Elections 2016

It’s so much worse than Trump: The history of the modern GOP is a history of racism, bigotry and dog whistles By Phillip Cryan, salon.com,  Apr 5, 2016 The party of Lincoln? Sure, in 1858. Today’s GOP wants to pretend Trump is an outlier. They should look in a mirror…The denunciations are piling in. Not just Democrats and independents but countless Republican elected officials, pundits and party activists have announced their opposition to Donald Trump’s candidacy for president in loud, clear, impassioned terms. It’s about time. Without question, Trump’s rise represents a frightening development in U.S. politics. While there are many reasons to fear a Trump presidency, the one most frequently cited, and rightly so, is his – and more importantly, his millions of supporters’ – embrace of open bigotry and misogyny…

It’s Time for a Second American Revolution by Jill Stein, Counterpunch.org, July 4, 2016 http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/04/its-time-for-a-second-american-revolution/…The 2016 Presidential election provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to win independence from the rule of the 1%. …A movement for democracy and justice is sweeping the planet – from Occupy Wall Street to anti-austerity uprisings and the Black Lives Matter movement. People are rising up to halt the neoliberal assault, calling for an America and a world that works for all of us….People are realizing that if we want to fix the rigged economy, the rigged racial injustice system, the rigged energy system and more, we must also fix the rigged political system….It is long past time to extend the concept of democracy to our economy. The economic dictatorship of the wealth-owning class needs to be replaced with an economic democracy where the people making up the economy decide how the economy works…

Today’s GOP Is a Candidate for Most Dangerous Organization in Human History

Interview with Chomsky: By Amy Goodman / Democracy Now, May 23, 2016

“Both political parties have shifted to the right during the neoliberal period.”

In Part 2 of our wide-ranging conversation with the world-renowned dissident Noam Chomsky: “If we were honest, we would say something that sounds utterly shocking and no doubt will be taken out of context and lead to hysteria on the part of the usual suspects,” [Noam] Chomsky says, “but the fact of the matter is that today’s Republican Party qualify as candidates for the most dangerous organization in human history. Literally.” Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught for more than half a century, his latest book titled Who Rules the World?

To watch Part 1 of the interview, click here.  TRANSCRIPT  This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NOAM CHOMSKY: … there’s a long history [re: Syria]. The basic—we don’t have a lot of time, but the basic story is that the United States, like Britain before it, has tended to support radical Islamism against secular nationalism. That’s been a consistent theme of imperial strategy for a long time. Saudi Arabia is the center of radical Islamic extremism… the spread of Saudi extremist Wahhabi doctrine over Sunni Islam, the Sunni world, is one of the real disasters of modern—of the modern era. It’s a source of not only funding for extremist radical Islam and the jihadi outgrowths of it, but also, doctrinally, mosques, clerics and so on, schools, you know, madrassas, where you study just Qur’an, is spreading all over the huge Sunni areas from Saudi influence. And it continues. Saudi Arabia itself has one of the most grotesque human rights records in the world… This is a very ugly story.

AMY GOODMAN: …the issue of the Republican Party and what you see happening there, the Republican establishment fiercely opposed to the presumptive nominee. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen anything like this, although that could be changing… What is happening?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, first of all, the phenomenon that we’ve just seen is an extreme version of something that’s been going on just for years in the Republican primaries. Take a look back at the preceding ones. Every time a candidate came up from the base—Bachmann, McCain, Santorum, Huckabee, one crazier than the other—every time one rose from the base, the Republican establishment sought to beat them down and get their own—get their own man—you know, Romney. And they succeeded, until this year. This year the same thing happened, and they didn’t succeed. The pressure from the base was too great for them to beat it back. Now, that’s the disaster that the Republican establishment sees. But the phenomenon goes way back. And it has roots. It’s kind of like jihadis: You have to ask about the roots.

What are the roots? The Republican—both political parties have shifted to the right during the neoliberal period—the period, you know, since Reagan, goes back to late Carter, escalated under Reagan—during this period, which has been a period of stagnation and decline for much of the population in many ways—wages, benefits, security and so on—along with enormous wealth concentrated in a tiny fraction of the population, mostly financial institutions, which are—have a dubious, if not harmful, role on the economy. This has been going on for a generation. And while this has been happening, there’s a kind of a vicious cycle. You have more concentration of wealth, concentration of political power, legislation to increase concentration of wealth and power, and so on, that while that’s been going on, much of the population has simply been cast aside. The white working class is bitter and angry, for lots of reasons, including these. The minority populations were hit very hard by the Clinton destruction of the welfare system and the incarceration rules. They still tend to support the Democrats, but tepidly, because the alternative is worse, and they’re taking a kind of pragmatic stand.

But while the parties have shifted to—but the parties have shifted so far to the right that the—today’s mainstream Democrats are pretty much what used to be called moderate Republicans. Now, the Republicans are just off the spectrum. They have been correctly described by leading conservative commentators, like Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, as just what they call a radical insurgency, which has abandoned parliamentary politics. And they don’t even try to conceal it. Like as soon as Obama was elected, Mitch McConnell said, pretty much straight out, “We have only one policy: make the country ungovernable, and then maybe we can somehow get power again.” That’s just off the spectrum.

Now, the actual policies of the Republicans, whether it’s Paul Ryan or Donald Trump, to the extent that he’s coherent, Ted Cruz, you pick him, or the establishment, is basically enrich and empower the very rich and the very powerful and the corporate sector. You cannot get votes that way. So therefore the Republicans have been compelled to turn to sectors of the population that can be mobilized and organized on other grounds, kind of trying to put to the side the actual policies, hoping, the establishment hopes, that the white working class will be mobilized to vote for their bitter class enemies, who want to shaft them in every way, by appealing to something else, like so-called social conservatism—you know, abortion rights, racism, nationalism and so on. And to some extent, that’s happened. That’s the kind of thing that Fritz Stern was referring to in the article that I mentioned about Germany’s collapse, this descent into barbarism. So what you have is a voting base consisting of evangelical Christians, ultranationalists, racists, disaffected, angry, white working-class sectors that have been hit very hard, that are—you know, not by Third World standards, but by First World standards, we even have the remarkable phenomenon of an increase in mortality among these sectors, that just doesn’t happen in developed societies. All of that is a voting base. It does produce candidates who terrify the corporate, wealthy, elite establishment. In the past, they’ve been able to beat them down. This time they aren’t doing it. And that’s what’s happening to the so-called Republican Party.

We should recognize—if we were honest, we would say something that sounds utterly shocking and no doubt will be taken out of context and lead to hysteria on the part of the usual suspects, but the fact of the matter is that today’s Republican Party qualify as candidates for the most dangerous organization in human history. Literally. Just take their position on the two major issues that face us: climate change, nuclear war. On climate change, it’s not even debatable… There’s been nothing this—literally, this dangerous, if you think about it, to the species, really, ever. We should face that.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Noam, you’ve just written this book, Who Rules the World? You’ve written more than a hundred other books. And, I mean, you have been a deep, profound thinker and activist on world issues… I’m wondering where you think we stand today, if you agree with—well, with Dr. Martin Luther King, that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice.

NOAM CHOMSKY:If you look over the past, say, the roughly 75 years of my, more or less, consciousness, it’s—in general, I think the arc of history has been bending towards justice. There have been many improvements, some of them pretty dramatic—women’s rights, for example, to an extent, civil rights. It should be remembered that there were literally lynchings in the South until the early 1950s. It’s not beautiful now, but that’s not happening. There have been steps forward. Opposition to aggression is much higher than it was in the past. There’s finally concern for environmental issues, which are really of desperate necessity. All of this is slow, halting, significant steps bending the arc of history in the right way.

There’s been regression, a lot of regression… there are opportunities—they’re not huge, but they’re real—to overcome the—and I stress again—to overcome problems that the human species has never faced in its roughly 200,000 years of existence, problems of, literally, survival. We’ve already answered these questions for a huge number of species: We’ve killed them off.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,200 stations in North America. She is the co-author of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times best-seller.

Full text

In Part 2 of our wide-ranging conversation with the world-renowned dissident Noam Chomsky, we talk about the conflict in Syria, the rise of ISIS, Saudi Arabia, the political crisis in Brazil, the passing of the pioneering lawyer Michael Ratner, the U.S. relationship with Cuba, Obama’s visit to Hiroshima and today’s Republican Party. “If we were honest, we would say something that sounds utterly shocking and no doubt will be taken out of context and lead to hysteria on the part of the usual suspects,” Chomsky says, “but the fact of the matter is that today’s Republican Party qualify as candidates for the most dangerous organization in human history. Literally.”

To watch Part 1 of the interview, click here.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Our guest for the hour is Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught for more than half a century, his latest book titled Who Rules the World? Noam Chomsky, can you talk about what you think needs to happen in Syria right now?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Syria is spiraling into real disaster, a virtual suicide. And the only sensible approach, the only slim hope, for Syria is efforts to reduce the violence and destruction, to establish small regional ceasefire zones and to move toward some kind of diplomatic settlement. There are steps in that direction. Also, it’s necessary to cut off the flow of arms, as much as possible, to everyone. That means to the vicious and brutal Assad regime, primarily Russia and Iran, to the monstrous ISIS, which has been getting support tacitly through Turkey, through—to the al-Nusra Front, which is hardly different, has just the—the al-Qaeda affiliate, technically broke from it, but actually the al-Qaeda affiliate, which is now planning its own—some sort of emirate, getting arms from our allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Our own—the CIA is arming them. We don’t know at what level; it’s clandestine. As much as possible, cut back the flow of arms, the level of violence, try to save people from destruction. There should be far more support going simply for humanitarian aid. Those who are building some sort of a society in Syria—notably, the Kurds—should be supported in that effort.

These efforts should be made to cut off the flow of jihadis from the places where they’re coming from. And that means understanding why it’s happening. It’s not enough just to say, “OK, let’s bomb them to oblivion.” This is happening for reasons. Some of the reasons, unfortunately, are—we can’t reverse. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was a major reason in the development, a primary reason in the incitement of sectarian conflicts, which have now exploded into these monstrosities. That’s water under the bridge, unfortunately, though we can make sure not to do that—not to continue with that. But we may like it or not, but ISIS, the ISIL, whatever you want to call it, does have popular support even among people who hate it. The Sunni—much of the Sunni population of Iraq and Syria evidently regards it as better than the alternative, something which at least defends them from the alternative. From the Western countries, the flow of jihadis is primarily from young people who are—who live in conditions of humiliation, degradation, repression, and want something decent—want some dignity in their lives, want something idealistic. They’re picking the wrong horse, by a large margin, but you can understand what they’re aiming for. And there’s plenty of research and studies—Scott Atran and others have worked on this and have plenty of evidence about it. And those—alleviating and dealing with those real problems can be a way to reduce the level of violence and destruction.

It’s much more dramatic to say, “Let’s carpet bomb them,” or “Let’s bomb them to oblivion,” or “Let’s send in troops.” But that simply makes the situation far worse. Actually, we’ve seen it for 15 years. Just take a look at the so-called war on terror, which George W. Bush declared—actually, redeclared; Reagan had declared it—but redeclared in 2001. At that point, jihadi terrorism was located in a tiny tribal area near the Afghan-Pakistan border. Where is—and since then, we’ve been hitting one or another center of what we call terrorism with a sledgehammer. What’s happened? Each time, it spreads. By now, it’s all over the world. It’s all over Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, everywhere you look. Take the bombing of Libya, which Hillary Clinton was strongly in favor of, one of the leaders of, smashed up Libya, destroyed a functioning society. The bombing sharply escalated the level of atrocities by a large factor, devastated the country, left it in the hands of warring militias, opened the door for ISIS to establish a base, spread jihadis and heavy weapons all through Africa, in fact, into the Middle East. Last year, the—according to U.N. statistics, the worst terror in the world was in West Africa, Boko Haram and others, to a considerable extent an offshoot of the bombing of Libya. That’s what happens when you hit vulnerable systems with a sledgehammer, not knowing what you’re doing and not looking at the roots of where these movements are developing from. So you have to understand the—understand where it’s coming from, where the appeal lies, what the roots are—there are often quite genuine grievances—at the same time try to cut back the level of violence.

And, you know, we’ve had experience where things like this worked. Take, say, IRA terrorism. It was pretty severe. Now, they practically murdered the whole British Cabinet at one point. As long as Britain responded to IRA terrorism with more terror and violence, it simply escalated. As soon as Britain finally began—incidentally, with some helpful U.S. assistance at this point—in paying some attention to the actual grievances of Northern Irish Catholics, as soon as they started with that, violence subsided, reduced. People who had been called leading terrorists showed up on negotiating teams, even, finally, in the government. I happened to be in Belfast in 1993. It was a war zone, literally. I was there again a couple of years ago. It looks like any other city. You can see ethnic antagonisms, but nothing terribly out of the ordinary. That’s the way to deal with these issues.

Incidentally, what’s happening in Syria right now is horrendous, but we shouldn’t—useful to remember that it’s not the first time. If you go back a century, almost exactly a century, the end of the First World War, there were hundreds of thousands of people starving to death in Syria. Proportionally, proportional to the population, it’s likely that more Syrians died in the First World War than any other belligerent. Syria did revive, and it can revive again.

AMY GOODMAN: What about Saudi Arabia, both in the context of Syria, the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, and how much control Saudi Arabia has over this situation, not to mention what’s happening right now in Yemen, the U.S.-supported Saudi strikes in Yemen? But start with Syria.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, there’s a long history. The basic—we don’t have a lot of time, but the basic story is that the United States, like Britain before it, has tended to support radical Islamism against secular nationalism. That’s been a consistent theme of imperial strategy for a long time. Saudi Arabia is the center of radical Islamic extremism. Patrick Cockburn, one of the best commentators and most knowledgeable commentators, has correctly pointed out that what he calls the Wahhibisation of Sunni Islam, the spread of Saudi extremist Wahhabi doctrine over Sunni Islam, the Sunni world, is one of the real disasters of modern—of the modern era. It’s a source of not only funding for extremist radical Islam and the jihadi outgrowths of it, but also, doctrinally, mosques, clerics and so on, schools, you know, madrassas, where you study just Qur’an, is spreading all over the huge Sunni areas from Saudi influence. And it continues.

Saudi Arabia itself has one of the most grotesque human rights records in the world. The ISIS beheadings, which shock everyone—I think Saudi Arabia is the only country where you have regular beheadings. That’s the least of it. Women have no—can’t drive, so on and so forth. And it is strongly backed by the United States and its allies, Britain and France. Reason? It’s got a lot of oil. It’s got a lot of money. You can sell them a lot of arms, I think tens of billions of dollars of arms. And the actions that it’s carrying out, for example, in Yemen, which you mentioned, are causing an immense humanitarian catastrophe in a pretty poor country, also stimulating jihadi terrorism, naturally, with U.S. and also British arms. French are trying to get into it, as well. This is a very ugly story.

Saudi Arabia—Saudi Arabia itself, its economy—its economy is based not only on a wasting resource, but a resource which is destroying the world. There’s reports now that it’s trying to take some steps to—much belated steps; should have been 50 years ago—to try to diversify the economy. It does have resources that are not destructive, like sunlight, for example, which could be used, and is, to an extent, being used for solar power. But it’s way too late and probably can’t be done. But it’s a—it has been a serious source of major global problems—a horrible society in itself, in many ways—and the U.S. and its allies, and Britain before it, have stimulated these radical Islamist developments throughout the—throughout the Islamic world for a long time.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Obama has dealt with Saudi Arabia any differently than President Bush before him?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Not in any way that I can see, no. Maybe in nuances.

AMY GOODMAN: What about what’s happening right now in Brazil, where protests are continuing over the Legislature’s vote to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and put her on trial? Now El Salvador has refused to recognize the new Brazilian government. The Brazilian—the Salvadoran president, Cerén, said Rousseff’s ouster had, quote, “the appearance of a coup d’état.” What’s happening there? And what about the difference between—it looked like perhaps Bush saved Latin America simply by not focusing on it, totally wrapped up in Iraq and Afghanistan. It looks like the Obama administration is paying a bit more attention.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I don’t think it’s just a matter of not paying attention. Latin America has, to a significant extent, liberated itself from foreign—meaning mostly U.S.—domination in the past 10 or 15 years. That’s a dramatic development in world affairs. It’s the first time in 500 years. It’s a big change. So the so-called lack of attention is partly the fact that the U.S. is kind of being driven out of the hemisphere, less that it can do. It used to be able to overthrow governments, carry out coups at will and so on. It tries. There have been three—maybe it depends how you count them—coups, coup attempts this century. One in Venezuela in 2002 succeeded for a couple of days, backed by the U.S., overthrown by popular reaction. A second in Haiti, 2004, succeeded. The U.S. and France—Canada helped—kidnapped the president, sent him off to Central Africa, won’t permit his party to run in elections. That was a successful coup. Honduras, under Obama, there was a military coup, overthrew a reformist president. The United States was almost alone in pretty much legitimizing the coup, you know, claiming that the elections under the coup regime were legitimate. Honduras, always a very poor, repressed society, became a total horror chamber. Huge flow of refugees, we throw them back in the border, back to the violence, which we helped create. Paraguay, there was a kind of a semi-coup. What’s happening—also to get rid of a progressive priest who was running the country briefly.

What’s happening in Brazil now is extremely unfortunate in many ways. First of all, there has been a massive level of corruption. Regrettably, the Workers’ Party, Lula’s party, which had a real opportunity to achieve something extremely significant, and did make some considerable positive changes, nevertheless joined the rest—the traditional elite in just wholesale robbery. And that should—that should be punished. On the other hand, what’s happening now, what you quoted from El Salvador, I think, is pretty accurate. It’s a kind of a soft coup. The elite detested the Workers’ Party and is using this opportunity to get rid of the party that won the elections. They’re not waiting for the elections, which they’d probably lose, but they want to get rid of it, exploiting an economic recession, which is serious, and the massive corruption that’s been exposed. But as even The New York Times pointed out, Dilma Rousseff is maybe the one politician who hasn’t—leading politician who hasn’t stolen in order to benefit herself. She’s being charged with manipulations in the budget, which are pretty standard in many countries, taking from one pocket and putting it into another. Maybe it’s a misdeed of some kind, but certainly doesn’t justify impeachment. In fact, she’s—we have the one leading politician who hasn’t stolen to enrich herself, who’s being impeached by a gang of thieves, who have done so. That does count as a kind of soft coup. I think that’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to move back to the United States, to the issue of the Republican Party and what you see happening there, the Republican establishment fiercely opposed to the presumptive nominee. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen anything like this, although that could be changing. Can you talk about the significance—I mean, you have Sheldon Adelson, who is now saying he will pour, what, tens of millions of dollars into Donald Trump. You have the Koch brothers—I think it was Charles Koch saying he could possibly see supporting Hillary Clinton, if that were the choice, with Donald Trump. What is happening?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, first of all, the phenomenon that we’ve just seen is an extreme version of something that’s been going on just for years in the Republican primaries. Take a look back at the preceding ones. Every time a candidate came up from the base—Bachmann, McCain, Santorum, Huckabee, one crazier than the other—every time one rose from the base, the Republican establishment sought to beat them down and get their own—get their own man—you know, Romney. And they succeeded, until this year. This year the same thing happened, and they didn’t succeed. The pressure from the base was too great for them to beat it back. Now, that’s the disaster that the Republican establishment sees. But the phenomenon goes way back. And it has roots. It’s kind of like jihadis: You have to ask about the roots.

What are the roots? The Republican—both political parties have shifted to the right during the neoliberal period—the period, you know, since Reagan, goes back to late Carter, escalated under Reagan—during this period, which has been a period of stagnation and decline for much of the population in many ways—wages, benefits, security and so on—along with enormous wealth concentrated in a tiny fraction of the population, mostly financial institutions, which are—have a dubious, if not harmful, role on the economy. This has been going on for a generation. And while this has been happening, there’s a kind of a vicious cycle. You have more concentration of wealth, concentration of political power, legislation to increase concentration of wealth and power, and so on, that while that’s been going on, much of the population has simply been cast aside. The white working class is bitter and angry, for lots of reasons, including these. The minority populations were hit very hard by the Clinton destruction of the welfare system and the incarceration rules. They still tend to support the Democrats, but tepidly, because the alternative is worse, and they’re taking a kind of pragmatic stand.

But while the parties have shifted to—but the parties have shifted so far to the right that the—today’s mainstream Democrats are pretty much what used to be called moderate Republicans. Now, the Republicans are just off the spectrum. They have been correctly described by leading conservative commentators, like Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, as just what they call a radical insurgency, which has abandoned parliamentary politics. And they don’t even try to conceal it. Like as soon as Obama was elected, Mitch McConnell said, pretty much straight out, “We have only one policy: make the country ungovernable, and then maybe we can somehow get power again.” That’s just off the spectrum.

Now, the actual policies of the Republicans, whether it’s Paul Ryan or Donald Trump, to the extent that he’s coherent, Ted Cruz, you pick him, or the establishment, is basically enrich and empower the very rich and the very powerful and the corporate sector. You cannot get votes that way. So therefore the Republicans have been compelled to turn to sectors of the population that can be mobilized and organized on other grounds, kind of trying to put to the side the actual policies, hoping, the establishment hopes, that the white working class will be mobilized to vote for their bitter class enemies, who want to shaft them in every way, by appealing to something else, like so-called social conservatism—you know, abortion rights, racism, nationalism and so on. And to some extent, that’s happened. That’s the kind of thing that Fritz Stern was referring to in the article that I mentioned about Germany’s collapse, this descent into barbarism. So what you have is a voting base consisting of evangelical Christians, ultranationalists, racists, disaffected, angry, white working-class sectors that have been hit very hard, that are—you know, not by Third World standards, but by First World standards, we even have the remarkable phenomenon of an increase in mortality among these sectors, that just doesn’t happen in developed societies. All of that is a voting base. It does produce candidates who terrify the corporate, wealthy, elite establishment. In the past, they’ve been able to beat them down. This time they aren’t doing it. And that’s what’s happening to the so-called Republican Party.

We should recognize—if we were honest, we would say something that sounds utterly shocking and no doubt will be taken out of context and lead to hysteria on the part of the usual suspects, but the fact of the matter is that today’s Republican Party qualify as candidates for the most dangerous organization in human history. Literally. Just take their position on the two major issues that face us: climate change, nuclear war. On climate change, it’s not even debatable. They’re saying, “Let’s race to the precipice. Let’s make sure that our grandchildren have the worst possible life.” On nuclear war, they’re calling for increased militarization. It’s already way too high, more than half the discretionary budget. “Let’s shoot it up.” They cut back other resources by cutting back taxes on the rich, so there’s nothing left. There’s been nothing this—literally, this dangerous, if you think about it, to the species, really, ever. We should face that.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that President Obama has intensified this threat, I mean, now with the trillion-dollar plan to, quote, “modernize” the nuclear arsenal?

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s a very bad step. And it’s not just modernizing the arsenal, which ought to be reduced. Worth remembering we have even a legal obligation to cut back and, ultimately, eliminate nuclear weapons. But it’s also something you mentioned earlier: developing these small nuclear weapons. Sounds kind of nice. They’re small, not big. It’s the opposite. Small nuclear weapons provide a temptation to use them, figuring, “Well, it’s only a small weapon, so it won’t destroy, you know, a whole city.” But as soon as you use a small nuclear weapon, chances of retaliation escalate pretty sharply. And that means you could pretty soon be in a situation where you’re having a real nuclear exchange, pretty well known now that that would lead to a nuclear winter, which would make life essentially impossible.

AMY GOODMAN: As President Obama heads to Hiroshima, do you think he should be apologizing for the only nuclear bombs, atomic bombs, dropped in the world, the U.S. dropping them, launching the nuclear age, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in ’45?

NOAM CHOMSKY: I thought—I mean, I’m old enough to remember it. And that day was just the—maybe the grimmest day I can remember. Then came something even worse: the bombing of Nagasaki, mainly to try to test a new weapon design. These are real horror stories. The carpet—the bombing, firebombing of Japanese cities a couple months earlier was not that much better, Tokyo especially. We might even recall that there was what was called a grand finale in the Air Force history. After the two atom bombs, after Russia had entered the war, which ended any Japanese hope for any kind of—any hope that they had for any sort of negotiated settlement, after that—it was all over—after Japan had officially surrendered, though before it had been made public, after that, the U.S. organized a thousand-plane raid, which was a big logistic feat, to bomb Japanese cities to kind of show the “Japs” who was on top, and survivors, so like Makoto Oda, a well-known Japanese writer who recently died, reported that as a child in Osaka, he remembers bombs falling along with leaflets saying, “Japan has surrendered.” Now, that was not a lethal bombing, but it was a brutal one, a brutal sign of brutality. All of these events call for serious rethinking—yes, apology, but mainly serious rethinking of just what we’re up to in the world.

And remember that this goes on. Those were small bombs by today’s standard. If you look at the record since, since 1945, it’s an absolute miracle that we’ve survived. New examples are discovered all the time. Just a couple of months ago, it was revealed that in 1979, last Carter year, the U.S. automated detection systems sent a—determined that there was a major Russian missile attack against the United States. Protocol is, this goes to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, they evaluate it, goes to the national security adviser—Zbigniew Brzezinski at the time—and he notifies the president. Brzezinski was actually on the phone, ready to call Carter to launch a nuclear attack, which means the Doomsday Clock goes to midnight, on the phone when they received information saying that it was a false alarm, another of the hundreds, if not thousands, of false alarms. On the Russian side, there are probably many more, because their equipment is much worse. These things happen constantly. And to play games with escalating the nuclear arsenal, when it should be reduced, sharply reduced—I mean, even people like Henry Kissinger, George Shultz and so on, are calling for elimination of nuclear weapons. To escalate and modernize at this point is just really criminal, in my opinion.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your overall assessment of the Obama administration?

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s about what I thought before he—before the 2008 primaries, when I wrote about him just based on the information in his web page. I didn’t expect anything. I expected mostly rhetoric and—you know, nice rhetoric, good speaker and so on, but nothing much in the way of action. I don’t usually agree with Sarah Palin, but when she was ridiculing this—what she called this “hopey-changey stuff,” she had a point. There were a few good things. You know, there were a few good things in the W. Bush administration. But opportunities that were available, especially in the first two years when he had Congress with him, just were not used. And some—it’s—by the standards of U.S. presidential politics, it’s kind of nothing special either way, nothing to rave about, certainly.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the passing of Michael Ratner, Michael Ratner, the former head of the—or the late head of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the trailblazing human rights attorney, who died last week at the age of 72. I had interviewed Michael last year in Washington, D.C., at the reopening of the Cuban Embassy, after it was closed for more than five decades. And I asked Michael to talk about the significance of this historic day. This is an excerpt of what he said.

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, Amy, let’s just say, other than the birth of my children, this is perhaps one of the most exciting days of my life. I mean, I’ve been working on Cuba since the early ’70s, if not before. I worked on the Venceremos Brigade. I went on brigades. I did construction. And to see that this can actually happen in a country that decided early on that, unlike most countries in the world, it was going to level the playing field for everyone—no more rich, no more poor, everyone the same, education for everyone, schooling for everyone, housing if they could—and to see the relentless United States go against it, from the Bay of Pigs to utter subversion on and on, and to see Cuba emerge victorious—and when I say that, this is not a defeated country. This is a country—if you heard the foreign minister today, what he spoke of was the history of U.S. imperialism against Cuba, from the intervention in the Spanish-American War to the Platt Amendment, which made U.S. a permanent part of the Cuban government, to the taking of Guantánamo, to the failure to recognize it in 1959, to the cutting off of relations in 1961. This is a major, major victory for the Cuban people, and that should be understood. We are standing at a moment that I never expected to see in our history.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Michael Ratner. It was July [20th]. It was that historic day in Washington, D.C., when the Cuban Embassy was opened after almost half a century. If you could talk both about the significance of Michael Ratner, from his work around Guantánamo, ultimately challenging the habeas corpus rights of Guantánamo prisoners, that they should have their day in court, and winning this case in the Supreme Court, to all of his work, also talk about Cuba, Noam, something that you certainly take on in your new book, Who Rules the World?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, Michael Ratner has an absolutely fabulous record. His achievements have been enormous. A tremendous courage, intelligence, dedication. A lot of achievement against huge odds. The center, which he largely—it was a major—he ran and was a major actor in, has done wonderful work all over the place—Cuba and lots of other things. So I can’t be excessive in my praise for what he achieved in his life and the inspiration that it should leave us with.

With regard to Cuba-U.S. relations, I think what he just said is essentially accurate. In fact, it’s even worse than that. We tend to forget that after the Bay of Pigs, the Kennedy administration was practically in a state of hysteria and seeking to somehow avenge themselves against this upstart who was carrying out what the government called successful defiance of U.S. policies going back to the Monroe Doctrine. How can we tolerate that? Kennedy authorized a major terrorist war against Cuba. The goal was to bring “the terrors of the earth” to Cuba. That’s the phrase of his associate Arthur Schlesinger, historian Arthur Schlesinger, in his biography of Robert Kennedy. Robert Kennedy was given the responsibility to bring “the terrors of the earth” to Cuba. And it was—he in fact described it as one of the prime goals of government, is to ensure that we terrorize Cuba. And it was pretty serious. Thousands of people were killed, petrochemical plants, other industrial installations blown up. Russian ships in the Havana Harbor were attacked. You can imagine what would happen if American ships were attacked. It was probably connected with poisoning of crops and livestock, can’t be certain. It went on into the 1990s, though not at that—not at the extreme level of the Kennedy years, but pretty bad. The late ’70s, there was an upsurge, blowing up of a Cubana airliner, 73 people killed. The culprits are living happily in Miami. One of them died. The other, Luis Posada, major terrorist, is cheerfully living there.

The taking over of southeastern Cuba back—at the time of the Platt Amendment, the U.S. had absolutely no claim to this territory, none whatsoever. We’re holding onto it just in order—it’s a major U.S. military base—it was. But we’re holding onto it simply to impede the development of Cuba, a major port, and to have a dumping place where we can send—illegally send Haitian refugees, claiming that they’re economic refugees, when they’re fleeing from the terror of the Haitian junta that we supported—Clinton, incidentally, in this case—or just as a torture chamber. Now, there’s a lot of talk about human rights violations in Cuba. Yeah, there are human rights violations in Cuba. By far the worst of them, overwhelmingly, are in the part of Cuba that we illegally hold—you know, technically, legally. We took it at the force of a gun, so it’s—point of a gun, so it’s legal. I mean, in comparison with this, whatever you think of Putin’s annexation of Crimea is minor in comparison with this.

All of this is correct, but we have to ask: Why did the U.S. decide to normalize relations with Cuba? The way it’s presented here, it was a historic act of magnanimity by the Obama administration. As he, himself, put it, and commentators echoed, “We have tried for 50 years to bring democracy and freedom to Cuba. The methods we used didn’t work, so we’ll try another method.” Reality? No, we tried for 50 years to bring terror, violence and destruction to Cuba, not just the terrorist war, but the crushing embargo. When the Russians disappeared from the scene, instead of—you know, the pretense was, “Well, it’s because of the Russians.” When they disappeared from the scene, how did we react, under Clinton? By making the embargo harsher. Clinton outflanked George H.W. Bush from the right, in harsh—during the electoral campaign, in harshness against Cuba. It was Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, who initiated the legislation. Later became worse with Helms-Burton. All of this has been—that’s how we tried to bring democracy and freedom to Cuba.

Why the change? Because the United States was being driven out of the hemisphere. You take a look at the hemispheric meetings, which are symbol of it. Latin America used to be just the backyard. They do what you tell them. If they don’t do it, we throw them out and put in someone else. No more. Not in the last 10, 20 years. There was a hemispheric meeting in Cartagena, in Colombia. I think it was—must have been 2012, when the U.S. was isolated. U.S. and Canada were completely isolated from the rest of the hemisphere on two issues. One was admission of Cuba into hemispheric systems. The second was the drug war, which Latin America are essentially the victims of the drug war. The demand is here. Actually, even the supply of weapons into Mexico is largely here. But they’re the ones who suffer from it. They want to change it. They want to move in various ways towards decriminalization, other measures. U.S. opposed. Canada opposed. It was pretty clear at that time that at the next hemispheric meeting, which was going to be in Panama, if the U.S. still maintained its position on these two issues, the hemisphere would just go along without the United States. Now, there already are hemispheric institutions, like CELAC, UNASUR for South America, which exclude the United States, and it would just move in that direction. So, Obama bowed to the pressure of reality and agreed to make—to accept the demand to—the overwhelming demand to move slowly towards normalization of relations with Cuba. Not a magnanimous gesture of courage to bring Cuba—to protect Cuba from its isolation, to save them from their isolation; quite the opposite, to save the United States from its isolation. Of course, with the rest of the world, there’s not even any question. Take a look at the annual votes on—the U.N. has annual votes on the U.S. embargo, and just overwhelming. I think the last one was something like 180 to two—United States and Israel. It’s been increasing like that for years. So, that’s the background.

As for Michael, Michael Ratner, his achievements are just really spectacular.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Noam, you’ve just written this book, Who Rules the World? You’ve written more than a hundred other books. And, I mean, you have been a deep, profound thinker and activist on world issues, for what? I mean, more than 70 years. You were writing when you were 14 years old, giving your analysis of what’s been happening. And I’m wondering where you think we stand today, if you agree with—well, with Dr. Martin Luther King, that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Actually, it was 10 years old, but not—nothing to rave about. If you look over the past, say, the roughly 75 years of my, more or less, consciousness, it’s—in general, I think the arc of history has been bending towards justice. There have been many improvements, some of them pretty dramatic—women’s rights, for example, to an extent, civil rights. It should be remembered that there were literally lynchings in the South until the early 1950s. It’s not beautiful now, but that’s not happening. There have been steps forward. Opposition to aggression is much higher than it was in the past. There’s finally concern for environmental issues, which are really of desperate necessity. All of this is slow, halting, significant steps bending the arc of history in the right way.

There’s been regression, a lot of regression. Things don’t move smoothly. But there have been bad periods before, and we’ve pulled out of them. I think there are opportunities—they’re not huge, but they’re real—to overcome the—and I stress again—to overcome problems that the human species has never faced in its roughly 200,000 years of existence, problems of, literally, survival. We’ve already answered these questions for a huge number of species: We’ve killed them off.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he’s taught for more than 50 years. His latest book is Who Rules the World? This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

 

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,200 stations in North America. She is the co-author of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times best-seller.

 

http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/chomsky-gop?akid=14287.125622.Dmhf85&rd=1&src=newsletter1057028&t=12

The Virus of GOP Ignorance: Why Don’t Media Protect Us From the Lies Spewed in the Republican Primary?

The Nation [1] / By Eric Alterman [2] posted on Alternet.org, November 23, 2011

The following article first appeared on the Web site of the Nation [3]. For more great content from the Nation, sign up for its email newsletters. [4] 

Excerpt

The Virus of GOP Ignorance: Why Don’t Media Protect Us From the Lies Spewed in the Republican Primary? By Eric Alterman, The Nation, November 23, 2011
It is a symbol of our current political predicament that anytime anyone tells the truth about anything in the contest for the Republican nomination, a new scandal erupts…

The respectful response of the media to the batshit-crazy statements one hears from the second-tier Republican candidates…is doing definite damage to this country…

Gingrich…Cain and Bachmann…Pretending that these people might be president, and hence deserve to be treated as if what they say is true, is not merely unjustified—given that the nominee is almost certain to be Romney—but akin to playing accessory to a kind of ongoing intellectually criminal activity.

In their new book, The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age, Randall Stephens and Karl Giberson explain the nature of intellectual insularity of so many in this world, in which “the teachings of dubiously credentialed leaders are favored over the word of secular experts in the arts and sciences.”…

The authors describe “what amounts to a ‘parallel culture,’” where people like alleged “historian” David Barton… abd psychologist James Dobson…proffer phony-baloney history lessons that distort almost everything professional historians know to be true about America’s founders.
Reporters representing reliable media outlets are supposed to defend the discourse from the virus of this ignorance. But for a variety of reasons they no longer do so. Part of the explanation can be found in the foolish willingness of so many reporters to treat Fox News, Drudge and various talk-radio hosts as respectable voices in the debate without regard to their motives or qualifications. A second, no less significant problem is the tendency of even the most sophisticated political reporters to treat the entire process as a contest between rival teams and ignore the substance of their arguments and policies, as if politics were simply a spectator sport…
Speaking of these Tea Party–inspired “candidates,” reformed right-winger David Frum writes that a “political movement that never took governing seriously was exploited by a succession of political entrepreneurs uninterested in governing—but all too interested in merchandising….these tea-party champions provide a ghoulish type of news entertainment each time they reveal that they know nothing about public affairs and have never attempted to learn.”

Full text

It is a symbol of our current political predicament that anytime anyone tells the truth about anything in the contest for the Republican nomination, a new scandal erupts. Newt Gingrich was briefly drummed out of the Republican Party for accurately terming Paul Ryan’s destructive Medicare plan a “radical” step toward “right-wing social engineering.” Jon Huntsman caused virtually the only stir of his all-but-invisible campaign when he admitted to what the Salt Lake Tribune straight-facedly called the “politically dicey belief that climate change is human-caused and needs to be addressed.” And most recently, CBS’s John Dickerson caused a contretemps when a stray e-mail revealed that Michele Bachmann was “not going to get many questions” in the debate the network was sponsoring because “she’s nearly off the charts.”

Being a member of the MSM in good standing, Dickerson was in all likelihood referring to Bachmann’s poll position rather than her approach to reality, and uncharacteristically for this race, they happen to be pretty much perfectly proportional. Bachmann has long been loony, but it has been her poll standing that has determined the treatment she has received from the press.

The respectful response of the media to the batshit-crazy statements one hears from the second-tier Republican candidates—candidates who occasionally rise to the first tier and then just as quickly sink down again, having never been serious contenders in the first place—is doing definite damage to this country. How many credulous Americans may have decided to shun the HPV vaccine for their daughters after hearing Bachmann’s nutty suggestion that it causes mental retardation? What of the insistence of that ignorant idiot Herman Cain that the “objective” purpose of Planned Parenthood’s founding was to “kill black babies before they came into the world. It’s planned genocide.” Now we’ve got a new front-runner, Gingrich, who holds, among other crazy notions, that the Obama administration’s “secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did,” when his diseased brain is not focusing on his moronic (and racist) contention that “only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together” the inspiration for Obama’s foreign policies.

Gingrich is the man of the hour, as amazing and ridiculous as that may be. Like Cain and Bachmann, he is a better bet for a rubber room somewhere than the Oval Office. But this fact—obvious to anyone who’s paying attention—does not stop various media machers from pretending long enough to fly his ideological freak flag for him for millions of Americans. When, writing in the Washington Post, Pulitzer Prize–winning pundit Kathleen Parker describes “the sudden surge of Gingrich, who, whatever his flaws and despite the weight of his considerable baggage, is no intellectual slouch,” and says he “may be just the ticket”—well, one is left speechless. Pretending that these people might be president, and hence deserve to be treated as if what they say is true, is not merely unjustified—given that the nominee is almost certain to be Romney—but akin to playing accessory to a kind of ongoing intellectually criminal activity.

In their new book, The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age, Randall Stephens and Karl Giberson explain the nature of intellectual insularity of so many in this world, in which “the teachings of dubiously credentialed leaders are favored over the word of secular experts in the arts and sciences.” Considering the example of evolution, they write, “Anointed leaders convince their followers to reject evolution by undermining the credibility of the scientific community. The resulting widespread distrust of the scientific community—often portrayed as atheistic, anti-religious, ideological—undermines the credibility of everything the scientific community says, including its conclusions about climate change, the dangers of fracking, the importance of ecosystems, the need for vaccinating children, and so on.”

The authors describe “what amounts to a ‘parallel culture,’” where people like alleged “historian” David Barton (whose formal education consists of a degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University) and psychologist James Dobson (tennis team captain at what is now Point Loma Nazarene University) proffer phony-baloney history lessons that distort almost everything professional historians know to be true about America’s founders.

Reporters representing reliable media outlets are supposed to defend the discourse from the virus of this ignorance. But for a variety of reasons they no longer do so. Part of the explanation can be found in the foolish willingness of so many reporters to treat Fox News, Drudge and various talk-radio hosts as respectable voices in the debate without regard to their motives or qualifications. A second, no less significant problem is the tendency of even the most sophisticated political reporters to treat the entire process as a contest between rival teams and ignore the substance of their arguments and policies, as if politics were simply a spectator sport with fewer (and perhaps crazier) fans than the Mets or the Red Sox.

Speaking of these Tea Party–inspired “candidates,” reformed right-winger David Frum writes that a “political movement that never took governing seriously was exploited by a succession of political entrepreneurs uninterested in governing—but all too interested in merchandising. Much as viewers tune in to American Idol to laugh at the inept, borderline dysfunctional early auditions, these tea-party champions provide a ghoulish type of news entertainment each time they reveal that they know nothing about public affairs and have never attempted to learn.”


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/story/153198/the_virus_of_gop_ignorance%3A_why_don%27t_media_protect_us_from_the_lies_spewed_in_the_republican_primary

Links:
[1] http://www.thenation.com
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/eric-alterman
[3] http://www.thenation.com/
[4] http://www.thenation.com/nation-email-subscription-center
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/romney-0
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/bachmann-0
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/newt
[8] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

The G.O.P.’s Existential Crisis

By PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times, December 13, 2012

Excerpt

We are not hav­ing a debt crisis…The U.S. gov­ern­ment is hav­ing no trou­ble bor­row­ing to cover its deficit. In fact, its bor­row­ing costs are near his­toric lows…what we’re hav­ing is a polit­i­cal cri­sis, born of the fact that one of our two great polit­i­cal par­ties has reached the end of a 30-year road. The mod­ern Repub­li­can Party’s grand, rad­i­cal agenda lies in ruins — but the party doesn’t know how to deal with that fail­ure, and it retains enough power to do immense dam­age as it strikes out in frustration…So Repub­li­cans have suf­fered more than an elec­tion defeat, they’ve seen the col­lapse of a decades-long project. And with their grandiose goals now out of reach, they lit­er­ally have no idea what they want — hence their inabil­ity to make spe­cific demands…It’s a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion. The G.O.P. is lost and rud­der­less, bit­ter and angry, but it still con­trols the House and, there­fore, retains the abil­ity to do a lot of harm, as it lashes out in the death throes of the con­ser­v­a­tive dream…

Full text

We are not having a debt crisis.

It’s important to make this point, because I keep seeing articles about the “fiscal cliff” that do, in fact, describe it — often in the headline — as a debt crisis. But it isn’t. The U.S. government is having no trouble borrowing to cover its deficit. In fact, its borrowing costs are near historic lows. And even the confrontation over the debt ceiling that looms a few months from now if we do somehow manage to avoid going over the fiscal cliff isn’t really about debt.

No, what we’re having is a political crisis, born of the fact that one of our two great political parties has reached the end of a 30-year road. The modern Republican Party’s grand, radical agenda lies in ruins — but the party doesn’t know how to deal with that failure, and it retains enough power to do immense damage as it strikes out in frustration.

Before I talk about that reality, a word about the current state of budget “negotiations.”

Why the scare quotes? Because these aren’t normal negotiations in which each side presents specific proposals, and horse-trading proceeds until the two sides converge. By all accounts, Republicans have, so far, offered almost no specifics. They claim that they’re willing to raise $800 billion in revenue by closing loopholes, but they refuse to specify which loopholes they would close; they are demanding large cuts in spending, but the specific cuts they have been willing to lay out wouldn’t come close to delivering the savings they demand.

It’s a very peculiar situation. In effect, Republicans are saying to President Obama, “Come up with something that will make us happy.” He is, understandably, not willing to play that game. And so the talks are stuck.

Why won’t the Republicans get specific? Because they don’t know how. The truth is that, when it comes to spending, they’ve been faking it all along — not just in this election, but for decades. Which brings me to the nature of the current G.O.P. crisis.

Since the 1970s, the Republican Party has fallen increasingly under the influence of radical ideologues, whose goal is nothing less than the elimination of the welfare state — that is, the whole legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society. From the beginning, however, these ideologues have had a big problem: The programs they want to kill are very popular. Americans may nod their heads when you attack big government in the abstract, but they strongly support Social Security, Medicare, and even Medicaid. So what’s a radical to do?

The answer, for a long time, has involved two strategies. One is “starve the beast,” the idea of using tax cuts to reduce government revenue, then using the resulting lack of funds to force cuts in popular social programs. Whenever you see some Republican politician piously denouncing federal red ink, always remember that, for decades, the G.O.P. has seen budget deficits as a feature, not a bug.

Arguably more important in conservative thinking, however, was the notion that the G.O.P. could exploit other sources of strength — white resentment, working-class dislike of social change, tough talk on national security — to build overwhelming political dominance, at which point the dismantling of the welfare state could proceed freely. Just eight years ago, Grover Norquist, the antitax activist, looked forward cheerfully to the days when Democrats would be politically neutered: “Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they’ve been fixed, then they are happy and sedate.”

O.K., you see the problem: Democrats didn’t go along with the program, and refused to give up. Worse, from the Republican point of view, all of their party’s sources of strength have turned into weaknesses. Democratic dominance among Hispanics has overshadowed Republican dominance among southern whites; women’s rights have trumped the politics of abortion and antigay sentiment; and guess who finally did get Osama bin Laden.

And look at where we are now in terms of the welfare state: far from killing it, Republicans now have to watch as Mr. Obama implements the biggest expansion of social insurance since the creation of Medicare.

So Republicans have suffered more than an election defeat, they’ve seen the collapse of a decades-long project. And with their grandiose goals now out of reach, they literally have no idea what they want — hence their inability to make specific demands.

It’s a dangerous situation. The G.O.P. is lost and rudderless, bitter and angry, but it still controls the House and, therefore, retains the ability to do a lot of harm, as it lashes out in the death throes of the conservative dream.

Our best hope is that business interests will use their influence to limit the damage. But the odds are that the next few years will be very, very ugly.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/14/opinion/krugman-the-gops-existential-crisis.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121214&_r=0

The Fascinating Story of How Shameless Right-Wing Lies Came to Rule Our Politics

By Rick Perlstein [2], article first appeared in Mother Jones [1], posted on Alternet.org, May 26, 2011

Excerpt

It takes two things to make a political lie work: a powerful person or institution willing to utter it, and another set of powerful institutions to amplify it. The former has always been with us…So why does it seem as if we’re living in a time of overwhelmingly brazen deception? What’s changed?…a network of media enablers helps it to make a sound — until enough people believe the untruth to make the lie an operative part of our political discourse.

…right-wing ideologues “lie without consequence,” as a desperate Vincent Foster put it in his suicide note nearly two decades ago. But they only succeed because they are amplified by “balanced” outlets that frame each smear as just another he-said-she-said “controversy.”…What’s new is the way the liars and their enablers now work hand in glove. That I call a mendocracy, and it is the regime that governs us now.

Full text

It takes two things to make a political lie work: a powerful person or institution willing to utter it, and another set of powerful institutions to amplify it. The former has always been with us: Kings, corporate executives, politicians, and ideologues from both sides of the aisle have been entirely willing to bend the truth when they felt it necessary or convenient. So why does it seem as if we’re living in a time of overwhelmingly brazen deception? What’s changed?

Today’s marquee fibs almost always evolve the same way: A tree falls in the forest — say, the claim that Saddam Hussein has “weapons of mass destruction,” or that Barack Obama has an infernal scheme to parade our nation’s senior citizens before death panels. But then a network of media enablers helps it to make a sound — until enough people believe the untruth to make the lie an operative part of our political discourse.

For the past 15 years, I’ve spent much of my time deeply researching three historic periods — the birth of the modern conservative movement around the Barry Goldwater campaign, the Nixon era, and the Reagan years — that together have shaped the modern political lie. Here’s how we got to where we are.

PROLOGUE: Just Making Stuff Up

When an explosion sunk the USS Maine [5] off the coast of Havana on February 15, 1898, the New YorkJournal claimed two days later, “Maine Destroyed By Spanish: This Proved Absolutely By Discovery of the Torpedo Hole.” There was no torpedo hole [6]. The Journal had already claimed that a Spanish armored cruiser, “capable, naval men say, of demolishing the great part ofNew York in less than two hours,” was on its way. “WAR! SURE!” a banner headline announced.

The instigator was a politically ambitious publisher, William Randolph Hearst [7]. Kicked out of Harvard for partying, and eager to make a name for himself outside the shadow of his mining-magnate father, he made his way to New York, where he led the way in a sensationalist new style of newspaper publication — “yellow journalism.” In a fearsome rivalry with Joseph Pulitzer [8], he chose as his vehicle the sort of manly imperialism to which theWashington elites of the day were certainly sympathetic — although far too cautiously for Hearst’s taste. “You furnish the pictures,” he supposedly telegraphed a reporter, “and I’ll furnish the war.” The tail wagged the dog. At a time when the only way to communicate rapidly across long distances was via telegraph, it proved easy to make up physical facts.

More than six decades later, that still seemed to be the case. “Some of our boys are floating around in the water,” Lyndon Johnson told congressmen to goad them into passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution [9] authorizing war in 1964, after a supposed attack on an American PT boat. “Hell, those dumb stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish,” LBJ observed later, after the deed was done. That resolution inaugurated a decade of official American military activities in Southeast Asia (unofficially, we had been carrying out secret acts of war for years). A full-scale air war began the following February, after the enemy shelled the barracks of 23,000 American “advisers” [10] in a South Vietnamese town called Pleiku. But that was just a pretext. “Pleikus are like streetcars,” LBJ’s national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, said — if you miss one, you can always just hop on another. The bombing targets had been in the can for months, even as LBJ was telling voters on the campaign trail [11], “We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”

It would have been possible all along for some intrepid soul to drop the dime on the whole thing. There were many who knew or suspected the truth, but with a villain as universally feared as communism was during the Cold War years, denying the facts felt like the only patriotic thing to do.

Then everything changed.

The ’70s: Question Authority

Walter Cronkite traveled to Saigon after the Tet Offensive in 1968, saw things with his own eyes, and told the truth: The Vietnam War was stuck in a disastrous stalemate, no matter what the government said. That was a watershed. By 1969, none other than former Marine Commandant David M. Shoup endorsed a book on the war called Truth Is the First Casualty [12]. In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers [13], the Department of Defense study that plainly revealed that just about everything Americans had been told about Southeast Asia was flat-out untrue. When the Nixon administration ordered the newspapers not to publish the Papers, Supreme Court Justice Hugo* [14] Black thundered back [15] that “for the first time in the 182 years since the founding of the Republic, the federal courts are asked to hold that the First Amendment does not mean what it says.” The searing melodrama of the Watergate investigation exposed new Nixon lies every day.

America, it seemed, had had enough. In the mid-’70s, the investigating committees of Sen. Frank Church and Rep. Otis Pike revealed to a riveted public [16] that the CIA had secretly assassinated foreign leaders and the FBI had spied on citizens. Ralph Nader became a celebrity by exposing corporate lies. The mood of the Cold War had been steeped in American exceptionalism: The things America did were noble because they were done by America. Now, it appeared that America just might be susceptible to the same cruel compromises and corruptions as every other empire the world has known. Truth-telling became patriotic — and the more highly placed the liar, the more heroic the whistleblower.

The investigative reporter became a sexy new kind of hero — a shaggy-haired loner, too inquisitive for his own good, played by Warren Beatty [17] and Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman [18]. Jimmy Carter, the peanut farmer from Plains, swooped in from nowhere to take the White House on the strength of the modest slogan “I’ll never lie to you.” And during his presidency, one of the grand, founding lies of western civilization itself — that there need be no limits to humans’ domination of the Earth — was questioned as never before.

The truth hurt, but the incredible thing was that the citizenry seemed willing to bear the pain. All sorts of American institutions — Congress, municipal governments, even the intelligence community (the daring honesty of CIA Director William Colby [19] about past agency sins was what helped fuel the Church and Pike investigations) — launched searching reconstructions of their normal ways of doing business. Alongside all the disco, the kidnapped heiresses, and the macramé [20], another keynote of 1970s culture was something quite more mature: a willingness to acknowledge that America might no longer be invincible, and that any realistic assessment of how we could prosper and thrive in the future had to reckon with that hard-won lesson.

Then along came Reagan.

The ’80s: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

In researching this period, I’ve been surprised to discover the extent to which Ronald Reagan explicitly built his appeal around the notion that it was time to stop challenging the powerful. A new sort of lie took over: that the villains were not those deceiving the nation, but those exposing the deceit — those, as Reagan put it in his 1980 acceptance speech [21], who “say that the United States has had its day in the sun, that our nation has passed its zenith.” They were just so, so negative. According to the argument Reagan consistently made, Watergate revealed nothing essential about American politicians and institutions — the conspirators “were not criminals at heart [22].” In 1975, upon the humiliating fall of Saigon, he paraphrased Pope Pius XII [23] to make the point that Vietnam had in fact been a noble cause: “America has a genius for great and unselfish deeds. Into the hands of America, God has placed the destiny of an afflicted mankind.”

The Gipper’s inauguration ushered in the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” era of political lying. But it took a deeper trend to accelerate the cultural shift away from truth-telling-as-patriotism to a full-scale epistemological implosion.

Reagan rode into office accompanied by a generation of conservative professional janissaries convinced they were defending civilization against the forces of barbarism. And like many revolutionaries, they possessed an instrumental relationship to the truth: Lies could be necessary and proper, so long as they served the right side of history.

This virulent strain of political utilitarianism was already well apparent by the time the Plumbers were breaking into the Democratic National Committee: “Although I was aware they were illegal,” White House staffer Jeb Stuart Magruder [24] told the Watergate investigating committee, “we had become somewhat inured to using some activities that would help us in accomplishing what we thought was a legitimate cause.”

Even conservatives who were not allied with the White House had learned to think like Watergate conspirators. To them, the takeaway from the scandal was that Nixon had been willing to bend the rules for the cause. The New Right pioneer M. Stanton Evans once told me [25], “I didn’t like Nixon until Watergate.”

Though many in the New Right proclaimed their contempt for Richard Nixon, a number of its key operatives and spokesmen in fact came directly from the Watergate milieu. Two minor Watergate figures, bagman Kenneth Rietz (who ran Fred Thompson’s 2008 presidential campaign [26]) and saboteur Roger Stone [27] (last seen promoting a gubernatorial bid by the woman who claimed to have been Eliot Spitzer’s madam) were rehabilitated into politics through staff positions in Ronald Reagan’s 1976 presidential campaign. G. Gordon Liddy became a right-wing radio superstar.

“We ought to see clearly that the end does justify the means,” wrote evangelist C. Peter Wagner [28] in 1981. “If the method I am using accomplishes the goal I am aiming at, it is for that reason a good method.” Jerry Falwell once said his goal was to destroy the public schools. In 1998, confronted with the quote, he denied making it [29] by claiming he’d had nothing to do with the book in which it appeared. The author of the book was Jerry Falwell.

Direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie made a fortune bombarding grassroots activists with letters shrieking things like “Babies are being harvested and sold on the black market by Planned Parenthood.” As Richard Nixon told his chief of staff on Easter Sunday [30], 1973, “Remember, you’re doing the right thing. That’s what I used to think when I killed some innocent children inHanoi.”

1990-Present: False Equivalencies

Conservatives hardly have a monopoly on dissembling, of course — consider “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Progressives’ response has always been that right-wing mendacity — cover-ups of constitutional violations like Iran-Contra; institutionalized truth-corroding tactics like when the Republican National Committee circulates fliers claiming that Democrats seek to outlaw the Bible [31]– is more systematic. But the deeper problem is a fundamental redefinition of the morality involved: Rather than being celebrated, calling out a lie is now classified as “uncivil.” How did that happen?

Back in the days when network news was the only game in town, grave-faced, gravelly voiced commentators like David Brinkley and Eric Sevareid — and on extraordinary occasions anchors like Walter Cronkite [32]– told people what to think about the passing events of the day. Much of the time, these privileged men unquestioningly passed on the government’s distortions. At their best, however, they used their moral authority to call out lies with a kind of Old Testament authority — think Cronkite reporting from Saigon. It drove Johnson out of office, and it drove the right berserk.

On November 3, 1969, Richard Nixon gave a speech claiming he had a plan to wind down the war. The commentators went on the air immediately afterward and told the truth as they saw it: that he had said nothing new. Ten days later, the White House announced that Vice President Spiro Agnew was about to give a speech that it expected all three networks to cover — live.

The speech was an excoriation of those very networks and their Stern White Men [33]– “this little group of men who not only enjoy a right of instant rebuttal to every presidential address, but more importantly, wield a free hand in selecting, presenting, and interpreting the great issues of our nation…. The American people would rightly not tolerate this kind of concentration of power in government. Is it not fair and relevant to question its concentration in the hands of a tiny and closed fraternity of privileged men, elected by no one, and enjoying a monopoly sanctioned and licensed by government?” Those in the habit of exposing the sins of the powerful were no longer independent arbiters — they were liberals. Such was the bias, Agnew argued, of “commentators and producers [who] live and work in the geographical and intellectual confines of Washington,DC, or New York   City,” who “bask in their own provincialism, their own parochialism.”

Foreshadowing Reagan’s framing of reform-minded truth-telling as a brand of elitist meddling, Agnew singled out for opprobrium the kind of reporting that “made ‘hunger’ and ‘black lung’ disease national issues overnight” (quotation marks his). TV reporting from Vietnam had done “what no other medium could have done in terms of dramatizing the horrors of war” — and that, too, was evidence of liberal bias.

Agnew’s remarks reinforced a mood that had been building since at least the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when many viewers complained about the media images of police beating protesters. By the 1980s the trend was fully apparent: News became fluffier, hosts became airier — less assured of their own moral authority. (Around this same time, TV news lost its exceptional status within the networks — once accepted as a “loss leader” intended to burnish their prestige, it was increasingly subject to bottom-line pressures.)

There evolved a new media definition of civility that privileged “balance” over truth-telling — even when one side was lying. It’s a real and profound change — one stunningly obvious when you review a 1973 PBS news panel hosted by Bill Moyers and featuring National Review editor George Will, both excoriating the administration’s “Watergate morality.” Such a panel today on, say, global warming would not be complete without a complement of conservatives, one of them probably George Will [34], lambasting the “liberal” contention that scientific facts are facts — and anyone daring to call them out for lying would be instantly censured. It’s happened to me more than once — on public radio, no less.

In the same vein, when the Obama administration accused Fox News [35] of not being a legitimate news source, the DC journalism elite rushed to admonish the White House. Granted, they were partly defending Major Garrett, the network’s since-departed White House correspondent and a solid journalist — but in the process, few acknowledged that under Roger Ailes, another Nixon veteran, management has enforced an ideological line top to bottom.

The protective bubble of the “civility” mandate also seems to extend to the propagandists whose absurdly doctored stories and videos continue to fool the mainstream media. From blogger Pamela Geller [36], originator of the “Ground Zero mosque” falsehood, to Andrew Breitbart’s video attack on Shirley Sherrod [37] — who lost her job after her anti-discrimination speech was deceptively edited to make her sound like a racist — to James O’Keefe’s fraudulent sting [38]against National Public Radio, right-wing ideologues “lie without consequence,” as a desperate Vincent Foster put it in his suicide note [39] nearly two decades ago. But they only succeed because they are amplified by “balanced” outlets that frame each smear as just another he-said-she-said “controversy.”

And here, in the end, is the difference between the untruths told by William Randolph Hearst and Lyndon Baines Johnson, and the ones inundating us now: Today, it’s not just the most powerful men who can lie and get away with it. It’s just about anyone — a congressional back-bencher, an ideology-driven hack, a guy with a video camera — who can inject deception into the news cycle and the political discourse on a grand scale.

Sure, there will always be liars in positions of influence — that’s stipulated, as the lawyers say. And the media, God knows, have never been ideal watchdogs — the battleships that crossed the seas to avenge the sinking of the Maine attest to that. What’s new is the way the liars and their enablers now work hand in glove. That I call a mendocracy, and it is the regime that governs us now.

 

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/story/151109/the_fascinating_story_of_how_shameless_right-wing_lies_came_to_rule_our_politics

Links:
[1] http://www.motherjones.com
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/rick-perlstein-0
[3] http://motherjones.com/
[4] http://motherjones.com/about/interact-engage/free-email-newsletter
[5] http://www.pbs.org/crucible/tl10.html
[6] http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq71-1.htm
[7] http://www.zpub.com/sf/history/willh.html
[8] http://www.pulitzer.org/biography
[9] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/249172/Gulf-of-Tonkin-Resolution
[10] http://books.google.com/books?id=KUEEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA32&lpg=PA32&dq=pleiku+attack&source=bl&ots=UW2LWGBinB&sig=MYXAjdHf_shPcy8qPqXz831-aEQ&hl=en&ei=4_yVTbafAYT2swP_3IHbBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CFcQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=pleiku%20attack&f=false
[11] http://millercenter.org/president/lbjohnson/essays/biography/5
[12] http://www.amazon.com/Truth-first-casualty-illusion-reality/dp/B0006C04GW
[13] http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1871.html
[14] http://motherjones.com/print/106121#correction
[15] http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0403_0713_ZC.html
[16] http://www.archive.org/details/militarysurveill00unit
[17] http://parallax-view.org/2009/08/14/the-parallax-view-an-introduction/
[18] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/features/dcmovies/allthepresidentsmen.htm
[19] http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/wcolby.htm
[20] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macram%C3%A9
[21] http://usa.usembassy.de/etexts/speeches/rhetoric/rraccept.htm
[22] http://books.google.com/books?id=5crGrqD4W-sC&pg=PA385&dq=were+not+criminals+at+heart,+reagan&hl=en&ei=Iv-VTe-NIZCssAOJi6nIBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=were%20not%20criminals%20at%20heart%2C%20reagan&f=false
[23] http://books.google.com/books?id=CExclJtH1qYC&pg=PT55&dq=America+has+a+genius+for+great+and+unselfish+deeds.+Into+the+hands+of+America,+God+has+placed+the+destiny+of+an+afflicted+mankind&hl=en&ei=Sv-VTeHUBpDksQOMkoTTBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=America%20has%20a%20genius%20for%20great%20and%20unselfish%20deeds.%20Into%20the%20hands%20of%20America%2C%20God%20has%20placed%20the%20destiny%20of%20an%20afflicted%20mankind&f=false
[24] http://www.amazon.com/American-Life-Mans-Road-Watergate/dp/0689106033
[25] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rick-perlstein/i-didnt-like-nixon-until-_b_11735.html
[26] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/12/AR2007111202007.html
[27] http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/06/02/080602fa_fact_toobin
[28] http://www.amazon.com/Your-Church-Grow-Peter-Wagner/dp/1579105890
[29] http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Missing+book+mystery%3A+solved%3A+Pennsylvania+sleuth+helps+Americans…-a0108267238
[30] http://books.google.com/books?id=ajLBlZwwB0IC&pg=PA594&lpg=PA594&dq=Remember,+you%27re+doing+the+right+thing.+That%27s+what+I+used+to+think+when+I+killed+some+innocent+children+in+Hanoi&source=bl&ots=6mS-kaKp16&sig=wdYabimj6yGr2G4LZL5QTVVmYcY&hl=en&ei=1wGWTcGuNYv2tgPmmdjZBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBQQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Remember%2C%20you%27re%20doing%20the%20right%20thing.%20That%27s%20what%20I%20used%20to%20think%20when%20I%20killed%20some%20innocent%20children%20in%20Hanoi&f=false
[31] http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/24/politics/campaign/24bible.html?pagewanted=print&position=
[32] http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/07/17/eveningnews/main5170556.shtml
[33] http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/spiroagnewtvnewscoverage.htm
[34] http://climateprogress.org/2009/02/15/george-will-global-cooling-warming-debunked/
[35] http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/white-house-vs-fox-news-not-just-fox-opinion/
[36] http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/
[37] http://www.slate.com/id/2261552/
[38] http://motherjones.com/media/2011/03/james-okeefe-investigative-journalism
[39] http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://i.cdn.turner.com/trutv/trutv.com/graphics/photos/notorious_murders/celebrity/vincent_foster/torn-note.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/celebrity/vincent_foster/7.html&usg=__Z0cPXO2891PC9TAeInEOhROgQZs=&h=439&w=410&sz=67&hl=en&start=0&sig2=kBBnUa8GdqXFygMwvW0veA&zoom=1&tbnid=VGTO_WY8FWbowM:&tbnh=123&tbnw=116&ei=JQWWTdytG5S4sAP01qXrBQ&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dfoster%2Bsuicide%2Bnote%26hl%3Den%26prmdo%3D1%26biw%3D1920%26bih%3D890%26tbm%3Disch&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=118&vpy=68&dur=1684&hovh=232&hovw=217&tx=114&ty=107&oei=JQWWTdytG5S4sAP01qXrBQ&page=1&ndsp=82&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0
[40] http://www.alternet.org/tags/media-0
[41] http://www.alternet.org/tags/gop
[42] http://www.alternet.org/tags/conservatives-0
[43] http://www.alternet.org/tags/lies
[44] http://www.alternet.org/tags/nixon
[45] http://www.alternet.org/tags/breitbart-0
[46] http://www.alternet.org/tags/political-lying
[47] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

GOP’s Three Biggest Fears in 2012 by Steven Rosenfeld

AlterNet, July 31, 2012

Excerpt

As the 2012 presidential campaign takes a breather, we need to consider why today’s Republicans are no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt or Richard Nixon, but instead a truly toxic aberration. As James Fallows noted [3] a year ago in the Atlantic, the modern GOP’s biggest sin is discarding “political norms” that everyone once understood would hurt the countryIn the introduction to their recent book, It’s Even Worse Than It Appears, centrists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein wrote [5], “However awkward it may be for the traditional press and nonpartisan analysts to acknowledge, one of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier—ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”…

what are they so afraid of? The answer is clear—losing power and influence in American politics and culture.

Today’s Republicans cannot compete fairly and win. And when it comes to political tactics, there are three things today’s GOP fears more than almost anything: majority votes in the U.S. Senate; national and state elections where all eligible citizens can vote; and revealing and standing by their top political donors in public….Why do GOP partisans fear these three things? Because without gaming the rules in Congress, without limiting who votes in state and national elections, and without hiding their patrons from the American people, they know they’d lose—and lose badly…Instead, today’s Republican Party must cheat, bully, lie and hide to preserve its power in 2012.

Full text

As the 2012 presidential campaign takes a breather, we need to consider why today’s Republicans are no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt or Richard Nixon, but instead a truly toxic aberration.

As James Fallows noted [3] a year ago in the Atlantic, the modern GOP’s biggest sin is discarding “political norms” that everyone once understood would hurt the country—such as not paying [4] 74,000 federal air traffic controllers and construction workers to attack labor unions, a drama that played out last August.

Since then the GOP’s bad behavior has only worsened. In the introduction to their recent book, It’s Even Worse Than It Appears, centrists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein wrote [5], “However awkward it may be for the traditional press and nonpartisan analysts to acknowledge, one of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier—ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

Anyone who has been around a child throwing a temper tantrum would recognize the hallmarks of today’s congressional Republican leadership: threats and bullying, finger-pointing, and running to his room and slamming the door. It’s so transparent and it raises a basic question: what are they so afraid of? The answer is clear—losing power and influence in American politics and culture.

Today’s Republicans cannot compete fairly and win. And when it comes to political tactics, there are three things today’s GOP fears more than almost anything: majority votes in the U.S. Senate; national and state elections where all eligible citizens can vote; and revealing and standing by their top political donors in public.

Why do GOP partisans fear these three things? Because without gaming the rules in Congress, without limiting who votes in state and national elections, and without hiding their patrons from the American people, they know they’d lose—and lose badly.

Fear #1: Majority Rule in the Senate

A very revealing thing happened inWashingtonlast week. On Wednesday, the Senate held two tax cut votes that were not blocked—filibustered—by Republicans. Both times, simple majorities voted to reinstate higher federal income tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. In any other decade, in any other economic downturn, this outcome would seem utterly predictable and common sense. But today’s anti-tax GOP is different.

The first vote rejected [6], 45-54, a GOP plan to extend all of the Bush-era income tax breaks. The second vote approved the Democrats’ tax plan, which would extend the Bush-era tax cuts to the first $250,000 Americans earn in a year (including the first $250,000 that billionaires rake in). Senate Republican leaders later said [7] that they allowed the vote—not filibustering—because it would have no effect, as tax policy must originate in the House and that the GOP-controlled chamber would certainly reject it.

In most legislative bodies, simple majorities—50 percent plus one—is all that is needed to pass legislation. But not so in the Senate, where arcane rules allow endless debate, or filibusters, to continue unless there are 60 votes to end debate. The GOP increasingly has relied on that rule to block all kinds of Democratic proposals. Similarly, it has also relied on “holds” where senators can block nominations to federal posts, particularly judges.

Even the mainstream media has called [8] the GOP’s abuse of the Senate filibuster rules a “road to gridlock.” That’s far too polite. As Wednesday’s tax cut vote amply showed, the ideas championed by Republicans are destined for defeat when they cannot hide behind parliamentary tricks and obscure super-majority votes.

Republicans know they must game the Senate rules to win. But that’s not the only place.

Fear #2: Open Elections

The GOP’s need to game voting has spread like political cancer. In state after state since 2010, Republican-controlled legislatures have gone to great lengths to complicate many aspects of the voting process, from registration to ballot-access rules. The goal, as yet another Republican legislator bragged [9] last week in Wisconsin, is to suppress perceived Democratic voting blocks, particularly people of color, the poor and students.

What’s especially pernicious about the best known of these tactics, stricter voter ID laws, is that it adds a nasty twist to the otherwise simple requirements to be a legal voter. Instead of satisfying age, residency and citizenship status—and showing that one is mentally fit and has no felony record (as in most states)—these new laws say you cannot get a ballot unless you also have a specific kind of state government photo ID. Not everybody has that ID, or the documents needed to obtain it. The right to vote has never been based on plastic.

InPennsylvania, estimates suggest that as many as 750,000 registered voters—many in urban Democratic strongholds—lack the most common form of “acceptable ID,” a state driver’s license. But that’s hardly all the GOP has done. In states likeWisconsin, it has closed offices where people must go to obtain the required photo IDs—creating further barriers to voting. InTexas, it has limited the kind of ID that can be presented at polls, barring university IDs, to suppress student voting, but allowing gun permits.

This anti-democratic trend is larger than just photo ID laws. Floridapassed laws imposing draconian fines and filing deadlines on voter registration groups, which, despite being blocked by a court recently, stopped groups like the League of Women Voters from registering people for months. In the latest twist, Tea Party officials who oversee elections—from Florida’s governor [10] to the secretaries of state in Colorado [11] and Michigan [12]—have been claiming that hundreds of thousands of non-citizens are on official voter rolls and must be purged before November.

“It just sows confusion,” said Ion Sancho, Leon County Florida election supervisor and a lawyer who oversawFlorida’s 2000 presidential recount until halted by the U.S. Supreme Court. “Why are they doing this other than to pay homage to GOP political correctness?”

The answer to that question is that today’s white-dominated, wealth-worshiping GOP knows it cannot hold onto power in an increasingly multiculturalAmericaunless it keeps communities of color, young people and women from voting.

You would think today’s Republicans would be more confident in their ideas, stand by them and trust the voters to decide. But that is not the case, a point that is underscored by the third thing the GOP fears: revealing who is bankrolling their electioneering.

Fear #3: Standing By Their Words in Public

The political party that wants to end all campaign finance regulation so there can be unfettered speech—that’s their high-minded line—doesn’t want members and backers to stand up in public saying, essentially, “I paid for this ad and I approve of this message.”

Why is that, you might ask? It’s because, as has been endlessly debated and ridiculed on election law blogs, the GOP’s stalwart defenders say that disclosing who is bankrolling their campaign efforts would be to expose donors to public criticism and possibly attack. Never mind that everybody else gets pummeled by their propaganda and bile.

This self-serving logic was behind recent efforts by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to block a bill that would require people who write big checks for campaigns to disclose that activity, so Americans would know who is paying for the television, radio, Internet ads, billboards, political junk mail and robo-calls in their states.

McConnell was called [13] the nation’s “hypocrite in chief” for this effort, because for years he preached no regulation of campaign donations or spending, just timely disclosure so an informed public could make up its mind. That pretense evaporated during the Senate’s recent DISCLOSE bill debate, in which he—and other senators who long supported disclosure—closed ranks, blocked and defeated the measure.

But the issue is far bigger than letting the public know who is behind today’s political advertising barrages. One of the biggest campaign finance abuses in 2012 is the use of nonprofit tax structures to run shadow campaigns for specific candidates. The great benefit to the GOP’s patrons, including many corporate executives and trade associations, is that the nonprofit ruse allows them to avoid limits on donation amounts, and equally important, donors to these nonprofits are not legally required to identify themselves.

Think about this. It’s okay for multi-millionaires and corporate lobbies to bankroll the most negative ads in a presidential election year—ads that are thrust upon millions of people whether we want to hear them or not—but the individuals or interests who are paying for those messages need to be protected from criticism or angry responses?

What do these three fears say about the kind of national political party that is today’s GOP? It is a party that does not have the confidence to stand by its ideas or funders in public. It is a party that does not trust voters to accept or reject their agenda—in fair votes. It is a party that cannot live with the consequences of not obstructing bills and appointments in the U.S. Senate.

Instead, today’s Republican Party must cheat, bully, lie and hide to preserve its power in 2012.

See more stories tagged with:

republican party [14],

voter suppression [15],

filibuster [16],

campaign finance reform [17],

disclosure [18]


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/gops-three-biggest-fears-2012

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/steven-rosenfeld
[3] http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/08/on-rules-and-norms-4-reasons-to-regret-this-moment/243082/
[4] http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-faa-shutdown-and-the-new-rules-of-washington/2011/08/04/gIQAJIUOvI_story.html
[5] http://www.amazon.com/Even-Worse-Than-Looks-Constitutional/dp/0465031331
[6] http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/07/25/586241/republican-tax-plan-fails/
[7] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/07/26/wonkbook-the-senates-unusual-vote-on-the-bush-tax-cuts/?hpid=z3
[8] http://www.newsday.com/opinion/the-modern-day-filibuster-is-a-road-to-gridlock-1.3724716
[9] http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/07/24/572971/glenn-grothman-voter-id/
[10] http://sarasota.patch.com/articles/scotts-voter-purge-unconscionable-charlie-crist-tells-msnbc
[11] http://www.coloradostatesman.com/content/993634-gessler-besieged-critics-proposed-rules
[12] http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/07/feds_expanding_access_to_data.html
[13] http://www.rollcall.com/issues/57_154/Mitch-McConnell-Vs-Himself-on-Disclosure-Issues-215491-1.html
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/republican-party
[15] http://www.alternet.org/tags/voter-suppression
[16] http://www.alternet.org/tags/filibuster
[17] http://www.alternet.org/tags/campaign-finance-reform-0
[18] http://www.alternet.org/tags/disclosure

Threats to democracy

 

Sedition: Crime of creating a revolt, disturbance, or violence against lawful civil authority with the intent to cause its overthrow or destruction…Advocating, encouraging, and sanc­tioning sedition is the new norm on the conservative side…a wake-up call for progressives…it’s time to openly con­front the fact that conservatives have spent the past 40 years systematically delegitimizing the very idea of US government. When they’re in power, they mismanage it and defund it. When they’re out of power, they refuse to participate in running the country at all — indeed, they throw all their energy into thwarting the democratic process any way they can. When they need to win an election, they use violent, polarizing, eliminationist language against their opponents to motivate their base. This is sedition in slow motion, a gradual corrosive under­mining of the government’s authority and capability to run the country. And it’s been at the core of their politics going all the way back to Goldwater…puts the short-term needs of the Republi­can party ahead of the long-term viability of the American democracy they’ve sworn to uphold… Guilty of Sedition? How the Right Is Undermining Our Government’s Authority and Capability to Run the Country by Sara Robinson

 

…It is an affront to our democracy that you need a specific identification to vote for a candidate, but not to finance one. Why is it so easy to buy a government, but becoming so hard to vote for one? Voter suppression laws, overzealous filibuster use, you name it — the Republicans use every tactic they can to stop our democracy from actually selecting the person with the most support. Why do they do this? It seems obvious: when you don’t have winning ideas, you change the rules of the game. When you can’t convince voters that you are the best choice, you restrict their ability to choose. Voter Suppression Is Treasonous by Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm

 

10 Ways Our Democracy Is Crumbling Around Us 

 

On the Sabotage of Democracy by Bill Moyers

 

How the Wealthy Wage War on Democracy Itself

Our Democracy Is at Stake  by THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, New York Times, October 1, 2013 – This time is different. What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule. President Obama must not give in to this hostage taking — not just because Obamacare is at stake, but because the future of how we govern ourselves is at stake.…structural changes in money, media and redistricting…are superempowering small political movements to act in extreme ways without consequences and thereby stymie majority rule. If democracy means anything, it means that, if you are outvoted, you accept the results and prepare for the next election. Republicans are refusing to do that. It shows contempt for the democratic process. President Obama is not defending health care. He’s defending the health of our democracy. Every American who cherishes that should stand with him.

The End Game for Democracy

It Can’t Happen Here? 

The March to Anarchy

House Republicans Changed The Rules So A Majority Vote Couldn’t Stop The Government Shutdown by Ashley Alman, Huffington Post, October 13, 2013   — In its effort to extract concessions from Democrats in exchange for opening the government, the GOP has faced a fundamental strategic obstacle: They don’t have the votes. A majority of the members of the House have gone on record saying that if they were given the opportunity to vote, they would support what’s known as a “clean” continuing resolution to fund the government. So House Republican leaders made sure no such vote could happen…Republican members of the House Rules Committee were developing a strategy to keep a clean CR off the floor, guaranteeing the government would remain shut down. Though at least 28 House Republicans have publicly said they would support a clean CR if it were brought to the floor — enough votes for the government to reopen when combined with Democratic support — a House rule passed just before the shutdown essentially prevents that vote from taking place. During a floor speech on Saturday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) drew attention to the quietly passed rule when he attempted to present a motion to accept the Senate’s clean continuing resolution and reopen the government. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), presiding over the chamber, told Van Hollen that the rule he was asking to use had been “altered” and he did not have the privilege of bringing that vote to the floor…the recently passed House Resolution 368 trumped the standing rules…“Mr. Speaker, why were the rules rigged to keep the government shut down?” Van Hollen asked. “The gentleman will suspend,” Chaffetz interjected. “Democracy has been suspended, Mr. Speaker.” (Van Hollen)

Democracy: government by the people; the common people of a community, as distinguished from any privileged class …What’s wrong with this picture? On every key issue of public concern…the government in this supposed democracy has gone against the wishes of the majority of the public. Clearly, whatever it is, this is no democracy we are living in today… A Profound and Jarring Disconnect by Dave Lindorff,

The U.S. Behaves Nothing Like a Democracy, But You’ll Never Hear About It in Our ‘Free Press’ By Noam Chomsky, AlterNetAugust 15, 2013

Chaos Looms By Paul Krugman, New York TImes blog,  August 1, 2013

Political dysfunction spells trouble for democracies By E.J. Dionne Jr. , Washington Post, May 19, 2013 ……We should consider whether democracy itself is in danger of being discredited. Politicians might usefully disentangle themselves from their day-to-day power struggles long enough to take seriously their responsibility to a noble idea and the systems that undergird it[there are] two streams of discontent the world’s democracies face. One is material. The other might be called spiritual… politicians might contemplate their obligations to stewardship of the democratic ideal…

The Day After Tomorrow by David Brooks, New York Times, September 13, 2010 Every political movement has a story. The surging Republican Party has a story, too. It is a story of virtue betrayed and innocence threatened…the story Republicans are telling each other…is an oversimplified version of American history, with dangerous implications. The fact is, the American story is not just the story of limited governments; it is the story of limited but energetic governments that used aggressive federal power to promote growth and social mobility… If the current Republican Party regards every new bit of government action as a step on the road to serfdom, then the party will be taking this long, mainstream American tradition and exiling it from the G.O.P.  That will be a political tragedy…America faces a series of problems that can’t be addressed simply by getting government out of the way. The social fabric is fraying. Human capital is being squandered. Society is segmenting. The labor markets are ill. Wages are lagging. Inequality is increasing. The nation is overconsuming and underinnovating. China and India are surging. Not all of these challenges can be addressed by the spontaneous healing powers of the market. Most important, it would be an intellectual tragedy. Conservatism is supposed to be nonideological and context-driven. If all government action is automatically dismissed as quasi socialist, then there is no need to think. A pall of dogmatism will settle over the right. Republicans are riding a wave of revulsion about what is happening in Washington. But it is also time to…think about the limited-but-energetic government tradition…at the heart of the American experience.

5 Ways GOP Tried to Subvert Democracy in 2012 — And They’ll Try Again

How the Billionaires Class Is Destroying Democracy

Our Dumb Democracy: Why the Untied States of Stupid Still Reins Supreem

6 Biggest Religious Right Threats to America

America’s Most Dangerous Enemy

10 Ways Our Democracy Is Crumbling Around Us By Les Leopold, AlterNet, April 5, 2012  - Our democracy is in grave danger. In fact, it may already be fatally wounded as a financial oligopoly increasingly dominates American politics and the economy…here are 10 reasons to worry.
1. Money and Politics
Our democracy is supposedly rooted in the idea of one person, one vote. But the introduction of big money into politics distorts, and perhaps, destroys that ideal….all candidates, regardless of party, spend most of their time begging for money, not legislating. You can’t get elected without kissing the oligarchs’ rings.
2. Voter Disenfranchisement
3. Our Skewed Distribution of Income – Ratio of CEO Compensation To Average Employee Compensation in 2000 – Japan 10:1…Britain 25:1…U.S….365:1
4. Tax Breaks for the Super-rich
5. Wall Street Bailouts
6. Deficit Hysteria
7. Crumbling Social and Physical Infrastructure
8. The Failure to Create Jobs
9. The Revolving Door
10. Worshiping the Market Gods

A GOP witch hunt for the zombie voter By Eugene Robinson, Washington Post, April 30, 2012

Are Republicans Committing Treason?By Cliff Schecter, AlterNet, July 20, 2011

Betting Against America’s Government, The Progress Report, April 19, 2010 by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Zaid Jilani, and Alex Seitz-Wald

Guilty of Sedition? How the Right Is Undermining Our Government’s Authority and Capability to Run the Country By Sara Robinson, Campaign for America’s Future, April 6, 2010

The ‘Voter Fraud’ Fraud by Ari Berman, TheNation.com. April 4, 2012

Democracy in America Is a Series of Narrow Escapes, and We May Be Running Out of Luck by Bill Moyers, CommonDreams.org, May 17, 2008  - …The reigning presumption about the American experience…is grounded in the idea of progress, the conviction that the present is “better” than the past and the future will bring even more improvement. For all of its shortcomings, we keep telling ourselves, “The system works.” Now all bets are off. We have fallen under the spell of money, faction, and fear, and the great American experience in creating a different future together has been subjugated to individual cunning in the pursuit of wealth and power -and to the claims of empire, with its ravenous demands and stuporous distractions.
…there is a class war and ordinary people are losing it…The conclusion that we are in trouble is unavoidable…statistics that show real wages lagging behind prices, the compensation of corporate barons soaring to heights unequaled anywhere among industrialized democracies…extremes of wealth and poverty cannot be reconciled with a genuinely democratic politics. When the state becomes the guardian of power and privilege to the neglect of justice for the people as a whole, it mocks the very concept of government as proclaimed in the preamble to our Constitution…Our democracy has prospered most when it was firmly anchored in the idea that “We the People” — not just a favored few — would identify and remedy common distempers and dilemmas and win the gamble our forebears undertook when they espoused the radical idea that people could govern themselves wisely.

‘On a Mission From God’: The Religious Right and the Emerging American Theocracy by Maureen Farrell, BuzzFlash.com, March 9, 2004

Conquering by Stealth and Deception – How the Dominionists Are Succeeding in Their Quest for National Control and World Power by Katherine Yurica, September 14, 2004 – Paul Weyrich’s Secret Manual on How to Win Politically

Mitch McConnell: We Must Rewrite The Constitution Because ‘Elections’ Haven’t ‘Worked’ By Ian Millhiser,  ThinkProgress.org, July 13, 2011

When Democracy Weakens by Bob Herbert,New York Times, February 11, 2011

Who’s Very Important? By Paul Krugman

Invasion of the Democracy Crushers by Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch.com, October 24, 2010

Our Fill-in-the-Blank Constitution By Geoffrey R. Stone, New York Times, April 13, 2010,

The Perfect Storm That Threatens American Democracy by Robert Reich, Alternet.org, October 20, 2010

The Plutocracy Prevention Act by by Chuck Collins, The Nation, June 28, 2010