Democratic Underground

When Will It Stop?

January 31, 2006
By Joseph Hughes

It's rather convenient, really. I can set my watch by it. About once a month, sometimes more, an angry right-winger will steal the spotlight and say something so vile, so offensive, that I'm left to wonder when people will stop taking them seriously. Or, further, when what they say will land them in jail.

Sometimes the perpetrator is a pundit. Sometimes a politician. Sometimes a televangelist. No matter who they are, what they say is quickly absorbed into the public debate, where repudiations are rare and responses are given short shrift.

This remains the pattern, of course, until a Democrat speaks out. When that happens, the noise machine acts so shocked, so taken aback, that America seems unable to take its next collective breath until and unless the offender – whose words pale in comparison to a Republican's – is shamed in the public square. Or worse.

The latest outrage comes from an old friend, Ann Coulter. You remember her, right? She's the levelheaded moderate who hates Middle Easterners, Canadians, and Kwanzaa celebrants, among others. Last week, when speaking to a college audience, Coulter said, "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee. That's just a joke, for you in the media."

It's not a joke, of course, but no matter what you call it, she's been here before. When writing about President Clinton in her 1998 birdcage liner High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton, Coulter wrote:

In this recurring nightmare of a presidency, we have a national debate about whether he "did it," even though all sentient people know he did. Otherwise there would be debates only about whether to impeach or assassinate.

And yet, despite her disgraceful track record, Coulter bristled when Sen. Hillary Clinton made her recent "plantation" remarks. Maybe that wouldn't be so funny if Coulter hadn't used such language herself.

Pat Robertson, surely not happy to let a woman outdo him, has not only called for the death of certain Supreme Court justices, he's asked his followers to pray for it. It was in early 2005 on "The 700 Club" when he said:

The vendetta against religion in America is about to end. ... "I [God] will remove judges from the Supreme Court quickly and their successors will refuse to sanction the attacks on religious faith."

That's bad enough, but if you visit Robertson's official Operation Supreme Court Freedom Web site, you'll notice his renewed call for murder prayers. "Pray that additional vacancies occur within the Supreme Court," it says. There's no mention of crème brulee, but you get the point.

Robertson wasn't finished, however. Last fall, he moved from sitting Supreme Court justices who disagree with him to democratically elected leaders who disagree with him. Specifically, he wanted Hugo Chavez dead:

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it ... It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.

Why would Robertson want to put Americans' lives in danger to kill Chavez, however, when God could do it for him? That, after all, is the punishment Robertson said would befall Orlando for Disney World's support of gay rights. "It'll bring about terrorist bombs; it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor," he said in 1998. Close your eyes and you can almost hear Osama bin Laden.

Moving from the murder of a democratically elected leader to the son of a democratically elected leader, don't forget what Michael Reagan, Ronald's son, wanted to do to Howard Dean, who had voiced doubts about the American mission in Iraq. Said Reagan on his radio program, "Howard Dean should be arrested and hung for treason or put in a hole until the end of the Iraq war!"

Funny, would Reagan say the same things if he knew that prominent Republicans, including President Bush, had echoed many of Dean's sentiments previously? What if another presidential offspring, say Chelsea Clinton, had said something like this? The response, as wasn't the case with Reagan, would have been prompt – and harsh. Perhaps Rush Limbaugh would call her the "White House dog" …again.

If Reagan wanted to hang Dean, radio talker and newly minted CNN employee Glenn Beck offered a more face-to-face final solution for another anti-war advocate, Michael Moore:

I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it ... No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out - is this wrong?

Say what you want about Moore – and people do. But I am quite certain he's never openly advocated choking the life out of someone. But Beck has. And Moore's the problem?

Why do we allow these people to poison the debate? And why do the media pat them on the back for saying what they say, the same way parents rejoice when toddlers successfully use the toilet? Because, to the media, the outrageous is good business. Nobody wants a thorough examination of terrorism and the Middle East when it's much easier for Coulter to say that we should "invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

What's worse is that the right-wing knows this and seizes every opportunity to drag the discussion into the gutter. For all involved – Americans excluded – it's a good thing. It gives the networks ratings and it allows the Republican Party to avoid having their policies under scrutiny. To the right's advantage, it also places Democrats on the defensive, having to answer to ridiculous charges instead of moving the debate forward.

But God forbid Democrats ever speak their minds. Watch hosts and panelists react with shock and awe whenever Dean makes waves. Or Senator Clinton. Or Cindy Sheehan. Within seconds of a liberal saying something exponentially less offensive than a conservative, the right expresses mock outrage, acting as though the kid they had pushed around on the playground had fought back.

For weeks, the offending Democratic soundbite is played, over and over, and propped up as an example of how liberals would rather criticize than offer solutions. Subsequent left-leaning guests are asked to respond to the Democrat's words. Meanwhile, the conservative hate speech slowly disappears, forgotten until the next time they embarrass themselves. And, when they do, their transgressions are immediately placed side-by-side with the Democrat's comparatively harmless words – all in the name of "balance."

When will it stop?

Joseph Hughes is a graphic designer and writer by day and a liberal blogger by night. Read stories like this and many more at his blog, Hughes for America.

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