Happy Monday, Disagreeables! (Is that what we’re calling our readers? Okay.) Sorry for the lack of posting over the weekend; it was busy busy. Once again, I appreciate the gentle proddings from some of you to “get a new post up, slacker.” For some reason snarkologist and inuyesta seem impervious to this form of encouragement, but I try to keep up.
So I woke up last Friday morning, and because I hate my brain, I turned on MSNBC to see what Chris Jansing might be babbling about. She had on Matt Welch from Reason and some dude from Politico (Glenn Thrush, maybe? my brain refuses to remember) talking about the pro-Romney Super Pac headed by one of the Cubs’ owners, Joe Ricketts. You’ve probably heard about this by now, but Ricketts was pitched a proposal by a Republican media strategy group to once again use Rev. Jeremiah Wright in commercials to “expose” the “true nature” of the president.
The proposal, cleverly titled “The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama,” laments that, unfortunately, the country is just not “ready” to hate Barack Obama yet, but don’t worry they have a plan. It outlines a script for a proposed commercial that highlights the president’s close association with Rev. Wright.
Ricketts now claims that he rejected the proposal and that he rejects that kind of politicking, but the proposal does talk about his “preliminary approval at the New York meeting.”Mitt Romney also went on record repudiating the proposal, which just means that next week he’ll shake the Etch a Sketch and we’ll see what happens. And while Ricketts may reject the ad now, he did say that if the nation had seen a similar ad produced by the same group for (and rejected by) John McCain in 2008, “they’d have never elected Barack Obama.”
I think that’s the key issue here. Conservatives like Ricketts and the Republicans who made this ad are convinced that this stuff will make a difference. Ricketts might not want his fingerprints on it, but he thinks it would have worked in 2008, and presumably would still work in 2012. There is a large segment of conservatives who think that McCain lost in 2008 because he refused to go negative on the president.
So regardless of whether Ricketts might have gotten cold feet at seeing this ad, you can expect not every Republican will be so squeamish. And now with the Citizens United decision opening the floodgates, all it takes is one billionaire who wants to make an investment in future lower tax rates for himself to bankroll these kinds of ads all summer long.
As I talked about last week, I visited a conservative Christian high school a couple weeks ago and talked to the students about liberalism. I mentioned that I might be going back and I did, this last Thursday. (In a surreal bit of scheduling, I happened to go back the day after Orly Taitz had spoken to the same class. Yes, that Orly Taitz.)
I was hoping we might start talking about some of the theories behind my specific liberalism, like progressive taxation and economic theory and equal opportunity and pragmatism and empiricism. But the kids wanted to ask about gay marriage and Rev. Wright, and specifically, “what do you think it says about Barack Obama’s character that he sat in that church for 20 years?”
Finally I said to them, “you know America is not even in the top ten in infant mortality rates any more, we don’t have the best education system anymore, we don’t have the highest life expectancy any more, and although we are the richest nation, a large number of our population experience food insecurity at least once a year. If you think Jesus would be more concerned with gay marriage and Rev. Wright than those issues, then I don’t even know how to talk to you.”
At one point, after the class was over, I was talking with my friend and one of her students. My friend told me, “I am fascinated by people like you who grew up in the church and then turn to liberalism later in life.” I replied, “I’m fascinated by Christians who supported the Iraq war.” The student asked, “Why? Shouldn’t we have gone after the people who attacked us?” I was shocked. “You think Iraq had something to do with 9/11?” I asked. The student said yes. I looked to my friend to see if she would correct the student but she just looked at me, as if nothing extraordinary had been said.
It was a disturbing moment for me. My friend had shown a willingness to let her students hear opposing viewpoints, which I thought was fantastic and extremely open-minded. But here was a matter of record, easily verified, that is important to her students’ understanding of politics, and she was ignorant of that fact, or unwilling to set the record straight. Conservatives still continue to believe that Iraq was involved in the attacks on 9/11, and they continue to teach this to their children.
Conservatives live in a different world, and in that world, Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11, and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is a very important issue that will lose the election for Barack Hussein Obama.
I thought this election might be about the economy. Joblessness is way too high, still, and I think many elite conservatives have been effective at (speciously) blaming that on the president. But rank-and-file conservatives don’t seem to be able to stay away from the siren call of Rev. Wright. Ricketts is presumably a pretty smart guy but he seems convinced that the American people will reject Barack Obama if they knew all about his associations with the blackity black preacher.
Mitt Romney publicly repudiates these kinds of attacks, but does anyone think he has the guts (or the desire) to stand up to the right wing of his party? He hasn’t so far. So I think we can expect this stuff to get worse and worse for the next six months until election day. The right really believes that this should matter, and that people just weren’t aware of it enough in 2008. I think they’re wrong on both counts, but they don’t take advice from me.