A moment like this comes once in a generation. Times like this reveal our leaders as they really are. This was the moment for the Republican party, roundly repudiated in two consecutive elections, to turn themselves around, to step forward and show what they stand for, other than attacking Democrats.
The issue? Health care reform.
So let’s see, what have the Republicans brought to the debate? Original ideas, proposals? Of course not.
They brought the same time-honored tactics the rightwing has been using since Hitler’s Brownshirts released live rats into theatres showing the pacifist film “All Quiet on the Western Front” 70 years ago. The Republicans brought violence, death threats, screaming, deliberate disruption, and numerous instances of guns toted into the town halls. One guy brought a gun to the Obama event and actually got to keep the gun. As Cenk Uygur observed: "Imagine he was Muslim and waiting for Bush with a gun. How long would that guy have lasted? You think they'd let him just sit there and wait for Bush?"
A black Congressman who spoke in favour of Obamacare was slammed on the air by Glenn Beck and the next day his office was vandalized with a swastika (what, no cross burning?), whereupon a conservative magazine accused the Congressman of staging the whole thing.
They sent a protester who fell down for two seconds and claimed that union employees beat him up, not realizing that his fraud had been filmed. To top it off, he tried to perpetuate the fraud by going to the ER for an unnecessary exam, and then had to pass the hat for the exam bill because – brace yourself – he had no health insurance.
The police began warning Congressmen – our elected representatives – to cancel the town halls because they were too dangerous.
Let me cover that point again: the rigthwing goon squads made it too dangerous for our elected representatives to do their jobs. A giant step toward killing democracy outright.
Soon it emerged that these “spontaneous” “local” citizen protesters were often GOP operatives trucked in from other areas, the fruit of extensive planning. The organizers admitted that the goal was to stop any reform, and they made clear that they wanted to stop any debate as well – debate means democracy, and the GOP loathes democracy when they can’t buy it or steal it.
Meanwhile other Republicans were joking – hardy har har – about lynching Democratic Congressmen, poisoning Nancy Pelosi and Chris Dodd, and driving a stake through Howard Dean’s heart. Lou Dobbs was insisting that the attacks on Obama’s spokesmen were…Obama’s fault. Michael Steele found that angry Democrats were complaining on the telephone about the Gestapo tactics at the town halls, but since the GOP doesn’t have the guts to accept accountability for their destructive actions, they illegally redirected the calls to the Democratic party, and then lied about doing it.
It all got to be so over the top that Jim “Destroy Obama” DeMint and Sarah “Death Panel” Palin actually tried to be the voices of reason, urging everyone to “play nice”. And Glenn Beck, whose middle name should be “Incitement To Riot”, ingeniously speculated how horrible it would be if another Timothy McVeigh would start killing, egged on by…guys like Beck. This was all happening against the backdrop of two anti-Obama lone wolves recently going on killing sprees in Pennsylvania, and a third murdering an abortion doctor in Kansas.
And of course when Republicans show up at a debate without their Molotov cocktails, they bring lies instead. Big steaming mounds of lies. Here are some of the claims we’ve heard, all from real Republicans, all in the last week, all of them dead wrong:
Gummint will invade your home and raise your kids for you! Obama will ration healthcare! And ration toilet paper too! We won’t be able to keep our own doctors! Obama will charge us to insure illegals! Pelosi is sending thugs to attack the homes of reform critics! The CBO says the plan will break the bank (wrong)! Obama wants socialized medicine that hasn’t been properly paid for (actually that was Bush with the Medicare drug program)! He will cut our Medicare benefits (so why did the AARP endorse it then?)! He will reach into our bank accounts and steal our money, kill Palin's baby, kill Ted Kennedy, kill your grandmother, kill all insurance companies, kill unborn babies, kill thousands via “death panels”, incite riots, tax us into the Stone Age, impose Communism, stop all innovation!
And just when you thought the “birther” theory was the most insane thing the wingnuts ever could have come up with….The “death panel” canard was a big-ticket item for the Republicans this week – Palin, Newt, Beck and the rest of the Fox folks jumped on the bandwagon, until finally even Cavuto said it was bogus. His common-sense observation was echoed by Republican Senator John Isakson, which isn’t surprising because the alleged Democratic death-panel provision was written by Isakson himself – that’s right, a Republican -- and had no resemblance whatsoever to the dishonest GOP claims. But even repeated debunking didn’t stop the Hurricane of Stupid: the GOP ran “death panel” scare ads, and Pat Buchanan shrieked that Obama was promoting suicide to save money. The obvious irony being that the only “death panels” belong to…the insurers, who call it “denial of coverage”.
And of course in the middle of this, the Republicans were screaming on every TV show and internet site imaginable, that our president is an illegitimate usurper. And of course the only answer to usurpation is violent revolution, right?
But it wasn’t so amateurish in Washington was it?
When word got out that the goon squads were going to the town halls, shouting and hitting people, House GOP leader Boehner publicly endorsed their actions, and Senate GOP leader McConnell was seen laughing and crowing that it all meant that the Democrats were losing. Chuck Grassley, who allegedly was the GOP moderate who was supposed to reach a bipartisan deal, resisted all legislative timetables, tried stop Obamacare by exploiting Ted Kennedy’s illness for political purposes, and by claiming Obama was too ignorant to know what he was doing, and finally admitted that the GOP was pressuring him to kill Obamacare. Another GOP Senator admitted they were doing it all for political reasons, and other Republicans openly attended a Washington function in which the insurers gave them their bribes. The Republicans also sought to add an abortion ban to the health reform plan, to pass a bill providing health care for pets (!), and to convert the public option into tiny state co-ops which the insurers could crush easily (38 states have insurance markets dominated by a single insurance firm). The insurers themselves instructed their employees to spam Congress just as Michael Steele was spamming the DNC switchboard with calls.
Lies, attacks, scare tactics, threats, faux martyrdom, vandalism, obstruction, spamming….How proud the Republicans must be!