Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 6, 2009

THE SCOURGE OF NATIONAL SERVICE.... About a week ago, the Senate easily approved legislation to expand national community service programs. The House had already easily passed a similar measure, and the president is anxious to sign it into law. As part of the effort, the number of positions available in AmeriCorps will increase from 75,000 to 250,000.

The right's reaction has been fascinating. One right-wing blogger compared community service programs to "Hitler youth." Malkin called funding for the programs a "left-wing slush fund."

But, as usual, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is in a league of her own. This was Bachmann's response over the weekend to the Serve America Act:

"It's under the guise of, quote, 'volunteerism.' But it's not volunteers at all. It's paying people to do work on behalf of government. [...]

"I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums."

Now, I feel kind of awkward fact-checking obvious madness, but I suppose it's worth noting two quick points. First, there's nothing in the legislation requiring public service. It's about expanding service opportunities for those who choose to pursue them.

Second, support for the expanded community service programs was bipartisan. The bill passed the Senate with 79 votes, and passed the House with 321 275 votes. Bachmann apparently believes some of her own conservative Republican colleagues backed an initiative to mandate public service and force young people into re-education camps that only exist in her twisted imagination.

Stepping back, though, this reminds me of a great post Kevin Drum had over the weekend in which he pondered why, exactly, so many on the far-right are feeling besieged and panicky.

"Who, exactly, is their enemy these days?" Kevin asked. "I'm not sure they know themselves. But maybe that makes it worse.... Like a horror movie where you're surrounded on all sides by something you can never quite make out, I guess it seems to them like there's something horrible going on, but it's something so insidious that they're only allowed to catch occasional foggy glimpses of it."

Right. And to take this one step further, I think this also helps explain why truly batty conservatives like Bachmann and Glenn Beck fabricate dire threats that don't exist in our reality. They're struggling to deal with legitimate progressive policy ideas, so they're stuck manufacturing make-believe policy ideas that suit their worldview. Obama wants to adopt a global currency! He wants young people in government-sponsored re-education camps! He wants to take medical decisions away from doctors and give them to bureaucrats! He's going to impose a tax on every time we flip a light switch!

These ideas are clearly delusional, but for those who need to see a political apocalypse, they apparently don't have a choice. Debating real ideas on the merits is proving too difficult, so they're creating their own reality and hoping their supporters play along.

Steve Benen 12:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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"There's something of a negative correlation between knowing what you're talking about and being able to get ahead in right-wing politics."

Posted by: Matt Yglesias on April 6, 2009 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

But it's not volunteers at all. It's paying people to do work on behalf of government. [...]

I wonder if Bachman has ever heard of a "volunteer military".

Posted by: Danp on April 6, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, noes! They'll be helping people- the madness!

Posted by: Personal Failure on April 6, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

"they're creating their own reality and hoping their supporters play along."

A correction to the closing of this post is needed.

It really should say "they're creating their own reality and KNOWING their supporters will play along."

I have long maintained that "Whatever you want to hear, you can find somebody to tell you." The world is full of uninformed idiots who form a willing audience for the Rushbos & Coulters & Bachmanns of our world.

Without the audience ready & willing to hear (and agree with) any nutball theory or fantasy, Bachman would be like the tree falling in the forest. It would make sounds, but nobody would hear it.

Posted by: SadOldVet on April 6, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Seconding Danp's comment,

"I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums."

My understanding is that this is exactly what happened when you were drafted by the military. I kinda thought conservatives liked that period of our history.

Posted by: RSA on April 6, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

I'm glad to see Obama is willing to sign measures approved by both houses of Congress. Common sense legislation deserves the backing of our President. Just like the legislation Congress passed to rein in executive pay within corporations and financial institutions getting federal help.


By Amit R. Paley and David Cho
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, April 4, 2009; Page A01

The Obama administration is engineering its new bailout initiatives in a way that it believes will allow firms benefiting from the programs to avoid restrictions imposed by Congress, including limits on lavish executive pay, according to government officials.
.....The administration believes it can sidestep the rules because, in many cases, it has decided not to provide federal aid directly to financial companies, the sources said. Instead, the government has set up special entities that act as middlemen, channeling the bailout funds to the firms and, via this two-step process, stripping away the requirement that the restrictions be imposed, according to officials.

Although some experts are questioning the legality of this strategy, the officials said it gives them latitude to determine whether firms should be subject to the congressional restrictions, which would require recipients to turn over ownership stakes to the government, as well as curb executive pay.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Glad to see our President and Congress working so well together. Nice of Obama to honor the intent of duly passed laws. Dubya had such problems with the concept......

Posted by: steve duncan on April 6, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

There is a difference between being delusional(bat shit crazy), and having an agenda: influencing/soliciting an ideological base.

The latter, like Hannity and Beck and Limbaugh, don't actually BELIEVE the nonsense they spout, just use it for their own ends. Ends that, more often than not, involve money. . .

Posted by: DAY on April 6, 2009 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

But the Right loved mandatory service. It was called the Draft, and the primary function of the conscripts was to kill people, not make their lives better. It was my generation who put our butts on the line to end it, in defiance of the generation before, America's gun-loving conservative culture and, it seemed, the entire world. I think Bachman would love to bring that back.

But Michelle herself would never be thought of as serving America, unless you hate the country. In that case, she Serves America. Right.

Posted by: ericfree on April 6, 2009 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

I clicked through and read the comments at Gateway Pundit. Big mistake.

Posted by: Scott on April 6, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

"I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service."

I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see Michele Bachmann put into restraints and gently led away by trained psychiatric nurses.

Posted by: shortstop on April 6, 2009 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

...so they're creating their own reality and hoping their supporters play along.

I object to this characterization.

Well, okay, I object to people calling something reality that isn't, you know, real.

So please edit this post. If I may suggest:

s/reality/completely whacked fantasy world/

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on April 6, 2009 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

"I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums."

Just read this through and see how she just strings words together that she has no understanding of, putting in buzzwords here and there. There is absolutely no thought process going on. This makes the crap that pours out of Sarah Palin's mouth seem like a demonstration of intelligence, which shows how pathetic Bachmann is.

Posted by: TCinLA on April 6, 2009 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

I appreciate Steve's willingness to play sane straight man by always asking, gently, why these people are so crazy. But I'm waaay past that, myself. They've always been crazy. They've always been hate and fear mongers. We really have to acknowledge that ever since Reagan their politics has been essentially reactionary in the sense that the very notion of the public weal was something *to be reacted against.* Authoritarian public action that jumps with their own bigotry (anti gay laws, anti drug laws, anti right to die laws) were all well and good. Pro-public public action (liberalization of laws relating to the individual, protection of consumers, regulation for corporations, health and safety laws) were deemed dangerously repressive to "individual liberty" and its (to them) identical buddy corporate freedom and the free market.

Nu? So, under that regime the only good government action was inaction which let corporations and religious groups rush in to fill the vacuum. Now not only can Michelle Bachman and people like her *not imagine* any governmental regime which isn't equally repressive, they have no other program but to fight against government and to legitimize the tyranny of the groups they belong to and really favor: churches and corporations. They both believe their own nonsense in which a Democratically elected centrist is really a closet stalinist and have nothing else to offer as a positive program.

aimai

Posted by: aimai on April 6, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

"politically correct forums."

OMG

Forget terrorism, we have to be very afraid of PCFs!

Just what is a PCF?

Anything that Michelle can't stomach.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on April 6, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Does Michele Bachmann have a brain tumor?

Posted by: Liam J on April 6, 2009 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

I have a friend who has paranoid ideation. Fortunately, she is on a combination of drugs which keep the paranoia at bay. Before she started taking these drugs, she was filled with fear, with free-floating anxiety. So her mind looked around for a way to justify the fear and anxiety, and she latched onto various incidents from her past and magnified them way out of proportion.

Some of the Republican pols and "news" folk probably are just cynically manipulating their followers. But others, I believe, are filled with this inchoate fear, and certainly many of the followers have this problem. They're always waiting for the other shoe to drop. So they look for something to justify the fear. They actually NEED an enemy, a boogie man, an OTHER, to fear and hate.

I feel sorry for them, carrying around this burden of fear. But the leaders sure are able to do a disproportionate amount of damage when they have power.

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on April 6, 2009 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

They're struggling to deal with legitimate progressive policy ideas, so they're stuck manufacturing make-believe policy ideas that suit their worldview. Obama wants to adopt a global currency! He wants young people in government-sponsored re-education camps! He wants to take medical decisions away from doctors and give them to bureaucrats! He's going to impose a tax on every time we flip a light switch!

This surprises you? I've been pointing this out to friends for almost ten years now. Republicans are the champions of defending America against non-existent problems. The strongest issues they stand on are the "gay agenda," a tax that affects 1% of the population after they die, flag burnings that occur less than a hundred times each century, and an abortion procedure that was almost always only performed to save someone's life.

If they didn't make up problems, they'd actually have to work on the real ones. Why in god's name would they want to do that?

Posted by: August J. Pollak on April 6, 2009 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Yep, how awful, recruiting those kids. I saw some of them (AmeriCorps volunteers) on the teevee about six months ago. They were actually in New Orleans, helping residents rebuild their homes that had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. It was obvious that these kids had been brainwashed into thinking that service to their country and fellow humans was more important than looking out for themselves!!! We simply must save those poor deluded kids!!! And put their parents in jail for raising their children to think of others rather than #1!!! For shame!!!

::sarcasm off::

Posted by: Hannah on April 6, 2009 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

This is the trouble with the Republicans these days. They've moved on from the conservative world view. You know, the one that says things like "National Service, get them thugs off the streets. Good short sharp shock, that's what they need. Never did any harm in my day. Get off my lawn."


Posted by: royalblue_tom on April 6, 2009 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Their delusions don't bother me much but their apparent willingness to incite violence does, particularly on the part of so-called journalists and government officials.

Posted by: MichMan on April 6, 2009 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

It's under the guise of, quote, 'volunteerism.' But it's not volunteers at all. It's paying people to do work on behalf of government. [...]

Umm, is she talking about the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines?

Posted by: Stefan on April 6, 2009 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

A word of warning...

Michelle Bachmann is a god fearing patriot, the likes of whom we need more. Her call to revolution is being heard - loud & clear.

Fortunately, we have seen the call to arms being answered over the last weekend. Our fellow patriot in Pittsburgh, Richard Poplawski, answered the call.

As our nation moves further toward socialism and as Obama continues to take our guns away, we will have more patriotic actions take place to preserve our way of life.

Signed - A patriotic follower of Michelle Bachmann

P.S. I have three 'Support Our Troops' stickers on my car. It may not be a Hummer, but it is old and badly out of tune. It gets horrible gas mileage and pollutes the air - further proving my patriotism!

Posted by: A Patriot on April 6, 2009 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

The strongest issues they stand on are the "gay agenda,"

And let's not forget that the gay agenda against which they stand is, as Jon Stewart put it, the oh so radical agenda of wanting to get married, serve in the military, and march in the St. Patricks' Day parade -- or, in other words, the gay agenda is to become Irish Catholics from the 1940s.

Posted by: Stefan on April 6, 2009 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin's description is reminiscent of the Blair Witch Project.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on April 6, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

The one's crying "Hitler youth" are ready to start their own smoke and mirror sideshows looking for invisible Fifth Columnists. The Peace Corps is a known Nazi harborage...:eyeroll.

She prolly faps off to pics of McCarthy, that great Ameriklan.

Posted by: Bachmann BendheroverIlldrive on April 6, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

And this weekend the StarTribune did a puff piece on Bachmann, saying that she has a lot of support on the conservative side, but those wacky "liberals" are outraged by her comments...honestly they quoted her verbatim, without any indication that her quotes are bat-shit crazy, but they hinted that those who disagree with her might be the crazy ones...unbelievable.

Posted by: bobbo on April 6, 2009 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

"Does Michele Bachmann have a brain tumor?"

No. She's just been chipping lead paint off of an old gutter and eating it.

Posted by: Saint Zak on April 6, 2009 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Liam She would first have to have a brain to have a tumor.
I just don't get her. I am from North Dakota just 3 miles from the Minnesota border and so I know MANY Minnesotans and have not met one even close to being like her. She truly is bat shit crazy. Bet her kids never join the Armed Services since they would be brain washed. But than again all those Rethug's like her expect everyone else's kids to fight their wars for them.

Posted by: redrover on April 6, 2009 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Folks, this is part of a semi-organized movement. Check out this guest editorial from the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News:

If passed, this act will produce an explosion in the number of service programs. Â Unfortunately, the goal of this legislation is profoundly un-American--to instill an ethic of servitude in every citizen. How could expanding community service programs have such a radical effect in the land of liberty? To understand this, one must see how the plan aims to smuggle in compulsory service.

The idiotic comments are equally frightening.

Posted by: Run Up The Score on April 6, 2009 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Peace Corps gives you a stipend to live on during the 2 years of your service, based on the cost of living in the country in which you serve. Then they give you a small sum when you return, which basically gives you enough to live on for a couple of months while you job hunt. I'm not sure how this really equates to paid volunteerism, as if you could be socking away huge sums of government cash. One of Peace Corps' main purposes is for the volunteers to act as unofficial diplomats for the U.S., but since we're not so fond of diplomacy, maybe that's where the animosity comes in.

Posted by: Jane on April 6, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

When most people suffer from delusion, and base their lives on superstitions and irrational fears, it's called mental illness. When repulicans fall to this, they're called the future of the party.

Posted by: JoeW on April 6, 2009 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

For Jane to imply that we republicans are 'not so fond of diplomacy' is a scurrilous, unwarranted attack.

I believe that it was our 'great communicator' Ronald Reagan (or some other authentic hero) who said "diplomacy comes out of the barrel of a gun!"

We republicans are extremely fond of diplomacy. If you had watched any of the Sunday talking head programs you would have learned that! We want 'diplomacy' with North Korea & we want 'diplomacy' with Muslims & we want 'diplomacy' with Iran. We may have to kill all of them, but we will succeed with our diplomacy.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on April 6, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

I couldn't quite hear...how many Communists did she say are working in the State Department?

Posted by: Blue Girl on April 6, 2009 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

For the record:

1] They hate welfare because it promotes laziness and a bad work ethic and promotes communism

2] They hate public dissent because it promotes anti-patriotism and promotes communism

3] They hate taxing the rich because it discourages capitalism and promotes communism

4] They hate universal healthcare because it robs poor insurance companies of their profits and promotes communism

5] They hate public works programs because they rob our children of future wealth and promote communism

6] They hate taxing corporations because it keeps the top 1% from owning 20% of the nation's wealth and promotes communism

7] And they hate the idea of a national program of volunteerism because it instills an ethic of servitude and promotes communism, not to mention promoting civic pride, the work ethic, patriotism, a healthier population, and gets some shit done, for chrissakes!

And yet, somehow they could all get behind Faith-based Initiatives even though they pushed an agenda of a so-called "Christian work ethic" and "Christian Servitude" that taxpayers had to foot the bill for.

Their biggest fear is that the Obama Administration and the Democrats in Congress will succeed before the Republicans can scare us away with cries of "communism!"

It's like the two parties are going through a trial separation. The Democrats are trying to look after the kids, keep them busy, help with their homework, and maintain a positive mental attitude. And the Republicans are drinking constantly, and ignoring the children except when they launch into drunken sprees of Democrat-bashing to try to win the kids over to their side. "Don't you see, honey! Your mother's a communist bitch! You shouldn't listen to her!"

Posted by: chrenson on April 6, 2009 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

My daughter was an Americorps volunteer. Her "pay" consisted of a stipend that was not adequate to cover her living expenses in the urban areas she worked in. She worked part-time jobs the entire time she was serving, living in multi-roommate situations the whole time. She worked 50 to 60 hours per week helping kids with homework, tutoring in understaffed schools in terrible neighborhoods, cleaning and refurbishing parks and community centers. At the end of two years, she received a credit that could be applied to college. It was enough to cover in-state tuition for a year or two at a lesser state school.

Believe me, this is about service, not about handouts or indoctrination. Oh, and BTW, she, her husband, and her sister-in-law, who also were Americorps volunteers all agree that it was one of the best things they ever did.

I think the big fear is that if young people who volunteer see how difficult it really is for the poor and underprivileged in America they might be more willing to encourage the government to actually do something about it.

Posted by: Sandi Hj on April 6, 2009 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

So Steve.... are you willing to concede defeat to zeitgeist yet?

Michelle Bachman is trouncing Steve King on the crazy lately.

Posted by: TG Chicago on April 6, 2009 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

And what about Gates? He has decided to hire most contractors and make them full time federal employees! The nerve of these guys!

Posted by: tomj on April 6, 2009 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Re: Bachmann

Blame the voters of her district! Let them know up there in Minnesota that we don't like them slapping stupid upon us all, and that a different election result the next time around would do all of us a favor, if not make us a bit more sane! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 6, 2009 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

"... Hannity and Beck and Limbaugh, don't actually BELIEVE the nonsense they spout ..."

And your basis for saying that is ...?

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 6, 2009 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus Fucking Christ! Michele Bachman needs to get re-educated immediately! Somebody open a camp, quick!

Posted by: he Gallopng Trollop on April 6, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

SadOldVet on April 6, 2009 at 12:56 PM has it.

The local Evangelical RRR crowd is gobbling this stuff up by the boatload. As usual, if you attempt to offer truth, they call the facts lies. Obama just hates the US, and anything the RR echo chamber says that fits this illogical concrete worldview, has got to be the "truth." We should be bombing N. Korea right this minute, and blah, blah, blah, ad nauseam. It really is a sad thing to think that so many of my neighbors are so willfully ignorant. College educated, yet scared witless, and militant in their fearfulness as they regurgitate the RR echo chamber nonsense as Gospel. [sigh]

Posted by: Otolaryx on April 6, 2009 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

The strangest part of this for me is the Bachmann equating "politically correct forums" to communist reeducation camps. It's similar to when Glenn Beck suggested that political correctness was responsible for driving a man over the edge and going on a shooting spree. Why is political correctness so sinister to these people? Do they really believe we're going to throw their children in concentration camps and force them to respect women and not say the n-word?

Posted by: Ryan on April 6, 2009 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

the Washington Monthly has advocated mandatory national service since at least the mid 90s

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1316/is_n1-2_v26/ai_14731348/

Jim McDerrmott sponsor of HR 1444 was a co=sponsor of Charlie Rangel's draft, and the Kennedy's have always been a gang of drafters

Posted by: cindy25 on April 7, 2009 at 3:08 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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