Watching us becoming like them/Ed Schultz Il Duce edition: In the past two days, the New York Times has published some fascinating letters about the death of Osama bin Laden.
Yesterday, we were struck by the letters urging Americans to maintain their basic values. (For all Tuesday letters, click this.)
It pains me to see our idea of justice perverted into an expectation of reciprocal murder, a man from Virginia wrote. In a similar vein, a man from Maryland criticized the unseemly chest thumping over bin Ladens death. (Even more significantly, he opined, current policies of the U.S. and its western allies will continue to generate the hatred and resentment that give rise to terrorism.)
An associate professor from Seton Hall criticized the celebrations of the death of Osama bin Laden, noting the feverish chants and flag waving. He continued: With the deepest sympathy for our innocent dead, isn't it time to begin to recognize that there are also innocent dead abroad?...Unexamined enthusiasm, it seems, blinds all people similarly.
Whatever one may think of these views, we thought this theme was most plainly expressed in a letter from an Illinois woman. For the most part, she restricted herself to comparisons from our own nations history. In our view, she asked a good question:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (5/3/11): Press photos of Americans drunk with glee over the killing of Osama bin Laden recall images from long ago of parents hoisting children onto their shoulders for a clearer view of a public execution. This mindless merriment, based on hatred, fear and foolish indifference to the rage it inspires outside the United States, echoes the mindless viciousness of terrorists.
If we become them, what ''way of life'' will we have left to protect?
We had similar reactions to the some of the celebrations staged by college students. One night later, we had the misfortune to watch Ed Schultz in a near-fascistic display on his progressive cable program.
Schultz is supposed to be on our side, but he started his Monday night program like this. No, we arent making this up:
SCHULTZ (5/2/11): Good evening, Americans. And welcome to the Ed Show, tonight from New York City, a city where thousands of Americans were killed on September 11, 2001.
And tonight, the mastermind of that attack, Osama bin Laden, is rotting at the bottom of the Arabian Sea. Got to ask you: Hows that for change you can believe in?
This is the Ed Show. Lets get to work!
Your DAILY HOWLER keeps getting results! After February 9, Schultz dropped the opening format in which he would excitedly say, These stories are hitting my hot buttons at this hour. He now implores us to get to work each evening.
On Monday night, Schultz got to work with a near-fascistic display. He gloried in the death of bin Laden (and his son) while urging his impressionable viewers to worship their commander in chief. As we watched his long, loud, bumptious, reptilian display, we thought of Jack Oakies performance in Chapins famous film, The Great Dictator (1940). More specifically, we thought of Oakies bumptious portrait of Benzino Napaloni, dictator of Bacteria.
Oakies portrait of Mussolini was (and is) funny, cutting, insightful. But on Monday night, that wasnt an actor crafting a portrait of the deeply bumptious Il Duce. Instead, that was the host of a progressive TV news programand the great man was soon saying this:
SCHULTZ: Great to have you with us tonight, folks.
This is the story that the globe is paying attention to. There is no question about it. Its the story that we are all fired up about. Im fired up about this guy right here: The president of the United States.
You know, I wish I had five hours to talk to you tonight and have fun with this, because were going to talk about American exceptionalism tonight.
As Il Duce creamed in his pants about the greatness of his Dear Leader, he said wed have lots of fun that night talking about rotting corpses and our Italiansorry, our American exceptionalism. And dont worrythings quickly got worse! As he continued, Schultz began helping us see that the troops love their Dear Leader too.
Soon, that claim would become explicit. But Il Duce started like this:
SCHULTZ (continuing directly): And before we start with the president, weve got to thank those Navy SEALs and those military guys that give it all, their all, all the time for the United States of America.
Tonight, were going to show you some interesting footage about how they love this country, how we responded to all of this, and of course we just cant forget what they have said about our president.
This president right here, President Barack Obama. If we can just for a moment talk about the guts this guy has shown over the last 48 hours, talk about how he has undoubtedly proven that he could take the 3 AM call, that he may not have served in the military, but he certainly sure makes a lot of good calls, doesnt he? And about how this country, despite all of the division that we have politically, we are now beginning to unite a little bit. This may be a big turning-point for this country. I hope so.
But President Obama did it with dignity, didnt he? Wasnt any jingoism going on, no cowboy kind of talk, a lot of dignity shown, a lot of class, a lot ofI guess he kind of did it kind of like the academic way.
Schultz praised Obamas lack of jingoism as he spewed his own all over the screen. He prayed that we might be entering a time of political unity. Soon, though, he took us to the Naval Academybut not before asking us which major party loves the troops more:
SCHULTZ: You know, but then theres the troops. You know how we hear so much about the troops and how they just have got to have our support? And we do give them the supportabsolutely.
But then theres this talk about Republican and Democrat and who supports the troops more? I was captivated by this video. This is at the Naval Academy. This is the commandant with those wonderful Americans. Let`s take a look at this.
Schultz played video of young midshipmen being led in a cheer by their commandant. (Their chant: I believe that we have won! I believe that we have won! I believe that we have won! I believe that we have won!) As Schultz felt his manhood rising, he helped us see what this chant so plainly meant.
And no, once again, were not making this up. Il Duce actually said this:
SCHULTZ: I believe that we have won! How about that spirit? That spirit! Do you think those folks at the Naval Academy, the way they were feeling last night Do you feel that they love the president of the United States?
You can forget all about Jack Oakie now. By now, this had gone beyond any pattern derived from Mussolini. Schultz was now recommending love for Dear Leader in a way thats most reminiscent of life in North Korea.
This is not a criticism of those midshipmen. This is not a criticism of the Navy SEALS who risked their lives last weekend, performing their mission quite capably. This is not a criticism of the man who led those midshipmen in that slightly odd chant. This is a criticism of Ed Schultz, who gave as fascistic a performance as weve ever seen on our TV machine. And trust us: Il Duce was just getting started! As he continued, he lavished extensive praise on Dear Leaders many infallible recent judgments. In these judgments, Dear Leader astounded his military commanders, not unlike Jesus in the temple.
Then, he returned to this:
SCHULTZ: Some other details: Well, bin Ladens sonhe was taken out on the stairs between the second and third floor. The commando who took out Osama bin Laden recognized him on the third floor on sight and shot him twice just over the left eye.
See as Americans, we got to have proof. We love the detail of operations like this, dont we?
Il Duce gave details of the way the bin Ladens were taken out, even explaining which eye got shot out.
He then informed us that, as Americans, we love such ghoulish details.
Schultz is a very strange person. This long, near-fascistic paean ran almost eighteen minutes. You can watch the whole thing, minus the short opening taunt about change you can believe in: To do so, just click this.
Tomorrow, well discuss another part of Il Duces ranthis abiding love for American exceptionalism. But for today, lets leave things here, adding only this:
Schultz has near-fascistic instincts. He flashed these instincts on March 29, in a pair of long, bizarre segments about the incursion into Libya. On that program, he kept insisting that his guests should call the Libyan opposition freedom fighters; he complained bitterly at the idea that they could be described as rebels. And he complained that Republicans who criticize Obamas approach to this matter simply arent being patriotic. This fascistic strutting went on for 22 minutes. Finally, Laura Flanders had the pluck and the simple good sense to say this to her host:
Im in the camp of those who think it is patriotic to criticize the president.
For twenty-two minutes before that statement, Il Duce had strutted all about, offering a truly bizarre display.
We commented on that display at the time. At Salon, Justin Elliott cited this strange performance in an otherwise underwhelming report about Schultzs unfortunate history as a right-wing radio crackpot (click here). But on Monday, Schultz gave full head to his near-fascistic instincts. We thought of his disgraceful strutting when we read those letters in the New York Times the next day.
Ed Schultz resembles a big jar of nuts. This is what happens when corporate suits select your progressives for you.
Tomorrow: A pair of progressive good Germans
Special report: Same or different!
PART 1PARKERS QUERY (permalink): Kathleen Parker asked a good question in Sundays Washington Post. Trash talk, her headline cried. Why is our discourse being driven by buffoons?
We think thats a darn good question.
Why are buffoons in charge of our discourse? In case readers werent sure which buffoon Parker meant, a photograph of Donald Trump appeared above her headline. As Parker started, she sketched her very good question in a bit more detail:
PARKER (5/1/11): Trash talk/Why is our discourse being driven by buffoons?
If you really, really dislike Barack Obama, his long-form birth certificate, finally proffered in exasperation, is quite simply a counterfeit.
If you are a fan of the presidentor even a respectful criticyou are relieved finally to have rid the country of the plague of birtherism, the rabid belief that Obama wasnt born in this country and isnt constitutionally qualified to be president.
To whichever group one claims membership, one cant help wondering when exactly we lost our minds.
What are we to make of these crazed factions that become obsessed with conspiracies, unconvinced by facts? Perhaps most important, what is the rest of the world to think of us? Will even third world countries someday (soon) look at the United States and say, Oh, well, those Americans, theyre crazy, you know?
Parker was asking good questions. That said, she quickly wandered off course with an unfortunate rumination about the presidents late mother. She also wasted time wondering why Obama released his long form when he didwhy he didnt do it sooner. Parker failed to establish a basic fact: In the summer of 2008, Obama released his sole legal birth documentthe document any Hawaiian gets when he asks for his birth certificate.
Obama did do that, three years sooner. It doesnt make sense to ask that question while withholding that fact.
In these ways, Parker pretty much bungled her columns middle passage. But her basic questions are very strong. We think they deserve to be answered.
Why is our discourse driven by buffoons? Why do so many voters believe so many ludicrous claims? When exactly did we the people become so freakin crazy? These are three different questionsbut each of these questions deserves to be answered. And in the current context, these questions connect to one more:
What role has race been playing in the ludicrous claims about Obama? Many people, especially Republicans, tell pollsters they believe these claims. What role has race played in the way this crazed faction has thus lost its mind?
This questionthe question of racehas been raised by many liberal observers. For one example out of many, lets return to last Thursdays New York Times editorial.
A Certificate of Embarrassment, the headline said. The president is finally forced to react to a preposterous political claim about his birth.
Obama had just released his long form documenta document the editors couldnt even describe correctly. That said, one part of their headline was plainly true: Barack Obama had in fact responding to a preposterous claim. But even if these journalistic stars couldnt establish the facts of the case, they felt quite certain about the motives which lay behind this vast nonsense. In the following passage, they described three motives, then advanced what we would call a semi-preposterous claim:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (4/28/11): If there was ever any doubt about Mr. Obama's citizenship, which there was not, the issue was settled years ago when Hawaii released his birth certificate. The fuller document that Mr. Obama had to request contains some extra information, including his mother's signature and the name of the hospital where he was born, but it was unnecessary to show his legitimacy.
So it will not quiet the most avid attackers. Several quickly questioned its authenticity. That's because the birther question was never really about citizenship; it was simply a proxy for those who never accepted the president's legitimacy, for a toxic mix of reasons involving ideology, deep political anger and, most insidious of all, race. It was originally promulgated by fringe figures of the radical right, but mainstream Republican leaders allowed it to simmer to satisfy those who are inflamed by Mr. Obama's presence in the White House.
Sarah Palin said the birth certificate issue was ''fair game,'' and the public was ''rightfully'' making it an issue. The House speaker, John Boehner, grudgingly said in February that he would take Mr. Obama ''at his word'' that he was a citizen, a suggestion that the proof was insufficient. He said, however, that it was not his job to end the nonsensical attacks. ''The American people have the right to think what they want to think,'' he said at the time. That signal was clearly received. Lawmakers in nearly a dozen states introduced bills requiring presidential candidates to release their full birth certificates.
It is inconceivable that this campaign to portray Mr. Obama as the insidious ''other'' would have been conducted against a white president.
To adopt the language of Parkers column: Why had members of this crazed faction lost their minds in this matter? The editors listed three reasons; the most insidious reason was race. They said it was inconceivable that a campaign like the recent campaign against Obama would have been conducted against a white president.
This raises the question we will explore in this special report. Simply put: Is the recent nonsense about Obama the same as other political nonsense? Or is it essentially different? Surely, even these hapless editors understand a basic fact: Ludicrous claims have been raised against all presidential-level Democrats in the past several decades. This dates back to (take your choice) Bill Clinton or Michael Dukakis.
Are the ludicrous claims about Obama the same as those earlier ludicrous claims? Or are they in some way different? And is it absurd to think that claims like these would be advanced against a white president?
For ourselves, we would argue that these recent claims dont differ much from those earlier claims. We would argue that they are the same much more than they are than different.
How would you rate the recent nonsense? Is it the same as previous nonsense, or is it essentially different? We think the evidence favors the former, but lazy white liberalsand low-IQ editorshave lost their minds just a little bit too.
This represents a very large problem for the progressive enterprise.
Tomorrowpart 2: Candidate Dukakis was un-American. Candidate Kerry was French.