Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Encounters with conservatives

I've had some interesting little encounters with conservatives the last few days, some in person and some in cyberspace. I thought I would share a couple of stories.

You're one, what am I?

That phrase is used to describe a common style of conservative conversation. Or argumentation, though it's hard to distinguish the two sometimes. And it's a technique that I recognize, but find it hard to describe succinctly. The basic concept is, "I'm going to call you names but I'm not going to admit to holding the opinion I'm defending."

The occasion of this instance was a Facebook posting linking this blog post: Obama as Chancellor of Weimar America by Joerg Wolf Atlantic Review 07/12/09. Joerg's blog is a really good one. The subject of that post was the story on which I had also blogged, Sen. Jim DeMint's Know-Nothing comment about how Germany had been a "social democracy" just before the Second World War. The comment in question was from a talk DeMint was giving hawking his new book Saving Freedom, which I'm sure will become a standard political science work overnight [NOT!]. The distinguished Senator from South Carolina said:

Part of what we’re trying to do in “Saving Freedom” is just show that where we are, we’re about where Germany was before World War II where they became a social democracy. You still had votes but the votes were just power grabs like you see in Iran, and other places in South America, like Chavez is running down in Venezuela. People become more dependent on the government so that they’re easy to manipulate. And they keep voting for more government because that’s where their security is. When our immigrants get here, they’re worried, because they see it happening here.
Quickie history: during the Weimar Republic of 1919-33, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Catholic Center Party were the two most important "Weimar parties". Meaning that they actually supported the democratic system of government. The Nazis, other rightwing nationalist parties, conservatives and (for different reasons) the Communist Party (KPD) didn't really support the Weimar regime. In the last couple of years of its existence, Weimar was really only a semi-parliamentary government, run in practice by conservative Chancellors operating under the authority of Presidential decrees.

When Hitler first became Chancellor at the end of January 1933, there was one last parliamentary election held in March. The Communists were banned and the election took place in an atmosphere of repression, but the Nazis still failed to win an outright majority. When Hitler proposed the Enabling Law that gave him dictatorial powers, the SPD was the only party in Parliament to vote against it. (There were some individual exceptions in the vote.) In 1939, when the Second World War began, the SPD had been outlawed in Germany for over six years. It's active members operated underground or in exile.

Not least of the problems of DeMint's idiotic identification of the Nazi regime with "social democracy" is that the Germans who actively took risks in favor of democracy during the Third Reich, like the active Social Democrats, deserve at least enough respect for people not to falsely identify them with the Nazis.

Here is the interchange I had with a Facebook poster calling himself Richard Avery:

Bruce Miller at 11:05pm July 12
I really wonder if DeMint is such a dim bulb that he can't tell the difference among social democracy, Nazism, fascism, socialism and Iran's brand of Shi'a Islamism. Or if he's just trying to help Republican Party leader Rush Limbaugh and FOX News dumb down as much of the public as they can. Either way, it's irresponsible for him to be talking trash like this.

Richard Avery at 7:55am July 13
Senators have a long history of making intemperate statements. It was Democratic Senator Dick Durbin who compared treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo as akin to something that "happened by [sic] Nazis, Soviets in their Gulags, or some madman regime like Pol Pot." Was this Durbin's attempt to make Democrats dumber than they already were?

Bruce Miller at 10:57am July 13
Since Durbin didn't stand by his own statement, I wouldn't bother to defend him. Still, I've never been able to fathom why he thought *Holocaust survivors* would be offended by his opposing *torture*.

But Durbin at least knew something about the regimes to which he was referring. Anyone who thinks that Germany was a "social democracy" - or any other kind of democracy - in 1939 either knows nothing about the history of Nazism, or is trying to pretend that Nazism was some kind of democracy. Either way, it's ridiculous. But if South Carolina voters like politicians that clueless, it's likely they will have a chance to vote for more of them, including DeMint.

Richard Avery at 2:16pm July 13
The main regime Durbin was referring to was the United States. While he eventually backed off of his statement because of extreme criticism did he really think US personnel were acting like Nazis, Soviet Gulag guards, or Pol Pot's supporters?

As far as voting for clueless politicians is concerned, that is something that voters from all parties in all 50 states get to do too frequently.

Bruce Miller at 2:40pm July 13
Just curious, Richard. Do you actually have an opinion about the topic of Joerg's entry, i.e., what Jim DeMint said a few days ago?

Richard Avery at 8:48pm July 13
I would not have used DeMint's rhetoric because it is counterproductive, but It is no worse than what Democrats said about Bush for eight years. I am concerned that Obama is attempting to increase government control of the economy which will have a negative impact on the country and that he will use this control to reward friends and punish enemies.

I also think he would like to subvert the election process to increase the likelihood of Democratic victories. Funding ACORN, rejecting proposals to use social security numbers and drivers licenses for identification purposes, and dismissal of a case of voter intimidation against Black Panthers in Philadelphia after the case had been won all make it easier for Democrats to rig elections.
Avery made a classic "You're one, what am I?" pitch there. That's standard OxyContin style. If a Republican get caught saying something stupid or worse, Rush and his imitators quickly come up with a "But, but, Democrats do it too" example. But by his last comment, he was clearly agreeing with DeMint, but still ambiguously distanced himself from the actual comment: "I would not have used DeMint's rhetoric because it is counterproductive."

It's similar in a way to playing tennis with someone for the first time and telling them what your own level is according to amateur tennis standards and they say, "Oh, I'm not that good." And then why you play them, you quickly see they are very good. I always wondered in those situations, what's the point of pretending? If you were playing for money and it was a hustle of some kind, I could at least see a point to it. But if it's just a casual game and you're going to quickly see the level at which they are playing, what's the point of the false modesty? It's like they're trying to be devious for the sake of being devious but not doing a good job of it.

A phony fainting spell

This is from a recent television appearance by Marcy Wheeler where she was talking about legal accountability for the torture perpetrators, where our delicate press corps - and pro-torture bloggers - were shocked, shocked and offended and mortified because she reference the Republicans' political jihad against Bill Clinton and used the phrase "blow job". Our press is still obsessing over those blow jobs. Chris Matthews and Maureen Dowd will apparently never stop fantasizing about them. But they were horrified at hearing the phrase "blow job" uttered on the air. Outrage over torture, tsk-tsking at the Cheney family or anyone else for defended sick sadistic torture on the air, explanations of the legal obligation to prosecute torture perpetrators? Not so much. Not much at all, really. Jamison Foser comments on this phenomenon in MSNBC's bizarre social norms: Sex bad, murder funny County Fair blog 07/14/09.

Marcy herself, chagrined over the press corps' moronic reaction, "I don't know whether my efforts today helped or hurt those [accountability] efforts. Next time I'll just repeat, endlessly, torture torture torture. It'll probably cause the same kind of outrage."

Eavesdropping on Republicans

I was browsing in a used bookstore on Sunday and overheard the couple who were apparently the owners chatting with another like-minded couple. They were evidently Republicans who were embarrassed by Sarah Palin being one of the main public faces of their Party. An understandable feeling, no doubt.

One of them bragged about having sent an e-mail to her "most intelligent" friends to complain about Palin. And one expressed enthusiasm for Peggy Noonan's recent criticism of Palin. Anyone who considers Bush-worshipper Peggy Noonan a sober analyst for the "most intelligent" - or even the least intelligent - is really in a bad way, I'd have to say.

Now, I'd love to believe in pretty fantasies, like the tooth fairy and moderate Republicans. But I found myself thinking of how phony they were, talking their Country Club Republicans jive, pretending they didn't share the unsophisticated viewpoint of a Christian Right yayhoo like the one Sarah Palin portrays in her public image. I couldn't help but think that they would be great enthusiasts for Brother Jeb, who talks vaguely about upgrading the Party's image while defending that same positions that Palin herself takes.

But check out the straight-line oil lobby position Palin takes in this op-ed in the Washington Post, The 'Cap And Tax' Dead End 07/14/09, which the OxyContin crowd somehow imagine is part of the Liberal Press Conspiracy So Vast: . Do the more "sophisticated" Republicans like Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney stand for anything different than this?

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