For me, the quintessential example of leftist op-ed absurdity had to be the September 12, 2009 piece by the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd in which she actually put words–racially intolerant language, no less–into the mouth of South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson, who had the temerity to point out an overt misrepresentation made by the president of the United States during a health care-related speech to a joint session of Congress three days before.
“You lie!” is what Wilson shouted, to a shocked chamber, after President Barack Obama insisted falsely that his proposed health care reform would not insure illegal immigrants.
“You lie, boy!” was the statement imputed by Dowd to the good congressman. For Dowd, putting words in Wilson’s mouth was a necessary jumping-off point, the only way to take an admittedly irreverent moment centered around illegal immigration and instead paint it as an example of racial bigotry. Without adding nonexistent language to Wilson’s exclamation, see, Dowd’s entirely manufactured narrative that Wilson’s “shocking disrespect for the office of the president” convinced her that “[s]ome people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it” would rightfully fall flat on its face.
Never mind, of course, that Wilson never said anything of the sort. Never mind, of course, that the only person to actually make use of the “boy” epithet in addressing Barack Obama was Dowd herself who, after candidate Obama took offense at a comment about his prominent ears, said that “we’re just trying to toughen you up, boy.” Never mind, of course, that Dowd’s insistence that “no Democrat ever shouted ‘liar’ at W when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq” was flat wrong. Never mind, of course, that Joe Wilson was absolutely right. When it comes to the most ridiculous commentary from the left, it seems, truth and accuracy take a back seat to ideological fervor.
For a long time now, I thought Dowd’s masterpiece was insurmountable as the headlining act in the Theatre Of The Absurd. Then, I read Richard Cohen’s piece in this morning’s Washington Post.
In it, just as Dowd meritlessly imputed bigoted language to Joe Wilson, Cohen imputes upon the Tea Party movement a cocktail of intolerance, rage and violence. In the context of the unfortunate and deadly 1970 shooting at Kent State University, Cohen takes the words of Ohio Gov. James Rhodes at that time and insists that such “ugly” language as espoused by those on the right who were “enthralled by toughness, violence” is once again the language of our current political landscape, particularly of the Tea Party movement, a faction, Cohen insists, is comprised of the same type of people who gunned down those four students in Ohio.
I had been a reporter back when the killings occurred and it was a huge story to me. I longed for a chance to cover it, but I was young and raw, and the journalistic sluggers whooshed out of the newsroom, hailed a cab, jumped a plane and wrote the story — the story. The story will keep you sane.
But it is a story no more and so, on the bike, the full horror of it came through: My God, American soldiers had shot American college students. This was not China, not Tiananmen Square, and not Iran and the pro-democracy rallies of last year — not any of those places. This was America, just yesterday (take my word for it) and yet it had happened. How? I thought hard and then I remembered. Bullets had killed those kids, sure — but they were fired, in a way, from the mouths of politicians.
The governor of Ohio, James Rhodes, demonized the war protesters. They were “worse than the Brownshirts and the communist element. . . . We will use whatever force necessary to drive them out of Kent.”
That was the language of that time. And now it is the language of our time. It is the language of Glenn Beck, who fetishizes about liberals and calls Barack Obama a racist. It is the language of rage that fuels too much of the Tea Party and is the sum total of gubernatorial hopeful Carl Paladino’s campaign message in New York. It is all this talk about “taking back America” (from whom?) and this inchoate fury at immigrants and, of course, this raw anger at Muslims, stoked by politicians such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Lazio, the latter having lost the GOP primary to Paladino for, among other things, not being sufficiently angry. “I’m going to take them out,” Paladino vowed at a Tea Party rally in Ithaca, N.Y.
Irresponsible trash, vomited forth by a long-embittered political smutpeddler.
Forget, for a moment, that not a single instance of violence–or even littering, for that matter–has been ascribed to the Tea Party movement (and indeed that Glenn Beck himself constantly warns against violence by using, among other things, the French Revolution as an example of what violence brings), while it has traditionally been the radical left which has been responsible for countless deaths and endless amounts of property damage since the days of the Weather Underground and its targeted bombings, and seen most recently in the streets of whatever city was unfortunate enough to host a G-20 summit.
Forget, for a moment, that the bloodlettings in China and Iran were carried out by a communist government and an Islamic theocracy, that ethnic cleansing and forced starvation and mass murder have long been the hallmarks of totalitarian leftist regimes.
Forget even, for a moment, that elements of the anti-war movement reminisced upon wistfully by Cohen was itself bitterly anti-American, prepared as more saboteurs than activists to do everything possible to ensure that American forces ran from Vietnam with its blood-stained tail tucked between its legs and came home to a United States of America that had been fundamentally transformed according to the collectivist model. If not then, when shall those who actively provide comfort to our enemy not themselves be considered an enemy? If not then, when shall dissent be characterized as “the worst treason of all”?
What we have, in this morning’s latest installment of the overtly absurd, is a piece of writing authored by a man–a journalist, by some accounts at least–who has absolutely no problem whatsoever largely giving a pass to hateful and radical and violent and deadly conduct carried out by hateful and violent and murderous radicals on the left while unnecessarily–and without evidentiary support–projecting bigotry and hostility onto a group of ordinary people who, if anything, have been exceedingly vociferous in their opposition to exactly such tendencies and behavior.
Cohen conveniently ignores incendiary remarks and conduct from our president and his Democrats, whether it be President Barack Obama’s promises to determine “whose ass to kick” with regard to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s public calls for the investigation of any and all who dared oppose the construction of a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero, or DHS Director Janet Napolitano’s agency directive characterizing returning combat veterans as “right-wing extremists” worthy of as much scrutiny as, say, someone willing to tuck an explosive device behind his doomed scrotum.
If there is a danger at this point in time when it comes to our political discourse, it is unequivocally presented by yellow journalists like Richard Cohen, who for purely ideological reasons would gladly disseminate fraudulent misrepresentations and convenient omissions in an attempt to shape and shift public opinion away from politically inconvenient reality and fact. Whether it be insensitive words read into an otherwise correct statement by a single congressman or violent, seething rage imputed to an entire grassroots movement comprised of millions of everyday Americans, absurdity has no place in a political landscape already too saturated with spin and devoid of truth.
I suppose it would be too much to ask that Richard Cohen turn up the volume on his iPod, conjure up a tandem bicycle, and ride off alongside Maureen Dowd into the sunset as footnotes on the decline of American journalism, never to return again.