Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stunt Doubles

Tim Rutten's op-ed column in the Los Angeles Times does a fairly good job of providing some of the political background of the crazies suddenly cornering the public discourse. He also, perhaps unintentionally, implies just why no one from the traditional conservative side of the aisle is making any attempt to rein them in.

His column begins with Sen. Joe Wilson, who was admonished by the House of Representatives for his unseemly behavior during President Obama's health care speech:

The fact is that the right-wing anti-Obama movement in the U.S. these days is overpopulated with nuts, fundamentalists and paranoids who won't be easily stopped by a few congressional reprimands.

Wilson, for example, isn't just a loudmouth with impulse-control issues. He's one of those Southern lawmakers with links to the sinister neo-Confederate movement and, as a state legislator, was one of the die-hards who opposed removing the Confederate battle flag from atop the South Carolina statehouse. He's also an unrepentant supporter of Obama's extreme critics. When he spoke on the House floor Monday, Wilson praised the "patriots" who turned the town halls into shouting matches and the tea party demonstrators who gathered in Washington last weekend to oppose "a government takeover" of healthcare. (Among the 179 representatives who voted against rebuking Wilson -- and circulated a letter on his behalf -- was Iowa's Steve King, who recently alleged that Obama was excluding "white men" from his initiatives.)

From there, Rutten moves on to one of the leaders of the teabagger movement, former radio talk show host Mark Williams.

Williams rather grandiloquently portrays himself as a kind of unlikely David battling an amorphous Goliath. The truth, however, is more prosaic because the tea parties are a grass-roots movement only in the sense familiar to those who know their way around California politics, where this whole thing began: The seed money and advice have come from a political action committee headquartered here and called Our Country Deserves Better. It's actually the successor to a PAC formed to defeat Obama in the general election. Williams was hired to work for the original PAC and then moved on to where the next job was.

The operators of Our Country Deserves Better also will be familiar to Californians because they're longtime activists on the state GOP's extreme right flank. One is former assemblyman and unsuccessful congressional candidate Howard Kaloogian, whose one notable success was as chairman of the campaign to recall Gov. Gray Davis; another is political strategist Sal Russo, who once worked for Ronald Reagan.

The motley crew leading this "grass roots" groundswell may be nuttier than your maiden aunt's Christmas fruitcake, but they have direct ties to the power structure of the GOP in California and around the country.

That's a big reason I think it is a mistake to think that "more reasonable" Republicans are getting nervous and embarrassed by the antics of their far-right brethren. Rather, I think the GOP is quite happy at having the crazies do their dirty work for them. The birthers, teabaggers, and 10thers as the representatives of a growing "grass roots" discontent make it easier for Republicans to "Just Say No" to whatever the Democrats, especially President Barack Obama propose. Their base, especially their basest base, have been whipped up and are now willing to provide their more decorous backsides cover for the obstructionism they believe will return them to power.

Evidence of that is no further than a current front page away. After Sen. Max Baucus gutted the health care reform bill of anything that might be considered even remotely liberal, the ranking member of the Finance Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley has announced that he still won't vote for it. What a surprise, eh?

The GOP is quite happy to let the crazies take over the discourse, to take the ridicule and opprobrium of the sane. It's not a bug. It's a feature. And from where I sit, it's beginning to look like a very effective strategy.

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Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

And from where I sit, it's beginning to look like a very effective strategy.

Somebody I know--not to name names, or anything--has been asserting that very point--not to say what point-- from the very beginning...

It has always been delusional to believe that Obama, who owes so much to the Ownership class--which class he has striven his whole life to appease and whose approval has landed him where no one like him has ever landed before--would EVER have the temerity to actually turn and nip at the hands that curried, and cosseted and carried him to the prominence he now enjoys...

8:08 AM  

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