White Whales and Wingnuts

A lot about wingnut behavior begins to make sense if you understand that in their reality, they are Captain Ahab and we liberals and progressives are Moby Dick. They don’t all want to kill us (a disturbing number do, of course), but mostly they are driven to settle the score with us.

What score? you may ask. The score for whatever they imagine we did to them. It’s not clear to me what that is, but clearly it’s the fire burning in their bellies; their raison d’être. For the Right, life is one long, monomaniacal quest to get even with the Left.

Thus, you can count on them not quitting even when they’re ahead, because in their own minds they are never ahead, or at least never ahead enough.

Along those lines — one of the weirder aspects of the ongoing torture scandal is the way the Right has tried to make it a referendum on Nancy Pelosi. I don’t entirely agree with Matt Yglesias that the Pelosi argument is backfiring. Not yet, anyway. But neither do I think anyone who hasn’t signed up to sail on the Pequod, so to speak, cares about whether Nancy Pelosi was briefed about torture or not.

However, I also think Matt has a point that they could have just accepted President Obama’s wish to move on from the torture question and keep their mouths shut. But they couldn’t do that. They couldn’t pass it up any more than a dog can pass up a tree without saluting.

Steve Benen

Republicans were getting exactly the result they wanted, right up until they thought to go after Pelosi. Now, the liberal Democratic House Speaker and the conservative Republican RNC chairman are saying the same thing: let’s investigate and get the whole story.

Indeed, Pelosi has been using this to great effect. When the right argues that she’s lying or was somehow complicit in Bush’s alleged crimes, she always responds with the same compelling answer: “Let’s have an investigation and see who’s right.”

As far as the strategy goes, Republicans should have taken “yes” for an answer.

Think Gollum diving into the lake of fire to grab the ring.

Now, I also agree with Steve M that the Right can still control news cycles and still finesse the terrorism question. But the Right does tend to come unglued where Nancy Pelosi is concerned.

See, for example, John Feehery’s “Conditions for a coup in Congress” at The Politico. Feehery’s evidence that House Democrats are on the edge of replacing Pelosi are, um, old. Steny Hoyer ran against Pelosi for Majority Whip in 2001, so he’s a potential rival. The base must be pissed at Pelosi, because Cindy Sheehan ran against Pelosi in 2004.

Yes, a lot of lefties are disenchanted with Pelosi, but a lot of lefties are disenchanted with a lot of people. I think if the base were given the authority to replace somebody in Democratic leadership, the first on the list would be Harry Reid, not Nancy Pelosi.

David Weigel at the Washington Independent calls the Feehery piece a “curious case of media narrative-setting.” Whatever. Feehery is reason itself compared to Mike Huckabee:

Here’s a story about a lady named Nancy
A ruthless politician, but dressed very fancy
Very ambitious, she got herself elected Speaker
But as for keeping secrets, she proved quite a “leaker.”

Which, I submit, says a lot more about Mike Huckabee than it says about Nancy Pelosi. And what it says is damn pathetic. Notice the dig about a woman being “ruthless” and “ambitious.” That’s another tree the Right can’t pass up.

Regarding what needs to be investigated — see Marcy Wheeler’s “The 13 people who made torture possible.” Sorta kinda related — Gary Farber, JAVAID IQBAL.

18 thoughts on “White Whales and Wingnuts

  1. I had a “discussion” with a righty friend of mine about this whole Pelosi affair, I asked: so how does whether Pelosi knew about torture somehow lesson the questions as to whether Bu$hco broke the law? He stuttered, stammered and then blurted,” it just shows that she’s god dam a hypocrite”. I said: “of course she’s a hypocrite, she’s a fucking politician”. I then informed him that being a hypocrite won’t get you locked up, torturing detainees just might.

  2. I don’t get it. Was Huckabee going for a limerick there, or an extremely off-meter parody of the theme song to The Brady Bunch?

    A good friend of mine is a colleague of former U.S. poet laureate Ted Kooser… I could probably arrange for Ted to give Mike some pointers.

  3. This is not to say anything bad about Nancy Pelosi, but I think that perhaps there should be a 4-year term limit on being leader of the House and Senate. Technically, she’s only been House Majority leader since the beginning of 2008, but she was House Minority leader from 2003-2007. I just don’t think anyone should hold the position as the head of their party’s majority/minority position in Congress for over 4 years.

    In the case of Harry Reid, it hasn’t been quite 4 years yet, but is getting close. He was Senate Minority leader from 2005-2006, and Senate Majority leader from 2007 to the present. He should leave this position at the end of 2009.

    I know of no constitutional limit on House/Senate positions. Not only Majority/Minority positions, but also chairpersons of various important committees. I just think it’s a good idea to keep these positions circulating so that we don’t wind up with ossified power brokers in the House and Senate.

    Again, no criticism of Nancy. The fact that the righties hate her so much is evidence that she’s doing a good job.

  4. Sure. Al Gore criticized the Iraq war (an issue!) two years into Bush’s first term, so they now have the right, nay, the obligation, to criticize everything about Obama, issue and non-issue alike, including his wife’s upper arms, several months into his administration. Makes perfect sense; the only difference is in the little details, and who cares about little details?

    I love them going after Pelosi. Push harder, guys! Let’s make it politically impossible to stop the torture investigation.

  5. Is there any downside for Pelosi if, in investigating the whole affair, it’s found that she did know anything about the torture policy? I ask because I’m not exactly sure whether she’s taking any individual risk (of prosecution) if what her opponents are saying about her is true.

    If she is not in danger of prosecution, then Benen is right — it’s a beautiful scheme. If she is in danger of prosecution, then I’m even more impressed that she’s putting herself in danger to make the investigations happen.

    It’s funny how the Democrats have suddenly become judo masters, using the right’s momentum against them, as with making Limbaugh the de facto head of the GOP. It’s amazing and refreshing.

  6. “I just think it’s a good idea to keep these positions circulating so that we don’t wind up with ossified power brokers in the House and Senate.”

    This is problematic given that the entire power structure of both the House and Senate are based on seniority.

    What it would mean is a loss of institutional memory by the leaders every four years, and since it’s unlikely both parties would agree to make such changes, whichever party does it would be weakening their own leadership in comparison to the leadership of the other party.

    Moreover, it would cause a piling-up of Former Speakers and Former Majority Leaders to backbite the current Speaker and Majority Leader.

    None of this makes the idea impossible; it just means there would be difficulties.

    Meanwhile, if Represenatives or Senators truly don’t like their leaders, they’re free to vote them out whenever they like.

  7. Meanwhile, if Represenatives or Senators truly don’t like their leaders, they’re free to vote them out whenever they like.

    The problem being that, if you vote against someone, they’re going to know, and may take revenge (like opposing a bill you are sponsoring). I imagine that a considerable amount of horse-trading already goes on behind the scenes so that party leaders secure their position.

    That’s why I’d like to see a mandatory 4-year term limit. After serving 4 years (hopefully, with honor), the Speaker/Majority(Minority) Leader has no choice but to leave, opening the job to someone else. Ditto for committe chairpersons.

    I think this would be a worthwhile reform. But I see no chance of this happening anytime soon, if ever.

    Since I’m standing on this particular soapbox today, I’d also like to see Supreme Court justices limited to a 10-year term. The current system of lifetime appointments is one area where our founding fathers really blew it.

  8. I think Huckabee’s verse is intended to be sung to the tune of the “Beverly Hillbillies” theme, not the “Brady Bunch.”

    Of course, that might be my old Yankee bias making assumptions about Huckabee’s cultural referents, but there it is. I expect Michael Steele is working on a rap version even as we speak.

  9. What everyone seems to forget is, that even if the CIA tattoo’d that they were using EIT (including waterboarding) on Nancy’s back, there’s not much she could have said or done about it at the time. She couldn’t tell the press. She couldn’t tell the citizen’s directly.
    And I think it’s great that the right, expecially, seem to have forgotten this. They’re like Daffy Duck in that classic hunting episode where he wants Elmer to shoot Bugs because he’s trying to convince Elmer that it’s ‘Rabbit Season.’ After a series of switching of ‘ducks season/rabbit season’ signs, Daffy holds up a sign that says ‘Duck Season.’ “SHOOT ME NOW!!!,” he screams at Elmer, who calmly complies.

  10. As I understand it, the GOP is attacking Pelosi as a hypocrite because they seem to think this somehow, magically, will end inquiries into their own actions while in power. I think this is meant as a “warning” to others not to dig into the matter of torture. Instead, it only serves to underscore the GOP’s cluelessness re their current standing with the American people.

    Pelosi may in fact be a hypocrite in this matter, but that doesn’t un-make torture advocates of the GOP. Their next ploy will probably be something along the lines of, “Look! Is that Elvis over there?!”

  11. How on earth does that wanker at The Politico figure that Cindy Sheehan represents a challenge from the “base”? She’s not even a Democrat! And it was 2008, not 2004, when she ran as a “challenger” to Pelosi. No one had even heard of her until late summer 2005 and “Camp Casey”.

  12. To get to the basics of the right’s problem , I think you have to go back to the Civil War . The GOP is the party of the south right ? The south has never forgiven the North for “winning” , and they have ben trying to “get back at us” like a spoiled child ever since .

  13. I think it just boils down to the fact that they are afraid we have had better sex lives than they have.

    And they are probably right.

  14. Virginia, I think they get plenty of sex – ask any evangelist. (Snark.) I just think it’s accompanied by crushing guilt, especially when there’s no resulting pregnancy. 🙂

  15. Yes. You’ve tapped into something dark and sinister within their psyches and I’m not sure they really understand it themselves. You touched on it with:

    For the Right, life is one long, monomaniacal quest to get even with the Left.

    They are fulfilled by this. It has elements of projection too but at a deeper level is satisfies something primal in the way they make out their object of hatred to be so purely and consummately ***** (fill in the blanks here…evil, duplicitous, ignorant or malicious, etc.).

    This person becomes the funnel for some cathartic rage and indignation which, in turn, fires them up even more. Never mind that they are unable to explain themsevles coherently at times the thrill is in the chase rather than any eventual “catch”.

    It is also telling and perhaps even Oedipal that strong women seem to trigger this response to a greater degree than men. First they fixated on Hilary Clinton and now Pelosi. These women are quite unlike their female counterparts on the right who, in some very narrow range, stick close to the right-wing mantra of the day…a recitation identical or at least never straying far from the one their conservative men-folk are simultaneously blasting out. Notice that you will never see male-female disagreement and very little female initiative from within the right.

    Bill Russel ini his book on Red Auerbach recounted his grandfather’s advice which was that everyone in life has this little red wagon full of stuff that they carry around with them in life and sometimes this stuff causes them to do some crazy things. When they come at you it has nothing to do with you or anything you did. It is actually about them.

    So we are no longer dealing with a political ideology here. It’s a psychological phenomenon.

    Some of us here in American are very, very sick and a few are evil enough to exploit that for the sake of their own power. Look at it through those glasses and a lot more makes sense, I think.

  16. Pardon the afterthought but Al Gore was also an object of conservative hatred but he was cast as an effete, snobbish, intellectual pansy so that too is consistent and seems to be rooted in sexual identity crises…

    Notice their heroes and spokespersons — Ronald Reagan, Charlton Heston, Chuck Norris, Sarah Palin and lately some silicon-inflated beauty queen. We are supposed to overlook the part that their actual leadership was predominantly chickenhawk. But there’s even something workable their because it gives the average chickenhawk among them something to identify with while imagining themselves something more fierce along the lines of their gender archetypes.

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