More and more, we’re hearing conservatives on the internet complaining about practices that, if true, they either cheered or excused under Bush. This is what we law-types call a “prior inconsistent statement” — it’s admissible nonhearsay! — and it’s the holy grail of trial lawyering. What better way to make your opponent look like a complete fool, than with his own words? To the best of my knowledge, then, a complete list of policies & practices that the right wing is all of a sudden outraged by, but conveniently forgot for eight long years —
“Astroturfing” — Using “Plants” to Make a Movement Look Like a Grassroots Effort, When It’s Not
- The Accusation: Democrats are falsely accusing Republican “tea party patriots” of building a fake movement when, in fact, it’s the Democrats that’re building their own fake movement! Why, that whole town hall thing yesterday was FAKE.
- The Truth: Republican activists are building a top-down movement, both in strategy and substance. Obama appears to have hired organizers, but not actual supporters.
- The Inconsistency: the Bush administration raised “astroturfing” to an art form (remember Monday’s “Daily Show”?). Apart from hilariously adoring plants, not just Cheney, but the RNC in general, screened visitors to RNC events, and forced them to sign “loyalty oaths” before being admitted. Even soldiers.
- The Accusation: Obama is creating too many ministers-with-portfolios/czars, overly concentrating power in the executive branch. Thanks, Glenn Beck!
- The Truth: that’s true, to a point. Obama has appointed a number of senior policy specialists, but their actual power varies from position to position. In most cases, they’re Senate-confirmed, or purely advisory. Either way, not too worrisome.
- The Inconsistency: setting to one side the question of its necessity and efficacy, Bush’s Department of Homeland Security is one of the biggest bureaucracies ever created. Ever. If Republicans have serious concerns about executive mega-agencies, their lateness in raising the concern makes it reek of partisanship, rather than legitimate criticism.
The “Enemies List”
- The Accusation: Obama’s “firstname.lastname@example.org” address, to which health care supporters are asked to e-mail crazy rumors they hear about the health care program, is a front to accumulate the names and e-mail addresses of those who oppose the President’s iron will.
- The Truth: No. Just, no. The goal was, and remains, to create a list of crazy rumors, and rebut them. Think of it as a post-election “Fight the Smears.”
- The Inconsistency: it’s beyond hypocrisy for any Republican to complain about putative invasions of privacy, when just two short years ago, they executed, and their base suborned, one of the most viciously illegal programs in history — Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program — and outed a CIA agent’s real name & family, just to cast doubts on her husband’s opposition to the Iraq War.
- The Accusation: President Obama is wildly expanding the bureaucracy, with plans of more to come, and spending us desperately into oblivion.
- The Truth: well, that’s kind of fair. He is doing both. The only difference between him and Bush on this front, so far, appears to be that his spending is part of a Keynesian recovery plan like the New Deal, while Bush’s was more reckless, spur of the moment, and heedless of the danger it was creating.
- The Inconsistency: that’s basically it — if Republicans really care about stopping deficit spending, they’re about 20 years late to the party. It was President Reagan who first plumbed new depths of deficit spending, and it took a tax hike under Bush I, and controlled spending under Clinton, to stabilize the budget again. Of course, Bush II ruined that overnight, as even conservatives will tell you. Deficit spending is definitely something to worry about, sure, but the only President to take it seriously in the past quarter-decade is Bill Clinton, Democrat and, we hope once the crisis is over, Barack Obama, Democrat. Liberals may be “tax & spend,” but conservatives, at least in practice, are “___ & spend,” which is arguably much, much worse.
- The Accusation: President Obama’s health care plan will mandate euthanasia for the elderly, or un-productive members of society, thus clearing the way for his socialist utopia (I think?).
- The Truth: again — just no. Nothing like that is anywhere near the bill, it’s hard to imagine anyone, ever proposing it, and it’s beyond dishonest to suggest that the Democrats have.
- The Inconsistency: guess what? The “death panel” provision was added to the bill by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and he, obviously, thinks the the tempest that’s grown up around the run-of-the-mill provision is junk. Senator Isakson, you see, is one of a vanishing breed — the type of politician we used to be known as a respectable, intelligent Republican. Sadly, today, the habitats of respectable, intelligent Republicans are increasingly threatened by carnivorous monsters like Governor Unemployed Facebook-Poster Sarah Palin.
Inflammatory Rhetoric, Then
- The Accusation: all the Democrats did for eight years was call Bush a “Nazi,” a “tyrant,” etc.! Talk about mob violence!! It was okay for them, but now it’s not okay for us?!
- The Truth: some did, and it was never okay for them. Most didn’t. The “Bush=Nazi” line was never mainstream.
- The Inconsistency: on the contrary, the “Obama=Nazi” line is quite mainstream among Republicans and Republican allies, and, yes, among some deranged leftists, too. The “liberal fascism” line has come from Bill O’Reilly, Karl Rove, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, and Jonah Goldberg/National Review — all of whom, incidentally, are mainline conservative spokespersons, with aggregated viewership in the tens of millions.
Inflammatory Rhetoric, Now
- The Accusation: Nancy Pelosi and Democrats in general are “censoring” dissent by calling opponents of health care reform unpatriotic, or un-American!!
- The Truth: false; see this earlier post.
- The Inconsistency: check the same post for a complete list of links about Republicans who’ve traded on the “liberals hate America/aren’t patriotic” line, or, just search your recent memory. Synopsis — Republicans are experts at delegitimizing or containing dissent. The same instinct is foreign to Democrats. True fact.
I don’t mean to say that Republicans are somehow estopped* from fighting against principles or policies that they once erroneously advocated. Rather, I welcome them to the fight, when and if it comes. But in almost all of these cases, the Republican outrage is both manufactured and selective. Logically speaking, that’s just not a winning combination.
* = “Estopped” is a real word, I promise.