The GOP smear du jour of Barack Obama is that he is 'anti-American.' In a video circulating the Internet, House Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is shown repeatedly branding Obama and all liberals with the nasty, McCarthyite epithet in an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews. But...wait a second -- haven't we heard that right-wing smear of liberals recently? Ah, yes! Americans favorite hate-filled pundit: Ann Coulter.
Pretty awful stuff, there. But not to worry, America: within hours of branding liberals 'anti-American' on national TV, Rep. Bachmann gave a press conference denying that she called liberals 'anti-American.' Alrighty, then -- I guess we're all set with today's portion of GOP truthiness.
When I hear Rep. Bachmann maligning Obama as 'anti-American,' it sends me back to a book I published recently about the current bunch of right-wing pundits who use their media platforms day after day to convince viewers that liberals pose a danger to the survival of America. There are so many examples of right-wing pundits calling liberals 'anti-American' from the likes of Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity, that it was just a matter of time before John McCain gave into the temptation to jump on the bandwagon. Or has McCain given his campaign over completely to these right-wing pundits? Has McCain's campaign become the first in history to be run -- lock, stock, and barrel -- by Ann Coulter? The evidence begs the question.
On Hannity and Colmes from March 8, 2002, Ann Coulter made a statement about 'anti-American' Democrats that must have been the inspiration for Rep. Bachmann's remarks. Here is Coulter talking to Alan Colmes about then Majority Lader Tom Daschle's (D-SD) concern over President Bush's carte blanche Iraq war resolution (emphasis mine):
COLMES: Now he wants a joint resolution supporting the war. That's not good enough for you. What's the problem with that?
COULTER: Right. So you do have him in record rooting for America back in December, but...
COLMES: Oh, no. We...
COULTER: ... anti-Americanism could not be...
COLMES: Wait a minute. How dare you call someone anti-American because you don't agree with them. How dare you do that.
COULTER: It's very easy. Would you like to see me do it again? And, in fact, he did -- I mean, his recent attack on the war has -- "Well, we have to raise questions. We don't know how it's going to be in the future," but he never actually articulates a question. It's just this general harping and...
COLMES: What did he say that was anti-American?
COULTER: ... complaining about...
COLMES: Tell me exactly what he did that was anti-American.
COULTER: ... and I do strongly -- well, that's the point. He said, "We're going to -- we're raising questions." He's carping, carping, carping...
COLMES: That's anti-American? That's anti-American?
COULTER: ... but he actually has no questions. He has no point.
COLMES: Well, what's anti-American?
COULTER: It's this general attack on...
COLMES: Answer me.
COULTER: ... Bush and the war and what's going on and -- which is why, I think, it's a great idea, and I think there should be a resolution...
COLMES: You're not answering me.
COULTER: ... once a week for Democrats to reaffirm their loyalty to the United States.
Ahh...Ann Coulter. I am sure she is a lovely person, once you get to know her. But in this case she is accusing half the country of disloyalty, if not treason. And the last time I checked, loyalty oaths were the hallmark of anti-Democratic societies.
The 2002 Coulter interview is probably the closest match to Bachmann's call for Democrats to prove they're not anti-American, but if we keep digging through TV transcripts we find the nasty stink of 'anti-American' accusations throughout the last 8 years of FOX News broadcasting.
For example, I found this festering example of disloyalty dissing in a January 22, 2003 segment called
'Some Say Anti-War Protesters are Anti-American,' hosted by Laura Ingraham:
COLMES: It's horrible, it's horrible. I learn from the best.
Every time a liberal or a group or somebody speaks out against the president -- and they should speak out against policy, not make it personal, I agree with you on that -- you get into this anti-American tirade and start calling the group or the person anti-American.
INGRAHAM: Actually, no.
COLMES: I think you're hurting yourself when you do that.
INGRAHAM: Well, I think, actually, most of the, you know, those people in those silly little flyover states in the South actually kind of agree with what I'm saying, so I take issue with that.
COLMES: How do you define anti-Americanism? Let's discuss it.
INGRAHAM: It is a public self-loathing, and it is a public castigation of basic American values.
I'm not talking about criticizing Bush on Iraq. That's fine. A lot of conservatives don't want to go into Iraq. That's fine.
Ted Kennedy isn't an anti-American, I'm telling you. But the Hollywood elite, and there is a Hollywood elite with -- it's an echo chamber that they live in, they all go to the same parties, they all talk to each other. Barbra Streisand gets her briefings from Scott Ritter on Iraq.
COLMES: They're not all saying the things that Ed Harris said. They're not all calling him -- you know, questioning his manhood or saying that, you know -- let's not lump everybody together who says certain things.
INGRAHAM: Alan, again -- Again, when -- on issue after issue, so many of especially the Hollywood elite are more aligned with a lot of the anti- American crowd across the pond in Europe than they are with Americans...
Everyone see how the argument works? Liberals are not just 'anti-American' -- they are aligned with the worst anti-Americans 'across the pond.' The only thing worse than a foreigner is an American who likes a foreigner. Thanks, Laura! And while you're up, could you pick me up an order of 'freedom' fries?
The following is one of my favorite examples of a right-wing pundit whipping out the 'anti-American' label in rapid-fire succession -- like a six-shooter at gunfight. In an April 9, 2003 interview with Bill O'Reilly -- on the crucial subject of how much foreigners love to hate Americans -- Newt Gingrich used the phrase 'anti-American' faster than Wyatt Erp on the draw:
GINGRICH: Now, look, the BBC has been for years totally owned by left-wingers who are viscerally anti-American. The BBC American channel may be the most anti-American channel, at least as anti-American as Al Jazeera.
It's an ideological bias of the British left. They hated Margaret Thatcher. They hated Ronald Reagan. They cheerfully hate George W. Bush. I'm talking now about the BBC's left-wing board of directors and the BBC's left-wing reporters. That's just reality.
"The New York Times" worried desperately about Afghanistan. When we won in Afghanistan, they warned us that Iraq would be harder than Afghanistan and not to mistake it. I am confident that whatever we do positive next, "The New York Times" will worry about. That's the nature of "The New York Times."
It's become a discouragingly left-wing and isolationist newspaper that wants a timid, weak America that will somehow be so pathetic that even the French will love us. That ain't going to happen. So I start from a different vantage point.
Kapow! Kapow! Kapow! Lightening fast. But did you catch what Gingrich did with those rapid-fire accusations of 'anti-Americanism'? He shot them all at 'left-winger's and The New York Times. Those New York Times people, I tellya. They're so anti-American, the only thing that matters to them is being loved by the foreign left-winger anti-Americans who are worse than Al Jazeera. Is it even possible to hate America that much?
Meanwhile, back in the tranquil comity of the 2008 Presidential election, accusations of 'anti-Americanism' have been hurled with aplomb by right-wing pundits at Barack Obama.
On March 18, 2008, Bill O'Reilly wasted an entire segment talking about whether or not it was immoral for Barack Obama to have exposed his children to the so-called 'anti-Americanism' in his family church:
O'REILLY: ...Are you telling me Wright's anti-American sentiments are OK for a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old girl to hear? Are you telling me that?
O'Reilly's argument is a familiar one in right-wing media: Barack Obama may be anti-American not because he himself has said or done something anti-American, but because he has not repudiated strongly enough the anti-Americanism of other anti-American Americans.
Talking to Sean Hannity on April 8, 2008, Newt "I-Can-Say-'Anti-American'-Faster-Than-You" Gingrich restated this general case against Barack Obama in its clearest and most anti-Americanist version to date:
GINGRICH: Well, I think it's part of a general pattern in which Senator Obama is very comfortable with the hard left and the people who are, in many ways, fundamentally anti-America and certainly anti-American government. And I think that question of who is the real Senator Obama and to what degree could we expect him to have the values and the attitudes and potentially appoint the allies of people who are this consistently anti- American government and anti-American I think is a legitimate question.
Thus, we see how Obama's problem achieved a new, sinister dimension via Gingrich's faster-than-fast rhetoric. The problem is not just that Barack Obama is anti-American, but that he might be a covert anti-American canddiate -- someone who denies his own anti-Americanism in public in order to seize power and enact an evil plan full of -- (wait for it...) -- anti-Americanism.
For some reason, in the period roughly from mid-July 2008 to last week, the right-wing cries of anti-Americanism seemed to have quieted down a bit. There is no telling why for certain, but the reason for the temporary hiatus probably stems from the final showdown in the Democratic primary battle, and then the slow and sleepy season of party conventions. In that period, the right-wing pundits took a short vacation from branding the Democrats 'anti-American' while Democrats beat each other to a pulp, and the conventions that gave each party a 'bounce,' also gave the right-wing media a rest from hanging the scarlet letter of anti-Americanism -- again and again -- around the necks of Democrats. Thanks to Gov. Palin, and Rep. Bachmann, that hiatus devoid of right-wing cries of 'anti-Americanism' is safely behind us.
Only one question remains: Is Ann Coulter -- or Bill O'Reilly, or Sean Hannity -- now running John McCain's campaign or the entire GOP for that matter? Has the entire political wing of Republicanism officially collapsed into cries of 'anti-Americanism' like some endless robocall recording of O'Reilly-Coulter-Hannity-Gingrich's greatest hits?
Kapow! It certainly seems that way.
Crossposted from Frameshop.