I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Republicans stand up for civility

Republicans (most prominently, as I noted in the post below, the President) have recently been giving a lot of lectures about the importance of civility in our political discourse. The latest episode which has so profoundly offended their principles of civility is the photoshopped depiction of Rep. John Kline (R-MN) by his opponent, Coleen Rowley, on her website, where a photograph of Kline was altered to depict him as one of the most vicious, despicable and evil of all the Nazis -- Colonel Klink of Hogan's Heroes:

Rep. John Kline demanded and got an apology Monday from his Democratic rival, Coleen Rowley, for a doctored picture on her campaign website depicting him as Colonel Klink, a bumbling Nazi prison camp commandant in an old TV comedy series. . . .

The blog showed a photo of Ulysses S. Grant next to the picture of Kline, superimposed in Klink's uniform with a monocle over his left eye. It mocked Kline's effort last year to replace Grant's visage with Ronald Reagan's on the $50 bill. It noted that Minnesota cast presidential electoral votes for Grant in 1868 and 1872, while Minnesota was the only state that Reagan lost in 1980 and 1984.

Rep. Kline told Rowley: "You should be ashamed of yourself," and "Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Ron Carey called the photo 'a new low in Minnesota politics.'" Minnesota resident John of Powerline is extremely offended by what Rowley did, calling it a "despicable slander" and observing that "this kind of ridiculous smear is exactly what the Democratic Party is looking for in its candidates." That would be the same John of Powerline who accused Jimmy Carter of being a traitor to his country and being on the "other side" -- which, of course, isn't a smear at all but is perfectly respectable and civil political discourse.

And I'm sure that these same Republicans who find it to be the height of impropriety to compare someone to that dastardly villain, Col. Klink, were equally outraged by this:

Cleland's opponent, Saxby Chambliss, who sat out Vietnam with a bad knee, aired a spot featuring unflattering pictures of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein ... and Max Cleland. Chambliss charged Cleland, the Vietnam vet amputee, was soft on national security because he'd voted against creating the Homeland Security Act. In truth, Cleland co-wrote the legislation to create the Homeland Security Department, but objected to repeated attempts by the White House to deprive future Homeland Security employees of traditional civil service protection.

Obviously, having your photo compared to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein is nowhere near as bad as having it compared to one of Col. Klink, but it's still hard to imagine how basic dignity allows the same people expressing such outrage over the Rowley website to defend the Cleland-bin Laden-Hussein ads.

And I have no doubt that these same people will be outraged by this book cover from Jonah Goldberg's undoubtedly fascinating and novel screed entitled "Liberal Fascism: the Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton," with this really creative and incisive cover:

Here is the Amazon summary of the book presumably provided by Goldberg's publisher (h/t Brendan Nyhan):

Replacing conveniently manufactured myths with surprising and enlightening research, Jonah Goldberg shows that the original fascists were really on the Left and that liberals, from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton, have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler’s National Socialism.

One observation from the Amazon summary is surely wrong:

LIBERAL FASCISM will elicit howls of indignation from the liberal establishment–and rousing cheers from the Right.

There is no way the Right will cheer this book, because they are profoundly opposed to uncivil political discourse and comparing one's opponents to Nazis. And this is to say nothing of the various other highly successful books which have no purpose and no point, literally, other than to argue that "liberals" are treasonous, mentally imbalanced liars who ought to have their heads bashed in.

Beginning with Rush Limbaugh 20 years ago, the Republicans have had great success in depicting their opponents as treasonous, subversive, America-hating, terrorist-loving, emotionally disturbed losers who are only thinly disguised soulmates of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin. Clearly, a very effective psychological system of shame-elimination has been developed in order to allow these same persons to pretend to be so very outraged and offended by depicting a politician as Col. Klink, a television sitcom character. Maybe Rowley should have spread rumors that Kline has a black baby and then it would have been OK.

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