Bil Browning

Will we wait until it's too late?

Filed By Bil Browning | September 30, 2009 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: President Obama, Thomas Friedman, Yitzhak Rabin

Thomas Friedman has an excellent column in today's New York Times that's a must read. The writer bemoans the cheapening of our political debate and the potentially violent rabble-rousing the Republican party has embraced with open arms.

I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then -- a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin -- he must have heard, "God will be on your side" -- and so he did.

Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.

Friedman is correct in his assertion that the Republican party's recent spate of attacks on Obama are leading us down a dangerous path. With prominent media personalities like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs constantly spinning conspiracy theories about Obama's national heritage, his minority-group status, his parents, and his legitimacy as President, is it no wonder that people are showing up at health care rallies carrying rifles?

And how long will it be before someone actually fires the gun?

Since Obama was a front-running candidate for President, there have been worries about his assassination. This week a Facebook poll asking "Should Obama be killed?" had to be removed; the Secret Service is investigating. With the possibility already high in most people's minds due to America's extremely racist past and the racial overtones of both the primary and presidential campaigns, what purpose does it serve to stoke these fires? Are they hoping that he'll be killed?

And at what point does the American people stand together and say, "Enough. We won't accept this type of behavior from our elected leaders, our pundits and the public in general?" Or will we wait until it's too late?

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The tone of the national political discourse has sunk even lower. Yesterday, a conservative news site, , published a piece advocating a military coup against the administration. This is really abysmal.
I know that Obama can not say that there is racism involved here, but I think that the Sean Hannitys, the Glen Becks, and the newsmax.coms are livid to see an african-american as the President, Commander in Chief. This also was behind the hysteria about not letting kids hear the President's back to school message, and using his own life as an example. The fact that even several Republican senators and representatives are starting to sound like Ann Coulter is really scary. All this is occurring during a backdrop of the right wing pushing for more guns everywhere, and attacking gun control laws all over the country.

This is atmosphere is some of the reason that the upcoming March in Washington, D.C. is so important. we can not be hidden and invisible, or else the right will smell victory for their hatred.

Its SCARY. The Far Right would rather destroy America than participate in the kind of civil political discourse and process that our nation was FOUNDED ON. Who are the REAL terrorists?

The Far Right claims that it wants to save "america" by destroying any outcome that they disagree with, like the democratically elected president and legislature. Treason is marketed like a commodity by hawkers such as Glenn Beck, with a "Patriotism" sticker applied to it.

Well, I am a Patriot and a Lesbian. I am loyal to the constitutionally and democratically elected administration.

Exactly. I don't remember folks calling for military coup from 2000-2008. I didn't like Bush nor any of his policies, but that didn't mean I wanted to rip the constitution to shreds. That's how a democracy works. You're not going to be happy the whole time. But its fair. More Americans wanted what he was sellin than what the alternative was sellin. Its fucking simple. Elementary.

You know what, I don't like Prop 8, I think--using logic like that of Glenn Beck's--we ought to just go past the entire process, have a coup, and take over the state. What do you think? Glenn Beck's bunch approves!

I am there with you, Phil. Prop 8 was organised by illegal alien catholics and mormons from out of state, so it isn't legal. Heck, Kenyan Islamics might have even been involved. Fox news ought to be all over our new movement

And Friedman would know something about violent rhetoric. He was one of the foremost pundits calling for an invasion of Iraq because they were "evil." That and America had to prove it had the biggest dick in the block:

And he's still up to his same old hackery. Notice something missing from this list of things driving Americans apart?

The American political system was, as the saying goes, “designed by geniuses so it could be run by idiots.” But a cocktail of political and technological trends have converged in the last decade that are making it possible for the idiots of all political stripes to overwhelm and paralyze the genius of our system.

Those factors are: the wild excess of money in politics; the gerrymandering of political districts, making them permanently Republican or Democratic and erasing the political middle; a 24/7 cable news cycle that makes all politics a daily battle of tactics that overwhelm strategic thinking; and a blogosphere that at its best enriches our debates, adding new checks on the establishment, and at its worst coarsens our debates to a whole new level, giving a new power to anonymous slanderers to send lies around the world. Finally, on top of it all, we now have a permanent presidential campaign that encourages all partisanship, all the time among our leading politicians.

What about the boatloads of money being used to buy of people in Congress? Yeah, it's lamentable that a couple of dudes with guns are showing up at those town halls, but that's not the reason the government is paralyzed. The reason it's paralyzed is because the country has taken an anti-business turn and the blue dogs and republicans don't want their cash to stop flowing.

And love how he throws the blow-job-based impeachment of Clinton and the birthers in with people who think that GWB was handed the election by the Supreme Court. Really, Thomas Friedman? The only way those three issue are part of the same genealogy is if there isn't a right and left in America, only a "like Thomas Friedman" and a "not like Thomas Friedman." Although that man is egomaniacal enough....

While I was writing this comment, I thought, hmmm, this is the sort of thing Bob Somberly would respond to. And sure enough, he's in rare form on this column:

Then, today, it’s Thomas Friedman, one of your culture’s best known penseurs. Do you live in an idiocracy?

The entire thing is worth a read.

And, for the record, I first came into contact with Thomas Friedman when I had to read his "Nexus and the Olive Tree" for a poli sci class as a first-year in college. It's the book that made me stop considering a degree in political science.

To answer your question, bil: it's far too late. This sort of rhetoric led to two assassination attempts (that we know of) on Bill Clinton. Even Lincoln wasn't considered the legit president of the South (a region that would later be known as real America). He got power over the region because he fought the War of Northern Aggression" and he was a tyrant, or at least that's what the guy who shot him said he was. I wonder if anyone's going to do a study of that, if the rhetoric that led to his assassination is the same as the rhetoric around Obama and the teabaggers now.

I'm a little confused, Alex. You say:

What about the boatloads of money being used to buy of people in Congress? Yeah, it's lamentable that a couple of dudes with guns are showing up at those town halls, but that's not the reason the government is paralyzed. The reason it's paralyzed is because the country has taken an anti-business turn and the blue dogs and republicans don't want their cash to stop flowing.

But in the paragraph you quote of Friedman's the first sentence starts with "Those factors are: the wild excess of money in politics..." It seems to me that he's hitting the same point you are albeit he's adding in other valid examples as well.

I also think he's dead on target for comparing Clinton's impeachment trial over a blowjob, Bush 2's win by fiat, and Obama's birth certificate mini-drama. All three are attempts to delegitimize the President to gain political chips. After all, what says "Your presidency isn't legitimate" more than an impeachment trial?" Maybe, "You weren't really elected" or "You weren't eligible to be elected?" This wasn't something you saw often in other elections - no one claimed that Ron Reagan or Bush 1 were foreign nationals, should be impeached, weren't elected, etc. The closest example in modern times was Ford since he wasn't elected to office but was chosen as Nixon's VP without an election since the former VP had resigned in disgrace.

I still think it's an apt and well written article. Kudos to Friedman.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 1, 2009 1:39 AM

I had the lovely experience of reading "The Daily Howler" for the first time. I also read Friedman's article for the first time.

Had you not given up on reading Friedman...well, he is brilliant. Who among us has not reread something written 17 years ago and thought: "Of what was I thinking?" In Friedman's case and the article briefly quoted in "The Daily Howler" I would call it a reference to the usual way Washington tries to dress of a pig as a prom date.

One thing about both these authors is that they need not express penis size or fellatio to communicate a point. That is a good thing that the editor of this blog should consider in light of the fact that this is not just a Gay mens locker room.

It also separates the men from the boys.

Angela Brightfeather | October 1, 2009 10:13 AM


If you read the sedition law as it now exists, most of these so called "free speech" advocates on the radical right are in direct violation of the law and shuld be picked up by th FBI and charges shold be filed by the Justice Department right now, immediately, with all due haste.

I've been writing about this since before the election and now it's become evident that people who are willing to hound me for a tax bill and threaten to freeze my paycheck for $50.00 owed to IRS on back taxes, are not willing to enforce the Sedition Laws that threaten the President's life. Since when is my tax bill more important than the President's life?????

Let's wake up here folks. We (menaing every left win blog and public media outlet) should be yelling at the top of our voices about the lack of enforcement of the sedition laws and yes, it may already be to late.