Killing The King
I just watched Bill Bennett quivering with outrage that Media Matters has "smeared" Rush Limbaugh; according to him Rush didn't actually say that soldiers who spoke out against the war were "phony soldiers." Wolf, uninformed about the details as usual,looked taken aback and somewhat frightened by Bennett's wild-eyed defense, and left it up to Donna Brazile to present the facts. (She did quite well although she would have been better if armed with the details on this one.) What was interesting is that Bennett then more or less issued a veiled threat that they'd better be careful not to push this thing too far or the "betrayus" thing would haunt the Democrats forever. He was more animated than I've seen him in years.
The Republicans are going into full defense on Rush, which is what any smart organization does when its valuable assets are threatened. But Rush not only said what he said, he since edited his transcripts and lied repeatedly on the air. (You know what they say about it's not the crime it's the cover up...) His supporters will defend him against anything (and often have) but this one is documented --- he got caught.
Media Matters has a Fact Check, with links and documentation, that lays out the whole sordid case, in case any journalist wants to actually get the story. (I've seen little evidence of any desire to do so, so far.)
General Wes Clark (who Limbaugh has repeatedly slandered) has started a drive to force congress to remove Limbaugh from Armed Forces Radio, a move I've been in favor of for years. I urge you to sign up for this one. Limbaugh is a cancer on the body politic and we have to stop being afraid of him --- or being above these "petty squabbles." One of the main sources of Republican power is their ability to gin up controversies like this latest MoveOn thing and it behooves us to go after them with the same amount of fervor when the opportunity presents itself. They will keep doing it until the price becomes too high.
Bennett said today that the Democrats had erred because if they were going to try to kill the king, they'd better succeed, and Rush is the king of talk radio. He's right. And the Democrats should have been working to take him down long ago. It's my belief that the conservative movement of the past decade or so was a three headed hydra: Newt, Delay and Rush. Sure, there are others, including Bush's brain, and Grover Norquist (whom I have sometimes included as the fourth head of the hydra) but those three stood for different things that were hugely important to the success of the movement. Newt was the visionary. Delay was the congressional enforcer. And Rush was the voice, screaming out violent hatred for liberals and Democrats day after day, decade after decade. It took its toll, to the point where we can hardly even stand ourselves.
Newtie's now irrelevant. Delay is gone. Only Rush remains and he is probably the biggest prize. On a purely practical, hardball political basis, the Democrats should have been working to take him out for years. Now is their chance to turn the Republicans' patented hissy kabuki back on them and hoist an avowed political enemy with his own poisonous petard at the same time. There are many others who will happily take his place, no doubt about it. But his voice is uniquely associated with the radical wingnuts, and it is an important symbolic message to the country if they can finally make an example of him.
But it is more than just a political knife fight. It's principle. After all, the man was fired from ESPN for his racist statements. He talks about any women who don't worship him like they are either whores or doormats. He has been spewing dangerous eliminationist bile about liberals in general for years and he tells our troops in Iraq every single day on Armed Forces Radio, paid for by you and me, that the Democrats are unpatriotic traitors, which really is reprehensible.
There are a lot of public affairs programs. And yet they pipe this hateful, radical gasbag into the war zone while sanctimoniously exhorting everyone else to support the troops. Troops who, according to Rush, can't disagree with him without being "phony soldiers." It is an insult to large numbers of Americans, including many in the military, who aren't Republicans, that they are forced to pay for Rush Limbaugh to spew his disgusting partisan rhetoric into Iraq and Afghanistan --- and then lie to the troops when it comes back to haunt him. It's just wrong and if the Democratic congress can't do even one other thing, the least they could do is put an end to this.
Here's Clark's petition.
Update: I see congressional candidate -- and career Naval officer --- Eric Massa, has called out Limbaugh in a very satisfactory way.
"You're a pompous coward and it's about time someone called you out on it and that someone is me...My name is Eric Massa and you know where to find me."
Update: VoteVets released a new ad on the controversy today, which you can see here, featuring an injured combat veteran calling Rush to task. Rush disgustingly replied on his show as if the man was so brain damaged he didn't know what he was saying (similar to what the right wingers always say about women who have had an abortion, I might add):
"This is such a blatant use of a valiant combat veteran, lying to him about what I said and then strapping those lies to his belt, sending him out via the media and 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 aren't hurting me they are betraying this soldier," Limbaugh said.
Shades of Michael J. Fox. He's a poor, damaged combat veteran who doesn't have full control of his own mind.
Here's the little guy's response:
So, Rush Limbaugh called me a "suicide bomber." More slander from the high and mighty sitting in his chair nursing the boils on his ass. I can assure you that I am no suicide bomber and that I can think for myself.
Rush, your phony soldier comments pissed me off. The audacity of someone like you who never had the courage to stand and fight for what you believe in makes my head spin. That is what made me stand up and state my convictions in front of a camera. I wanted to point out that you are wrong. I am not a phony soldier. I believe that we are not doing the right thing for national security by staying in Iraq. We are putting too much strain on our military by extending tours and not giving people enough time at home to rest. We have taken our eye off of the real Al-Qaeda and let them regroup to their pre-9/11 strength. We have not developed a political system in Iraq that would enable the country to stand on its own.
I stood in the sand, snow, dirt, mud and dust of both Afghanistan and Iraq. I spent over a week on a side of a mountain in Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda. I received The Bronze Star medal for my actions during that battle. I crossed the border into Iraq with the first wave of the 101st Airborne. I sustained an open head injury on the streets of Mosul after a vehicle borne IED exploded next to the vehicle I was riding in. I have seen the aftermath of a real suicide bomber. I had loved ones who died in the 9/11 attacks. I have friends and colleagues who returned from the war in body bags.
How dare you call someone like me a phony soldier and a suicide bomber? In the commercial I just taped, I told you unless you had the guts to say something to my face, stop telling lies about my service. Well you haven’t had the guts to say it to my face, but I am waiting and the offer is still on the table.