Monday, March 23, 2015

From The Playbook

Few others have said it better than Tom Frank, who in his seminal work What's the Matter with Kansas? noted

American conservatism depends for its continued dominance and even for its very existence on people never making certain mental connections about the world, connections that until recently were treated as obvious or self-evident everywhere on the planet. For example, the connection between mass culture, most of which conservatives hate, and laissez-faire capitalism, which they adore without reservation. Or between the small towns they profess to love and the market forces that are slowly grinding those small towns back into the red-state dust- which forces they praise in the most exalted terms...

Behold the political alignment that Kansas is pioneering for us all. The corporate world- for reasons having a  great deal to do with its corporateness- blankets the nation with a cultural style designed offend and to pretend-subvert: sassy teens in Skechers flout the Man; bigoted churchgoing moms don't tolerate their daughters' cool liberated friends; hipsters dressed in T-shirsts reading "FCUK" snicker at the suits who just don't get it. It's meant to be offensive, and Kansas is duly offended. the state watches impotently as its culture, beamed in from the coasts, becomes coarser and more offensive by the year. Kansas aches for revenge. Kansas gloats when celebrities say stupid things; it cheers when movie stars go to jail. And when two female rock stars exchange a lascivious kiss on national TV, Kansas goes haywire. Kansas screams for the  heads of the liberal elite. Kansas comes running to the polling place. And Kansas cuts those rock stars' taxes.

Kansas has been pioneering for us all in domestic issues, the interplay between economics and culture. But a similar thing is now taking place in the foreign arena, with conservative Repubs blowing smoke up out... well, you know.

Appearing Sunday (video below) on CNN's State of the Union,  Senator John McCain advised President Obama

The President should get over it. Get over your temper tantrum, Mr. President It's time that we work together with our Israeli friends and try to stem this tide of ISIS and Iranian movement throughout the region which is threatening the very fabric of the region. The least of your problems is what Bibi Netanyahu said during an election campaign. If every politician were held to everything they say during a campaign, obviously that would be a topic of long discussion. This is one of the most Orwellian situations I have ever observed.

Put aside that, as Digby observes, McCain probably doesn't understand what "Orwellian" means. Lay aside that Bibi Netanyahu has demonstrated that he is not our friend, both in openly defying the President of the United States and the view of at least the last three Presidents that a two-state solution is the only viable option in the Middle East.

Ignore even the obvious hilarity of John McCain lecturing Barack Obama on the matter of temper tantrums. After Netanyahu's speech to Congress, an obviously emotionally distraught Obama remonstrated "I did get a chance to look at the transcript and as far as I can tell there was nothing new." And following the Prime Minister's surprisingly large electoral plurality, Obama told the Huffington Post

We continue to believe that a two-state solution is the only way for the long-term security of Israel, Given his statements prior to the election, it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible....

We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership. So that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.

The man is simply out of control!

John McCain criticizing Barack Obama for a temper tantrum is analogous to him knocking Representative Barbara Lee of California for being a warmonger; or Scott Walker rapping Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown for being anti-union; or John Ellis Bush condemning Elizabeth Warren for ignoring the interests of the middle class and rejecting populism. It is flat-out bizarre- more likely, mendacious.

The real issue is that, like conservatives who rail against abortion, same-sex marriage, and paint liberals as fans of Sodom and Gomorrah, McCain doesn't really mean it.  Borger (beginning at aproximately 1:43) asks

But you called the President's response to Bibi Netanyahu a temper tantrum. Why is it a temper tantrum if Netanyahu ostensibly rejects during his campaign the very basis for decades of American policy heading towards some kind of peace process. Should the President sort of pay no attention to that?

McCain, who had excoriated Obama for a temper tantrum, replied "I think the President maybe shouldn't like it," after which he went on about ISIS and Iran.

This wasn't Scott Walker, single-minded in his hatred of unions, John Ellis Bush fascinated by all things Bush, or Ted Cruz, who knows little about anything. This was war hero, reliable hawk, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee member John McCain slamming Obama and then, in one definitive remark, agreeing with the President. Whether their criticism is intended to reassure the voting base or the voting base of their party, conservatives are at it again, with McCain, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and other Republicans chastising President Obama, with only the rare Gohmert suggesting a concrete change to policy.  It's all theater, sound and fury signifying only that they will say anything, whip up any fury or frenzy, to defeat Democrats.

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