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Sunday, November 16, 2003
THEY ALL SEEM TO HAVE AN ASSIGNMENT
I always thought that Hillary Rodham Clinton's invocation of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" out to get President Clinton was way over the top. Bill Clinton created his own troubles. He had an affair with a subordinate (while this was a perfectly voluntary act, it also raises troubling questions about sex and power that have been properly addressed by feminists in situations where a Democratic presidency wasn't at issue), and then lied about it in a sexual harassment suit where he was legally obligated to tell the truth. Then, he lied to the country, and most importantly, would have continued lying about it to his dying day, and using his subordinates and yes-men to trash Ms. Lewinisky's integrity, had unimpeachable incriminating evidence (his semen on the dress) not materialized.
So I don't think Bill Clinton's impeachment problems were the result of any vast conspiracy. But I must say, more recent events are casting Ms. Rodham Clinton's analysis in a more favorable light. What I am referring to is the extent to which the right wing seems to "assign" certain tasks to writers, producing canned and predictable opinion that seeps its way into the public discourse without regard to its validity.
Books are the most obvious example of this. As a general rule, any conservative book with a snappy main title followed by a colon and an accusatory subtitle is the result of an assignment. Michelle Malkin writes "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists Criminals & Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores", because she was assigned the task of putting out the argument for a nativist immigration policy (which would just happen to advance the long-term goal of reducing the number of future immigrant votes for Democratic candidates). (By the way, just as an aside (I might post on this in detail in the future), do you notice how, even in Malkin's book's title, she conflates a "terrorist invasion" with the ordinary folks who cross our borders to find work? They are, of course, apples and oranges, and it is truly offensive to compare a poor Mexican migrant to an Islamist terrorist.)
Amazon.com has a wonderful feature that tells you what other books were bought by people who bought the book you are browsing.
And guess what-- Michelle Malkin's book links to a couple of the other "assignments" given out by right-wing central: "Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First", by Mona Charen, and "Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Endangered America's Long-Term National Security", by Robert Patterson. Other assignments that are easily found through amazon's linking function include "Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror", by Rich Miniter, "Hillary's Scheme : Inside the Next Clinton's Ruthless Agenda to Take the White House", by Carl Limbacher, and "Shut Up and Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the UN are Subverting America", by Laura Ingraham. There's also "Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years", by Rich Lowry, "Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity" by David Limbaugh, and "Arrogance: Rescuing America From the Media Elite", by Bernard Goldberg. Adding to the comical similarity of the titles of all these books, the Lowry and Limbaugh books even add ridiculously obvious symbolism on the jackets-- the "A" in the otherwise white-lettered "LEGACY" on Lowry's book's hardcover is scarlet (get it?), and the "T" in PERSECUTION on the book by Rush's brother David is shaped like a cross.
Each of these assignments advances an argument that the institutitonal Republican Party sees as necessary to advance its electoral prospects. Slandering liberals as being on the wrong side of the cold war, as Charen does (along with Ann Coulter, in her book "Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism") helps plant in the electorate the sense that Democrats can't be trusted to defend the country against the current threat of terrorism. Blaming Clinton for the rise of Bin Laden (which was actually a bipartisan foreign policy failure-- W wasn't doing enough about him before 9/11 either), as Miniter does, has much the same benefit to the GOP. Raising the spectre of a Hillary candidacy for President, as Limbacher does, works wonders for right-wing fundraising. Aligning the Democrats with unpopular (and shallow) Hollywood elites, as Ingraham does, is another pet GOP project. I won't go through the rest of the titles, but you get the idea.
Fox News dutifully interviews these authors when their books come out, giving them added publicity and taking their (usually slapdash and poorly researched) views seriously. Michelle Malkin, for instance, has seemingly been interviewed every time an immigration issue has been discussed on the network.
But the assignments go beyond the bookshelves. When there isn't enough time to publish a book, the right wing turns to the web and parcels out more assignments. Any honest reader of the New York Times op-ed page knows that Paul Krugman calls the right wing on a lot of their BS. (This isn't saying Krugman is always right-- he isn't. But he points out a lot of the dissembling and half-truths that the right wing uses to sell policies that are really bad ideas (e.g., the efforts by the Bush administration to conceal the fact that its tax cuts are directed overwhelmingly at rich people).) So, someone named Donald Luskin gets assigned to trash Krugman.
Bernard Goldberg's books aren't published day to day, so someone has to advance the right wing's spurious and slanderous claims that the mainstream media is biased against conservatives. Someone named Tim Graham, at The Corner at National Review Online, and who doesn't (unlike many Corner bloggers) provide his e-mail address, writes about nothing other than supposed media bias. He's clearly on assignment. Here's a typical item. He lays into Judy Woodruff-- as fair and straight-laced a journalist as there is-- for asking supposedly softball questions of Tom Daschle regarding the recent Senate flare-up regarding the President's judicial nominees. But if you look at Graham's list of six questions, four of them are clearly adversarial to Daschle. (In any event, Woodruff is not Sam Donaldson or Tim Russert-- she's not a really tough interviewer. Graham provides no counterpoint of where she is ever any tougher with a Republican interviewee. But then, that's not part of his assignment.)
The point is, this is all clearly coordinated. I leave it to others to determine whether this constitutes a vast conspiracy, but what is happening is clearly no coincidence.
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