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Hullabaloo


Monday, January 08, 2007

 
Four Eggnogs And A Funeral

by digby

As regular readers know, I've been pondering this infuriating fixation on bipartisanship and moderation for the last couple of weeks and watching aghast as the press does the wingnuts' bidding, setting up the Dems as failing to fulfill their promise to the American people that they would be moderate and bipartisan if they won the election. This was simply not on the agenda during the election, other than that the House Democrats would restore some sort of fairness to the rules and pass anti-corruption legislation. In fact, the entire election was about the Democrats taking power to provide some needed checks and balance on the Republicans.

Oddly, however, in the last couple of weeks, the media has been obsessing that the election reflected a desire among the American people for the congress to stop fighting and work together, which makes no sense. The Republican congress didn't fight --- the Democrats just caterwauled ineffectually from the sidelines, while the Republicans did what they wanted. There was no gridlock, they passed virtually every piece of legislation they wanted and the congress was perfectly in sync with the president. If comity was what people were concerned about they obviously would have kept undivided government.

The American people voted for the Democrats because they wanted them to stop the Republican juggernaut. Look at the poll numbers. Look at the election results.

So, where is this coming from? First, it's obviously coming from the Republicans who have much to gain by whining incessantly about being trod upon by the horrible Democrats who are betraying the citizens who voted for them by being big old meanies. No surprise there. They make their money and derive their power among their mouthbreathing base by portraying themselves as being victimized --- whether in power or out, the liberals are always keeping them down.

It's also long been obvious that the political and media establishment are perfectly comfortable with noxious rightwing nutballs like Tom Delay running things, but panic at the idea of a Democrat with a pulse. Their worship of "moderation and bipartisanship" a la Jerry Ford is largely based on their irrational fear of hippies. Still, it all seemed a bit bizarre, even for them.

One of the sillier theories I'd been bouncing around was that the punditocrisy and the reporters had spent so much time riffing and boozing during that interminable period of mourning for Ford that they somehow conflated their tributes to his moderation and bipartisanship with some sort of mandate from the American people in this last election.

Up to that point, the media had seen the Democrats' post-election promises to "work with the other side" --- as a rhetorical rebuke to the way the Republicans had governed. They were right. While I'm sure the Democrats had no intentions of running the congress like a plantation as the Republicans had, nobody thought it meant that they would follow the president's agenda or compromise on issues on which they had run, like the war or preserving social security. The election, after all, was a referendum on a party that had had six years of total power and who's approval ratings were hovering in the low teens. The press had had to extract assurances that the Democrats wouldn't impeach the president, for crying out loud. Bipartisan kumbaaya was clearly not on the agenda.

Suddenly, Jerry Ford died and it seemed to me that days and days of eulogizing Ford's legacy just prior to the new congress taking over (and during the holiday drinking season) had caused the media to literally confuse the Ford ascension in 1974 with the election last November. It wasn't until I saw Fox News this week-end that my theory was confirmed:

Fox News Watch:

Eric Burns: Grandma Pelosi goes to Washington. Don't you think the handlers have to back off just a little bit?

Neal Gabler: yeah, perhaps. I mean the themes of this week were really moderation and bipartisanship, not being grandma. We saw that in Ford's funeral and we saw that with the celebration.

Burns: Celebration meaning?

Neal Gabler: Moderation meaning, we've had ... and this is a slap clearly at the Bush administration --- "we've had six years of hyperpartisanship" .... and what we're looking at in Gerald Ford is a model of bipartisanship and moderation and what we're looking for in terms of the new congress is the hopefulness of bipartisanship and moderation.


That pretty much covers it all in one muddled, hangover stew. Evidently, the brainless punditocrisy does now believe that people voted for the Democrats last November because they were yearning for 1974 and wanted the Democrats to act like Jerry Ford. These people have decided that the Democrats are supposed to "pardon" President Bush in order to heal the nation.

I don't think so.

60 Minutes last night reminded us of what it was really like back in the good old days when Betty Ford was in the White House being excoriated for her courageous decision to act like a normal human being instead of a robot:

Betty wouldn't step back. In fact, her outspokenness was such a trademark that there are several exhibits about her candor at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Michigan.

For one, the Fords abandoned the notion of separate bedrooms. At the time, people were shocked by this.

"We had always shared a bedroom, and I thought there was no reason we had to change our lifestyle if I wasn't gonna give him up entirely," Mrs. Ford told Stahl.

But if that shocked the country, it was nothing compared to Betty's interview with Morley Safer in 1975. All hell broke loose. She said that if she were a teenager, she probably would try marijuana, that she'd seen a psychiatrist, and that she was pro-choice. And then there was the question about her 18-year-old daughter.

"Well, what if Susan Ford came to you and said, 'Mother... I'm having an affair'?" Safer asked.

"Well, I wouldn't be surprised. I would think she's a perfectly normal human being, like all young girls," the first lady replied.

Historians consider the interview so important, it runs perpetually at the Ford Museum. At first, two-thirds of the mail and phone calls were negative. Editorials criticized her for being too candid and too liberal, potentially an enormous problem for Jerry Ford.

Asked if her husband was upset with her, Ford told Stahl, "When he saw it, he said, 'Well, honey, there goes about 20 million votes, but we'll make it.'"

But other people were outraged. "There were people who actually demonstrated in front of the White House and said I was a embarrassment as a first lady," she remembered.


She went on to become extremely popular because, shocking as it was, she was actually like the vast majority of the country. Her views were not out of the mainstream --- she was just one of the few people in public life who had the courage to not be a hypocrite.

If everyone wants the Democrats to emulate the Ford era, being independent, outspoken and broadminded like Betty would be the right way to go about it. People were sick and tired of mushmouthed platitudes and insulting deception after all the years of lies. After Bush, I have a feeling people might just be looking for a little of that same Betty Ford straightforward honesty and clarity.


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