Saturday, August 08, 2009

Those Republican mobs

Salon's Joan Walsh shows that it's possible to make a straightforward criticism of the Republicans' mob tactics at Democratic town hall meetings in But seriously, folks: Obama death panels? 08/09/09. She writes, "'Democrats say/Republicans counter' coverage, on this issue, is pandering to mobs that are trying to squelch democracy."

On the other hand, you can watch David "Bobo" Brooks and Mark Shields not be at all straightforward about the same in Health Reform Push, Clinton's N. Korea Trip Top Week's News PBS Newshour 08/09/09. The "liberal" Shields, who idolizes that bold Maverick McCain, hemmed and hawwed about the mobs first. Only after Bobo made the case that although of course, he himself dispproved, it was no big deal, just politics as usual, only then did Shields wake up sufficiently to clumsily make the point Joan Walsh makes:

DAVID BROOKS: Let's not pretend this just started. I mean, every time we have a major issue, this happens. I mean, just go back to the Iraq war. There were people claiming there was the Project for the New American Century and Richard Perle was part of a big neocon conspiracy. There's ugliness that goes on. There's ugliness that went on in those rallies. And...

JUDY WOODRUFF: You're saying it's the same kind of thing?

DAVID BROOKS: I'm saying -- I think every time, if you look through American history, every time there's a major issue -- and this a major issue -- you get people who are totally over the line and spreading misinformation. And that doesn't justify it -- believe me -- but we shouldn't pretend it just started from one group.

MARK SHIELDS: No, but this is -- I think this is organized in a way that the others weren't. I mean, when any of us gives a speech, we are asked almost semi-regularly about, "What about 9/11? And wasn't that, in fact, organized? And the planes could not have knocked down the Twin Towers."

I mean, that is a regular -- and it's usually somebody -- but this is not something where somebody is shouting you down and denying you. The Code Pink ladies David mentioned would speak -- would shout at the congressional hearings, but then they'd be quickly removed.

This stops the debate. That's what's going on right now. That's the difference.

This is what counts as "respectable" Republican argument these days: mobs breaking up public meetings by Congressmembers in their districts is just like critics of the Iraq War pointing to positions taken publicly by advocates and planners of the Iraq War.

Even when Shields actually gets around to making a point, he does it in such a garbled way that even people who know what he's talking about have a hard time following it. Addressing the straightforward fact that we're dealing here with "mobs that are trying to squelch democracy", as Joan does, seems to be beyond Shields' capabilities any more.

If they want to have Mark Shields still be on the Newshour every Friday, they should just give him a 30-second segment every week where he can talk about what a great guy John McCain is. We could at least hope they could get a regular replacement for the main Political Wrap segment who could and would articulate liberal positions. Ruth Marcus, who has lately been substituting in Shields' absence, would emphatically not qualify. Even Shields' lightweight rambling is better than that.

While Mark Shields has been a staunch observer of Beltway Village conventions, he at least used to be able to articulate some pragmatic and occasionally truculent liberal positions. But his last streak of doing that effectively seems to have been in the runup to the Iraq War and his commentary on subsequent events of the war. I do give him credit for departing from the Village consensus on that. Unlike that MSNBC "liberal" Chris Matthews, for all of Shields' awe-struck hero-worship of John McCain, he never to my knowledge stopped to drooling over the image of Generallissimo Bush in his flight suit and manly codpiece the way Matthews did.

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"It is the logic of our times
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