Repetition

They say the next big thing is here
That the revolution’s near
But to me it seems quite clear
That it’s all just little bits of history repeating.

— “History Repeating” by Alex Gifford
performed by The Propellerheads/Shirley Bassey (1997)

Understanding today’s right-wing insurgency as a new phenomenon only weakens our attempts to defeat it. Grasping it instead as the product of a slow, steady evolution is our only hope of stopping the cycle before it repeats itself anew.

— Rick Perlstein “The Grand Old Tea Party” (2013)

This week’s featured post: The ObamaCare Panic.

This week everybody was panicking about ObamaCare

The discouraging thing wasn’t that conservatives were pushing bogus horror stories, or even that the mainstream media wasn’t debunking them. It’s that Democrats began wilting under the pressure, just like they did before the Iraq invasion or when the fraudulent ACORN-pimp-video came out.

It sucks to have to defend people too spineless to defend themselves, but here goes: The ObamaCare Panic.

and talking about journalists who ought to be fired

As I mentioned last week, Laura Logan of CBS’ 60 Minutes has apologized on-the-air for her Benghazi report on October 27. But it was content-free apology that made no attempt to undo the damage. I agree with Josh Marshall’s assessment:

In a narrow sense, Lara Logan did say she was “sorry.” But the entire 90 seconds was aimed at obfuscating what happened.

Logan said 60 Minutes had found out Thursday that they had been “misled and it was a mistake to include him in our report.”

Include him in their report? He was the report. And even in conceding that her team had been “misled”, Logan tiptoed around the real news, which is that it seems clear that Davies’ entire story was a fabrication. He wasn’t there. So none of the stuff he [claimed to have done] could have happened and he cannot have witnessed any of what he claimed to describe.

So if you’re a 60 Minutes viewer, you saw a full segment on Benghazi that re-ignited a bunch of Fox News talking points. (Fox certainly saw it that way, mentioning the report on 13 segments totaling 47 minutes.) Then two weeks later — after you and your buddies at work had plenty of time to hash that out over the water cooler — you saw 90 seconds at the end of the hour indicating that not everything in that segment was completely correct.

A lot of people have compared this episode to the Bush National Guard report that ended Dan Rather’s career at CBS and got a few other people fired. But Rather outraged conservatives, not liberals, so the cases are completely different.


Another person who should maybe retire early is Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. He landed in a kettle of hot water by pointing out last Monday that the Republican Iowa-caucus or South-Carolina-primary voters Chris Christie might need to impress are a little different than the New Jersey general electorate that gave him a landslide victory. Such folks are “not racist”, Cohen assures us, they’re just different from East-Coasters:

People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children.

I can’t improve on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ response:

The problem here isn’t that we think Richard Cohen gags at the sight of an interracial couple and their children. The problem is that Richard Cohen thinks being repulsed isn’t actually racist, but “conventional” or “culturally conservative.” Obstructing the right of black humans and white humans to form families is a central feature of American racism. If retching at the thought of that right being exercised isn’t racism, then there is no racism.

In deciding whether or not it’s time for Cohen to go, I hope the Post looks at the broader sweep of his columns. In addition to the column in question, here are the last month’s worth:

On November 4, Cohen discussed how watching 12 Years a Slave was an “unlearning” experience for him. Turns out, Gone With the Wind wasn’t a documentary and slavery was really bad! Who knew?

October 28, he connected the problems of HealthCare.gov to the administration’s “inept” and “incoherent” Syria policy (which appears to be getting rid of Assad’s chemical-weapon arsenal without war), the bugging of the German chancellor’s phone, and the souring of U.S.-Saudi relations, and concluded that President Obama’s may not be as competent as Cohen had thought. It took a whole column to say that, and if you can find any more content than I just put into one sentence, please tell me.

October 21, he realized (four months late) that maybe his original assessment that Edward Snowden “expose[d] programs that were known to our elected officials and could have been deduced by anyone who has ever Googled anything” wasn’t quite right. Ah, the shifting winds of conventional wisdom!

That’s a month’s worth of work in one of the most prestigious jobs in American journalism. I’m reminded of a Rodney Dangerfield joke: When a woman wants to break up with him, Rodney asks her, “Is there someone else?” And she replies, “There must be.”

and 2016

I’m going to break my moratorium on 2016 speculation for The New Republic‘s “Hillary’s Nightmare? A Democratic Party That Realizes Its Soul Lies With Elizabeth Warren“. Noam Scheiber is making an analogy between Hillary Clinton’s front-runner status now and her similar position in the 2008 cycle. Then, a successful insurgency was possible because she was on the wrong side of the Iraq issue. Now she’s too aligned with the 1% and Wall Street, which makes her vulnerable to a challenge from somebody on the progressive side of that issue, like Elizabeth Warren.

I agree with Scheiber’s scenario this far:

  • I love Elizabeth Warren. If the gods let me appoint the president, she’d be high on my list.
  • Along with his continuation of Bush’s war on terror. Obama’s Wall-Street-friendly policies have been the most disappointing part of his presidency. No Democrat is chummier with Wall Street than the Clintons, and nobody is in a better position than Warren to press that issue.
  • A lot of Democratic women (especially older women) felt robbed when Hillary was denied the 2008 nomination by a man. If that happens again I think we’ll have a problem. So (as much as I also like Sherrod Brown) the 2016 not-Clinton Democrat ought to be a woman.

So yeah, there’s logic behind the Warren-excites-the-base-and-beats-Clinton scenario. But I’m not buying it for these reasons:

  • Obama barely beat Clinton in 2008. There’s no room for error.
  • Warren is not the campaigner Obama was. As good as her policies would be for the working class, her professorial style is not going to inspire WalMart Democrats.
  • Obama didn’t just rally the progressive base, he excited new voters among blacks, Hispanics, and the young. Clinton might be vulnerable among younger voters and the Occupy-types love Warren, but I don’t see Warren inheriting the non-ideological parts of the Obama coalition.
  • In 2008 Clinton was pinned down by her undeniable vote to authorize the Iraq invasion. But in the 2016 primaries she has lots of room to slide left on economic issues. Like Romney’s rightward slide in 2012, Clinton’s leftward shift won’t be entirely believable. But it should be enough to fend off a progressive challenge.

At some point in the cycle the press will be hungry for a Clinton-is-not-inevitable story, so somebody (maybe Warren) will be cast as the progressive savior. But I expect that boomlet to fade.

you also might be interested in …

The most insightful article I saw this week was Michael Kimmel’s “America’s angriest white men: Up close with racism, rage and Southern supremacy” on Salon. He studies white supremacists and finds that they are literally disinherited: They are the “& Son” from the business that went under, or the would-have-been heir to the bankrupt family farm.

They wind up with a worldview full of contradictions: Pro-capitalist but anti-corporate, rabidly patriotic  but “the America they love doesn’t happen to be the America in which they live.”

For ordinary white conservatives, class is a proxy for race. (“Welfare queens”, the “inner city poor” … we know who they are, right?) But among the white supremacists, race is a proxy for class. “Whites” are the people who actually make stuff (that the government collects and gives away to non-whites), not the bankers and lawyers and bureaucrats and intellectuals (even though most of those people are actually white).

So, who are they really, these hundred thousand white supremacists? They’re every white guy who believed that this land was his land, was made for you and me. … But instead of becoming Tom Joad, a left-leaning populist, they take a hard right turn, ultimately supporting the very people who have dispossessed them.

Eventually I’ll probably write something about all the Weimar Republic stuff I’ve been reading lately, but for now I’ll just say that the parallels are striking. In Germany of the 1920s, the “rich Jew” and “Jewish banker” stereotypes channeled class resentment into anti-semitism. It wasn’t “real” Germans who were oppressing the working class, it was “Jews”.


Ever feel like you need an expert panel to determine what’s racist and what isn’t? The Daily Show assembled one.


Ted Cruz’s Dad turns out to be a minister who is way wackier than Jeremiah Wright. If Cruz runs for president, will he face the same kind of pressure to disassociate that President Obama did? Somehow I doubt it.


Slate’s Fred Kaplan explains why he now believes the Warren Commission conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

As the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination approaches, you can expect more conservative efforts to claim that Kennedy was really one of theirs. But here’s what conservatives thought about him at the time. The following flier was being posted in Dallas prior to the President’s fateful visit:

The parallels to President Obama are obvious, right down to attempts to expand health care. Let’s hope things turn out differently this time.


The revolving door keeps spinning: Ex-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner becomes president of a Wall Street buy-out firm. I have no reason to believe this is anything other than perfectly legal and above-board, i.e., no quid pro quo for favors granted. But how could the pipeline from Washington to Wall Street not be a corrupting influence?

And let’s end with something amazing

What a spider looks like when you get really, really close.

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Comments

  • gigoid  On November 18, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Brilliant!…. 🙂 Abundant excellence; a thorough, insightful summary, full of inarguable reasoning, consistent realism, and not-so-common sense… Great work!

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