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.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The White House and the right-wing blogosphere -- mirror images

(updated below)

Right-wing pundits and bloggers have long demanded that the Bush administration make public the hordes of government documents which were obtained from Saddam's files by the U.S. military in Iraq. Those documents, they argued, would finally vindicate their faith-based belief that Saddam really did have WMDs. It was in order to satisfy those demands that the Bush administration -- at the personal direction of the President -- published those documents on the Internet (including, as we now know, how-to instructions in Arabic for building a nuclear weapon).

That revelation led Digby to this important epiphany:

This isn't just another instance of "the buck stops here" accountability. This is an instance of direct, personal intervention by the president who countermanded the advice of his experts and ordered something to be done that resulted in nuclear secrets, written in arabic, landing on the internet. He did this because he listened to the crew of childlike idiots, both in the congress and on the radio and internet, who comprise the heart of his political movement.

It illustrates something I don't think I've ever fully understood before. Bush listens to the 101st keyboarders and believes their delusionary drivel. In essence, the nation is being led by Limbaugh, Powerline and Michele Malkin.

If that doesn't scare the hell out of you, I don't know what will.

I couldn't agree more with that, and the evidence to prove it has been steadily mounting over the last year or so. When the President first used the term "Islamic fascists" in a speech back in August, a controversy arose over whether the term was unduly inflammatory, anti-Muslim, etc. But I thought the more notable aspect of the speech was that this was a term dredged up from the lowest and most radical blogospheric swamps, which have long used that term when discussing The Terrorists.

The President's sudden usage of it was not accidental. It was as though the President, when discussing the "Global War on Terror," suddenly became a commenter at Little Green Footballs or a poster at The Corner. It was at that point when the convergence of the White House and the most rancid elements of right-wing punditry became complete.

And as I previously documented, the President's foreign speeches over the last year, particularly with regard to the Middle East generally and Iran specifically, aren't merely influenced by neoconservative thought. Far beyond that, his speeches have become almost exact replicas of what one regularly reads in The Weekly Standard and in the other most extremist and most crazed neoconservative precincts on the Internet. More and more, what comes out of the White House is indistinguishable from what one hears on the Rush Limbaugh Show and reads on the worst and most irrational right-wing blogs.

There are many causes for this development and many incidents which prove it. Personnel changes alone demonstrate what this administration has become. To the cheers of most right-wing extremists, Tony Snow was moved from his position as rabid Fox News cheerleader to Press Secretary in order to become the face of the administration. Cheered on by the same voices, the administration hired Karl Zinmeister away from the American Enterprise Institute to put him in charge of domestic policy. And most importantly, the handful of "dissidents" from the first term (meaning those who pretended to want to moderate the administration's behavior from time to time and on the margins) have been purged entirely, and in their place are the blind loyalists and the True Believers.

What is alarmingly clear is that the internal power struggles inside of the administration have all been decisively resolved in favor of the extremists who are, in every way, indistinguishable from the right-wing bloggers and pundits whose views are so radical and unhinged that they never cease to shock or disgust. As Digby put it: "the nation is being led by Limbaugh, Powerline and Michele Malkin." And it's no coincidence that the President spends time with Rush Limbaugh, the Vice President appears almost exclusively on rabid right-wing talk radio, and they have expended great efforts to pull closer to them the most extreme right-wing pundits, "journalists," and bloggers. That's their element. It is now what they are.

One sees this all the time now. Arguments that one reads in The Weekly Standard or National Review or hears from Sean Hannity come out of Tony Snow's mouth -- and even the President's -- a day or two later. And this coordination is not just confined to rhetoric. It isn't about mollifying the base with energizing speeches. As the posting of those Iraqi documents reflect, the actions of the Bush administration at the highest levels now mirror the desires of the most extremist elements of the Bush movement because they are one and the same.

One can listen to Sean Hannity, or read John Hinderaker or Michelle Malkin or David Horowitz, and mock the derangement and dishonesty. But that isn't how Dick Cheney or Don Rumsfeld or the President react, and it's certainly not how their top-tier of aides in the various power centers in the administration react. If Dick Cheney had a blog, it would look like Powerline. If Don Rumsfeld had a blog, it would read like LGF. And any of their most influential aides and advisors could post at the Corner or write regularly for The Weekly Standard and nothing would be different.

The longer the administration stays in power and -- even more significantly -- the less popular they become, the more willing, even eager, they become to throw caution to the wind. Almost from a sense of vindictive bitterness, they insist upon their entitlement to do whatever they want. And "what they want" has become progressively more orthodox, more radical, and more dangerous.

That is, more than anything else, what this election is about tomorrow. It really only will determine one question -- will this extremist movement be fully liberated to spend the next two years pursuing its twisted visions with no limits at all, or will it at least have some mild hurdles and impediments to slow it down? I don't write about the John Hinderakers or Glenn Reynolds or Michael Ledeens of the world because it's fun and easy to mock their deceit and derangement, even if that's true. I write about them because they are perfect reflections of the mentality that is governing our country and that has been governing it -- and destroying it -- with no limits at all for five years now.

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John Amato is in Washington for CNN's blogger/election party, so I will be contributing a few shorter posts at C&L over the next few days (until Wednesday). Posting will continue here in its normal pattern. My first C&L posts are here, here and here.

UPDATE: I have a post up at C&L regarding some facts about the election tomorrow. The post is here.

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