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Friday, October 05, 2007

"And I Used To Walk On The Moon"

by digby

I don't know if you've heard the latest on Rush's scramble to dig himself out from under his nasty comments about phony soldiers and suicide bombers, but it's pathetic. (Via Media Matters, of course.)

LIMBAUGH: All right, anybody care what I actually said about this? Would you like to hear what I actually said? This was Tuesday on the program, and I was talking about the ad that they are running.

[begin audio clip]

LIMBAUGH: You know, this is such a blatant use of a valiant combat veteran, lying to him about what I said, then strapping those lies to his belt, sending him out via the media in a TV ad to walk into as many people as he can walk into. This man will always be a hero to this country with everyone. Whoever pumped him full of these lies about what I said and embarrassed him with this ad has betrayed him. They're not hurting me, they're betraying this soldier. Now, unless he actually believes what he's saying, in which case it's just so unfortunate and sad when the truth of what I said is right out there to be learned.

[end audio clip]

LIMBAUGH: I called him a hero. I called him a hero. The other reference is to where the drive-by media runs in, blows things up, creates all these messes, and then heads on down the road to create another one. I called him a suicide bomber -- you see how this works. I didn't call anybody who legitimately serves a "phony soldier." I didn't call this guy a suicide bomber. That's out there -- I called him a suicide bomber. [laughter] Here's McGough. He was on MSNBC last night talking about the fact that I called him a suicide bomber.

McGOUGH [audio clip]: My reaction is disgust, how someone can sit in that chair and say that I am a car bomber, or excuse me, a suicide bomber, is disgusting. I've seen the aftereffects of a suicide bomb. I've had friends that were hurt in suicide bombs. It makes me mad down to a place where I can't even think to describe. It's just repugnant.

I suppose Limbaugh's mouth breathing fans will buy that. They'll buy anything, obviously, since they listen to Rush and vote for George W. Bush. But it's quite clear that he was using the metaphor of a suicide bomber to describe this soldier. Even George W. Bush could see that.

But I think the smear is even more insidious than that. He was describing someone who didn't know his own mind, couldn't think for himself, had these "lies" strapped on him and was "sent out" to "walk into as many people as he can walk into." The image is of a brain damaged person --- or a child --- who was sent out with explosives strapped to him, not knowing what they were asking him to do. Why, even if the poor deluded fellow actually "believes" what he's saying, it's sad and unfortunate.

You've seen the ad by now I'm sure. (If not, watch it here at C&L.) Brian McGough was wounded in Iraq and suffered a traumatic brain injury. It did not affect his ability to think or speak, as is obvious from the video and his subsequent appearance on Keith Olbermann. But the subtext of Rush's suicide bomber statement is that he is some sort of automaton whose brain isn't functioning properly or he would never have made that video. It's extremely insulting.

We know Rush thinks this way. He's done it before. You'll all recall that he disgustingly went after Michael J. Fox last November, saying that Fox was "acting" or that he was too addled to know what he was doing and was "being used." He knows exactly what he's saying and what his audience hears when he says it.

As I wrote about the Fox insult:
[Rush said:]

This is a script that they have written for years. Senate Democrats used to parade victims of various diseases or social concerns or poverty up before congressional committees and let them testify, and they were infallible. You couldn't criticize them. Same thing with the Jersey Girls after the 9-11 -- and in the period of time when the 9-11 Commission was meeting publicly. Victims -- infallible, whatever they say cannot be challenged. I don't follow the script anymore.

That's absurd, of course. The right holds up all kinds of people as being unassailable, particularly (Republican) [soldiers and]veterans and religious figures. But that's not even the point. Nobody says you can't criticize a "victim's" point of view or disagree with their take on the issue. Rush could have made a straightforward argument that stem cell research is wrong. But the right wing almost never does this on any issue anymore. Virtually every time, they attack the person's character.

They do this for a number of reasons. The first is to give their followers some reason to reject a compelling argument like that set forth by Fox. They send this idea into the ether that Fox is faking it and create a controversy that suddenly makes what seems to be self-evident --- Michael J. Fox is suffering horribly from a dread disease that might be cured with stem cell research --- into a matter of interpretation. It furthers their meme that Democrats are phonies and flip-floppers who don't stand for anything. It helps their base come to terms with their own internal contradictions. They have turned spin into a worldview.

But they also want to advance the idea that the message always depends upon who is delivering it and you can accept or reject it purely on the basis of tribal identification. ("Don't think, meat.") And to do that they've introduced a form of congitive relativism in which there is no such thing as reality. The press's lazy "he said/she said" form of journalism reinforces it.

He went after soldiers this time and it's caused him some grief because it came on the heels of their magnificent Man Called Petraeus pageant, where they trotted out a powerful, political general as being "infallible, whatever they say cannot be challenged." Rush was obviously criticizing veterans who don't agree with him.

Indeed, just prior to the phony soldier comment was this:

LIMBAUGH: Mike in Chicago, welcome to the EIB Network. Hello.

CALLER 1: Hi Rush, how you doing today?

LIMBAUGH: I'm fine sir, thank you.

CALLER 1: Good. Why is it that you always just accuse the Democrats of being against the war and suggest that there are absolutely no Republicans that could possibly be against the war?

LIMBAUGH: Well, who are these Republicans? I can think of Chuck Hagel, and I can think of Gordon Smith, two Republican senators, but they don't want to lose the war like the Democrats do. I can't think of -- who are the Republicans in the anti-war movement?

CALLER 1: I'm just -- I'm not talking about the senators. I'm talking about the general public -- like you accuse the public of all the Democrats of being, you know, wanting to lose, but --

LIMBAUGH: Oh, come on! Here we go again. I uttered a truth, and you can't handle it, so you gotta call here and change the subject. How come I'm not also hitting Republicans? I don't know a single Republican or conservative, Mike, who wants to pull out of Iraq in defeat. The Democrats have made the last four years about that specifically.


LIMBAUGH: Mike, you can't possibly be a Republican.

CALLER 1: I am.

LIMBAUGH: You are -- you are --

CALLER 1: I am definitely a Republican.

LIMBAUGH: You can't be a Republican. You are --

CALLER 1: Oh, I am definitely a Republican.

LIMBAUGH: You are tarnishing the reputation, 'cause you sound just like a Democrat.

CALLER 1: No, but --

LIMBAUGH: The answer to your question --

CALLER 1: -- seriously, how long do we have to stay there --

LIMBAUGH: As long as it takes!

CALLER 1: -- to win it? How long?

LIMBAUGH: As long as it takes! It is very serious.

CALLER 1: And that is what?

LIMBAUGH: This is the United States of America at war with Islamofascists. We stay as long -- just like your job. You do everything you have to do, whatever it takes to get it done, if you take it seriously.

CALLER 1: So then you say we need to stay there forever --

LIMBAUGH: I -- it won't --

CALLER 1: -- because that's what it'll take.

LIMBAUGH: No, Bill, or Mike -- I'm sorry. I'm confusing you with the guy from Texas.

CALLER 1: See, I -- I've used to be military, OK? And I am a Republican.

LIMBAUGH: Yeah. Yeah.

CALLER 1: And I do live [inaudible] but --

LIMBAUGH: Right. Right. Right, I know.

CALLER 1: -- you know, really -- I want you to be saying how long it's gonna take.

LIMBAUGH: And I, by the way, used to walk on the moon!

CALLER 1: How long do we have to stay there?

LIMBAUGH: You're not listening to what I say. You can't possibly be a Republican. I'm answering every question. That's not what you want to hear, so it's not even penetrating your little wall of armor you've got built up.

Rush believes that anyone who disagrees with him must be a Democrat in sheep's clothing and that Democrats all want to "wave the white flag." And he doesn't believe that anyone who holds the views that this caller holds could possibly have been in the military. ("And I, by the way, used to walk on the moon.")

When confronted with undisputed veterans who disagree with him he implies they have been brainwashed or brain damaged and are being used by others. He simply refuses to acknowledge that the military is not an adjunct of the Republican Party and that there are many people in it who disagree with what he's saying. (He can't even admit that there are civilian Republicans who disagree with what he's saying.)

The Republicans have so fetishized the troops that it causes severe cognitive dissonance (and a potential fracture with their base) for Rush to come right out and say what he wants to say, which is that veterans and soldiers who disagree with the president on the war are traitors. But it slips out in little ways: "staff puke" and "phony soldier" and his insistence that you can't be a good "Republican" (soldier) and be critical of the war. This time he got caught in the middle of a political firestorm about criticizing the military and so had to defend his comments. But it's not unusual. It's what he thinks. It's what a lot of Republicans think.

It's all wrapped in the warped worldview I described above, in which the Democratic party is not just wrong, it's fundamentally illegitimate. And anyone who disagrees is a traitor, including, apparently, the vast majority of Americans who do not support this war.

And that is why I truly resent my tax dollars being spent to help this man spread extremist, ultra partisan lies about Democrats and liberals all day, every day, to American troops overseas on Armed Forces Radio. He can do it all he wants in the free market here in the states. And if Clear Channel wants to start a radio network in Iraq and feature him 24 hours a day, they can have at it. But this man's only purpose is to spread lies about me and lies about soldiers like Brian McGough and spew rank partisan propaganda on behalf of the Republican Party on my dime.

I'm with Wes Clark on this. Rush can say what he wants on the air, and if he thinks I'm a traitor he has the right. He can operate as an arm of the Republican party, take his orders from the white house and spread GOP propaganda far and wide. We have free speech in America. But there's nothing in the constitution that says I have to pay for it to be piped to troops on the battlefield.

Update: Joe Conason has more. (H/T to BB)

Anonymous Liberal too.