Thursday, February 7, 2008

"Aiding a Surrender to Terror"?

What the %#& did Romney say? The gloves are waaay off now.

Romney, the former favorite GOP robot since Gort ("Klaatu barada nikto!) just announced at the Conservative Political Action Conference that if he stayed in the race it would "forestall the launch of a national campaign and be making it easier for Sen. Clinton or Obama to win. Frankly, in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror."

Can't get much more inflammatory than that. Perfect for his audience of paranoid conservatives fretting over fear of liberal fumigation. They will be hearing panels and speeches apparently designed to ratchet up that fear. "What Do Liberals Have Planned for Your Money?" featuring, among others, Grover Norquist, who famously instructed his partisans, “You look for an issue that unites your side . . . divides the other side and allows you to reach in . . . and take their hearts out," and denounced bipartisanship as "date rape." Will he be calling Barack a "date raper?"

The crowd's hearts will race as they cringe over other frights: How the Liberals Are Criminalizing Free Enterprise. Threats to Our National Sovereignty. Why Judges Are STILL the Problem and What to Do About It.

While all this fear is being spread and accompanying vitriol spewed, I reflect on its ubiquity.

Demonization in American politics is hardly new. While in the earliest contested presidential elections it was considered unseemly for the candidates themselves to sling the mud, or even directly campaign, their surrogates were unrestrained. John Adams’ supporters published attacks that make Romney's accusation today and GHWBush’s Willie Horton spectacle seem positively gentlemanly. Of their opponent Jefferson, they said, “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes.”

Lest anyone think that the contemporary Christian right originated challenges to candidates’ proper Christian credentials, as they did with Romney, the Adams gang also called Jefferson an infidel who “writes aghast the truths of God's words; who makes not even a profession of Christianity; who is without Sabbaths; without the sanctuary, and without so much as a decent external respect for the faith and worship of Christians.”

The Andrew Jackson campaign was even dirtier. He was accused of murder, gambling, slave trading and treason. Adams’ son’s gang continued the traditions of his father’s. They said Jackson’s mother was a prostitute and that his father was a mulatto, and his wife first an adulteress and then a bigamist. Jackson’s troops hit back that Adams was the gambler, plus a pimp for the Russian czar, and thoroughly corrupt.

Against that, suggesting that Hillary and Barack would "surrender to terror" is almost tame. But let's see what's to come. "Date raper?"

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