Sunday, November 01, 2009

Frank Rich Melts Down

This is the most poorly written, fundamentally unsound opinion piece I have read in a major daily in a long time. Naturally, it runs in the New York Times.

If you aren't up to speed, Barack Obama named Rep. McHugh (R-NY) the Secretary of the Army. A politically connected liberal named DeDe was anointed to run as a Republican in a special election. All was well until the Conservative party candidate, Doug Hoffman, started gaining momentum. In a fit of pique, DeDe quit and endorsed the Democratic candidate.

The lesson in all of this, according to Frank Rich, is that Republicans are just like murdering communists.

Title: The G.O.P. Stalinists Invade Upstate New York

Let's all settle in for a nuanced, well-reasoned piece of criticism, shall we?


BARACK OBAMA’S most devilish political move since the 2008 campaign was to appoint a Republican congressman from upstate New York as secretary of the Army.


Nothing like kicking off an opinion piece with a hacky Halloween reference.


This week’s election to fill that vacant seat has set off nothing less than a riotous and bloody national G.O.P. civil war.


If this is a civil war, it is the equivalent of South Carolina seceding, and Abraham Lincoln saying "whoa, didn't know you felt that way. That's cool, that's cool. We'll be up here if you need anything. Go slaves!" Followed with Kentucky being annexed by France.

No matter what the results in that race on Tuesday, the Republicans are the sure losers. This could be a gift that keeps on giving to the Democrats through 2010, and perhaps beyond.

Rich spends the rest of this paragraph in a furious defense his assertion...

Skip to next paragraph

...Or not. Will do, New York Times html guy.

But preposterous as it sounds, the real action migrated to New York’s 23rd, a rural Congressional district abutting Canada.

Why the reference to Canada? "Meh, NY-23? They're pretty much Canadians." Who cares?

That this pastoral setting could become a G.O.P. killing field, attracting an all-star cast of combatants led by Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, William Kristol and Newt Gingrich, is a premise out of a Depression-era screwball comedy.

This is exactly like the plot for Bringing Up Baby.



But such farces have become the norm for the conservative movement — whether the participants are dressing up in full “tea party” drag or not.

Drag? I think he's confusing the Tea Partiers with the Prop 8 protesters.

The battle for upstate New York confirms just how swiftly the right has devolved into a wacky, paranoid cult that is as eager to eat its own as it is to destroy Obama.

This is contradictory. Wacky, paranoid cults stand in unison against opposition. They do stuff like hide in basements together. That's why we call them cults. So you can call us a cult that wants to destroy Obama, or you can say we eat our own, but not both.

The movement’s undisputed leaders, Palin and Beck,

Rush Limbaugh would dispute this. As would John McCain. You know, the guy who ran for president on the Republican ticket? The guy who picked Palin? He's kind of a big deal. Also, Mike Huckabee? Mitt Romney? No?

neither of whom has what Palin once called the “actual responsibilities” of public office, would gladly see the Republican Party die on the cross of right-wing ideological purity. Over the short term, at least, their wish could come true.

Meh, NY-23? They're pretty much Canadians.

The New York fracas was ignited by

Don't begin your paragraph with the passive voice, Frank.

The 23rd is in safe Republican territory that hasn’t sent a Democrat to Congress in decades. And Scozzafava is a mainstream conservative by New York standards;

But not by the standards of her district, or the standards of any reasonable person, or at all.

But she has occasionally strayed from orthodoxy on social issues (abortion, same-sex marriage) and endorsed the Obama stimulus package.

Sure, she's fiscally and socially liberal, but she's a hawk when it comes ticket resale prices.

To the right’s Jacobins, that’s cause to send her to the guillotine.


Or just encourage Republicans to vote for someone else, an act which, I suppose, constitutes a metaphorical beheading.

When Gingrich dared endorse Scozzafava anyway — as did other party potentates like John Boehner and Michael Steele — he too was slimed. Mocking Newt’s presumed 2012 presidential ambitions, Michelle Malkin imagined him appointing Al Sharpton as secretary of education and Al Gore as “global warming czar.” She’s quite the wit.

Two sides of the same coin, dude. Remember the screwball comedy bit? Yikes.

The wrecking crew of Kristol, Fred Thompson, Dick Armey, Michele Bachmann, The Wall Street Journal editorial page and the government-bashing Club for Growth all joined the Hoffman putsch.

That's a hell of a lot of Jacobins.

Then came the big enchilada: a Hoffman endorsement from Palin on her Facebook page. Such is Palin’s clout that Steve Forbes, Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor (and presidential aspirant), promptly fell over one another in their Pavlovian rush to second her motion.

Fred Thompson's rush was so Pavlovian that he beat Palin to the punch by 24 days. Also, I'm pretty sure Steve Forbes doesn't sit around waiting for Sarah Palin to tell him what to do.

Hoffman doesn’t even live in the district.

New Yorkers care deeply about this.

When he appeared before the editorial board of The Watertown Daily Times 10 days ago, he “showed no grasp” of local issues, as the subsequent editorial put it.


And if you disagree with the Watertown Daily Times (which endorses Owens entirely on the basis of his promise to deliver pork to the district), you are crazy and paranoid.

Last week it turned out that Hoffman’s prime attribute to the radical right — as a take-no-prisoners fiscal conservative — was bogus. In fact he’s on the finance committee of a hospital that happily helped itself to a $479,000 federal earmark.


Okay, we're to the point in the piece where Frank is regurgitating talking points the Owens campaign has provided him. Can we get to the part where I'm a Stalinist?

The right’s embrace of Hoffman is a double-barreled suicide for the G.O.P.

This sounds like a lyric from a Rage Against the Machine song.


Punch-drunk with this triumph, the right will redouble its support of primary challengers to 2010 G.O.P. candidates they regard as impure.


She's not impure. She's purely a Democrat.

That’s bad news for even a Republican as conservative as Kay Bailey Hutchison, whose primary opponent in the Texas governor’s race, the incumbent Rick Perry, floated the possibility of secession at a teabagger rally in April and hastily endorsed Hoffman on Thursday.

Well, if he did it on Thursday, then it wasn't hasty at all. Or did he just talk really fast and sound out of breath when he did it? Frank likes to play fast and loose with adverbs.

The more rightists who win G.O.P. primaries, the greater the Democrats’ prospects next year.

Care to back up this assertion, since it's carrying the lede of your paragraph? No? Alright, then.

But the electoral math is less interesting than the pathology of this movement. Its antecedent can be found in the early 1960s, when radical-right hysteria carried some of the same traits we’re seeing now: seething rage, fear of minorities, maniacal contempt for government, and a Freudian tendency to mimic the excesses of political foes.

I have nothing witty, except to say if you read this paragraph and nodded your head, you are completely and utterly ignorant regarding the 1960's political landscape.

Writing in 1964 of that era’s equivalent to today’s tea party cells, the historian Richard Hofstadter observed that the John Birch Society’s “ruthless prosecution” of its own ideological war often mimicked the tactics of its Communist enemies.

The execution of tens of millions of people, for example. Remember when the John Birch society did that? Lousy jerks.

The same could be said of Beck, Palin and their acolytes.

What same can be said of the acolytes? Frank didn't explain what the John Birch Society did. He isn't even using metaphors to explain himself now.


Though they constantly liken the president to various totalitarian dictators, it is they who are re-enacting Stalinism in full purge mode.


Which again, the blood purges involved slaughtering millions of people. Even as dysphemism, this is unhinged.

They drove out Arlen Specter, and now want to “melt Snowe” (as the blog Red State put it).

Let's reconstruct Frank's syllogism.

1) Most Republicans are conservatives.
2) Some Republicans are not.
3) Conservatives support conservatives.
4) Stalin murdered tens of millions of human beings.
5) Conservatives are just like Stalin in every way.

The same Republicans who once deplored Democrats for refusing to let an anti-abortion dissident, Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, speak at the 1992 Clinton convention now routinely banish any dissenters in their own camp.

Routinely = Once

These conservatives’ whiny cries of victimization also parrot a tic they once condemned in liberals.

Argumentum ad dictatorum? I'm still condemning it.

After Rush Limbaugh

I don't really care what Frank thinks about Limbaugh. I just had a bet with myself that he wouldn't get through his piece without devoting a paragraph to him. I win. We lose. Besides, Glenn Beck is leader now. Who cares about Rush.

This same note of self-martyrdom was sounded in a much-noticed recent column by the former Nixon hand Pat Buchanan.

Who, for the record, has not endorsed Hoffman, did not win a nomination for office, and doesn't have anything to do with this op-ed.


The right still may want to believe, as Palin said during the campaign, that Alaska, with its small black and Hispanic populations, is a “microcosm of America.” (New York’s 23rd also has few blacks or Hispanics.) But most Americans like their country’s 21st-century profile.


NY-23 is not diverse, but some places are, and so this race is not a microcosm of anything, except for how dumb Republicans are generally, because of Rush Limbaugh, and Alaska is not diverse, so it is just like NY-23, so this is all a microcosm.


No wonder even the very conservative Republican contenders in the two big gubernatorial contests this week have frantically tried to disguise their own convictions.


But you said this wasn't about those races. Your changing the sub... This is bad writ.... GAH!!!!

But in this campaign he ditched those issues, disinvited Palin for a campaign appearance, praised Obama’s Nobel Prize, and ran a closing campaign ad trumpeting “Hope.”

And the conservatives have rushed to support his opposition, so I can see why he brought this up. Wait, no? They haven't? Then why did he bring this up?

Chris Christie, McDonnell’s counterpart in New Jersey, posted a campaign video celebrating “Change” in which Obama’s face and most stirring campaign sound bites so dominate you’d think the president had endorsed the Republican over his Democratic opponent, Jon Corzine.

Doesn't sound very ideologically pure to me. We Stalinists sure don't pay attention to much, which is weird, since we're so paranoid.

Only in the alternative universe of the far right is Obama a pariah and Palin the great white hope.

Nobody thinks this way.


But if curious moderate and independent voters are now tempted to surf there and encounter Beck’s histrionics for the first time,


What could possibly be crazier than comparing 40% of America to mass executioners? For posterity, I took a gander at a random Glenn Beck clip on Foxnews.com, and he was playing Connect Four. I have to admit that was the last thing I expected to see. Dunno if he was playing histrionically, though.

Okay, I can't stop. Seriously, after all this unhinged ranting, Frank is accusing someone else of histrionics?

There is only one political opponent whom Obama really has to worry about at this moment: Hamid Karzai. It’s Afghanistan and joblessness, not the Stalinists of the right, that have the power to bring this president down.

And Frank finishes by introducing an entirely new argument in his concluding paragraph. Perfect. Thanks for this, Frank.

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