"You want to screw up your economy? Screw up your government."
Republicans and the conservative media should think twice about the frantic irrationality they are courting with their attacks on Obama and the Democrats. From the "birthers" who question the President's U.S. citizenship to the town-hall-meeting shouters stirred up about creeping "socialism" in health care reform, we now arrive at the wingnut suggestion on Newsmax of a possible military coup.
Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz are pouring fuel on the fire, with their specious claims that closing Guantanamo and rolling back Bush-era torture techniques leave America in imminent danger of a new terrorist attack.
The hatred and suspicion the right is feeding are about as far from reasoned argument as you can get. "The President is not a real American!" "They are going to take away your health insurance!" and "We are in for another terrorist attack!" are about as disparate as charges can get. That suits the purpose of keeping the rightwing base riled, no matter what the topic. But it comes at a terrible price.
"Military intervention is what Obama's exponentially accelerating agenda for 'fundamental change' toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America," John L. Perry writes on Newsmax. "A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama's radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible."
I have often wondered how the more genteel chin-rubbers on the right like David Brooks and Bill Kristol justify providing the intellectual underpinnings and, in Kristol's case, the campaign support, for this kind of craziness. Kristol can appear on the Daily Show with Jon
Stewart--http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-july-27-2009/bill-kristol-extended... and joke about his (genuine) support for Sarah Palin and his leadership attacking the health care plans of Hillary Clinton and Obama. Brooks can address the audiences of NPR and the New York Times as a kind of cultural kindred spirit with classic conservative philosophy that criticizes materialism. But both have to look in the mirror in the morning and recognize who they are helping, ironic detachment notwithstanding.
In the 1990s the hatred of Hillary and Bill Clinton reached a fevered pitch. The Republican political establishment, while not exactly embracing the more out-there elements in the party, nevertheless spent countless hours parsing Clinton's impeachment and its titillating details as if that were completely legitimate and important. Bomb-throwers like Anne Coulter got their start making outrageous remarks and the whole showbiz of rightwing attack media grew tremendously.
The poisoned atmosphere has been getting thicker since the Clinton years. After the Monica Lewinsky story broke out of the tabloid ghetto and held the entire government hostage for a season, the Republicans developed a bigger, better character-assassination and disruption apparatus. And while the murderous hatred of a Democratic President that emerged on the right then seems even worse today, in a way, Americans are also savvier. We have heard a lot of this stuff by now.
The health care debate is a perfect example of the careful marshaling of wingnuts by Washington insiders to achieve a political end. The town hall meeting shouters got instructions on how to disrupt their members of Congress and silence supporters of health care reform from Dick Armey's lobbying organization.
The ridiculous charge that a Medicare-like public option would be "socialism" caused five Democrats to join the Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee in voting against a modest public option in the committee this week.
But the majority of Americans still favor the bugaboo Medicare-for-all-who-want-it system that Senator Orrin Hatch ominously warned could grow from a public option into full-blown single-payer, and, horror of horrors, put the insurance companies out of business one day.
In some ways the vehemence of the opposition is the most encouraging news to emerge from the health care reform efforts in Congress. Reform's opponents know they have to yell as loud as they can and change the subject a lot to try to distract people from the obvious problems with our private insurance system.
Health care reform that includes a full public option is not fully dead, despite the "Marxist" and "socialist" epithets.
It takes a lot of effort and a lot of support to stand up for such decent public policy options in the face of the right's threats of violence and mayhem.
But it will take a lot more psychological effort for the Republican establishment types to live with themselves if the craziness they are flirting with comes to fruition.