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Tilting at Windmills

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July 28, 2009

FURTHER BLURRING THE LINES.... I continue to be fascinated by the shrinking differences between the nutty, right-wing fringe and the Republican establishment. Lee Fang flagged this gem yesterday.

Last Friday, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) joined radical conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his radio talk show for an interview. Jones has made a name for himself propagating conspiracies ranging from the claim that Bill Clinton planned the Oklahoma City bombings to the idea that the attacks on 9/11 were orchestrated by a cabal of American and Israeli government officials.

During the 30-minute interview about "nation ending stuff," Gohmert used his opportunity on the Jones show to showcase his own odd anti-Obama conspiracy theories.

Gohmert was on quite a roll, insisting that health care reform will "absolutely kill senior citizens," because the government will put older Americans on a list and then "force them to die early." He added that the government will also control what Americans eat and where we can live.

When Jones, compared current events to Hitler and Mao, the Republican Texan replied, "Well that's exactly what I was thinking of. This is the kind of the thing we got to stop." Gohmert went on to praise the fringe talk-show host for being "on top of things."

Now, I don't much care what these obviously unhinged conservatives have to say. What's fascinating to me, though, is the fact that there was no real difference between them. Generally, politicians try to keep radicals and fringe activists at arm's length. If a politician runs into a nut in public, he/she tries to avoid making eye contact, and scurries away as quickly as possible.

But here's an elected member of Congress, voluntarily appearing on a notorious extremist's radio show, as if this were a normal thing to do. They two swapped insane conspiracy theories casually, as if radical nonsense were as commonplace as discussing the weather.

The line, in other words, between the member of Congress and the fanatic simply didn't exist. What's more, because right-wing extremism has become mainstream in conservative circles, there are no consequences for Gohmert's rhetoric or appearance. It's just what GOP officials do in the early part of the 21st century.

Lawmakers, right-wing shock-jocks, Fox News personalities, conservative bloggers, major publications on the right -- they're all largely on the same page, without a sense of shame or limits, and they're all spouting transparent nonsense.

Steve Benen 10:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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Comments

You know who's been instrumental in hyping this story about euthanizing the elderly? Lyndon LaRouche -- yep, the same guy who used to force his female cultists to get abortions, the same guy whose long time loyal disciple and printer committed suicide after the LaRouche leadership savaged him in one of their bulletins and suggested that the Boomer generation of LaRouchies should kill themselves. Notice how that creep is always turning up like a bad penny when Republicans need someone to put out their most vicious smears for them? Lee Atwater found him extremely useful back in '88, and he hasn't gone away.

Posted by: T-Rex on July 28, 2009 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

"But here's an elected member of Congress, voluntarily appearing on a notorious extremist's radio show, as if this were a normal thing to do."

Well, Steve, it is a normal thing for a GOPer to do. They go on Faux all the time to hobnob with Doocy, Kilmeade, Hannity, and the like. What's the difference?

Posted by: azportsider on July 28, 2009 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

But none dare call them weirdos.

Posted by: alan on July 28, 2009 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

You call it fascinating, I call it frightening.

Posted by: dob on July 28, 2009 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, where have you been all your life? Oliver North, E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy? These are all X government creeps who subsequently went back and forth between radio and their republican contacts. Hell, Joe what's is name used to *be* in congress. There's no difference between the crazies who elected them and the crazies they elected and hasn't been for years.

aimai

Posted by: aimai on July 28, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

This is, I think, the main difference between liberal politicians and liberal television personalities. No matter how extreme their beliefs may be (and I mean "extreme" in the sense of not being a moderate) they don't seem to wade into the nonsense as those on the right are now doing. Sure, a few, like Michael Moore, might, but compare, say, Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck. Olbermann might be as extreme in his beliefs as Beck is in his, but I don't remember him going on about the liberal equivalent to a FEMA concentration camp. Say what you want about his style on television, but that's a significant difference.

Posted by: Brian J on July 28, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Get ready. These conspiracy freaks aren't going anywhere as long as Obama is president.

A black president is simply something they cannot accept. As far as they're concerned, the only explanation for his election is some sort of far-reaching left-wing commie conspiracy that was put in place by evil Kenyans before Obama was even born.

Posted by: Doctor Whom on July 28, 2009 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

The real problem is that these people actually get elected by the voters, who must be just as crazy.

Posted by: qwerty on July 28, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

I feel it also has to do with how safe these districts are. There now is no electoral consequences for appearing this extreme given how easily they will be re-elected each year. If that changes then they will have to become slightly more moderate.

Posted by: Yaramah on July 28, 2009 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

I think yoiu just highlighted the difference between today's GOP and the Reagan-era GOP.

Whereas Reagan-era Republicans were generally sane and sensible people (although I disagreed with them on just about everything), many of today's Republicans are so conservative as to be just plain nuts. I can think of 5-10 GOP senators and probably 40-50 GOP members of the House who by any sane standards are truly off the deep end.

Posted by: mfw13 on July 28, 2009 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

I agree this isn't exactly new. After all, Jerry Falwell didn't exactly become a pariah for peronally promoting "The Clinton Chronicles" video on his 700 Club.

On the other hand, I agree with Steve that it has gotten even more blatant reasonably. It used to be that actual elected Republican Representatives and Senators would give wink and nod support to the crazies without officially endorsing their views.

Now, they these elected nutcases actively and personally promote the most extreme conspiracy theories.

Posted by: tanstaafl on July 28, 2009 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

The only thing to do is to keep making this connection explicit: every time one of the Outer Nuts says something nutty, respond to it by tieing the Nut to the GOP (Inner Nuts), as in "This is an official GOP position." Unless the GOP creates a separation, the sane public will get the message and shun the GOP; if the GOP does make the separation, the Outer Nuts will shun the GOP. Force the GOP to react in a way that will lose them support from one side or the other.

The non-binding resolution recognizing Hawaii as Obama's birthplace is a perfect example.

Posted by: Mim Song on July 28, 2009 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

good news for republicans, in all his messiah pics, charlton heston was perfect for uttering the words which will crush health care reform.

yes, my Republican friends, scream it from the rooftops, like you were young, freedom-lovin' Iranians:

"Soylent green is people. And Obama is going to make you eat it."

Posted by: neill on July 28, 2009 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Doh,

in previous post "... more blatant reasonably." should read "more blatant recently."

Posted by: tanstaafl on July 28, 2009 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

BrianJ- Exactly correct. I'm glad someone recognizes that Michael Moore's fact-based comparisons international health systems are just the left's version of making up outrageous lies and repeating them.

Posted by: inkadu on July 28, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Reagan-era Republicans were generally sane and sensible

I've always thought the Reagan era was when the loonies first took hold. Forget about Oliver North, remember instead Interior Secretary James Watt, who said that we didn't need to worry about the environment because the Lord was returning soon. Or the administration trying to classify ketchup as a vegetable in school lunches.

Posted by: Doctor Whom on July 28, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

FYI, this goober is from Texas's 1st District, which is deep East Texas, bordering on Louisiana (including Marshall, Longview, and Tyler), which is one of the rightest rightwing areas in the nation. Gohmert himself is a protege of seccessionist governor Rick Perry, who appointed him to a judicial post at one point in his career.

Posted by: Lee Gibson on July 28, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Qwerty hits the nail on the head. We're seeing the natural consequence of the hard right's primary strategy. These people know that they have to play to these people to avoid a primary challenge. Some of them are even the result of primary challenges—the rank and file loonies who win a motivated primary election in a Republican-safe district.

We see this in Utah all the time. Take Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who primaried right-wing-but-far-less-looney Chris Cannon. Chaffetz is a borderline nincompoop, but he's a true believer and can spout incomprehensible drivel with the best of them.

So, we've seen lifelong Republicans become Democrats and increasingly unhinged fringe people becoming the leaders of the GOP—and it's the Democrats who are being accused of failing to reach out. Maddening.

Posted by: Paulk on July 28, 2009 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

I have to take issue with the idea that Reagan era conservatives were generally sane people, after all this was the administration that put James Watt up to protect the environment despite stating that he wasn't sure it was necessary as the rapture was on its way...

Oh this will get much crazier, there doesn't seem to be any bottom which these people will hit. They live in a bubble in which they reinforce each others lunacy. I'm actually surprised we haven't yet heard about Obama being behind murders, after all who can forget the infamous list of "suspicious" deaths surrounding Clinton that was peddled by Rush et al during the 90's? That I predict is the next step...

Posted by: Cioran Sellars on July 28, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Birther Yegg Central here, apparently:
http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=100451

and current meme: "Since Obama is not a Hawaiian native, he's not an American citizen---and can you please send me some money?"

You know, it's a great business model; his target is the demo that goes broke from people asking them if they have two tens for a five.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on July 28, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Read David Neiwert's book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right. Looks at this whole issue in depth.

Posted by: Cay on July 28, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Lawmakers, right-wing shock-jocks, Fox News personalities, conservative bloggers, major publications on the right -- they're all largely on the same page, without a sense of shame or limits, and they're all spouting transparent nonsense.

And idiots keep voting for them. Isn't that depressing? Makes you re-think the whole idea of universal suffrage, doesn't it?

Posted by: David Bailey on July 28, 2009 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

"Lawmakers, right-wing shock-jocks, Fox News personalities, conservative bloggers, major publications on the right -- they're all largely on the same page, without a sense of shame or limits, and they're all spouting transparent nonsense."

Which is precisely why you should let folks like Media Matters and David Neiwert track what they say and do - it's what they do best.

The rest of us should concentrate on getting the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party to implement the necessary changes in laws and policies to address the issues at-hand.

Posted by: MVPOnline on July 28, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

"If a politician runs into a nut in public, he/she tries to avoid making eye contact, and scurries away as quickly as possible."

Indeed, now they scurry away when asked if they agree with the nuts...
http://rawstory.com/blog/2009/07/mike-stark-know-your-birthers/

Posted by: Baldrick on July 28, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

It's all transparent nonsense until you get clubbed by the Food Cops for not consuming your mandatory daily protein biscuit.

Posted by: Grumpy on July 28, 2009 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK
After all, Jerry Falwell didn't exactly become a pariah for peronally promoting "The Clinton Chronicles" video on his 700 Club.

Though in the interest of full disclosure, it should be pointed out that this is at least partly because Falwell never actually had a 700 Club.

Posted by: noncarborundum on July 28, 2009 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

R(TX). Say no more.

Posted by: wheresthebeef on July 28, 2009 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

There is no longer any consensus with respect to "reality" if there ever was, including the scientific community, just mutually competing, disparate views. Facts and conclusions are slippery things. The same can be said of "reality" what was recently said about Michael Jackson, "its [he
s] been dead for a while now, just nobody noticed." Besides, truth/reality has always belonged to power. When the Republican's retake power, they will reimpose their
reality/truth. "Smaller government, we do not torture, nationbuilding sucks . . ." yada, yada, whatever. Sure water is wet, the earth is round (so I am told) but in the larger world of discourse both sides claim the moral and intellectual high-ground.

I am with Imhoffe, the birthers have a point. Obama hasn't shown us that raty old copy of his birth certificate folding into a half-dozen decomposing pieces from the fold of his family bible, ahem, koran. In a world of virgin birth, Dan Brown, and symposia ad nausem about who killed JFK, this is funny stuff and par for the course, and yes, it is our society coming apart at the seems. Please pass the popcorn and don't spar me the crazies.

Posted by: Scott F. on July 28, 2009 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans hated Alex Jones and railed against him as a crackpot when he was blaming Bush/Cheney etc. for the 9/11 attacks, planning to "put dissenters into FEMA concentration camps" etc. Now that he's picking on Obama and global warming, Alex is just great!

But some conservatives are getting edgy about where the fright-train to Hell is taking them all. At when_youre_too_nuts_for_ann_co. we hear about "even Ann Coulter" disowning the birther movement. (She still blamed it on libs.) I noted there, maybe too prevalently but I never got a good answer:

I wonder why either birthers or the rational rest haven't checked on State Dept./Passport records. That should show whether Barack Obama's mother was in Kenya around the time of his birth. She went to Indonesia later with young Barack, so there's a record in general. Heh, when "even Ann Coulter" thinks you're nuts, you're nuts - and when "even Ann Coulter" is thought a traitor to the right-wing cause, her critics on the Right are even nuttier.

Commenter "Art" really nailed it to the wall, about Coulter - but incredibly and revoltingly this now applies to "mainstream" Republican "politicians" and "leaders":

The right has spent thirty years imagining red-meat propaganda scenarios and presenting them to the credulous, slavering masses of shock-addicted wingnuts through a fire hose. Over time the body of taken-on-faith 'truths' has become a mighty river of lies, misrepresentation and toxic waste. Even though she has made a career of helping to create the river she is starting think the river has gotten too deep and is running too fast. The river of lies they could use to wash away the truth and channel through the opponents districts has broken through its banks. ...

Coulter [saw] the lunatic right rise up and over top the dikes of GOP party control. She can see where this is going and has suddenly understood that this is the GOP's 'burn the village, to save the village' moment. ... She was willing to help create the river of lies, she is happy to use its flow to her advantage. She may even swim in the river. But she now sees that the river is out of control and that it now threatens her cause. She blanches at drowning herself in it.

Yes indeed. What a disgrace to themselves and the Nation. Let the pigs now be dragged down by their own foaming rabble, it couldn't happen to more deserving skunks.

paradoxer

Posted by: Neil B on July 28, 2009 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Correction: I did get a good answer from tanstaafl in the thread "MONDAY'S MINI-REPORT...," who also rightly explained I meant to challenge birthers with the issue of passport records (if avail.), not support them. People often wrongly assume that if you bring up a criterion, it must be to challenge the mainstream claim rather than to challenge the challengers.

Apparently, there aren't records but if Ann Dunham's old passport is still around, it might have the physical evidence of not being in Kenya or at least, when BHO was born. (Heh, someone noted BHO's mother would hardly sit in a plane so long while so pregnant, but what about Sarah Palin's odd behavior? ;-)

Hey, cool that Dunham was an anthropologist, that was my BA. I think that was a good influence on Barack.

Posted by: Neil B on July 28, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

I'm actually surprised we haven't yet heard about Obama being behind murders, after all who can forget the infamous list of "suspicious" deaths surrounding Clinton that was peddled by Rush et al during the 90's? That I predict is the next step...

Where ya been?

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on July 28, 2009 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

There was a moment in time when Alex Jones had a working brain and fairly decent insight but now has just become a paranoid delusional crackpot who thinks everything is a conspiracy. No doubt there are conspiracies but he detracts from them ever being outed by his outrageous accusations. Conspiracies will always be safe as long as it is the insane calling them out.

Jones has zero credibility now but he's only shy of Rush Limbaugh's conspiracies by a few congressmen.

The real conspiracy operates in plain site...our congress is bought by the wealthy and under the control of their army of lobbyists. The election process is just a circus show for the people as there is only one party in control...the Money Party...and they don't give a shit about "the people".

Still none of this answers the question as to how so many truly nutty insane people get elected in the house and why after showing how completely whacko they are, are they allowed to continue.

Posted by: bjobotts on July 28, 2009 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

"...Generally, politicians try to keep radicals and fringe activists at arm's length." Steve Benen
Pretty hard to do when those self-same "radicals and fringe activists" ARE your party.

Posted by: Doug on July 28, 2009 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

"...Falwell never actually had a 700 club."

No, but he did promote "The Clinton Chronicles" on his Old Time Gospel Hour TV program.

Posted by: daniel rotter on July 28, 2009 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

Coast to Coast AM, which used to have Art Bell as the host, also gives air time to freakshows like Jerome Corsi.

Posted by: Steve J. on July 28, 2009 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

The social security and Oklahoma City stuff I don't believe, but the 9-11 conspiracy I do. Three building in NYC fall straight into their foundations? And only two were flown into?

Posted by: james on August 4, 2009 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Kalila on March 12, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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