An AIG of conservative enlightenment? Hardly.


Angry at AIG for handing out executive bonuses to the very people who helped sink the company in the first place? Well, if conservative leader Rush Limbaugh is to be believed, you're now part of an angry "lynch mob" ginned up by the Obama administration.

Angry at AIG for handing out executive bonuses to the very people who helped sink the company in the first place? Well, if conservative leader Rush Limbaugh is to be believed, you're now part of an angry "lynch mob" ginned up by the Obama administration.

The conservative talker's bizarre defense of AIG's dumbfounding excess in the midst of such economic calamity is undoubtedly alarming, but he's hardly alone. Little Limbaughs throughout the media are taking El Rushbo's cue, lining up, pitchforks in hand, rallying to the defense of the little guys at the bazillion-dollar insurance behemoth.

Discussing the possibility that members of Congress may impose a 90-percent tax on the shady bonuses, Fox News golden boy Sean Hannity chirped, "Whether you like the AIG bonuses or not, think about this: They're going to make a law, and they're going to tax every single penny of it, virtually all of it."

Not to be outdone, Fox's Glenn Beck, doing his best Limbaugh impersonation, struck a similar chord, saying, "[W]hat I really, really don't like here is the idea that we are willing to give in to mob rule, and that's what this is." That's two reallys -- boy, he must be serious.

By the way, this is the same Glenn Beck who has taken to broadcasting from a special "doom room" -- his words -- hosting survivalists prophesying our impending demise as a nation. It's also the same Glenn Beck who has articulated his belief that the White House may be using FEMA to set up "concentration camps" for conservatives in an effort to establish totalitarian rule. In fairness, he isn't sure this is happening, but thus far his "research" has been unable to "disprove" it. I guess if anyone knows how to incite an angry, irrational, conspiracy-prone mob, it would be Glenn Beck.

This pro-corporate, pseudo-populist trio and their brethren in the conservative media have exposed an emerging rift within the conservative movement that pits Republicans in Congress against right-wing media elements.

Abandoning their extensive collective record of opposing efforts to cap corporate executive pay and perks, along with their steadfast hostility toward tax increases of any kind, Republicans in the House and Senate have embarked on a hypocritical campaign to lay blame for the AIG bonus controversy at the Obama administration's feet -- a campaign that's been aided by a media that routinely fail to report a key fact: that it was President Bush's Treasury Department that worked with the Federal Reserve in carrying out last year's bailouts and bought AIG stocks, despite the existence of the bonus contracts everyone is so justifiably upset about today. That's right -- this is in large part one of the many "welcome to the new job, sorry we wrecked the place" gifts left for President Obama by the Bush crowd.

I know conservatives would like us all to forget about the Bush presidency, but this "Obama's solely to blame for the AIG bonuses" baloney borders on willful ignorance.

So it's laughable now to see Republicans criticizing Obama and congressional Democrats in the media over a provision in February's economic recovery and reinvestment act that restricted the ability of companies receiving federal funds to pay employee bonuses in the future because this aspect of the legislation wasn't retroactive.

Think they would have supported such a move in the first place?

With little pushback from reporters who should know better, conservatives are certainly trying to leave that impression, despite repeatedly decrying government intervention in executive compensation.

When Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) said, "What executives have done is troubling, but it's equally troubling to have government telling shareholders how much they can pay the executives," did he sound like someone serious about cracking down on these post-bailout bonuses? What about Sen. Bob Bennett's (R-UT) statement that he is "generally troubled by wage and price control, no matter how logical it may appear," or Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who said that "it's a sad day in America when the government starts setting pay, no matter how outlandish they are"?

A sad day indeed -- for consistency.

As we continue to confront the most difficult of economic times, the right continues to battle its lack of relevance, flailing from one political tactic to another in the desperate search for any semblance of a cohesive identity or message.

Yes, times are really, really tough (thanks, Glenn) for the conservative movement -- perhaps they could use a bailout. They'd certainly benefit from some fresh ideas.

Karl Frisch is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog, research, and information center in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or sign-up to receive his columns by email.

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Economic Recovery Plan
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