James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Friday, March 07, 2008

Piece 3: Here comes the right wing filth

The engines of the radical right's slime machines are just beginning to cough into life.

Their operators and funders, shadowy at best, with identities often completely hidden beneath layer over layer of organizational fictions, have just begun the tune-ups and tinkering that precede an all-out campaign effort.

There are indications, however, that the lies, distortions, libels and slanders that characterized right wing attacks on John Kerry four years ago were just a warmup for the filth spreaders.

It's possible that the one true and also relevant claim made by Hillary Clinton on her own behalf is that she is better prepared than Barak Obama to withstand the onslaught. Obama never has faced a serious Republican opponent, let alone the kind of immoral, vicious, sometimes illegal attacks that are going to hit the Democratic presidential nominee this year.

Not that the presidential candidate will be the only victim, of course.

The extreme right is clearing its throat right now with nasty attacks on about 15 congressional Democrats around the country, mostly freshmen, some of whom unseated Republicans in marginal districts in 2006.

One of the early targets is first-term Democratic Congressman Tim Walz of Minnesota's first district, in the southern part of the state. It's generally prosperous farm country, a district that frequently elects dim-bulb Republicans who thoughtlessly spout conservative cliches about cutting taxes, reducing big government and the evils of bureaucrats.

Just within the past couple of days, similar television ads have begun running in the Twin Cities, where freshman liberal Congressman Keith Ellison – who is the only Muslim in Congress – represents Minneapolis and portions of some close-in suburbs.

Walz, a former teacher and veteran of 20-plus years in the National Guard, is hardly a flaming liberal. He can think for himself, however, and he's not easily cowed. When the attack ad appeared in his district a week or so ago, he immediately stood up, called the shadowy group behind it “reckless with our national security,” liars and worse and saw to it that his response got prominent treatment in local news outlets.

Unlike John Kerry four years ago, he didn't leave the ground to the attackers for weeks before responding, nor was his response as feeble as Kerry's.

I don't know how well the other victims of this particular ad are responding; I hope it's with equal vigor. I haven't seen anything from Ellison yet, but I can't swear I haven't missed something.

The ad in question has ominous background music. It has photos of high-tech security equipment and in some venues juxtaposes photos of Osama bin Laden with photos of whichever Democrat is the local target.

All of the subject Democrats voted against George Bush's plan to continue illegal wiretapping of American citizens and to grant retroactive immunity to telecoms that illegally assisted the administration in that program.

The ad message is that in upholding the U.S. Constitution, the Democrats are essentially traitors who have given a green light to terrorists to attack us in our homes.

(It doesn't note that several of the country's intelligence officials publicly stated that shutting down the illegal wiretapping – which apparently continues – would pose no threat whatever to the country's security.)

An excellent exposition on Walz's situation can be found in a piece by former Star Tribune columnist at http://www.jimklobucharwrites.com

A story run Feb. 24 by the Owatonna (Minn.) People's Press is available at http://www.owatonna.com

The attack was created by, and television time paid for by, one of those shadowy right wing jinjaweed organizations. This one calls itself “Defense of Democracies.”

SourceWatch, an arm of the Center for Media and Democracy, identifies Defense of Democracies as an affiliate of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. That nonprofit “foundation” says it's purpose is “research and education on international terrorism – the most serious security threat to the United States and other free, democratic nations.”

Uh huh.

It claims to be nonpartisan, and, sadly, it's directors and “fellows” include some right-bent Democrats as well as a bunch of well-known hard-right names such as Jeane Kirkpatrick, Newt Gingrich, Gary Bauer, several former (under Reagan and the Bushes) FBI and CIA executives and – gee, what a surprise – former Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman.

I point that out to make it clear that the people behind the filth-spewing machines often are people who are widely regarded as respectable and who certainly are treated with the greatest respect by news organizations. They rarely are outed except by impolite bloggers and, very occasionally, by liberal organizations such as TruthOut and MoveOn.

In any case, as indicated at the start of this, the attack on some relatively new Democratic members of Congress is just a warmup.

A number of news organizations have done stories recently to the effect that this year's excretions, mainly from the right, will be even more sickening than in the past.

The Nation did a story on the character-assassination campaigns of one of the Republicans' favorite hatchet men, Scott Howell, who never shrinks from encouraging racism, gender prejudices or any other rotten human trait that can be exploited on behalf of his clients.

CNN.com recently carried an article predicting a flood of “sucker punches and below-the-belts,” with heavy use of the Internet this year to convey the nastiest messages.

The CNN piece is useful as a lesson on what to look for when reading or watching commentary or what passes for news in corporate outlets: Networks, CNN, newspapers and many general-circulation magazines feel compelled to present what they claim is “balanced” coverage.

That produces very badly unbalanced coverage, in fact.

CNN quoted a Republican throat cutter, Mark McKinnon, who's working for John McCain this year. McKinnon said this year will produce an “especially ugly ad season” and he should know, given that he's a major player.

But having done that, the CNN writer felt obligated to warn readers that MoveOn.Org intends to spend as much as $45 million this year on political advertising “much of it on negative ads.”

The writer made no mention of the demonstrable fact that McKinnon's history and that of other official Republican operatives – let alone the slimy “unaffiliated” organizations such as the swift boat crowd – frequently use distortion and sometimes outrageous lies to benefit their candidates. MoveOn and other liberal organizations, sometimes play with the balance of facts, but so far as I can discover they've never been caught using outright lies and fiction in their ads, position papers or public statements.

Yet almost all news organizations, if they do expose a demonstrable lie and call it that, will “balance” the story by devoting equal space to some attack statement from the other side (generally the Democrat or left side), without making clear that the Democrat's negative claim has the benefit of being true.

Not that some exaggerations and occasional lies don't also come from the left, of course, but the balance of dishonesty is very much on the Republican side.

We must get mentally ready for what is to come. It will be ugly, and there isn't a thing most of us can do except to doubt all attacks, and to seek out the truth, which generally isn't terribly difficult to find, and spread the word among the lazy and the gullible.

Did you really think Karl Rove went home to Texas to be with his family and that's he's spent his time since leaving the White House nuzzling his wife and playing with the kiddies and the dog?

The ugly master of ugly went home, friends, to plan the dirty tricks and lies of the 2008 campaign.

Be prepared.