Thursday, March 5, 2009

Clown Time is Over




"Clown time is over.
It's time to take over."
-- Elvis Costello





Since the statute of limitations has long since expired, I feel safe in freely admitting to being an accessory to a crime on April 21, 1981 in Tucson, Ariz. I provided support for throwing a pie in the face of William F. Buckley. (The New York Times report was way off base in blaming the Oddfather Gang - the assault was the work of the Church of the Subgenius.) Unlike the University of Arizona Young Republicans who were ready for blood, Buckley was as gracious as could be, and allowed as how he kinda liked lemon meringue. In fact, he wrote a column a week later saying that SDSU students had baked him three apple pies, and hence "I now have a counterforce capability." (Unfortunately, I could not find this column on line.)

This all came to mind as I realized how much I missed William F. Buckley. The Republicans simply have no members with brains any more, having chased away thinking fellers in a brutal post-election purge. This little fact is often forgotten as Karl Rove and Lou Dobbs ponder why the White House would bother assigning Rahm Emanuel and a secret plumbers' team to challenge the daily wisdom of Rush Limbaugh and other loud-mouthed morons of the talk-radio and cable-TV circuit. (Lou, whose March 4 tirade is not online, was the most paranoid in rejecting any idea that the playground-shouters hollering "Socialism" may have started this mess.)

Karl is sure that (1) Obama wants to use this as a diversionary tactic to avoid talk of the stimulus and bailout; and (2) he wants to associate Limbaugh with the leadership of the Republican Party. Well, Karl, we don't need Emanuel for Task 2. Dobbs himself calls Limbaugh the intellectual leader of the party, and Michael Steele was forced to kiss the Rush Ring and genuflect five times after questioning the wisdom of dittoheads. Obama is responding to the fact that the Limbaugh-Hannity-Coulter-O'Reilly-Savage-Malkin wing cannot argue intelligent terms of debate, but simply scream meaningless terms in louder and louder decibels. The White House is looking for a Buckley equivalent to supply principled debate, rather than the millions of dittoheads saying they want the president to fail.

Luckily, a solution may be on the horizon. Colorado Springs' local conservative folk-music sage, Joe Uveges, gave a wonderful citizens' report on KRCC March 5, praising the value of working together across political divides. Can we nominate Uveges as the new conservative intellectual leader? I have a great slice of pumpkin-butterscotch-ice-cream pie in waiting. As for the dittohead kittens who have lost their mittens, they shall have no pie. We don't listen to clowns any more.

18 comments:

wretch said...

After eight years of demonstrable stupidity from our (sort of) elected leaders, I fear that stupidity can come back at any time.

John Steward on Limbaugh. Here you go:

http://crooksandliars.com/media/play/wmv/7473/26410

Wait for the bit on O'Reilly at the end.

Greeley's Ghost said...

We've got an even bigger problem here, boys and girls. (Oh, no, here he comes again with his kill-your-tv schtick again!) Rational thought, reasoned and seasoned, articulated carefully and heard thoughtfully, ceased to exist, oh let's say, around the time CNN got its sea legs 25 years ago.
Buckeley's program was, what, an hour long? Other issues-based programs were an hour or more long. Remember NBC's "White Paper" series? You can't, from any angle on the political spectrum, talk about complex issues in 120 seconds or 180 seconds.
And Rush Limbaugh is 3-4 hours of 120-seconds.
We miss Buckeley on the right. We miss Daniel Patrick Moynihan on the left.
We miss them because they understood that the marketplace of ideas is a process; it's not a death match to be fought every day.
We end up with Chris Matthews et al and John Stewart and Co. who cloak cynicism and ridicule in a higher calling about truth or something.
At the end of the day, it's all bullshit. When you're face to face with opponents on a local issue, packed into town hall, tempers may flare but people realize that after we go home, we all gotta work together. For Limbaugh, Matthews, Stewart and the rest, they don't have to worry about that. Not only are they multi millionaires, but they never have to show up at city council meetings to argue over sanitary rates and the like. They're all out of touch.
These guys forget Buckeley's famous line: "I'd rather be ruled by the first 200 names in the Boston phone book than the faculty at Harvard."

wretch said...

25 years ago? Wasn't it 35 years ago when one of the then-3-major networks turned news into a P&L center? Was it CBS?

And I'm not sure I'm ready to argue for a return of the Fairness Doctrine, but the demise of the Fairness Doctrine 30 years ago certainly was nearer the beginning of the end of rational discussions on network news programs.

The problem today goes beyond just the news. The critical ability to hold people responsible for their own words and actions has somehow been lost, and it's not just journalists in the mainstream media.

I'll defend Stewart this far: when he ridicules people, he's usually letting them hoist themselves on their own petards.

Limbaugh, in contrast, is a bully and a liar, and Matthews just doesn't seem to be too bright.

Dan Holden said...

My take is that the Republican leadership is putting the screws to the Obama administration, pressing for early accountability to force a perception of failure as early as possible. The Republicans fear Obama's approval rating and they want a reset, fast. Limbaugh's proposal for a debate on his show was a prime example of this, although you can be sure Obama would never agree. Instead, the Democrats are showing that they can respond just as fast and just as forcefully, reevealing the situation for what it really is: jealous backstabbing by politicos who, fundamentally, are afraid that Obama really does have what it takes to turn this crisis around and rebuild the country.

Dan Holden said...

My take is that the Republican leadership is putting the screws to the Obama administration, pressing for early accountability to force a perception of failure as early as possible. The Republicans fear Obama's approval rating and they want a reset, fast. Limbaugh's proposal for a debate on his show was a prime example of this, although you can be sure Obama would never agree. Instead, the Democrats are showing that they can respond just as fast and just as forcefully, reevealing the situation for what it really is: jealous backstabbing by politicos who, fundamentally, are afraid that Obama really does have what it takes to turn this crisis around and rebuild the country.

Ruth said...

Fabulous, Loring!

I remember sometime in W's second term, liberal-leaning columnists wistfully penned about nuanced political conversations of the good old days. We were in the firm black-n-white either you're with us or agin us days. What they, and I, didn't anticipate (or maybe they did) was that when/if an intelligent President and staff came into office, that the other party would quite inconceivably get even less nuanced in their side of the political conversation!

Loring Wirbel said...

Two Brians, everything you are arguing is correct, but you can add the scary element Ruth has mentioned in her latest synch-ro-ni-zing post: according to Nicholas Carr, maybe we've already re-wired our brains for instant-gratification, and it's impossible to move back to book-readin'. Shudder to think.

Dan, you may be on to an additional strategy here, but so far, the Republicans are getting nowhere with it, since the approval ratings are not moving very much. The response around here in Colorado, based on letters to the editor etc., seems to be to deny reality and declare victory. Conservatives all keep repeating that Obama is collapsing in the polls, that Republicans already are winning, except that they haven't even put points on the scoreboard so far. Unique hallucination-based concept.

Ruth said...

Apparently Dr. Ada Fisher, one of 3 black members of the RNC, has been venting about Steele for a while now and is calling for him to step down as Chairman because of his "horror show" with Limbaugh. Read about at the Baltimore Sun.

Loring Wirbel said...

Now, a forced Steele resignation would be a real party-career-enhancing mood. They are truly rotting from the neck down, as The Economist suggested.

wretch said...

My personal awareness of political history and political coverage goes back to Nixon.

Here's what I detect, and I'm wondering if anyone else agrees, or just thinks I'm a deluded lefty:

Press takes down Nixon. Press is cheered.
Press keeps heat on Ford.
Press turns heat up on Carter (e.g. America Held Hostage, Day XX/ Nightline).
Public grows increasingly weary of non-stop scandal.
Reagan attacks the press for that. Reagan Admin has more scandals than Carter Admin but, with the press on the defensive, skates.
Bush I self-implodes. Public wonders, why hasn't the press covered this stuff?
Press goes on offensive, attacks Clinton relentlessly (e.g. Whitewater).
Public grows increasingly weary of non-stop scandal.
Bush II attacks the press for that. Bush II Admin has more scandals than Clinton Admin but, with the press on the defensive, skates.
Bush II self-implodes. Public wonders, why hasn't the press covered this stuff?
Press goes on offensive, attacks OBama relentlessly (e.g. "socialism")

So the other question is: is the press now capable of trying to do its job only with a Dem in the White House?

the other Brian

Ruth said...

And cynical me asks, would they elect as Chair one of the other two black members, maybe Dr. Fisher? And forgive me, I know nothing of her, and this is nothing against her, but then they'd fill the black/woman combo. Such are their seeming devices.

Loring Wirbel said...

Brian, your timeline is basically correct, but I'd overlay this observation: The press does not like to be considered as unfavorably as lawyers, so it tries to follow the crowd. Dems are easy marks because they're wimpier than Republicans.

For a brief moment in the Watergate era, the members of the press treated their jobs seriously, similar to the muckraking era of the 1910s arising in response to Hearst yellow journalism. But the press is very timid at getting out in front of the public.

Case in point, historically and taking it up to now: everyone of conscience in the 1820s knew that Indian removal was wrong, but you really couldn't say such things out loud. Andrew Jackson's naked imperialism and manifest-destiny policies were immensely popular - he was re-elected because the American people were overwhelmingly racist, not in spite of his views. And most of his opponents would equivocally say things like, "Well, we can keep Indians east of the Mississippi provided we destroy their culture." It's like the non-debate about Nicaragua in the 1980s - Reagan and Bush Sr. wanted to destroy the Sandinistas militarily, the Dems just wanted to undermine them economically. What a debate. That's why I've always loved Noam Chomsky, he talks about "the things you can't say in polite society," and insists that if the truth offends 90 percent of the people at a dinner party, then it should be stated loudly and plainly. Then duck.

Being a real muckraker requires telling 80 percent of the American public, "You're wrong, and here's why." The few journalists left nowadays have no stomach for such an attitude. They absolutely want to be stenographers to power.

Loring Wirbel said...

Ruth, if we're gonna play the woman trump card, let's bring back Sarah!

Dan Holden said...

Brian, my take on your timeline:
1. Watergate was the Golden Moment for the Fourth Estate.
2. The press couldnt do anything to Ford that Saturday Night Live couldn't do better.
3. Press loved Carter but could not dismiss the hostage rescue failure.
4. Reagan was called the Great Communicator not because of his speaking skills, but because he was totally skilled at redefining issues so no one could ever get to the bottom of them. And yes, Reagan Admin had more scandals than any administration before Bush Jr., but he was also fully aware that he would be long out of office before anyone could figure them out. By that time...
5. Bush I was in office and yes he did self-implode. Interestingly, this set the stage for Clinton's demise...
6. Partly as payback, partly due to the nasty nature of the election that year, Republicans set conservative-leaning press on Clinton, attaching dozens of alleged scandals to him. But Clinton, too, self imploded by lying to Congress.
7. Bush II rips into a conservative agenda and a personal vendetta soon after taking office, blasting through legislation and executive orders that lead, among other things, to two wars almost before Congress, NATO, the UN or anyone else could take a breath. Bush realized that accelerating the pace of his agenda would allow him to avoid painful discourse in the press.
8. Ironically, Obama is taking his cue from this strategy as well.
So, my takeaway is that for all its great role as the Fourth Estate of American politics, the press simply can't keep up with the executive branch and has not done so successfully since Reagan.

Loring Wirbel said...

Dan, who was it that said something about, "It doesn't matter what you in the press perceive as reality, because we are inventing realities here. And by the time you figure out what we did wrong, we are on to a new reality." Rove?

Dan Holden said...

I don't think it was Rove. More likely it was Newt Gingrich, who basically defined and systematized GOP dirty tactics in the 1970s and early 1980s. If i'm not mistaken he also published a handbook of these tactics and caused it to be distributed widely to young Republican organizations on college campuses. In doing so, he made it sport to spoil Democratic activism while Reagan was in office.

otin said...

I tell you, Limbaugh is just a blowhard, he ought to grow a beard and do Paul Masson wine commercials, but the one that makes me crazy, is that pompous,I'm a great American and you're not, Sean Hannity. He makes me grind my teeth!

Loring Wirbel said...

Hannity encouraged people to turn in their neighbors if it looked like they were raising their children according to evil pagan liberal ways. Right neighborly of him!