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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Acceptable vs. Unacceptable

by dday

When you read this story, you have to play back in your mind the vision of Brian Ross getting the release of Hillary Clinton's personal First Lady schedule, flipping through his heavily dog-eared copy of the Starr Report, and studiously matching up dates. All the while approving the clip art of the semen-stained dress and Lewinsky, making sure it all fit in the frame, etc.

You could bust a guy for sexual deviancy just for the work it took to produce this swill.

Hillary Was in White House on "Stained Blue Dress" Day

Schedules Reviewed by ABC Show Hillary May Have Been in the White House When the Fateful Act Was Committed

Hillary Clinton spent the night in the White House on the day her husband had oral sex with Monica Lewinsky, and may have actually been in the White House when it happened, according to records of her schedule released today by the National Archives....

The public schedule for Sen. Clinton on Feb. 28, 1997, the day on which Lewinsky's infamous blue dress would become stained by the president, shows the first lady spent the morning and the night in the White House....

This is somehow a perfectly acceptable news item, possibly even acceptable enough for a broadcast story too. And yet coffins of American bodies coming home from an unnecessary war based on deception is too "offensive" for tender eyes.

I'll give you another example. Bill Maher said this about McCain on Hardball today:

you know, we are one terrorist attack away from john mccain i'm sure rising in the polls by ten points. because people think, oh, yeah, he is tougher. he is not tougher about the war. he's dumber about the war. he's dumb about the war because he thinks by keeping troops in the heart of the muslim world that's going to help the war on terror. that's exactly what started the war on terror. that's why bin laden was so angry at the u.s. because we had tloops in saudi arabia. we pulled them out after 9/11, by the way. of course we go right back in and plant them in the heart of the muslim world and build pizza huts. that is why young muslim men want to come here and blow themselves up and kill us. it is not about what happens in iraq. we need to get out of iraq not build bases there.

This is very true. But what of course is so ridiculous is that this is one of the quotes that, when broadly defined, got Rev. Wright in trouble. When it comes down to it, there's not much daylight between "We caused 9/11" and "bin Laden was angry at us about having bases in Saudi Arabia." I think Maher's analysis is correct, but it shouldn't be lost that he's allowed to say it.

The larger point about all this is how conservatives and in particular the media define acceptable discourse, and what will provoke outrage, or barely a twitter. When Janet Jackson shows a covered nipple, the world comes to an end. I saw about 20 minutes of Eliot Spitzer's prostitute's Girls Gone Wild video, played on an endless loop in the middle of the day today, and then we have this really putrid Brian Ross "investigative news article" literally peeping into someone else's bedroom. When Christian conservatives rewrite the words to "God Bless America" and sing it in front of Republican Presidential candidates, nobody in the media considers that to be a "problem" for the GOP because white religious nuts are SUPPOSED to be crazy, and therefore accepted. Black religious figures, on the other hand, when they step outside the bounds as defined in the media by, I don't know, "Sister Act," represent a threat to the Republic.

Now, Janet Folger, who put together that Values Voter Presidential Debate, where "Why should God Bless America" was sung from the stage, has endorsed John McCain. It's as easy to make the guilt-by-association argument with respect to him as it has been to Obama or Clinton's litany of associates. But nobody does.

This is about defining the discourse. And if it hurts Democrats, or anyone who seeks to challenge the status quo, for the most part the videotape rolls. If not it gets locked up. Funny how that works.