Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 15, 2009

SHADEGG'S 'SOVIET-STYLE' STUPIDITY.... Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) has never been the sharpest tool in the shed, but his tirade on the House floor this week on health care policy was cringe-worthy. Members of Congress rarely flaunt stupidity like this; I almost felt sorry for the guy.

"[W]hat we're really getting here is we're not just getting single-payer care. We're getting full on Russian gulag, Soviet-style gulag health care," Shadegg said. He added, "It appeared in last Friday's Wall Street Journal. You can Google it. You can pick up the phone and call Kim Strassel. You can ask her about Soviet-style gulag health care in America, where powerful politicians protect their constituents."

Lee Fang, for those who've forgotten, explained, "The Soviet gulags were a network of prisons and forced labor camps that held as many as 20 million people during Stalin's reign of terror. It is estimated 1.5 million died in the camps."

What does this have to do with the health care system in the United States? Why would systemic improvements relate to Soviet-style gulags in any way? Shadegg didn't say. I'm fairly certain he doesn't know what a "gulag" even is. The poor man just isn't bright.

Kevin Drum added that this blistering nonsense highlights the qualitative difference with right-wing derangement: "Sure, there were lefty bloggers who went over the top about Amerika and how the NSA was bringing 1984 to life and so forth, but for the most part you didn't have members of Congress taking to the House floor and joining in. They largely managed to keep a slightly more even keel. But on the Republican side, after a mere few months of Obama, this kind of stuff has become routine. They've joined the Caps Lock crowd feet first."

Quite right. I'd add just one thing -- in 2005, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) described the Bush administration's torture policies and system of secret prisons as being reminiscent of "Soviets in their gulags." At the time, the media and Republicans were apoplectic about Durbin's remarks, sparking a week-long frenzy. Several conservatives called on the Senate to censure Durbin, and Karl Rove, at the time a high-ranking White House official, argued that Durbin's quote was evidence that liberals are traitors. Durbin eventually offered a tearful apology.

In other words, when Durbin referenced Soviet-style gulags in a way that at least made sense, there was a firestorm of criticism, including multiple condemnations from the White House and extensive media coverage. Where's the comparable treatment of Shadegg?

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Durbin's remarks were outragous and reprehensible because they made sense. The taboo against moral self reflection is very powerful. The worse the actions, the louder the shout-down necessary to quell any questioning of our inherent purity.
The reason Durbin had to apologize and Shedagg doesn't is because what he said happened to be undeniably true.

Posted by: Paul Dirks on October 15, 2009 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Where's the comparable treatment of Shadegg?

There will be no such treatment except in the vanishingly unlikely event that Democrats and/or apologists on the left throw the same kind of hissy fit that the Right did when Durbin made his remarks.

It's really important to understand that the media do not make coverage decisions in a vacuum. The media LOVE controversy, they love shouting and gesturing, they love righteous anger and noisy demonstrations -- it makes good video. Hell, they love controversy so much they INVENT it even where it doesn't exist. And if there's no sturm und drang over Shadegg's remarks, then there will be no coverage of them, and any coverage will exist only in proportion to the noise made about them.

Now, of course I realize that this very posting is an effort in precisely that direction. But there is no "shaming" the media into "doing their job" or anything of that sort. They ARE doing their job, as they see it, and that is to generate exciting video so their ratings go up, they can charge more for their advertising, and their celebrity-whore actors can get more airtime.

Posted by: bleh on October 15, 2009 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

You know if anyone talked like this on the street they'd be taken for examination by mental health professionals.

Posted by: Gandalf on October 15, 2009 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

The Russian Gulag cured the cancer of Ronaldus Magnus. It can't be that bad.

Posted by: tom on October 15, 2009 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

I would just add that gulags didn't actually have a health care system. People were sent there to rot, with no medical facilities at all. In most cases, they didn't even have food. The majority who died, died by freezing or hunger.

The dumb just got dumber.

Posted by: ashton on October 15, 2009 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

'caps lock crowd' -- that's a keeper....lol

Posted by: linda on October 15, 2009 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Ah- that good ol' liberal media will surely harangue Shaddeg for his outrageous comments. I am sure they will. Anytime now. Probably tomorrow or maybe the day after. I'm sure sometime this week. If not, perhaps early next week.

Posted by: Redleg on October 15, 2009 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

The reason Durban apologized for a true statement shows exactly why having a Democratic majority in the Senate, House and a Democratic President probably isn't the answer for bringing real change to this country. While the Republicans lack a brain and heart, the Democrats lack a spine.

Posted by: winddancer on October 15, 2009 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

The only thing wrong with the Durbin affair was Durbin's pathetica apology. He should have held his ground.

Posted by: Scott F. on October 15, 2009 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

If the Republicans had two brain cells to rub together they might consider that reflexively characterizing every last action by the administration or by Congressional Democrats in "this is the end of life as we know it" pejoratives and apocalyptic terms will soon lead to yawns from everyone except the Faux News-watching droolers that comprise their base.
I wouldn't be the least surprised to see "Obama Declares National Puppies and Kittens Appreciation Day: Republicans Outraged."

Posted by: Dennis-SGMM on October 15, 2009 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

With such a sloppy use of the English language, Shadegg and all others who've spewed such idiocy should not be allowed back to the table. Impolite rhetoric is one thing, but imagry producing over the top non-sequitors are the tools of dunderheads!

Someone should really clue these extremists in to what they themselves can't seemingly perceive - Americans want their health cared for by a system that lowers costs, allows for more coverage, and brings competition to the marketplace. This Gulag strewn foolishness is nothing more than embarrassing! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on October 15, 2009 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

bleh @ 12:43 PM has it exactly right. 'man bites dog' and gaper delays during rush hour are one and the same.

as to speechifying on the House Floor, why use nuance, when peppering a boilerplate statement with 'Nazi' 'gulag',and 'treason' gets you face time on the TeeVee? (AND campaign funds. . .)

Posted by: DAY on October 15, 2009 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

it's nice to sometimes fantasize that we all survive what is happening to this country, and live long enough to see it documented in film as "the crazy times."

Posted by: neill on October 15, 2009 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe someone should have politely interrupted him and asked him to define "gulag."

Posted by: SaintZak on October 15, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

And what about the people who elect this certifiably insane people ? What does that say about this country ? Unfortunately, the answer speaks for itself ...

Posted by: stormskies on October 15, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure Dick Durbin will be more than happy to apologize for Shadegg's remarks.

Posted by: thebewilderness on October 15, 2009 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Durbin was attacked because he compared OUR BRAVE MEN AND WOMEN IN THE MILITARY to Soviet torturers. Shadegg compared a Democrat plan to Soviet gulags.

Everybody knows all Democrats are commies, socialists, nazis, and ACORN sympathizers. So NOTHING is too awful when you're talking about Democrats.

Besides, it's always okay if you're a Republican.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on October 15, 2009 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

How about getting the Senator from FL out with his giant charts again with the definition of gulag, and a quick "1 minute history lesson for Dummies"?

Posted by: educat on October 15, 2009 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK


of course you knew that

Posted by: fourlegsgood on October 15, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see why there should be anybody getting upset about anything Shadegg or Palin or what's-her-face in MN or any of those loons say. You look at the source and you merely shrug. To get upset means that you consider them somehow worthy of attention, and they're not. Maybe in private someone might say to Shadegg that he is obviously an idiot, but there is no reason to get bent out of shape by him "removing all doubt."

As Mr. Dirks said in the first comment on this page, what Mr. Durbin said was true, so it engendered an all out attack from those responsible for the situation. What Shadegg said is risible so there is no reason to even acknowledge publicly that he even exists.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on October 15, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

I forgive Shadegg. He has the terrible problem of belonging to a political party that has never been, and probably never will be, interested in societal policy outside of turning a secular government into a theocracy. As such this over-the-top rhetoric is all he has to work with. I mean really, did anyone expect him to show up with charts, research data, and comparative analysis as to why a public option would lead to a government takeover of health insurance, let alone a takeover of the entire health-care system?

Republicans don't do policy. Their job is to undo policy and throw no-bid contracts to their cronies.

Posted by: oh my on October 15, 2009 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Durbin eventually offered a tearful apology.

Yeah, and I lost a lot of respect for him because of it. I'm tired of Democrats telling the truth, and then cowering in fear while crouched in a corner, whimpering "Please don't hurt me!"

We need more Democrats like Alan Grayson, who'll speak the truth and stand behind it when the 911th Fainting Couch Brigade of the 82nd Pearl Clutcher Division launches an all-out media onslaught, with an assist from the 101st Keyboarders.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on October 15, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Where's the comparable treatment of Shadegg?

Either that's a rhetorical question or someone just woke up from a 20-year coma.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on October 15, 2009 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

The problem isn't so much that the WH doesn't attack Shadegg like Rove did Durbin, the problem (as Grayson is now showing) was the "tearful apology." I think the Dem's base wants their representatives to stand up for themselves and stop apologizing, not turn into left-Rovians.

Posted by: ulrich on October 15, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

We won't hear a thing until Jon Stewart or Steven Clobert (doing the real news job) point out the assinine stupidity of the turd flinger Shadegg.

Posted by: John R on October 15, 2009 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Whaaaat???? I thought we were getting Hitler-style healthcare!

Now I'm just confused...

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on October 15, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

If we ignore the stupid people maybe they'll go away. But I think people should laugh at him too.

Posted by: KilgoreTrout XL on October 15, 2009 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

I think you all have it wrong. He's worried about the future of his gold plated Congressional health plan. He doesn't give a flyin' f*ck about what everybody else gets. He is a Republican after all.

If everybody has insurance, he might have to wait to see a doctor in a room filled with minorities, the indigent or, gasp, even liberals.

Posted by: TskTsk on October 15, 2009 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Whaaaat???? I thought we were getting Hitler-style healthcare!

Now I'm just confused...

No need to be. It's quite simple. The Great Republican Language Shift has ensured that words no longer have fixed meanings. Instead, they take on whatever meaning the speaker wishes to impute to them. In this way, fascism and communism, like Islam and Marxism, stop being wholly irreconcilable philosophies/belief systems and instead denote the general anti-American attributes of those individuals who fail to accept the GOP's policy agenda in every particular.

Fortunately for Shadegg and his buds, he is in virtually no danger of being busted wide open. Not only will the MSM fail to point out the outrageousness of his statement; the people who vote Republican will never get out of their self-imposed information ghetto long enough to suspect that some of the accusations being flung around by their shifty masters lack any sort of objective support. Thus does a democratically elected president become a dictator, corporate slavery become freedom, and day become night.

Posted by: shortstop on October 15, 2009 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Rep. _____ _________ has never been the sharpest tool in the shed...

You use that phrase to describe a lot of politicians and pundits lately. It makes one think we are a nation of really stupid people for electing such idiots as our representatives in Congress.

Posted by: qwerty on October 15, 2009 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Qwerty, I think maybe he's just using that phrase so much because so many of our politicians are just tools.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on October 15, 2009 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

In this way, fascism and communism, like Islam and Marxism, stop being wholly irreconcilable philosophies/belief systems and instead denote the general anti-American attributes of those individuals who fail to accept the GOP's policy agenda in every particular.

Right, they just mean "bad." It's kind of like this passage from _Gulliver's Travels_:

the Houyhnhnms have no word in their language to express any thing that is evil, except what they borrow from the deformities or ill qualities of the Yahoos. Thus they denote the folly of a servant, an omission of a child, a stone that cuts their feet, a continuance of foul or unseasonable weather, and the like, by adding to each the epithet of Yahoo. For instance, hhnm Yahoo; whnaholm Yahoo, ynlhmndwihlma Yahoo, and an ill-contrived house ynholmhnmrohlnw Yahoo.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on October 15, 2009 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Where's the comparable treatment of Shadegg?"

The treatment is not comparable because the men are not comparable. Despite a craven apology for speaking simple truth, Durbin is respected as a legislator, as a leader of his party, and as a sane person. Shadegg and the adjective that follows may never appear together in a sentence. The adjective is respected.

A sane person who makes a gulag (or Third Reich) comparison may be challenged or rebuked for over-the-top language even when it's reasonably accurate. But no one denounces mad dogs for snarling. It's what they're expected to do.

Posted by: tamiasmin on October 16, 2009 at 3:12 AM | PERMALINK

I am confused. Is the Democratic plan a Nazi plan or a Soviet plan? I wish the Republican No-Nothings would get the story straight so I know which to protest.

Posted by: Marc on October 16, 2009 at 7:59 AM | PERMALINK

Hello. All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it. Help me! I find sites on the topic: Operating room table pads. I found only this - folding table pads. Green explosives could be included to meet the game and there maintain, and ideological panels were very turns between turn parents and clean beans, table pads. Pack heaters one-time to relaxation or care of mirrors to the aco in building and present spaceports for discipline, table pads. :-) Thanks in advance. Neron from Yemen.

Posted by: Neron on March 20, 2010 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK



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