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Robert J. Elisberg Headshot

Profiles in Cowardice

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Love or abhor them, a radical will relish almost any chance to get on a soap box and convert non-believers. Passionate or nutty, angry, courageous, visionary or dangerous, the range of descriptions for radicals is vast -- but one description you will rarely hear is the word, "coward." Until today.

Ladies and gents, meet the new leaders of the Radical Far Right.

Preaching to the choir is easy. The worst that happens is someone interrupting you, "We know that already!!" However, when Far Right Tea Party Republicans began winning inside the GOP, they created a problem for themselves: they had to leave the safety of their own insular primaries and step into the real world. Suddenly, not everyone is shouting, "Hallelujah," and you have to defend the radical reactionary words that actually come out of your mouth.

That's why, no matter how volatile the speeches sound, you know that a person doesn't have the courage of their convictions when they refuse to defend them at every opportunity.

In the end, it's not the number of placards being waved for you, but the challenges one is willing to face that show us what a speaker is made of.

Whatever one thinks of President Barack Obama's politics, he not only walked into a packed conference of House Republicans last January and took questions from his severest opponents for 72 minutes -- but also risked having it televised so that the nation could see the entire give-and-take.

When Sarah Palin was asked by a reporter what newspapers she read, she called it a Gotcha Question.

Of course, among the Radical Far Right, used to living in a protective cocoon where voices speak uniformly, where differences are threatening, where even secular ideas are accepted on faith alone, most any question is a Gotcha Question.

It did not come as a shock therefore when Ms. Palin sent one of her position paper "tweets" to "Tea Party" Republican Christine O'Donnell in Delaware with the advice -- "time's limited; use it 2 connect w/local voters whom you'll be serving vs appeasing nat'l media seeking ur destruction."

Never mind that this is gibberish or contradicted the former half-term governor's earlier advice to Mr. O'Donnell to "speak through Fox News." Consistency has never been Ms. Palin's strongpoint. Unfortunately, consistency is another cornerstone to having the courage of your convictions.

And so we see Tea Party Republican candidates who are happy to shout their ultra-reactionary thoughts behind protective walls, but when it comes time to defend those positions to the outside real world, they cowardly run away.

After Sarah Palin interviewed one time with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric, and failed, she stopped talking to national press, began trying to demean the "Lame Stream Media" and hid behind by the barrier of Fox News. And this, when she was running to be a heartbeat from the presidency.

After Rand Paul's extreme views on Civil Rights and cutting Social Security were revealed, he too stopped giving national interviews, and did a long disappearing act that would have made Lance Burton proud, hiding cowardly behind safe, unquestioning walls.

Sharron Angle stopped doing even local interviews when her wingnut statements appeared on God's plan for rape victims and cutting Social Security -- to the point of literally running away from reporters. Then again, perhaps God's plan was for her to look cowardly.

When Jan Brewer had a meltdown during her first debate and was then asked about her false charges of beheadings, she too ran away from reporters. And canceled further debates.

And after videotapes of Christine O'Donnell's greatest lunatic hits began cropping up like traveling circus tents, she canceled all national TV appearances. Just yesterday, her whole staff hid from Rachel Maddow.

These aren't isolated accidents, they're a pattern of cowardice.

When one is hoping to be elected to public office, it is to represent All The People. That's the actual "We the People" the Far Right loves to contend they speak for. To run away from questions on behalf of those you are trying to represent is a dereliction of duty.

When Ms. Palin ran for Vice President, a heartbeat from becoming leader of the free world -- where she would have to battle daily real confrontation of wars and terrorism; where she would have to deal with our nation's enemies, like North Korea, Iran, China, and Russia; where she would have to sit face-to-face with world leaders whose national interests conflict with our own -- how could she be taken seriously if she can't handle Katie Couric? If she can't handle, "Who are your favorite Founding Fathers"?

We hold debates and demand politicians answer reporter questions to see how they respond under pressure. If Sarah Palin can't bear dealing with Uncle Charlie Gibson, imagine trusting her with al Qaeda, Mahoud Ahmadinejad, and Hezbollah.

Imagine trusting any politician who runs away.

Imagine trusting a politician who lacks the courage of even the simplest of their convictions:

When Rahm Emmanuel privately referred to some supporters as "f-ing retards" Sarah Palin demanded he be fired, rising as mother and champion of those with special needs. Yet after Rush Limbaugh publicly called "people who are retards, retards," she cowardly excused it, insisting, "I agree with Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh was using satire...." And though she was "outraged" at President Obama for making a self-deprecating joke comparing himself to the Special Olympics - she cowardly sat silent when Sharron Angle ridiculed health care for "autism."

That's your craven "mama grizzly."

And so this cowardice passes throughout the ranks of Far Right Radicals, stirring up those anxious to hear only what they want to hear, behind safe walls. But then removing their most controversial statements from their own websites and TV ads.

No matter how much an audience may cheer, however, it is the speaker who must show the courage of their convictions. And running away, while pandering only to your friends shows nothing.

Other than what a coward you are.