I was talking to Frank Mankiewicz recently (he was the press secretary for Bobby Kennedy and campaign manager for George McGovern) and I asked him what's the difference between the right-wing in this country back in the 60s and 70s and right now. Certainly there were crazed conservatives back then, and in many ways they were even more dangerous and vicious back then. But Frank was more concerned about the right-wing of today. Why?
He said it's because back then they were considered the radical fringe and now they're taken seriously as part of the national conversation. Back then there were pockets of these guys in different parts of the country, but now they're national. So, every single issue is nationalized and made more partisan. The fringe is united behind their demagogues (mainly radio and television talk show hosts) and drive every issue into a senseless and fevered ideological battle.
It's as if we're taking the opinions of doctors and the lunatics at the asylum just as seriously. They are not equal and legitimate sources of information.
So, every week there's something else crazy that's discussed as if it's a legitimate issue. This week there are already two such topics, and it's just Tuesday. First, the right-wing is incensed that President Obama showed courtesy to a foreign leader by bowing to the Japanese Emperor. Are you kidding me? Bush practically made out with the Saudi leader at Crawford, but we didn't make that a real issue. You know why? Because it's not a real issue!
It was funny to see Bush walking hand in hand with King Abdullah, but we get why he did it. He was respecting their culture. Now, when Obama does something much less controversial, it's a nationwide debate (including a slight bow to the same Saudi Arabian leader). You can chuckle over Bush or Obama in local outfits or practicing what appears to be strange customs to us, but you can't treat it as if it's something that tells you about their leadership or as if it's a real national security issue.
Let alone what Wesley Pruden, editor emeritus of The Washington Times, had to say about Obama bowing "controversy":
But Mr. Obama, unlike his predecessors, likely knows no better, and many of those around him, true children of the grungy '60s, are contemptuous of custom. Cutting America down to size is what attracts them to "hope" for "change." It's no fault of the president that he has no natural instinct or blood impulse for what the America of "the 57 states" is about. He was sired by a Kenyan father, born to a mother attracted to men of the Third World and reared by grandparents in Hawaii, a paradise far from the American mainstream.
Look at these statements -- "natural instinct or blood impulse"; "sired by a Kenyan father"; "born to a mother attracted to men of the Third World." Again, are you kidding me? We're supposed to take these guys seriously?
Then there is the issue of the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial. Bill O'Reilly had this thoughtful commentary on the KSM trial, "The guy's admitted it, so he shouldn't be going on trial anyway, he should just be shot." We're listening to these guys?
So, under that logic, if the authorities claim someone "admitted" a crime to them, we should just skip the trial and shoot them in the head. How very American!
Imagine if we these right-wing lunatics were around -- and were being taken seriously -- after World War II. We would have never had Nuremberg. They would have gone ballistic; screaming for blood and seething at the idea of bringing Nazis to justice. They would have exacted a terrible political price for trying to bring these guys to trial. So, instead of setting a history making precedent on how victors in war can be just and fair, we would have lynched those detainees, punished the rest of Germany and made the same mistake as almost every other country in history by brutally oppressing the defeated.
You think these guys would have gone for the Marshall Plan? Rebuilding your enemies? Giving tremendous amount of money and US resources to rebuild your two biggest adversaries who just killed millions of people in a terrible war they started? Inconceivable. They would have called the Marshall Plan an act of cowardice and appeasement that showed weakness to your enemies. They would have destroyed the greatest American diplomatic accomplishment. They would have tried to scuttle the very policies that made this country great -- that made it exceptional.
But the current right-wing radicals (which includes nearly every major conservative talk show host in the country; they were unanimous in their agreement that KSM should not be tried in the American justice system) aren't just crazy, they're un-American. They missed the whole point of the country. What makes America great is our justice system. We don't take people out and shoot them in the head without trials. That's what despots and dictators do. We are a country of laws, not men. We are supposed to be exceptional in our justice, fairness and jurisprudence. These people don't believe in any of that. They just want blood. But we might be crazier than they are for taking them seriously.