Sunday, January 18, 2009

The only thing scarier than wingnuts who think "moral clarity" is "just words"? Wingnuts who think they know what those words mean


On Friday's Countdown, Jonathan Turley insists that we don't have any choice about prosecuting the Bush regimistas responsible for torture -- it's not only morally but legally required, or "the Bush crimes become our crimes."

"Now, it's true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we'll guarantee that they will happen again."
-- Paul Krugman, in his Friday NYT column, "Forgive and Forget?"

"People with 'moral clarity' recognized the ultimate existential evil of Communism, and were constantly on guard against its unceasing efforts to bring down the capitalist world by any means necessary. To these early movement conservatives, having 'moral clarity' meant that you weren't the kind of weakling who would be deceived into negotiation with the Commies, or consent to arms control, or be duped into merely containing their relentless march across the globe. It meant that you had the intestinal fortitude (or pure enough vital bodily fluids, as you wish) to do whatever had to be done to permanently exterminate America's implacable enemies -- whether it was to send in the Marines or drop the bomb."
-- Sara Robinson, in a Campaign for America's Future post,
"Redefining 'Moral Clarity'"

by Ken

I've been trying to write a post that should be ridiculously simple, because it really consists of nothing more than distilling the wisdom of three incredibly wise people. It shouldn't require anything more than this simple 1-2-3:

(1) Read Paul Krugman's Friday NYT column, in which he argues that we have to prosecute the crimes of the Bush regime, because otherwise they're not only likely but certain to be repeated. This is Krugman in top form, which means it doesn't get any better.

(2) Watch the above clip from Friday's Countdown, in which Jonathan Turley (after Keith O actually quotes from Krugman) takes the argument a step further. Confronted with demonstrable war crimes, he says, we don't even have a choice. It doesn't matter that prosecuting the torturers might be inconvenient, as AG-designate Eric Holder seemed to be saying to the Senate Judiciary Committee in his confirmation hearings. We are not only morally but legally required to prosecute. Otherwise the Bush crimes become our crimes. This is Turley in top form, which again means it doesn't get any better.

As a bonus, Keith plays the clip of Texas Sen. John Cornyn, apparently campaigning for the title of World's Dumbest Human, haranguing AG-designate Holder with his insistence that he accept Dumb John's 24-style "hypothetical" -- that we have a terrorist in possession of information that can only be extracted via torture, a "hypothetical" that flouts reality in ways that are clearly beyond the understanding of a brain-dead blitherer like the senator.

Really, I think the Senate needs to adopt a rule whereby people like Senator Cornyn be required to wear a dunce cap -- with minimum cone diameter and height specified -- anytime they appear in the Senate or on Senate-related business, like campaigning.

We should talk about the 24 phenomenon someday. I suppose the show, ghastly as it is (being concocted out of the worst writing and acting in, well, the history of writing and acting), is forgivable as mindless escapist entertainment, on the order of the really, really bad James Bond movies. But people like "Dumb John" Cornyn and Bill O'Reilly, not to mention the Fox Noise viewership, think they're watching something of documentary-like accuracy and insight. In reality it's not only bullshit, but bullshit so appallingly stupid that you would have to be truly brain-deficient to accord it the slightest seriousness. Which, as it happens, brings us to --

(3) Read the above-noted Campaign for America's Future post by Sara Robinson, making an important connection regarding the phrase "moral clarity." As Chimpy the Prez demonstrated the other night in his pathetic "farewell address," it falls really clunkily out of the mouth of a bozo like our Chimpy. (Clearly the Senate Dunce Cap Rule, and its presumed corresponding House version, needs to be adopted by the executive branch as well. And for that matter by the judicial branch too, for the use, not only of Supreme Court Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito, but also of all those lower-echelon judges stuffed into the court system on Chimpy's watch.)

In the clip intro, Keith O in fact makes specific reference to Chimpy's use of the phrase "moral clarity." I think we can see him wince involuntarily at the association of the phrase with a person so utterly devoid of any kind of purposeful morality. And I think most of us hear the phrase the way Keith did, as just some words that wingnuts as just part of their clueless delusion. It sounds like "just words" to them -- and as with so many other words, they have no clue what they mean. They just like the sound of them.

But here comes Sara, picking up on something very different, and very important. She notes that conservatives use the phrase "moral clarity" a lot.
And it always sounds absurd to progressive ears, coming as it does from members of an administration that shredded the Constitution, deprived people of due process, committed horrific acts of torture, and lied the country into the worst military debacle in its history. It's always bewildering to listen to such people lecture the rest of us on "moral clarity." What in the hell are they talking about?

They keep using those words. It turns out that they don't mean what we think they mean.

Over the holidays, Sara reports, she "devoured" U.S. Vs. Them, in which J. Peter Scoblic
"looks at the way the conservative penchant for 'othering' (a word I coined to describe their perpetual need for someone to project their own demons onto, and then hate on) has shaped US foreign policy from the beginning of the Cold War through the current administration."
From this she has gleaned the definition I've quoted above.
This definition of "moral clarity" has been a major factor in U.S. foreign policy ever since. From that day unto this, the conservative movement has never been without a demonized Other to focus its vaunted "moral clarity' on. "Moral clarity" is why conservatives hate summit meetings; why they've scuttled every attempt at arms control and non-proliferation; why every problem in the world can only yield to a military solution; and why defense is the only valid government expense. To people with "moral clarity," these choices are obvious. Those who disagree (like those progressive pantywaists who refuse to acknowledge the threat, or are willing and eager to coddle Pure Evil by parleying with it) are, perforce, inherently weaker and less morally serious. If you've ever marveled at the depths of conservative moral self-righteousness, now you know the deep well from which it springs.

It is, in a word, Cheneyism. I've written before, a number of times, about the "higher truth" Big Dick clearly thinks he's in possession of, which justifies the campaign of atrocities to which he has devoted the portion of his life that isn't devoted to enriching beyond measuring his pals the greedy Repulicronies.

Of course the collapse of the global Communist menace was an existential nightmare for these people, whose thinking (for want of a better word) was based so overwhelmingly on death-sworn opposition to that "other." Of course they tried other "others," like the homos and liberals (same thing, no?), but even they realized that, fun as we are to demonize, we really aren't up to the job of being the required Other. And make no mistake, it's a big job. It remains to be seen whether the Islamofascists are up to it.
Whenever you hear a conservative go on about "moral clarity" . . . there is always an enemy. They are always out to get us. They will stop at nothing. You cannot coddle them or negotiate with them; you can only survive by annihilating them. And people who see the moral world clearly will not waste time or breath questioning these essential truths.

It's pretty stunning stuff when you read it that way. It really makes you realize that conservatives live in a world of paranoia, xenophobia, and seething aggression that most progressives can't even fathom. And their entire moral universe has been twisted to serve their externalized fears; to take that will to project their own demons onto someone else and then destroy them, and elevate it as the highest possible moral good. It's a definition of "morality" that renders the rule of law meaningless, but readily justifies genocide and torture as moral acts of self-preservation.

Is it any wonder that the Bush regime has done everything in its power to prop Osama up? It's as if the regimistas' entire foreign policy -- and most of its authoritarian domestic policy too, come to think of it -- came straight from Al Qaeda HQ.

"Once we understand what they're really saying," Sara writes, "it becomes pretty obvious that one of the first things we're going to need to do in this new era is challenge this horrific definition of 'moral clarity' and overwrite it with one of our own."
We believe moral clarity is defined by the Constitution, embodied in the rule of law, and on display wherever the dignity of other people -- including those whose interests oppose ours -- is upheld. And, in case there's any question about where the real moral clarity lies here: Ours is the morality America was founded on. Theirs is one that almost put that light out forever.

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