Friday, September 18, 2009

Aww, Senator Grasshole's feelings are hurt. Those fact-hating GOP-ers always hate it when you quote back what they've said.


"When you see a bunch of people going around thinking that our president is the Antichrist, you have to draw one of two conclusions: Either these are racists, looking for any excuse to level the next accusation, or they're beyond crazy, and I think 'beyond crazy' is a better explanation, and that evangelical subculture has rotted the brain of the United States of America."
-- Frank Schaeffer, to Rachel Maddow on Wednesday's show

by Ken

We're developing a shelfful of valuable books describing and attempting to explain how the conservative movement and the Republican Party have converged in a farrago of ultra-extreme, fact-defying, junk-religious right-wing demagoguery. Howie has been regaling us with morsels from Charles Pierce's Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free,and before that Dave Neiwert's The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right.I myself found a half-price copy (sorry, Max!) of Max Blumenthal's Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party,and have it at the top of my approaching-Everest-size reading pile. We've talked about Jeff Sharlet's The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Powerand Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum's Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future,and I'm sure I'm leaving out a bunch of significant titles.

I'm just catching up with Frank Schaeffer's Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.Somehow I missed Schaeffer's previous appearances with Rachel Maddow, but I got a jolt from Wednesday's.

Schaeffer writes from the unique perspective of someone who was in on the creation of the modern Religious Right. His father, Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984), a Presbyterian minister, was one of its shapers, and Frank himself was an eager participant until he made his break in the mid-'80s. I call attention in particular to this section, at about 1:15 in the clip:

The mainstream not just media but culture doesn't sufficiently take stock of the fact that within our culture we have a subculture which is literally a fifth column of insanity, that is bred from birth through home school, Christian school, evangelical college, whatever, to reject facts, as a matter of faith. And so this substitute for authentic historic Christianity -- and I may add as a little caveat here, I'm a churchgoing Christian -- really brings up the question, can Christianity be rescued from Christians? And that's an open question.

And when you see a bunch of people going around thinking that our president is the Antichrist, you have to draw one of two conclusions: Either these are racists, looking for any excuse to level the next accusation, or they're beyond crazy, and I think "beyond crazy" is a better explanation, and that evangelical subculture has rotted the brain of the United States of America. We have a big slice of our population waiting for Jesus to come back. They look forward to Armageddon; good news is bad news to them.

When we talk about the Left Behind series of books that I talk about in my book, Crazy for God, what we're really talking about is a group of people who are resentful 'cause they know they've been left behind -- by modernity, by science, by education, by art, by literature. The rest of us are getting on with our lives; these people are standing on a hilltop waiting for the end. This is a dangerous group of people to have as neighbors, and they're our national neighbors. And this is the source of all these insanities that we see leveled at the president. One way or another they go back to this little evangelical subculture. It is a disaster.

[Boldface emphasis added by yours truly.]

Did you get that? A subculture that rejects facts, as a matter of faith. They reject facts as a matter of faith. As Schaeffer says later, "This subculture has as its fundamentalist faith that they distrust facts per se."

Wow! Can it be said much better than that?

I bring this up because Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, best known as Montana Sen. Max Baucus's BFF (one of them is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the other is ranking minority member, and even they never quite seem sure which is which, as long as the predatory corporatist agenda is being served), but known to our Noah as "Senator Grasshole," which I can certainly get behind, has lately been on a mission to buff up his image.

You remember that creepy post-election period when Chimpy the Then-Prez was still nominally the prez but seemed to lose most of his interest in the job and with it his always-limited focus, and concentrated instead on polishing his "legacy" -- as if the eight years he spent building that legacy could be tossed down a memory hole? Well, now Senator Grasshole seems to be searching for the opening to that memory hole. He's got a lot of crap it appears he'd like to dump down it.

I will stipulate at the outset that Chuck Grassley isn't the worst of the Republicans, or at least didn't used to be. He wasn't the best either. By Republican standards -- and I stress only by Republican standards -- he could legitimately pass himself off as a moderate. Remember that the Modern Movement Right has shifted the goalposts so that "right" is now way out in the vicinity of Uranus or Pluto, if not out of our solar system entirely, so that, relatively speaking, the "center' is, oh, out around Jupiter. By that standard our Chuck could pass as a moderate. I mean, using as our senatorial standard of comparison the likes of Arizona's John Kyl or South Carolina's Jim DeMint.

But that's only if our Chuck wanted to pass as a moderate. With the dawn of the new political alignment of 2009, he showed no inclination to buck the trend to make the GOP the Party of No. Well, perhaps he thought he was bucking it while he and his buddy Max played their joined-at-the-hip game of bipartisan health care whoring, for sale to the highest bidder.

Then Chuck had a bad August, a very bad August. Those angry mobs at his Iowa town halls seem to have unnerved him, which may not be difficult to do since he doesn't seem to have a whole lot of nerve, at least in the gumption sense. So he went with the flow and spent the month demagoguing his constituents.

Now he claims he's being attacked unfairly, because he was just answering constituents' questions. Right! Here he is, Senator Grasshole answering a constituent's question:

Senator Grasshole does say that he has nothing against "things like living wills" (here's the Young Turks' Cenk Uygur talking about it), except that they shouldn't be drawn up at the end of life but 20 years before. Try going to your lawyer and explaining, "I'd like to draw up a living will 20 years before I die." And if you miss the 20-year mark, does that mean you forfeit your right to a say in the decisions made on your behalf when you're no longer able to participate in them? And by the way, is Senator Grasshole, or Jesus Christ, his proposed solver of all end-of-life issues, doing anything to help Iowans face up to those end-of-life realities at that magic 20-years-before-death mark? Not that I've heard.

If Senator Grasshole were really answering his constituent's question, he would have pointed out, simply, clearly, and unequivocallyl, that it's pure fiction, don't worry, nobody's going to pull the plug on Grandma -- except maybe the insurance companies if they get tired of paying out on her. He could have answered her terror with fact. If he really wanted to answer the question, he could have gone further still: explaining that the "death panels" were invented by cynical politicians who spit on reality, and for that matter on people like the senator's scared-silly constituent, and seek only to scare the bejeezus out of gullible people for personal and/or political advantage.

But Senator Grasshole was too smart to be caught trying to fight hysteria with facts. He knows better than anyone that now we have a subculture that rejects facts as a matter of faith. So instead he served up bullshit. He gave his crowd: (1) Jesus Christ. "Hooray!" (2) Government interference. "Boo!" In our clip he derides the woman who tries to point out that what he's saying has nothing to do with what's being proposed.

Out of either a desire for shameless partisan political profit or else just plain gutlessness, Senator Grasshole propagandized for the loony right, acquiescing in and even amplifying its lies, when it was his job to stand up to the liars and try to ease the groundless fears of people who had been driven into a frenzy by merchants of ignorance who seek to turn the country into an autocracy, or perhaps theocracy, that would impose a reign of ignorance and terror, and turn the founding principles of America on their head.

And now Senator Grasshole's feelings are hurt! Because the president spoke less than kindly (finally! what the hell has he been waiting for?) about GOP pols collaborating with fringe loonies to legitimize the bogus "death panels" rumors, and the administration intimated that Senate Finance Committee R's may not have been "negotiating" with absolute good faith. (Ya think?)

Whatever happened to "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime"? I mean, if you make the decision to stoop to that level of behavior, and keep it up over those periods of time, I'm sorry, you have to be prepared if you' get caught. You really don't get to whine about shocking allegations or your hurt feelings. If you don't have the plain gumption to own up to it and say you're fucking sorry for having been such a fucking asshole, you at least have to come up with an excuse above the "dog ate my homework" level. Really, I'm not sure the senator's protestations even rise to the "dog ate my homework" level.

When Queen Marie Antoinette declared, "Let them eat cake," at least she was thinking happy thoughts for those breadless French peasants. Of course she gave no thought to the question of where the peasants were supposed to get that cake to eat, and in this sense I suppose you could say that Senator Grasshole has more completely considered his program for the needs of ordinary Americans. When he says, "Let them eat bullshit," he at least supplies the bullshit.

He seems to have a limitless supply.


Since writing the above, I've been thinking about Senator Grasshole's craven performance at those town halls, and it occurs to me, I'm not sure he even knows what end-of-life counseling (or planning) is. He does know enough to relate it to "things like living wills," which he declares he has no problem with. But then there's that whole "20 years before you die" business, not to mention the truly disgraceful demagoguery of invoking Jesus Christ for end-of-life planning. If there were any reason to think he believes that Jesus Christ can counsel you on how much suffering your incapacitated grandparent or parent should be forced to endure, then he should simply commit himself voluntarily to the nearest loony bin, and ideally have a staff member apologize to his constituents for treating them like brain-dead robots.

I've written before about this matter of end-of-life planning, and quoted from some of the (surely standard) language in my mother's living will, noting that she didn't have it drawn up until she was 74. As it turned out she has lived another 16 years, which means that by Senator Grasshole's standard she was too late, and I guess has to be thanked for playing our game and sent home with a consolation prize and no end-of-life plan. Well, sorry, senator, but fuck you!

I don't imagine that it came naturally to my mother to talk to her lawyer about a living will -- and as I mentioned, when she did, she not only made sure I had a copy but made it emphatically clear to me that when her time came, she didn't want her life uselessly prolonged by heroic measures, which can't have been easy for her to talk about either. My mother also planned as much as she could with regard to bank financial matters and funeral arrangements. Now that she's dying, I bless her not just for my sake and the sakes of her care providers, but for her own. Difficult as it is to watch this process, which has been going on now for more than a year and a half, we know that she doesn't want us to do anything to prolong it when there's no hope for meaningful recovery.

If Senator Grasshole and the rest of the legion of Republican rat bastards had even the tiniest shred of intelligence or honesty or decency or compassion, they would be applauding the long-overdue initiative of the government to assist all American to educate themselves about the kinds of issues that confront us at the end of life and how we can prepare for them. The people Grasshole and his kind are demagoguing on the "death panels" issue are probably the very people most desperately in need of information on the subject.

I'm hard put to think of a gentler word for such demagogues than "monsters." They better hope that this God they make such a mockery of every time they invoke Him doesn't exist, because if He does, they're in for an eternity of torment.

When a son of a bitch like Senator Grasshole invokes the name of Jesus Christ, I always wonder if he's smart enough to thank God that Jesus isn't around to speak for himself. But then, these Crap Christians, for all their hysterical fake religiosity, are shockingly ignorant of the actual teachings of Jesus, which are routinely falsified, even ridiculed, by the Religious Right.

One last point: On this matter of "just answering constituents' questions." If you're as genuinely uninformed on a subject as Senator Grasshole appears to be on end-of-life planning and what was proposed in the draft plans, then you can say, "I can understand why you're concerned, and that's something I will definitely have to look into."

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At 8:59 PM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

Dante would have a field day with this crowd. I think he would really find it tough to know in which circle to lodge a hypocritical, venal, lying, thieving viper who is perfectly willing to double talk his constituents into receiving less health care and dying early, while he gets the best the federal government can afford. Where do you stick a person like that? In the ninth circle? In Newark?

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Jill Bryant said...

Thank you very much for posting the sanity check clip of Schaeffer....He is fantastic.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Thanks, Jill, I'm glad you also got a charge out of Frank Schaeffer's appearance with Rachel M.

And B, excellent question. I wonder if Senator Grasshole has moments of lucidity when he wonders about the ultimate rewards for his demagoguery.


At 12:50 PM, Blogger Jenny Lens said...

There's a saying I really love: if you don't like what's being said, change the conversation. Why doesn't this Admin go after the FCC? Encourage, mandate and allow more local ownership of news. Break up the stranglehold MONOPOLY of the few companies owning our mass media. Those companies happen to be on the right to the far right, not just Faux News. Saying CNN is liberal is really pushing it.

We KNOW the problem, how to enable solutions? Howie, you and your pals are compiling piles of books few of us have the time to read. Where are the calls to action??

How do we get the attention off the "beyond crazies" who are, and have always been, the minority, not silent, but disproportionately vocal? How do we shift the national debate and media attention on the more rationale Americans before we all are dumped down that rabbit hole? Before everyone is "left behind"?

You'd think WE were living in caves in the Middle East, being ruled by people who reject ALL facts as a matter of faith. WHAT TO DO??

At 3:21 PM, Anonymous b said...

Hell, yes, Jenny. I've been calling for the return of the Fairness Doctrine since the day after Obama got elected, and almost everywhere been shot down for trying to "control the media"(!) It's the absence of the Fairness Doctrine that allows radio and tv networks to engage in hate talk without impunity--or at least, if the FD were present, they would have to work so hard to balance their wingnut hate with its opposite that they'd probably just give up. And Faux News? They wouldn't exist.

So of course, Obama isn't pushing it. Better to be a good team player in DC, than utilize the best weapon you have to end a spiraling wave of hatred.

At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

Whoops. That "b" was me. ;)


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