I watched almost all of Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally this past Saturday from the comfort of my living room. I’m not a conservative Christian and am obviously not the target of his speech, but it struck me as phenomenally long, rambling, and incoherent. There was no arc to it. The only takeaway in this ostensible non-political speech was that Beck thinks America is turning its back to God and, you know, America shouldn’t do that.

Greg Sargent has a great piece evaluating what Beck (and collaborator Sarah Palin) sought through their demagoguery. On the apolitical nature of the event, he writes:

Beck repeatedly claimed that his rally wasn’t meant to be “political.” As high-minded as that may sound, the real point of stressing the rally’s apolitical goals was political in nature. The idea was to relieve himself of the responsibility to pinpoint who, precisely, he wants his followers to blame for leading us away from God and for tarnishing our honor. Beck wants this all to be drawn by inference — classic political demagoguery.

I agree that this apolitical speech was actually very political in nature. But I think this isn’t about relieving Beck of responsibility for the conclusions his followers make vis a vis President Obama and the Democratic Party, though that is certainly a benefit of the speech. No, I think Beck’s apolitical rally was a massive call to the Religious Right in which Beck is saying: I am one of you, I have a soft side, I may be a Mormon, but I share the same concerns about God in American life.

It’s hard to imagine someone who is as high profile and as egomaniacal as Glenn Beck to not harbor some aspirations for higher office. He already casts himself as a martyr in waiting. Running for President (or Vice President) must not be too far from his mind. Unfortunately, the horse that is pulling his cart is the Tea Party, a political “movement” that is so far outside the American mainstream that association with it could be disqualifying for a national candidate. To soften his image and, more importantly, broaden his base, the “Restoring Honor” rally gave Beck the opportunity to embrace the Religious Right.

He’s made himself more of a mainstream Republican figure, at least on Saturday. We know that come tonight’s broadcast, he’ll be spewing the same hateful, dishonest invective against all Democrats (Christian or otherwise), labor unions, and progressive organizations. We shall see if the Religious Right welcomes him into their fold. We’ll see if his Tea Party supporters who shelled out hundreds if not thousands of dollars to travel to Washington to see Beck dish out red meat are still enthusiastic about his rambling sermonizing. We’ll see if this rally proves a jumping point for Beck to run for office. But for now, here are my predictions: The Religious Right won’t fully embrace Beck – sure, there will be some affiliation where there is common cause, but a Mormon isn’t going to become a figurehead leader of movement evangelicals. The Tea Party base that came out for Beck will stick around, because he’s going to be in Full Blown Hatred today about something or Other.  And in the end, Beck will talk about running for office at some point, but like most talk show hosts from Chris Matthews to Lou Dobbs, Beck will remember that it’s a lot nicer to sit in a comfy chair and talk than it is to put it on the line as a public figure. Time will tell, but I really hope that Beck comes nowhere near even thinking about running for higher office. It’s too scary a thought.

…Adding, Steve Benen points out that the early reception from thought leaders on the Religious Right is not going so great for Glenn Beck.

Taibbi on the Marginalizing of the Republican Base

Matt Taibbi, writing at True/Slant, has a must-read analysis of the mainstream media Village culture, as it pertains to Sarah Palin. Or, more specifically, how groupthink by Beltway journalists regarding when to promote a politician and when to aim for their head has coalesced behind further marginalizing Palin and by extension her Teabag supporters.

While Taibbi does provide a stinging and pointed analysis of how Beltway Conventional Wisdom is made in the journalist clubhouse, he really shines through in his take on what this means for the Tea Party “movement.”

What the people who are flipping out about the treatment of Palin should be asking themselves is what it means when it’s not just jerks like us but everybody piling on against Palin. For those of you who can’t connect the dots, I’ll tell you what it means. It means she’s been cut loose. It means that all five of the families have given the okay to this hit job, including even the mainstream Republican leaders. You teabaggers are in the process of being marginalized by your own ostensible party leaders in exactly the same way the anti-war crowd was abandoned by the Democratic party elders in the earlier part of this decade. Like the antiwar left, you have been deemed a threat to your own party’s “winnability.”

And do you know what that means? That means that just as the antiwar crowd spent years being painted by the national press as weepy, unpatriotic pussies whose enthusiastic support is toxic to any serious presidential aspirant, so too will all of you afternoon-radio ignoramuses who seem bent on spending the next three years kicking and screaming your way up the eternal asshole of white resentment now find yourself and your political champions painted as knee-jerk loonies whose rabid irrationality is undeserving of the political center. And yes, that’s me saying that, but I’ve always been saying that, not just about Palin but about George Bush and all your other moron-heroes.

What’s different now is who else is saying it. You had these people eating out of the palms of your hands (remember what it was like in the Dixie Chicks days?). Now they’re all drawing horns and Groucho mustaches on your heroes, and rapidly transitioning you from your previous political kingmaking role in the real world to a new role as a giant captive entertainment demographic that exists solely to be manipulated for ratings and ad revenue. What you should be asking yourself is why this is happening to you. Even I don’t know the answer to that question, but honestly, I don’t really care. All I know is that I find it extremely funny.

I certainly agree with Taibbi that there is a delightfully comic side to the shift to discredit the rabid Republican base as…rabid.  Of course I think he sells his understanding of the situation a bit short. Just because the analysis by Beltway journalists on the danger posed by the anti-war left to Democratic electoral hopes was fundamentally wrong (and conclusively proven so in 2006 and 2008) doesn’t mean that the analysis of Teabaggers as a group who can cost the Republican Party elections is wrong. Take NY-23 — a seat that Democrats hadn’t won since Reconstruction was won by a conservative Democrat after an independent Teabagger candidate forced the GOP nominee out of the race. Teabaggers cost the GOP that seat. While one race is by no means determinative of a political movement, this is certainly not a time to sell your Teabagger stock.

As it relates to Palin, she has thrown herself into the Teabagger mix with all her energy. She came out strongly for Hoffman in NY-23 and is building a brand running in support of these radical rightwing candidates. When she put herself all-in on NY-23, she also took on some of the consequences from that loss. The most notable one, obviously, being that Teabaggers didn’t win.

It’s also important to note that Taibbi isn’t saying that Democrats or liberal pundits shouldn’t help push the Beltway journalist stone down hill onto the Teabaggers. There is real value in this group being marginalized as a decisive voice in American politics. It was the influence of the Republican base that helped win George W. Bush and Dick Cheney two terms in office, along with quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, a massive recession, and an assault on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights unseen in the last two hundred years of American history. If any group deserves to have their influence marginalized in American politics, it is the base of the Republican Party (well, them and the Beltway journalistic set).

Watching this cohort of angry Americans fail at political success, while being treated for what they are by the establishment press, is satisfying on many levels. Sure, part of this is schadenfreude, but a good portion of it is watching the politically privileged group in American politics other than the super rich live life like the rest of us DFHs for the first time. The result is one of the leaders of their political movement, Sarah Palin, turning offense into a cottage industry and the other, Glenn Beck, making on camera tears book-ended by conspiracy theories of persecution into the path to gold advertising glory. As Taibbi said, it’s funny stuff.

The Palin Way: Making Things Up

This hardly counts as news, at least not to anyone who paid attention to Sarah Palin’s antics as Governor of Alaska and even less so for those of us who watched her as John McCain’s running mate, but Sarah Palin has a remarkable tendency to just make shit up. Palin posted a much-touted statement on Facebook, her first foray into the public spotlight since quitting as Alaska’s Governor.

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Of course that would be evil. So evil that it would only exist in some sort of work of dystopian fiction or a horror scifi flick. It has zero basis in, you know, reality.

I think it’s worthwhile to post a rebuttal to such a blatantly false and absurd statement, simply because the person issuing the rebuttal in this case is the ultra-conservative Senator from Georgia, Johnny Isakson. Isakson smacks down Palin’s fear-mongering in an interview with Ezra Klein:

How did this become a question of euthanasia?

I have no idea. I understand — and you have to check this out — I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin’s web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You’re putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don’t know how that got so mixed up.

You’re saying that this is not a question of government. It’s for individuals.

It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you.

I think the answer of how this got so mixed up is that Sarah Palin, once again, threw out facts in an effort to drive her divisive brand of Us-vs-Them politics straight onto the fairway of the healthcare debate. She has a stated desire to be a bigger player in national politics and her strategy seems to be to rush towards the Glenn Beck-Michelle Bachmann segment of the Republican base and play towards their worst fears. How long before Palin starts posting her objections to Obama’s efforts to institute one world currency or a North American superhighway? When will Palin post a straight-to-camera plea for Americans to just say no to the Democrats’ plan to make all fire arms and purity balls illegal?

Nothing coming from the Palin-Beck-Bachmann wing of the Republican Party should be taken as grounded in any semblance of reality other than the one fabricated within the confines of their delusional sense of persecution. Comments like this about fake “death panels” should immediately preclude Palin from ever being given a platform to speak to the country again. Sadly, I think this is just the first of what will be many efforts to rile up her supporters in the lead-up to a run for the Oval Office.


I think Josh Marshall is right here:

I don’t think the Democrats have lost the message war because I see no evidence that even close to a majority of Americans believe completely preposterous things like this. But journalists have no capacity to deal with this stuff. In any sane civic discourse Sarah Palin’s comments about ‘death panels’ would have permanently written her out of any public debate about anything. But even though very few people actually believe this stuff, the entire debate gets knocked off the rails by this sort of freak show which allows the organized interests who want to prevent reform to gain the upper hand.

This is why the divisive work of the radical right, particularly through astroturfing that brings out high levels Palin/Beck craziness to public light, is so effective. That the people speaking out are often times lower-income people who stand to benefit the most from massive healthcare reform is only a sad coincidence that falls in line with the work of the Republican Party for years. While the low wage workers support conservative policies, the Republican corporate elite is the cohort that actually stands to benefit. Oh well, it shows that at least for the GOP elite, Palin, Beck, and Bachmann are useful idiots.

17 Year Old vs Sarah Palin

William Nelligan has something to say to Sarah Palin about her brand of divisive politics. Nelligan is seventeen and he’s penned Alaska’s former governor an open letter on (cross posted on Huffington Post). While Nelligan isn’t offering a brand new slate of charges against Palin’s unique style of self-righteous willful ignorance, he writes with the clarity driven by his strong convictions of what is good in America. He writes to preserve the vision of America as a land of hope and opportunity that he was taught in school. Despite coming of age entirely in the Bush administration, Nelligan shows the poise of an educated and commited progressive.

It’s not so much that you and I see two different Americas, or that we just have different perceptions of the same core American ideals. It’s that you fundamentally misunderstand America’s ideals. Every time you talk about freedom, or the future, or “the wisdom of the people,” I only have one question: what the hell are you trying to say?

You’re right in asserting that government can’t make us happy, just like it can’t tell women what they can and can’t talk to their doctors about, and can’t tell gays and lesbians what kind of love is moral. However, you are wrong in saying that government can’t cure the sick and insure their families; that it can’t educate our children and reform our adults; or that it can’t generate employment for those who need it and lift those who don’t have it out of poverty. Government has done all of those things for a very long time, and will continue to do them for even longer.

I have had to grow up in this country, the land Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy, under George W. Bush. A man who demonizes being smart and educated as “elitist,” and who somehow manages to make being uninformed and unengaged into something honorable. I’m lucky enough now to have a President who does none of those things, and quite frankly I don’t want to turn back the clock.

Nelligan clearly recognizes Palin as what she is: a politican who would seek to turn back the clock on the progress of the 20th century by dividing Americans against each other. Palin’s path to political power is one that she has set to be laid out through outrage and anger, two things that have not tended to produce the best our nation has to offer. Hopefully Nelligan is right and Palin will continue to recede from public life. But for the sake of today’s youth, in case she is thinking otherwise, I hope this open letter finds it way to her so she can see how dramatically she stands in contrast to the hopes and dreams of America’s youth.

McCain Campaign: Not Getting Women or Palin

Today’s Washington Post piece by Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson on the McCain campaigns machinations regarding their vice presidential pick really confirms what many Democrats and political observers thought: the McCain campaign had zero understanding or respect for how women make their decisions of who to vote for. Balz and Johnson report that the McCain campaign believed Palin would help McCain win the vote of former Hillary Clinton supporters and women more broadly because Palin was a woman.

As McCain approached his convention, his advisers saw the challenges as overwhelming — and contradictory. First, he needed to distance himself decisively from the president. Second, he needed to cut into Obama’s advantage among female voters. Despite the bitterness of the primaries and some of the mutinous talk among Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most vocal holdouts, the polls showed Obama consolidating most of the Clinton vote. By midsummer, this had become an acute problem for McCain.

Is it any shock that picking an unqualified governor from a tiny state with less than a term of service failed to draw women to support McCain for president? Picking Palin was a cynical ploy, bread out of a fundamental lack of respect for America’s women. I mean, seriously…did these same McCain staff also worry that Obama’s pick of Biden would cost McCain male votes because, hell, men vote for men?

The arrogance and stupidity of the McCain campaign is only born out further by the fact that they only gave themselves “12 hours to compelte the vetting process, take a face-to-face measure of their leading candidate, decide whether McCain and Palin had the chemistry to coexist as a ticket, and make a judgment about whether she was ready for the rigors of a national campaign.” I wouldn’t buy a car or a house or pick a school for my kids with such little research, but the McCain campaign thought that sufficient to pick the person who would be second in line to the presidency.

The story goes on to report that while Palin was deemed legally suitable for candidacy (something which I or most any other Alaskan political blogger could have told you was untrue), she never received adequate evaluation of the political risks she carried. They really only looked at her incorrectly perceived upside. It’s not new information, but McCain himself made the decision to pick Palin after only an hour long meeting with her.  In the end, this fact and the clear lack of detailed vetting that emerged during the course of the campaign, likely sorely cost him. That it was driven by an underlying desperation to shake things up and reclaim women voters seems to have produced an even less strategic, more risk-prone John McCain than we knew throughout the campaign. It’s no wonder that the end result was a crushing defeat, as Americans rejected both McCain and Palin.

Balz and Johnson reveal other intriguing insights in the McCain vice presidential selection process, notably how seriously Joe Lieberman was considered for the spot. I wonder what sort of “stunned” Holy Joe was when McCain told his pal that he’d picked a no-name from Alaska over him. If there’s anyone more self-righteous and egotistical than Sarah Palin, it’s Joe Lieberman and I can’t imagine he swallowed this bitter pill easily. Not that I feel bad for the man or anything…

More on Palin

AKMuckraker, one of my favorite Alaska bloggers, has a pretty thorough and definitive post on the reactions and thought processes behind Sarah Palin’s bizarre resignation yesterday. The post got so much traffic it temporarily brought down her site and now is only posted on Huffington Post in full, so I’m linking to it there. This paragraph stands out as a potential explanation for Palin’s sudden decision to quit being Governor only two and a half years into her first term:

Then there is the other matter. In Alaska it’s become known as “the iceberg.” The iceburg is rumored to be a piece of news that’s so damaging, and so big, it will sink the S.S. Palin. The rumors also exist that it’s coming soon. Speculation about IRS problems, issues with other three-letter organizations, more ethics complaints, and embezzlement abound. Questions have been raised about the construction of Palin’s house by a bunch of Todd’s buddies, at the same time that a giant sports complex was being built in Wasilla, and right after building codes had been abolished by the then mayor of Wasilla, one Sarah Palin. Do we know anything for sure? No. But the recent claim that the breaking of this scandal is imminent seems coincidental to say the least. Alaskans hesitate to get too excited about rumored indictments, though. Despite the indictment and conviction of several state legislators, and the indictment-conviction and now un-conviction of former Senator Ted Stevens, the slow process has taught us patience. We still await rumored indictments of Congressman Don Young, and former State Senate President Ben Stevens (son of Ted Stevens.) Did I say, you can’t make this stuff up?

I spoke to a few political friends in Alaska yesterday and all mentioned that there’s a chance that this is scandal related and some time soon there may be an indictment or something similar. As AKMuckraker notes, though, this sort of rumor is quite common in Alaska. I can’t recount how many times it seemed certain that Ben Stevens, Don Young, or other state officials would be indicted and never were. Even the rumors of Ted Stevens indictment were frequent and never manifest until a time late last July when no rumors immediately proceeded the real indictment. All of which is to say, while this may well be true, Alaska politics in recent years has been riddled with these sorts of rumors…and these sorts of indictments.

Blind Squirrel / Nut

Depending on the day, I think Gail Collins’ opinion columns are either a step above or a step below Maureen Dowd’s level of vapidity. For some reason Collins made the decision that rather than writing serious columns befitting her former role as an editorial writer, she thinks trying to out-Dowd Maureen is a worthy use of her column inches. As a result, I almost never read Collins’ columns and consider them a waste of space. Why should I spend 5 minutes reading Collins or Dowd when I could read Christy Hardin Smith or Digby and actually learn something valuable.

With that in mind, I will say that a column on Bristol Palin’s re-emergence as a main advocate for abstinence sex education piqued my interest and I actually clicked through to read Collins’ column. Buried within a predictable column are these lines, which had me laughing out loud at their poignant accuracy and humor:

“It’s not going to work,” said her ex-boyfriend, Levi Johnston, in a dueling early-morning interview.

If you have ever watched Levi Johnston on TV for two minutes you will appreciate how terrifying it is when he has the most reasonable analysis of a social issue.

Yep, that’s about right. And a solid reminder that someone who got pregnant while in high school because she and her boyfriend didn’t practice safe sex and use condoms is not exactly a role model for abstinence-only education. In fact, Palin is an example of what is so dangerous about abstinence-only sex education. Maybe doing this work will keep Bristol Palin in her the media spotlight and let her mother point to her charitable work for a Christian cause, but it will likely result in the prolonging of abstinence-only education as a respected alternative to comprehensive sex education, thus leading to more unwanted teen pregnancies.

Her Uppance May Come

Via Todd Beeton, there’s a nice follow-up twist on the calls from some Alaska Republicans for Senator Mark Begich to resign so Ted Stevens can have a special election. Congressman Don Young thinks the seat is Begich’s to keep and there’s no recourse for him to be removed now. But Young suggests that his long-time colleague should close out his career with a run for Governor:

“Personally I’d like to see him run for governor, and that’s my personal feeling,” Young told the Alaska Public Radio Network on Thursday. “So, we’ll see what happens down the line. He probably won’t, but I think that would be a great way to cap off a great career as being the governor of the state of Alaska.”

The back story is that this statement from Young is about Sarah Palin getting her come uppance.  Palin came to power in Alaska riding a wave of reformist criticism of Alaska’s old guard Republican elected officials. Last cycle she targeted Young’s seat by having her Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell primary Young. Palin was strongly behind Parnell and obviously Young took it personally. Don Young, despite being surrounded by clouds of scandal of his own, beat Parnell by 304 votes in the GOP primary last August.

Stevens and Palin have had a rocky relationship of their own. This press conference from July, in which Palin dodges endorsing Stevens and Stevens points out that they don’t really like each other, is a classic. Arjun Jaikumar points out that Palin called on Stevens to resign his Senate seat following being convicted of seven federal felony corruption charges. So there’s no love lost between Palin and Stevens — but her call for Begich to resign is probably a lame effort to repair her bad relationship with Stevens.

Frankly, I think if Stevens does run for Governor (which I don’t think he’ll do), he could give Palin a tough race. There will undoubtedly be a lot of sympathy for Uncle Ted, while Palin wears out her welcome with national campaign stops on the state clock.

Rebuilding the Party Fail

I know Sarah Palin is many Republicans idea of the future — what sort of future I dare not hazard (though the answer lies later in this paragraph) — but I’m not so sure that hawking year-old biographies of Sarah Palin is the path to victory the Rebuild the Party crowd had in mind. But the ultimate failure in this bizarro Human Events email: the Palin book is hawked with a crappy science fiction book about the end of civilization. What remains unclear is if the book, Terror Occulta, predicates the end of the world on the rise of Sarah Palin. Only one way to find out…buy two shitty books!