[permaculture] The GOP's Jihad on Obama
nicholas at themediasociety.org
Tue Feb 10 23:42:22 EST 2009
looks like the Obama honeymoon is over and that he has played himself, sadly
just like Clinton. ... I hope not.. hope he can negotiate a FDR like New
Deal Coalition... god I hope so...
The GOP's Jihad on Obama
By Robert Parry
February 10, 2009
Only a few weeks into Barack Obama's presidency, a threatening political and
media dynamic has rushed to the fore cutting short a very brief honeymoon.
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The Republicans and their right-wing media allies are doing whatever they
can to strangle the Obama phenomenon in its cradle; the mainstream media
pundits are stressing the negative so they don't get called "in the tank for
Obama"; and the Democrats are shying away from holding the Bush-Cheney
administration accountable for its crimes.
None of these developments is particularly surprising. Indeed, they track
closely to the political-media pattern that took shape the last time a young
Democrat won the White House, when Bill Clinton became President in 1993.
Then, the dispirited Republicans got a lift from the loud voice of a younger
Rush Limbaugh who used his popular three-hour radio show to pillory Bill and
Hillary Clinton. That, in turn, encouraged the congressional Republicans to
vote as a bloc against President Clinton's budget and economic plan.
Mainstream journalists also used the early Clinton years to disprove the
Right's old canard about the "liberal press." As one senior news executive
told me, "we're going to show that we can be tougher on a Democrat than any
And the Democrats of 1993 also didn't want to investigate abuses by the
Republicans who had just lost power. Despite evidence that the
Reagan-Bush-41 administrations had obstructed investigations into
Iran-Contra, Iraqgate and other national security scandals, Clinton and
Democratic congressional leaders feared partisan warfare if those cases were
Everyone in that 1993 mix seemed to be operating out of a logical
self-interest – the Republicans viewed Clinton as an interloper at their
White House; the right-wing media desired larger market share and greater
political influence; the mainstream media wanted to shake off the "liberal"
tag; and the Democrats hoped to focus on the nation's deepening economic and
social needs rather than on complex historical disputes.
However, the result for the country from that intersection of self-interests
The Republican determination to destroy Clinton infected the political
system with an ugly virus of hyper-partisanship; the right-wing media ramped
up its hate talk; mainstream journalism lost its way, wandering into a
strange landscape of garish sensationalism and shallow news reporting; and
the Democrats failed to counteract the threat posed by the neoconservatives
who surfaced during the national security scandals of the Reagan-Bush-41
In short, the dynamic that took shape in 1993-94 carried the United States
into the catastrophic presidency of George W. Bush just eight years later.
[For details on how this happened, see Robert Parry's *Secrecy &
Now, at the other end of the Bush-43 experience, what may be most unsettling
is that so little has changed, so few lessons have been learned.
Even some of the key players are the same, with Rush Limbaugh hoping to
reprise his role as the bombastic voice that lifts the Republicans out of
their post-election funk. And the new GOP players in Congress seem to be
following the hand-me-down playbook from that earlier era.
So, House Republicans hailed their unanimous bloc vote against President
Obama's $819 billion stimulus package as their first substantive step back.
That was followed by key Republicans – Mitch McConnell, John McCain and
Lindsey Graham – refusing to join in any serious negotiations with Democrats
in the Senate.
With the Republican Senate leaders vowing to filibuster the stimulus bill –
thus forcing the Democrats to round up 60 votes – the Republicans were
almost gleeful in their insurrection. The Washington Post quoted key
Republicans expressing this exhilaration in a front-page story entitled "GOP
Sees Positives in Negative
"We're so far ahead of where we thought we'd be at this time," said Rep.
Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, a backbencher eager to take a leadership role.
"It's not a sign that we're back to where we need to be, but it's a sign
that we're beginning to find our voice."
"What transpired," said Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the second-ranking
House Republican, "and will give us a shot in the arm going forward is that
we are standing up on principle and just saying no." [Washington Post, Feb.
9, 2009 <http://mobile.washingtonpost.com/news.jsp?key=348912&rc=po>]
One excited Republican congressman – Pete Sessions of Texas – went even
further, comparing the GOP insurrectionist tactics to those of the Taliban,
the radical Islamic group that is battling U.S. forces in Afghanistan and
has been allied with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist group.
"Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the
Taliban," Sessions said during a meeting with editors of the National
"And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to
disrupt and change a person's entire processes."
Sessions caught himself slightly, adding:
*"*I'm not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban. No, that's not
what we're saying. I'm saying [that] we need to understand that insurgency
may be required when the other side, the House leadership, does not follow
the same commands, which we entered the game with."
In the Senate, only three Republicans – Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and
Arlen Specter – crossed the aisle to support a compromise stimulus bill that
gained their support by increasing the proportion of tax cuts and by
reducing spending on schools and aid to hard-pressed state governments.
Their votes became crucial for the bill to gain a 60-vote super-majority to
cut off debate. After clearing the Senate, 61-37, on Tuesday, the stimulus
bill goes to a conference with the House to iron out differences.
Besides the reemerging behavioral patterns of the Republicans, many
Democrats also are acting like it's 1993 all over again. Despite blunt
admissions by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that
they ordered waterboarding and other brutal interrogation techniques, the
Democrats have shied away from any legal confrontation over whether to hold
Bush and Cheney accountable for criminal violations.
Instead, there's been talk about, maybe, a "truth and reconciliation
commission" that won't seek to embarrass anyone and – through grants of
immunity – may make any criminal prosecutions impossible. [See
Consortiumnews.com's "Leahy Calls for Truth
Another reflection from the historical mirror of 1993 is the asymmetry of
media power. Then, like now, there was a scarcity of well-organized
independent or progressive media, only a handful of under-funded magazines
and some small FM radio stations up against a fast-growing right-wing media
Over the past 16 years, independent and progressive outlets have gained a
toehold in the national debate – mostly through the Internet and a few cable
TV shows – but the balance remains heavily tilted toward the right-wing
side, which invests vastly more money in virtually every media sector, from
books, magazines and newspapers to radio, TV and the Internet.
This imbalance enabled the Republicans to throw the Obama administration
onto the defensive by cherry-picking a few questionable items in the
stimulus bill and making them the center of the national debate for several
days. The independent/progressive media side proved woefully inadequate in
countering that initial thrust.
So far, however, the key difference-maker in the economic debate has been
the President himself. Despite all the TV jibber-jabber about Obama's
stumbles, he demonstrated his ability to reach past the Washington chatter
and connect with an American public that, according to polls, wishes him
well and desperately wants him to succeed.
Obama's town-hall meetings in the hard-hit communities of Elkhart, Indiana,
on Monday and Fort Myers, Florida, on Tuesday – as well as his strong
performance in a televised news conference on Monday night – left millions
of Americans delighted to have a President who could both speak in
paragraphs and cite down-home examples of how his stimulus package would
help common folk.
People in the audiences nodded at his explanations about money to winterize
homes or to modernize schools or to build a first-class infrastructure. A
refrain also kept popping up in questions, references to "for the first time
in eight years," an implicit contrast to Bush's inarticulate oratory.
Obama's speaking skill and personal charm may go a long way toward blunting
Republican hopes for a repeat of the nasty partisan fights of 1993-94 –
which ended up with the GOP winning both chambers of Congress, Rush Limbaugh
becoming an honorary member of the new House majority, and House Speaker
Newt Gingrich launching his "Republican Revolution."
But except for Obama's prodigious abilities -- and an American public that
may have lost its patience for some of the Washington gamesmanship -- there
are eerie parallels to the start of the last Democratic presidency 16 years
*Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the
Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous
Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat,
and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com <http://www.neckdeepbook.com/>. His
two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from
Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project
Truth' are also available there. Or go to
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