Dissent of the Day

In response to my earlier post alleging partisanship on the part of Frank Rich and the New York Times, a reader offers this response, which I post in its entirety. I am grateful for his contribution to this site, and hope he will continue to share his insight. Here it is:

Yes, there are racists and bomb-throwers on both sides of the political
spectrum, although I have little doubt that if you piled up all of the
bigoted right-wing venom floating around the internet and the airwaves
it would dwarf whatever liberal nastiness StillRight can extract from
the Daily Kos and wherever else he trolls (Michelle Malkin? The author
of “In Defense of Internment,” a book claiming Japanese citizens
voluntarily moved into the WWII internment camps? Some source!).

Anyway, StillRight argues that Liberal commentators are “partisan” and
unfair to McCain, because they use a double standard to evaluate his
righty wackos vs. the lefty wackos. StillRight complains that Frank
Rich has written a column which points “to a few nutty people who said
offensive things at McCain rallies, and (surprise!) [he] blame[s] the
McCain campaign for these nutjobs.” According to StillRight “it is
absurd to blame John McCain for the comments of some of his wacko
supporters. I think John McCain’s record speaks for itself.”

StillRight might have a point if Rich’s article actually blamed McCain
for the remarks of his supporters, but he didn’t. Here’s what Rich
really wrote:

“what has pumped up the Weimar-like rage at McCain-Palin rallies, is the
violent escalation in rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) by
Palin
. Obama “launched his political career in the living room
of a domestic terrorist.” He is “palling around with terrorists” (note
the plural noun). Obama is “not a man who sees America the way you and I see America.” Wielding a wildly out-of-context Obama quote, Palin slurs
him as an enemy of American troops.

By the time McCain asks the crowd “Who is the real Barack Obama?” it’s
no surprise that someone cries out “Terrorist!” The rhetorical
conflation of Obama with terrorism is complete . . .

What’s troubling here is not only the candidates’ loose inflammatory
talk but also their refusal to step in promptly and strongly when
someone responds to it with bloodthirsty threats in a crowded arena. Joe
Biden had it exactly right when he expressed concern last week that “a
leading American politician who might be vice president of the United
States would not just stop midsentence and turn and condemn that.” To
stay silent is to pour gas on the fires.

It wasn’t always thus with McCain. In February he loudly disassociated
himself from a speaker who brayed “Barack Hussein Obama” when
introducing him at a rally in Ohio. Now McCain either backpedals with
tardy, pro forma expressions of respect for his opponent or lets
second-tier campaign underlings release boilerplate disavowals after
ugly incidents like the chilling Jim Crow-era flashback last week when a
Florida sheriff ranted about “Barack Hussein Obama” at a Palin rally
while in full uniform.”

So Rich is actually complaining about what McCain and his lightweight
attack dog VP candidate Sarah Palin say, and about what they countenance
being shouted in their presence during their rallies. Yet, according to
StillRight this is “partisanship” because Rich is not also holding Obama
responsible for some internet blogger’s rants or nasty anonymous emails sent to a racist right wing fringe author. But obviously the two
situations are poles apart. Rich is not suggesting that McCain must
disavow every lunatic post on the Drudge Report or every braying right
wing radio talk show host who makes racially tinged attacks on Obama.
(Although asking McCain to disavow the statement, made in a newspaper
article written by the McCain County Chairman in Buchanan County
Virginia, that Obama’s platform includes “Mandatory Black Liberation
Theology courses taught in all churches” and sending $845 billion to
Africa “so the Obama family there can skim off enough to allow them to
free their goats,” or the statement of the Chairman of the Virginia
Republican Party that there is a connection between Bin Laden and Obama
- because “both have friends who bombed the Pentagon,” wouldn’t seem
unreasonable.)

Put simply, it is certainly true that neither the left nor the right has
a monopoly on wackos. But the right sure seems to welcome the worst of
theirs with open arms, and manages to make them feel right at home, in a
way that responsible leaders on the left simply do not. In this late
stage of the campaign, with McCain facing almost certain defeat due to
his complete inability to convince voters that he has a clue about the
economy, or that he has been anything but Bush’s lapdog for the past 8
years, it appears that whipping up the “base” with inflammatory rhetoric
and turning a blind eye when things get really ugly is part of the
strategy of desperation employed by the McCain campaign. McCain’s
record would “speak for itself” if his current behavior was consistent
with the record, but sadly it is not. It is quite disappointing to see
a once honorable man debased so completely by unabashed ambition. To
point that fact out is not partisanship, it is honesty.

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