TAG | right-wing pundits
And Mark Levin and Sean Hannity. Their dilemma is acute: how acknowledge the accomplishment of their decade-long desideratum–the killing of Osama Bin Laden–without giving Obama credit? Arguably, Obama doesn’t deserve credit: he is the beneficiary of the continuous workings of the intelligence and military bureaucracy and just happened to be at the right place at the right time: at the country’s head when the opportunity to kill OBL finally presented itself. But the right-wing punditocracy has already in theory ruled out that position, having blamed the Obama intelligence community for having nearly missed the would-be underwear bomber, even though most of the relevant personnel responsible for that oversight undoubtedly were hold-overs from the Bush days. So if Obama deserves the blame for failures of military intelligence, he should in theory deserve credit. We’ll see.
Rush’s strategy: ostentatiously, with unctuous noblesse oblige, give credit to Obama for maintaining Bush anti-terrorism policies which made—per Limbaugh–the Osama assassination possible, while mocking the press for pumping up the momentousness of the event and mocking the Obama Administration for allegedly spinning the killing as an accomplishment of the Obama Administration (Rush: “Listen to him; it’s all ‘me, me, me’”). In other words, the hall of mirrors quality of modern politics continues unabated. If Rush is right to ironize the media coverage and to detect in it a political agenda, is there any doubt that had Bush killed Osama, the right would be celebrating it as a Bush victory—and assessing its effect on the next presidential election, something which Rush, in his new, “I’m above politics” mode, now scorns?
Limbaugh has been reassuring his listeners that this event does not improve Obama’s election chances—probably rightly so. But his efforts to focus attention back on the economy are particularly amusing: “In fact, five and a half million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits this week. Five and a half million Americans shut out.” This lachrymose dirge from a long-time opponent of extending unemployment insurance.
No matter what President Obama says tonight in his speech on the oil spill, we can be sure that right-wing pundits will blast it for being the wrong thing at the wrong time—even though from the moment the spill occurred, those same pundits criticized him for not saying, doing, or emoting enough. Deep Horizon was Obama’s Katrina, they joyfully proclaimed. To now complain that Obama is over-reacting to the spill by demonizing BP and imposing a moratorium on deep-water drilling is the height of hypocrisy. What did Obama’s critics expect him to do under relentless pressure from the right? If the conservative punditocracy really believes that we need to preserve our prerogatives to drill and not over regulate the oil business, they should have applauded the administration’s initial low-key response, not jump at the opportunity to paint Obama as insufficiently engaged.
Right-wing criticism of Obama is not racial, but Obama’s kick in the pants to New York Governor David Paterson apparently is. Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele told CBS on Sunday:
I found that to be stunning, that the White House would send word to one of only two black governors in the country not to run for re-election.
Republicans denounce identity politics, except when they engage in it themselves. Steele is claiming either that Obama is going after Paterson because he is black or that Obama should not go after Paterson because he is black. The first proposition is ludicrous, the second, poisonous. Steele strikes me as intermittently unhinged, but his exploitation of identity discourse here is hardly sui generis. Sarah Palin parroted Hillary Clinton’s feminist blather in announcing her vice presidency: “It turns out that the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.” Her supporters regularly accused her critics of being anti-woman. I wouldn’t have been surprised, therefore, to have seen Limbaugh or some other Republican luminary, instead of Steele, play the race card against Obama for his anti-Paterson campaign.
Is it too much to hope that Republican criticism of Obama stay within a zone of rationality and dignity? Yes, the Democrats demonized Bush, but that doesn’t mean that Republicans have to respond in kind. Why not be icily factual and coldly respectful, rather than hysterical and hot-headed? Both parties seem to have forgotten the Clinton and the Bush eras. Democrats, in portraying right-wing hyperventilation over Obama as a manifestation of covert hostility to blacks, forget the insane Clinton conspiracy theories that grew like kudzu even in the highest reaches of Republican opinionizing. Only this year has the right-wing obsession with the Clintons appeared to have finally and thankfully petered out. But Republican pundits, in portraying Obama as an unprecedented danger to the country—on Wednesday, Mark Levin announced: “We’ve never been in this situation before at least in modern times . . . They intend to use the system against you”–forget their own dire warnings about the Clintons as the end of civilization. (more…)