP and their hero George W. Bush, do not pre-screen and ban attendees) and whipped-up nativist anger that propels psychopaths to draw a swastika on a black congressman’s office and bring a handgun to an event at which President Obama was scheduled to appear.

  20. Ward August 12, 2009 at 5:29 pm #

    Nope, no demonstrations against Bush–everything was civility.

    Well, maybe except for a few tiny little things not worth the time of abccbsnbccnn. You know, the time there was that fundraiser in Portland in 2002, when the non-orchestrated, well-behaved earnest citizens showed up with signs: “BUSH: WANTED, DEAD OR ALIVE” (X over the word “ALIVE”); “F— YOU, MOTHERF—ER!”; “CHRISTIAN FASCISM” (swastika in place of the letter S in each word); “9/11 – YOU LET IT HAPPEN, SHRUB”; “BUSH: BASTARD CHILD OF THE SUPREME COURT”; “IMPEACH THE COURT-APPOINTED JUNTA AND THE FASCIST, EGOMANIACAL, BLOOD-SWILLING BEAST!”

    But, of course according to Pundit, “the rhetoric this time around is much more ominous.” Help, help–I’m being repressed! Come see the violence inherent in the system!

  21. Buffalo Bone August 12, 2009 at 5:30 pm #

    Excellent post Pundit! Perhaps one of your finest!

  22. Mike Walsh August 12, 2009 at 5:43 pm #

    When Bush visited here in 2004 I dropped my daughter off at Kleinhans(she went there to protest). there was a huge throng of nasty mean-spirited people displaying vulgar signs and shouting every obscenity and hateful slogan you can think of. So, It sure did happen.

  23. The Humanist August 12, 2009 at 8:11 pm #

    @Ward and Mike Walsh – was it OK then or is it OK now?

  24. Mike Walsh August 12, 2009 at 9:15 pm #

    @The Humanist:
    Whether I agree with these tactics is irrelevant. This kind of thing has been going on ever since I can remember. It was extremely vicious back in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s. This is small potatoes compared to then.

  25. Brian August 12, 2009 at 9:41 pm #

    @Mike Walsh: Small potatoes? This President has only been in office for 6 months. These bastards who are throwing caution to the wind with their incredibly irresponsible rhetoric are setting the stage for lots of ugliness.

  26. Ward August 12, 2009 at 10:50 pm #

    Humanist — did “it” happen during the Bush years or did it not? If it did, then Pundit’s post about the new uncivility versus the old politesse is bullshit. And the lefty whingeing likewise.

    Which is my point.

    The Guardian’s Charles Brooker on Bush’s potential second term: “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?” A cancer survivor putting a tough question to Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Managua) is pretty small beer.

  27. Mike Walsh August 12, 2009 at 10:59 pm #

    Doesn’t even register a blip on the scale of the tension back in 1965-75. Not this issue.

  28. Jon Splett August 13, 2009 at 12:36 am #

    @Ward Charlie Booker is a comedy writer (Nathan Barley was the best English sitcom since The Office) so lets not pretend he’s some leftist talking head on par with the likes of Beck/O’Reiley/Hannity- types.

    Beyond that, he’s British so uh, why does he reflect the American left again?

  29. Ward August 13, 2009 at 7:15 am #

    Splett — let any “comedy writer” from anywhere inquire wheher any assassins are available for our current President, and watch Pundit explode. ‘Nuff said.

  30. The Humanist August 13, 2009 at 8:27 am #

    @Splett – there is no end to Republican ducking of what the party has become – a sore loser movement exploiting nativist anger and latent racism/xenophobia for political gain. Rather then condemn the ugly fringe elements of their party, the Republican leadership (that which can be defined) revel in accelerating the toxic rhetoric and clouding the debate over a very serious issue (health care reform) with nonsensical allusions to socialism, fascism and the like.

    @ Ward – I’m not denying that there was ugly rhetoric during Bush’s term. However, we didn’t see it orchestrated by the Democratic Party and we certainly didn’t see legitimate media outlets giving air time to wackadoodles peddling paranoid delusions about the President being born outside the U.S. and killing your grandma.

  31. Ward August 13, 2009 at 11:24 am #

    Humanist — this outcry is being orchestrated by the Republican Party? Source please (and not the Daily Kos, or, or even Beloved Pundit)?

    And, if you need any ugly rhetoric from the Democrats, do a google search on Howard Dean. You’ll get your fill, as we did for several years. And, of course, the media attention spent on whackadoodle Cindy Sheehan was minimal, right?

  32. Jon Splett August 13, 2009 at 8:30 pm #

    @Ward Seeing how he’s from another country, I strongly doubt anyone would be up in arms about anything he said. But beyond that, you very very clearly have no idea who he is, cherry picked that quote by him and thought it made your point when it didn’t. If you think Charlie Booker making an assassination joke (which he apologized for and retracted like a pussy a day after it got printed) is the same as the shit Glen Beck spouts in a very serious manner on a daily basis your flat out wrong.

    Also, I find this image demonstrates the difference between left and right protesters well.

  33. Ward August 14, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    Don’t worry, Splett — your SEIU thugs will have all this nasty dissent under control soon.

    Unlike that “pussy” Booker, who retracted his Bush assassination comments, these boys are in it for the long haul. At Rep. Russ Carnahan’s Town Hall in St. Louis, they beat up a Black (Uncle Tom?) conservative protestor and sent him to the ER. Similar niceties in a couple of Florida meetings (pack the hall to exclude constituents, slap a few voters around).

    The White House sent fixers David Axelrod and Jim Messina over to the Hill to counsel Democratic senators how to organize their events, to work with labor unions to “generate enthusiasm”, and to “punch back twice as hard. Literally.

    And, by the way, the contraction of “you are”, is “you’re”, not “your”. Unless your an SEIU member, of course.

  34. HapKlein August 15, 2009 at 11:03 am #

    I can’t help but doubt the Bush and Obama comparisons. Bush-Cheney did nothing in the open and most of the special rendering and waterboarding stories emerged years after each was abandoned or curtailed. Even the byzantine management of the Law at the Justice Department was mostly done with such stealth that even the eveil wrought by Ashcroft was not revealed until two AG’s later and then by accident.
    So someday we may learn how close to the Medici the last administration was but by then most of the affected will be long gone.
    It was a very superb conspiracy from top to bottom and infected a majority of policy makers.

  35. The Humanist August 15, 2009 at 11:32 am #

    I was wondering when someone was going to bring up the sad case of Kenneth Gladney and his vicious, brutal assault at the hands of the liberal SEIU mob. Only, not so much.

    As one can plainly see from the video at the link, Mr. Gladney was pulled to the ground in an attempt to get him away from further injuring an SEIU member already on the ground, injured. After Mr. Gladney was pulled down, he springs right back up and appears to be completely uninjured. In fact, he strolls over to chat with the cameraman and wanders back to witness his “assailant” being handcuffed.

    The next day, Mr. Gladney showed up in a wheelchair and unable to speak due to heavy medication. Hell of a delayed reaction to a “brutal assault”

    Now, this pathetic handjob is crying “hate crime” (in which bias motivation will be a little difficult to prove as his “assailant” was black as well) and the pathetic GOP blowhard gallery is championing him as some sort of victim of the liberal mob. What these douchebags need to realize is if they’re going to act thuggishly and initiate physical violence at public events, they are going to responded to, swiftly and decisively. The SEIU presence at town halls is to keep the peace, not to beat up conservative idiots who want to shout down legitimate discussion and scream about socialism and killing the elderly.

    And, of course, the ultimate irony….Mr. Gladney is raising money for his medical expenses (namely, an unecessary visit to the ER to treat his imaginary injuries) because he’s recently unemployed and lost his insurance. Nutjob, please!


  1. The Left Misunderstands Again | - August 17, 2009

    […] Buffalo Pundit asked two very good questions last week: […]

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