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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Little Bullies, Schoolyard Taunts, and Republican Campaigning

When I was in grade school, there was this one kid. Of course, he will remain nameless, because this is the story of a little prick. He delighted in hurting people's feelings and pushing people's buttons. And he was also a coward. If you chased him down, he'd beg and cry and promise to stop being such an a-hole, but as soon as he got out of reach, he'd go right back to being a jerk -- I mean immediately. I would've kicked his ass -- maybe I should've -- but I wasn't that kind of person, I was raised right. I see now that he was some category of bully, but it didn't seem like it at the time, because all the violence in that particular relationship would've come from me. But bully he was, because he enjoyed abusing other people. And he did it because he knew I wouldn't hurt him, despite the fact that I was one of the biggest kids in the school. Seriously, I could've snapped him like a twig.

If current events are any indication, that kid has a job in the Republican Party today. At the very least, he's a Tea Partier. They're the party of insults, the party of smears, and they do it because they know liberals won't hit back in the same way. We can't, really. Our voters wouldn't like it. We're persuaded by rational argument, not schoolyard taunts. But Republicans love jerks. If you're an abrasive loudmouth, you're the best thing ever. If you don't believe me, turn on talk radio and count the seconds between insults. You won't count very high. Or better yet, correct a rightwinger on twitter. Their very first response to you will be an insult that they think is knee-slappingly clever. They mistake debate -- which in its purest form should be a fact-based, logical exposition of truth -- for a knock-down, drag-out fight in which the one who gets to say, "Ooh, burn!" is the obvious winner. Facts are meaningless, logic is irrelevant, truth is for losers. Politics is about insults and political debate is just a more formal version of "the dozens."

Which brings us to this photo being passed around by David Limbaugh:

Click to enlarge

How very typical.


Steve Benen:

If you're having trouble seeing it, the image claims to show Rick Perry and Barack Obama when both were 22 years old. On the left, we see Perry posing alongside an Air Force plane's cockpit, and on the right, we see a young Obama smoking and wearing a hat.

Politico says it's an image "you’re likely to see again." A Perry campaign spokesperson boasted soon after, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

Now, as it turns out, National Review's Daniel Foster noted that the picture of Obama "seems to come from a roll of film shot by a friend at Occidental college, which Obama left, in favor of Columbia, years before he was 22," suggesting the competing images aren't even accurate.

But never mind that. Even if we accept the Perry/Obama image at face value, this is still entirely pointless.

Pointless only to liberals and independents. For Republicans, this is what passes for a crushing, slam-dunk argument. Benen goes on to point out that "the presidential nominee with more military background lost six out of eight times -- 2008, 2004, 2000, 1996, 1992, and 1980 -- including each of the last five national cycles." If conservatives really gave a crap about military experience, they wouldn't have attacked John Kerry's service. And the very last guy who posed for a photo like that was a disaster.

But none of that is the point. The point is to hurt Obama and his supporters in a personal way. It's a way to rally the base, who always cheer on the bully -- think of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and signs at Tea Party rallies. Think of Sarah Palin and the hatefests that McCain-Palin rallies turned into.

And what happens when those Republicans get the tiniest bit of criticism? It's an attack! It's outrageous! Victim card! Victim card! Sarah Palin, for example, makes her living off this brainless attack-dog politics. Yet her entire argument seems to be that people should listen to her -- and maybe even make her president -- because the press is so mean to her that she deserves it. They're always just as willing to be offended as they are to offend, as quick complain about being attacked as they are to attack. They march to the attack under a banner that reads "LIBTARD!" but retreat into victimhood when confronted.

In other words, you get the taunts when they're safely out of reach and the tears when you chase them down. Looking back, I really should've kicked that kid's ass.


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