Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Can't Beat Left's Smear Campaigns

This campaign's been the nastiest in memory, and if one were without a countervailing frame of reference, folks would be led to believe that the evil Republican attack machine is the most vicious ever.

Don't believe it for a second. The attacks on John McCain and Sarah Palin are the result of years of sharpened attacks by the radical left's demon-machine cadres.

Jamie Kirchick has the run down, "
Who Are Left-Wing Haters to Point Fingers at John McCain?":

In his endorsement of Barack Obama last week, former Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell said that "I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated [with] terrorists.' "

This is a serious accusation to level, and Powell ought to have had the courage to name names.

Nonetheless, the notion that the McCain campaign, and conservatives more broadly, have stooped to an unprecedented level of "sleaziness" with negative, nasty and mendacious campaign tactics has become the accepted media narrative over the past several weeks. "Smear" is the word you most often hear nowadays next to "Republican." But while it may be true that some in the conservative fever swamps have resorted to ugly tactics, they don't hold a candle to the left's rhetoric over the past eight years.

Liberal pundits are attempting to outdo one another in describing just how unscrupulous conservatives have become. In The New Yorker last week, Hendrik Hertzberg referred to McCain-Palin rallies as "blood-curdling hate-fests." Frank Rich went one step further in The New York Times, decrying the "Weimar-like rage" of the Republican Party base, evidenced by a few attendees at a Sarah Palin rally who shouted "terrorist" and "off with his head" when she mentioned Barack Obama. Rich's fellow Times columnist Paul Krugman remarked that attendees at GOP gatherings have been "gripped by insane rage" at the prospect of an Obama presidency. Ascribing the oafish behavior of a handful to an entire political party, The Nation magazine slams the "GOP's machinery of hate" in an editorial patronizingly entitled, "Waiting for the Barbarians."

If my inbox is to be believed, there are certainly people on the right who believe that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim lying in wait to foist jihad upon the United States. And there are people who oppose him because of his name or his race. But one has to have been asleep during the Bush years to think that nuttery is exclusively a conservative phenomenon.

What about the left's conspiracy theories? A not insignificant portion of liberals in this country believe that a small group of Jews, er, the "neocons," took control of the government following 9/11 to fight wars on behalf of Israel. Is not this slander as odious as the Internet rumors about Barack Obama?

Time columnist Joe Klein fits the profile of the liberal hypocrite beset with disappointment over McCain's alleged degradation. He recently apologized to readers for writing earlier that John McCain was "honorable." This from a man who just a few months ago alleged that "Jewish neoconservatives" were disloyal Americans because their "plump[ing]" for war in Iraq and now Iran "raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel."

Rich's use of the term "Weimar-like rage," ironically in a column decrying Republican scare tactics, is but one example of the left's careless usage of Nazi allegories to describe people and policies they don't like. Since 9/11, major anti-war rallies have included people holding signs and puppets comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler. Leftist writer Naomi Wolf, who has expressed fears that the feds were monitoring her children's letters from summer camp, recently published a book titled, "The End of America," which likens the Bush administration to a fascist junta.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann spews over-the-top, hateful rhetoric in his "Special Comments" on a regular basis. He has said that the Bush administration threatens America with a "new type of fascism," referred to the GOP as the "leading terrorist group in this country" on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and has said that Fox News is "worse than Al Qaeda" and "as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan ever was."

Have the journalists now bemoaning the low tactics of the McCain campaign and its supporters never set eyes upon the wildly popular Huffington Post? That Web site hosts countless angry rants, many examples of which are too vulgar to document in a family newspaper. In 2004, Nicholson Baker wrote a novel imagining the assassination of President Bush. Last week, Fox's "Family Guy" depicted Nazis donning McCain-Palin buttons....

By imputing the crazy views of a few right-wing extremists to all conservatives, Obama supporters cut off legitimate concerns about their candidate's positions and qualifications for office. Anyone troubled by the Democratic presidential candidate's years-long association with unrepentant terrorist William Ayers and his dismissal of that individual as "a guy who lives in my neighborhood" becomes a right-wing lunatic. Anyone who raises the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is answered with an eye roll.
Kirchick is fair to note that smears are a staple of both right and left, although the depths of the partisan firebombing against McCain/Palin this last month or is unprecedented.