Robin Toner of the New York Times managed to do something pretty unbelievable – and repugnant – yesterday in this Political Memo column, which included the following (digging for some really old dirt in an effort to impugn the Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular)…
WASHINGTON — Sometimes, as Senator Barack Obama seemed to argue earlier this year, a flag pin is just a flag pin.And I just love the way that Toner treats all of this as anything but absolutely scurrilous, by the way (which surely would have occurred if a Dem had done this to a Repug).
But it can never be that simple for anyone with direct experience of the 1988 presidential campaign. That year, the Republicans used the symbols of nationhood (notably, whether schoolchildren should be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance) to bludgeon the Democrats, challenge their patriotism and utterly redefine their nominee, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts.
The memory of that campaign — reinforced, for many, by the attacks on Senator John Kerry’s Vietnam war record in the 2004 election — haunts Democrats of a certain generation.
The 1988 campaign was, in many ways, the crucible that helped create Bill Clinton’s centrist philosophy and his fierce commitment to attack and counterattack, which drove the politics of the 1990s.You…have…got…to…be…FREAKING…KIDDING…ME!
I might as well point out right now that Toner somehow manages to write about all of these truly putrid moments in our political history with NO MENTION WHATSOEVER of the two most notorious practitioners who fouled our climate the most during that time, and that would be Newton Leroy Gingrich and Lee Atwater (pictured).
(At least Dorothy Wickenden of The New Yorker managed to write a column that had already contained much of what Toner already said, thus trying to emphasize this Obama/Dukakis narrative in a much more subtle way, and even properly documenting Atwater’s role and his own contrition over the forces he had unleashed as he lay dying from a brain tumor.)
But just remember that, as far as Toner and our corporate media is concerned, attacks on someone’s patriotism through flag lapel pins and questioning their war record, to say nothing of trivialities on the issues list such as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, all fit into a nice, neat little niche...
Twenty years ago, the nation was in an era of comparative peace and prosperity; a sense of crisis did not hang over the election. Today, with the war in Iraq in its sixth year and the economy stumbling, more than 8 in 10 Americans say the country is on the wrong track. A new generation of voters have entered the electorate, who may not be as susceptible to values issues.See, as far as our corporate media is concerned, the ENDLESS fixation with a certain black preacher, a candidate’s bowling score or basketball prowess as well or the aforementioned attacks on one’s patriotism are all “values issues.” Not ridiculous, mindless nonsense that fills up our dialogue like cotton candy, slowly dissipating as we realize that we’ve been hoodwinked out of a legitimate discussion of issues AGAIN. Not a total abdication of any sense of journalistic ethics or responsibility.
In such a climate, it would presumably be far more difficult than in 1988 to keep the campaign focused on symbolic, values-related issues, or matters of personality.
No, these are all “symbolic, values-related issues,” or “matters of personality” (and yes, I know this scam isn't new, but it deserves to be called out for what it truly is).
(And the Times no doubt wonders why its circulation is declining along with just about every other newspaper in the country…)
And believe it or not, Toner’s column actually gets better (well, worse really)…
Even with so many big issues at stake this time around, the race between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton has often been focused on questions of values, background and character — witness the recent fixation on Mr. Obama’s ties to the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., or the continued unfounded rumors that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.Oh, but even though “unfounded,” you’re going to repeat them anyway, aren’t you, Toner (as opposed to ignoring them for the freeper agit-prop that they are)? Nice job.
And still more “fun” awaits…
Attacks on a presidential candidate’s patriotism are hard for many politicians to take seriously. “Unless you’re talking about the Manchurian candidate, the idea that someone who put their heart and soul into running for president didn’t care deeply for their country is kind of ridiculous,” said Drew Westen, a psychologist and political consultant.But again, that doesn’t stop you guys from repeating it anyway (and nice job to parrot Mann Coulter’s talking points, Drew – Westen is one of these guys who keeps telling Democrats to “dumb down” their campaigns and talk to voters like they’re stupid (here)…actually, all it takes is someone with a minimum of speaking talent and an ability to interact with voters and a rapid response against Repug slime, and with all due respect to Al Gore and John Kerry, they really didn’t have any of that, though they would have been wonderful presidents – sigh – and somehow I don’t think we’ll be hearing Westen dispensing any advice to Obama on this).
And though I’m not a big fan of the DLC, I thought this quote from Bruce Reed in Toner's hit piece, the group’s president, spoke volumes…
“Republicans have been trying to put us in the same box for 40 years now,” Mr. Reed said. “We win elections when we don’t let them.”And our media has been trying to do the same thing for at least half that amount of time (and the same thing happens when we don’t let them either).