Unhinged in 30 days: The right-wing media's Obama era implosion

››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

The Republican Noise Machine doesn't need the customary 100 days to size up the new president. Right-wing commentators barely needed 30 days to come to their conclusion that they hate everything Barack Obama stands for.

The Republican Noise Machine doesn't need the customary 100 days to size up the new president. Right-wing commentators barely needed 30 days to come to their conclusion that they hate everything Barack Obama stands for.

In terms of speed and efficiency, the right-wing collection of bloggers, AM talkers, pundits, and yes, newspaper cartoonists, may have set a new land speed record for becoming collectively unhinged, as they wail and moan about how the new Democratic president's turning America into a fascist state, or communist, or socialist, or whatever other bugaboo claim Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham are tossing out to viewers and listeners on a daily basis.

Barack Obama is "arrogant," "dishonest," and "radical," Fox News' Sean Hannity announced during a single 10-second chunk of prime-time TV last week -- a casually hateful appraisal that didn't even raise eyebrows, simply because that kind of blanketed disdain for the new president has already become so commonplace.

Rush Limbaugh's original anti-Obama proclamation at the outset of his presidency -- "I hope he fails" -- already seems benign in retrospect. Since Inauguration Day we've learned Obama has "Marxist tendencies" and is "addicting this country to heroin -- the heroin that is government slavery" (Glenn Beck). That, "there are eerie, eerie similarities" between Obama and Nazis" (Michael Savage's guest host, Chris Stigall). And of course, Limbaugh himself famously bemoaned that "[w]e are being told that we have to hope [Obama] succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles ... because his father was black."

Meanwhile, last week widely read right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin was seen smiling while getting her picture taken with an Obama hater who proudly brandished a swastika placard at an anti-Obama rally in Denver. And the following day, Rupert Murdoch's far-right New York Post published a grotesque cartoon that seemed to associate Obama with a bullet-ridden monkey who'd been shot by two white cops on a city sidewalk.

If we just pause and take one or two steps back from the daily/hourly barrage of hate, it's obvious that faced with the new Obama presidency, the Republican Noise Machine has already lost all perspective -- has gone totally loco -- and it's only February, a mere month into Obama's first four years in office. Who dares to even imagine where the right-wing "conversation" goes from here?

It's astounding to watch the avalanche of hate ooze from conservative media quarters. And why? Because Obama passed an economic recovery bill. Good Lord, imagine if he had failed to win the popular vote and then led the country into a pre-emptive war based on faulty intelligence, a war that lost thousands of American lives, and tens of thousands of foreign lives, while milking the U.S. treasury out of a few trillion dollars in the process.

I suspect the unvarnished hate directed toward Obama, the radical rhetoric behind it, and most especially the overnight delivery used to proclaim it, is unprecedented for our modern politics. Even during the first Clinton weeks and months in 1993, I don't think the right-wing ratcheted up the demonizing language this quickly. Note that back then the Republican Noise Machine was just coming into its own, whereas today it's a well-oiled hate machine. Also, in the early 1990s, the Noise Machine (i.e., Limbaugh) hadn't been given unofficial control of Republican Party messaging the way it has today. There still seemed to be some (emphasis on some) adult supervision within conservative circles.

But today, by openly embracing Limbaugh, leader-less conservatives are purposefully mainstreaming the talkers' brand of loonyness. And by enthusiastically endorsing Limbaugh and his crowd, Republicans must accept -- must take ownership of -- the radical hate speech that defines the Noise Machine. The way Limbaugh, already under Obama, has compared Democrats to murderers, rapists, and Satan. The way Limbaugh recently tagged them as "immoral" people who are "not truly religious" and who are waging an "assault" on the Constitution, while claiming Democrats hate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (And Beltway journalists naïvely scratch their heads wondering why Obama cannot achieve bipartisanship.)

That hate speech is now, unequivocally, the sanctioned voice of the Republican Party. It's a voice that, after just 30 days of an Obama presidency, has gone completely bonkers. And it's a voice that's revealed itself in the form of swastikas, dead monkeys, and bizarre talk of ankle-grabbing.

But liberals hated Bush! That's the but-they-did-it-too defense being paraded around by right-wingers like Malkin after she was spotted with Swastika Guy. Everybody on the left compared Bush to Hitler, Malkin claimed last week. Really? Liberal protesters waved around Bush-Hitler signs at rallies to protest new administration policy during Bush's first month in office? Bush hadn't even finished filling out his Cabinet, and prominent liberals were demonizing the new president as an anti-American fascist?

Please.

Malkin's lame stab at revisionism was simply an attempt to justify the right's radical attacks on Obama. Were there widespread, hysterical Hitler references to Bush 30 days after he took office? Not that I recall. And in the wake of Bush's tax cuts being passed by Congress in 2001, did any major newspapers publish cartoons that seemed to connect Bush with a bullet-ridden monkey? No. And if there had been such a tasteless cartoon, would a single high-profile liberal commenter have possibly defended it? I can't imagine one who would have.

Some on the right adopted the same, childish two-wrongs-make-a-right defense in reaction to that hateful New York Post cartoon. But the left hated Bush more, wrote conservative blogger (and Post apologist) John Hinderaker at Power Line. Note the time frame he uses:

Democrats will no doubt continue to use Obama's race to try to silence criticism, but they can rest assured that conservatives will never unleash the kind of mindless hate against Obama (or anyone else) that we have all witnessed from the Left over the past six years.

Six years. Meaning, there was very little outlandish Bush hate broadcast from the left for approximately the Republicans' first 24 months in office. Let alone his first 30 days. (What kind of political movement melts down 30 days into a new administration?) In fact, during the summer of 2001, The Washington Post's Sally Quinn went on TV and talked about how suddenly calm and rational Beltway partisan differences were, as opposed to those chaotic Clinton years:

I don't think [Bush has] changed the city at all, but I think what has happened is that he has allowed the city to get back to normal. It has not been normal for eight years. For eight years it's been really ugly and vicious and personal, and what's happened now is that this is -- that the adversary situation is back to normal.

See the trend? When a Democrat was in the White House, the atmosphere was "ugly and vicious and personal." When a Republican took over, everything went back to "normal." And now with the return of another Democrat, the right-wing hate returns in full bloom. And in record time.

Secondly, Malkin tried to claim that everyone on the left used the Hitler/Nazi language, and to prove her point she did lots of Googling and posted links to sites that contained that kind of language or imagery. But one was a photo of anti-Bush graffiti from Argentina, circa 2006. What that had to do with Malkin's claim about American liberals, I'm still not sure. And many of the links Malkin posted led to sites I've never heard of.

She did link to the landmark site Daily Kos, and a search there found lots of dumb, regrettable Bush/Hitler references. But most of those were from 2006 and 2007, 60 months after Bush had been in office, and most were by Daily Kos readers, or diarists, not front-page writers. You'll note that in her liberals-did-it-too defense Malkin didn't link to images of Markos at Daily Kos with his arms around a Bush-era swastika protester, or Matt Stoller or John Amato or Jeralyn Merritt -- or fill in the blank with any other A-list blogger you'd like to mention. Even after eight years of despair (i.e. botched war, trampled civil liberties, mass incompetence), most prominent liberal bloggers never went there with the Bush-Hitler nonsense.

But Malkin, among the most widely read bloggers in the conservative movement, and just four weeks into the new Democratic presidency's run? Hell yeah, she'll pose with an Obama hater waving around a swastika sign, and then refuse to apologize, claiming the Nazi/Obama analogy was not "completely out of the bounds of public civil discourse." Because honestly, who knows more about the guidelines of "public civil discourse" than Michelle Malkin?

The Republican Noise Machine, which has already turned its hate amplifiers up to 10, doesn't like to admit it, but over time a strong majority of Americans came to share the liberals' contempt for Bush, who they dubbed to be an utter failure as a president. And perhaps the worst in the nation's history. The Obama disdain, though, is being unleashed against a president with extraordinarily high job approval ratings, which highlights how the Noise Machine remains completely out of touch with mainstream America.

As that fact becomes increasingly obvious in the months to come, I fear it's only going to force feverish conservatives to ratchet up the hate.

Maybe they'll turn it up to 11.

FYI: Here were some other signs spotted at the anti-Obama Denver rally that Malkin attended, signs that perfectly captured -- and regurgitated -- the hateful talking points the Noise Machine has been churning out since Obama's inauguration just one month ago:

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