Digby does it right

September 24, 2006 by susan

by susan
There are days when I'm flattened by the morning news. Lots of them. And I wonder if all this writing and frothing does any good.

And then along comes Bill Clinton ripping into a simpering Chris Wallace on Fox News, or Digby politely explaining why we have right to be incredibly pissed off thank you very much digbysblog and it pulls me right back up off the pavement. As we say around here in Wellstone land -- but seem to have forgotten -- stand up, keep fighting.
Clips below, but it's worth a full read.

Aesthetic Insanity
by digby

So I see that the NY Times has teamed up with Drudge and Fox News again, calling any Democrat "crazy" who doesn't fold himself into a little ball in the corner and meekly take his punishment from the Republicans.

Earlier the wingnuts started hyperventilating that Bill Clinton had completely lost it when he vociferously defended his honor in the face of Mike Wallace's hellspawn Chris sandbagging him on Fox News after persuading him to come on to talk about the Global Initiative. It made Big Bill a little hot under the collar to have to be rudely interrogated by this Faux journalist who was dutifully following the "Path to 9/11" script and implying that he was responsible for the attacks. Frankly, I would have thought there was something wrong with him if he hadn't gotten mad.

And now I see that a would-be MoDo named Jennifer Senior is reviewing books written by liberals and calling them "berserk," unhinged and unglued. Worst of all she feels they confirm all the worst stereotypes about liberals, which is so awfully annoying when you are a smug, contemptuous journalist writing book reviews about politics for the NY Times and everyone confuses you with people who just don't know how to behave.

The embarrasing books in question are "Pretensions to Empire: Notes on the Criminal Folly of the Bush Administration" a polemic written by Louis Lapham, editor of Harpers magazine and "How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime" a compilation of columns written by journalist Sidney Blumenthal.

Senior is disturbed by the angry tone:

One can certainly understand how these developments '" and Bush's correspondingly rotten approval ratings '" have emboldened the opposition. The problem is that these developments have also made the president's critics more susceptible to rhetorical excess, and Bush, like his predecessor, already has an impressive gift for bringing out the yawping worst in those who disagree with him. Otherwise reasonable people go slightly berserk on the subject of his motives; on the subject of his morality, the hinged fall off their door frames and even the stable become unglued. This is both an aesthetic problem and a substantive one. Substantively, it means gerrymandering evidence so that inconvenient facts don't make it onto the map. And aesthetically, it means speaking in a compromising and not wholly credible tone.

Yes, getting angry about usurping the constitution, torture and sending thousands to their deaths in a losing war for inexplicable reasons among a hundred other outrages is aesthetically jarring. Please, children, use your indoor voices. There's no reason to scream.

. . . . . . . . .

Well, this clears something up once and for all. Apparently it is quite common for journalists like Jennifer Senior to believe that it's their job to mitigate unpleasant facts about President Bush or risk being accused of lacking credibility. Good to know.

Apparently, Mr Bringdown Blumenthal should have included a few columns about some of the "good things" Bush has done to even out the grim ones. I'm not sure what they would be. Those Barney videos are sort of cute; perhaps Blumenthal could have gotten a column or two out of them. After all, as she says "it's hard to trust a narrator who only and always assumes the worst." Lord knows George W. Bush has given us little reason to assume the best but he does like to make jokes at others' expense, so maybe that should count for something. (Senior really enjoys that kind of humor apparently.)

I, on the other hand, couldn't help but be amused that she faults Blumenthal for not providing more evidence that Bush had "plenty of information" than the 9/11 commission did. After all, all the 9/11 commission found was that Bush sat on his ass for eight months ignoring terrorism while Richard Clarke and others were running around with their hair on fire screaming that the terrorists were getting ready to strike inside the United States any day. Surely one needs more evidence than that before one can condemn Bush for his inaction.

Senior delivers the sweeping coup de grace in her final paragraph:

The left has often complained that what it needs isn't polite speech, but voices as pungent as those on the right. Maybe so. But even the angriest people on the right tend to be funny. Books like this one are a depressing reminder of how important it is for writers to have a slight sense of humor about themselves, if they want to be taken at all seriously.

Oh my goodness yes. The most obvious characteristic of the right's "pungent" books about liberals being "Unhinged," "The Party of Death" and "Godless, Slanderous Traitors," is their self-effacing humor. How refreshing it is to be called a fascist by people with such delightful wit.(And you'll note that those books are written about their fellow Americans, not the political leadership, as these books about Bush are.) I now understand why the rightwing publishing industry is taken seriously by journalists like Jennifer Senior. They apparently share an aesthetic obtuseness, which explains a lot.

Blumenthal's book, by the way, is very good. You probably read at least some of the columns in Salon or elsewhere before, but it's seeing them in their totality, over time, that gives the full picture of how Bush rules. And I have to say that when I read it I didn't find a thing funny about it. I guess somewhere between the intelligence faking, the waterboarding and the constitution shredding I lost my sense of humor.

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