A Word To The Wise

by digby

Perlstein and Delong are both discussing the rare phenomenon of the "honest conservative" (if such a thing exists) and prominently feature this insightful comment from John Emerson, (whom I assume to be our friend from Seeing The Forest.)

Check it out:

I think that when the "honest conservatives" reject Bush they're just setting up their assault on the Democratic president they expect to see elected next year. Their way of digging themselves out from under the Bush disaster (and obscuring their own massive role in that disaster) will be to swear that "Never again can an American President be allowed that kind of free hand!" This will justify their fighting the new Democratic President tooth and nail for every inch of ground.

For example, Bush's politicization of the career staff in Justice and elsewhere was a very bad thing, no? And certainly this kind of thing has to stop, no? So we will forbid the new Democratic President to interfere with career personnel, with the result that all of the political hacks Bush put in civil service positions will be untouchable. (When that happens, can we expect the media to understand what's going on? No, of course not....)

Now that they've stolen the horse, they're going to lock the barn door. It's just like January 2001: once Bush was inaugurated, the media and the Republicans decided that sabotage by impeachment and Gingrichian nastiness are really very bad things after all.

This is exactly right. You can see the contours already as you observe the unbelievable sight of the House Republicans taking to the floor to assail the Dems for earmarks. Really. They are. They have no shame and no conscience and they can switch gears and turn on the phony sanctimony without even a sheepish grin to show they know they are full of shit. For them this is combat by any means necessary and they simply don't care if someone says they are hypocrites.

This also plays into one of my long running themes here on the blog, which is the very smart value they place on repetitive rhetoric. And it's not just their own, they use the Democrats' rhetoric as well:

The Republicans have figured out something that the Democrats refuse to understand. All political messages can be useful, no matter which side has created it. You use them all situationally. The Republicans have been adopting our slogans and memes for years. They get that the way people hear this stuff often is not in a particularly partisan sense. They just hear it, in a sort of disembodied way. Over time they become comfortable with it and it can be exploited for all sorts of different reasons.

When I wrote that a year ago, I was speaking about the likelihood that they would use our drumbeat of "stolen elections" against us the next time they came up short. But they do it all the time in other ways as well. When you criticize Condoleeza Rice, Ann Coulter immediately attacks you for being a misogynist racist, even though she is herself a shrieking misogynist racist. Just the other day, I was accused of being a homophobe because I said Chris Matthews had a mancrush on Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani by someone who has made their reputation being hostile to gays. Questioning a Supreme Court nominee's stand on abortion is Catholic bashing --- even if the questioner is Catholic himself. Or as Greenwald pointed out today, Democrats are apparently not allowed to criticize generals --- even though Republicans do it frequently. And on an on.

We know this is a political tactic and yet we lose the argument the minute we start sputtering an explanation as to why-what-we-said-isn't-what-they-are-saying-it-was because blah, blah, blah. (I do it myself, far too often.)

One way to deal with this infuriating, sophomoric (yet highly effective) political style is to simply ignore them, as we do trolls, who operate on the same principle. Instead of David Obey coming to the floor of the Senate with steam coming out of his ears, explaining that the Democrats are trying to clean up the carnage left behind by 12 years of Republican rule while John Boehner smugly buffs his fingernails and chants "earmarks, earmarks, earmarks" Obey should just refuse to acknowledge Boehner's ridiculous accusations and move forward with his own argument.

It's very unsatisfying, because you want more than anything to scream in frustration that these hypocritical asses have the unmitigated gall to accuse the Dems of exactly what they've been doing for 12 years! But it's what they want and the Dems shouldn't give it to them.

But that won't solve the larger problem, which really hurts us in the larger political dialog. As Emerson says in his piece above, all the things the left has been saying since 1992 will be used against us if we become the governing majority in 2008 --- even though the effects will be to further empower the right and hamstring the left. It's ingenious. We'd better start thinking about how to deal with their antics now. They are very good at this "I know you are but what am I" stuff --- in fact, it's what they do best.

Any ideas?