Rightbloggers' Scandal Spring Gives Way to Summer of Same Old, Same Old
The recent round of DC scandals has been good for rightbloggers -- for about a month they've been devoted to plumping up Benghazi, IRS, NSA, and other controversies, and have succeeded in knocking down the President's approval ratings. High fives all around!
But seasons change, and Scandal Spring is giving way to the Summer of Same Old, Same Old, as events intrude and conservatives are obliged by them to talk about their own policies, which for reasons that will become apparent isn't likely to be as successful.
Take last week's farm bill vote. This annual event ladles out big goodies to agribusinesses and a little somethin'-somethin' for the poor -- just the sort of thing that both parties in Congress could cooperate on, once upon a time. But last week the bill was defeated in the House largely because Republicans insisted on an amendment that would slash spending on food stamps, aka the SNAP program.
D.C. Republicans and Democrats fought over who was responsible for the debacle, but rightbloggers thought it was just great; they hate food stamps, because food stamps are a Big Government program and because they help feed poor people, whom they believe unworthy of such luxuries. It's a legacy of the old welfare-queens-in-cadillacs school of rightwing outrage, and for years prominent conservatives have devoted columns to SNAP fraud stories ("A 65-year-old cashier in New Hampshire was fired last year for refusing to let a young man use a benefit card to buy cigarettes") to convince readers that poor people are getting away with murder.
"This so-called farm bill would have turned vast numbers of American urban dwellers into semi-permanent welfare recipients," said Investors Business Daily, which is weird because we thought these guys already believed everyone living in cities was on food stamps.
At Patriot Post, John C. Goodman found great significance in the fact that more Americans made voluntary contributions to private charities than made them to the U.S. Government. "Why aren't all the private givers, including federal workers, giving to [the food stamp program]?" he asked. "...Let the food stamp program compete on a level playing field against every other anti-poverty program, private or public." Goodman also reported, "on an average day, 11.7 million children are getting a free or reduced price breakfast, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers," and, to make sure you didn't think he approved of that, bragged, "I am one of the few writers who seems to be appalled by the immorality of bringing children into the world that you cannot support."
"The defeat is an opportunity for reformers, if they have the wit to use their leverage," cheered the Wall Street Journal. "...As recently as a decade ago the program covered a mere 21 million people, but enrollment gradually started to climb and has spiked more than 70% since 2008." Hm, what might have happened in 2008 to raise that rate -- oh, right, the collapse of the U.S. economy. The Journal did not mention this, but instead called this uptick "an indictment of the growth of government; because "buying food" is "one of life's most basic individual responsibilities," they suggested, cutting the poor's food stamps would make them more ambitious, much as sending bloodhounds after them would make them fleeter of foot.
Some of the brethren mocked the "SNAP challenge" in which some Democratic politicians volunteered to live on food stamps for a short time to show the difficulties thereof. Seth Mandel of Commentary called this a "stunt" and said the Democrats' difficulty in maintaining themselves on the stamps just showed "many can't be relied upon to budget for themselves, even though they are empowered to budget for the country," while conservatives "did not suffer from the same confusion" (though Mandel's colleagues don't seem to know how to budget a magazine so that it runs a profit).
Republican staffer Donny Ferguson claimed he'd eaten very well on a SNAP food allowance, and that poor people spend their benefits foolishly on "fast food because fast food tastes great." You can't really buy fast food with food stamps, but then you can't really collect food stamps while earning the salary made by Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman's communications director, either.
If you think making fun of paupers for their food stamps is gross, you are not the target audience. It's an open question, however, as to who is.
Other events conspired to direct rightbloggers' attention on issues that have not been winners for them in the past. Take culinary star Paula Deen's unfortunate remarks on racial matters. Unlike normal people, rightbloggers couldn't just say it was a shame and leave it at that; out of devotion to "politically incorrect" (and Southern) voters versus the "word police," some of the brethren rose to her defense.
Kevin DuJan at HillBuzz, for example, reported that "the institutional Left revs up racial hatred against whites to keep blacks voting Democrat," and that the controversy was being used by them to "ramp up racial tension the week before the Trayvon Martin trial begins in Florida," where they are "hoping that Orlando explodes in a powder keg of racial hatred, riots, and destruction."
DuJan added, "Since the Food Network has fired Paula Deen for using the word 'nigger; three decades ago I am curious if the black cooking show hosts 'The Neelys' on Food Network have ever in their lives used words like 'honky,' 'whitey,' or 'white boy.'" DuJan also said liberals "enjoy attacking and bringing down a white woman like Paula Deen far too much for there not to be sexual gratification for them in this," and... oh, just go read it, it's hilarious.
The consideration by the Supreme Court of two cases with an impact on gay marriage also caught the brethren's attention. You'd think at this point, with the tide of public opinion receding from them, rightbloggers would have sworn omertà on this, too. But there remain some who, whenever the P-flag is waved at them, cannot help but charge.
At WorldNetDaily Bob Unruh reported that "a coalition of Christian organizations is warning that the U.S. Supreme Court does not have the power to redefine the institution of marriage, which predates government, churches and even religion." Unruh added that this group "includes Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant clergy and leaders," which is a little like saying that the Legion of Doom included representatives of several planets.
It is unclear what this coalition plans to do if SCOTUS rules for the pink team -- maybe summon thunderbolts? -- but at The Daily Caller Carrie Severino told us gays are the real bullies: "Expect liberals to attack justices as racist, anti-gay bigots if rulings don't go their way," she headlined. "While the results are still a mystery to those of us outside the Court, what is fairly certain is that the left will engage in a campaign to discredit the Court, if previous trends hold." Though she gave no examples, she has a point -- remember how uncivil liberals were about the Dred Scott decision? Conversely, in Severino's view conservatives are civil even when they use incendiary language: "in reality it's not bigoted -- whatever your opinion of gay marriage -- to believe... that a court decision nationalizing same-sex marriage would detonate a dirty bomb in the culture wars," she said. Maybe a "dirty bomb" is in this context something like a Dirty Sanchez, and meant in a friendly way.
Others among the brethren focused on a poll showing people in media heavily support gay marriage ("just as the media were in the tank for Obama, the same can be said when it comes to the issue of gay marriage"), suggesting that if the Supremes did rule for the gays, it'd only be because they've been brainwashed by TV and newspapers.
Another uneasy topic for conservatives, immigration, was revived by arguments between two Cuban-American Republican Senators about a pending bill to let more Mexicans into the country for keeps. (One of the hilarious side-effects has been that onetime rightwing golden boy Marco Rubio, the pro-immigration one, has been abandoned over this issue by his erstwhile Tea Party backers and by National Review.) Rightbloggers, who recently linked easy immigration to the Boston Marathon bombing, did not break their streak.
Some of them seemed unwilling to engage the basic issue, and danced around the edges. Because the current bill "would allow stateless people in the U.S. to seek conditional lawful status if their nations have been made uninhabitable by climate change," Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin said, "presumably how this would work is that somebody would walk up to the U.S. border, say 'it's getting too hot over there' (or cold, or wet, or dry, or windy) and be granted legal entry." And they wouldn't even have to say it in English! Jeffrey Lord at the American Spectator said news that some immigrants had been involved in tax fraud proved that "Big Government has gone off the rails" and thus cannot be trusted to reform immigration (presumably Lord would prefer the job be privatized and handled by someone like Joe Arpaio). CNS News complained that some handwritten notes on a draft of the bill were hard to read.
But at VDare, James Kirkpatrick was refreshingly forthright: "Whatever the outcome of the 'Comprehensive Immigration Reform' a.k.a. Amnesty/ Immigration Surge battle in Congress," he wrote, "Conservatism Inc. has already lost" -- "Conservatism Inc." being that weak-willed variant that wanted to win Hispanic votes, as opposed to Kirkpatrick's more purebred model.
Kirkpatrick seemed concerned, even distressed, that America would not be majority white forever; when another conservative, Matt Lewis, wrote, "As long as America is free and virtuous, honors the rule of law, and advances the values of Western Civilization, why does ethnicity matter?" Kirkpatrick retorted, "We are not free, because you can't have freedom and multiculturalism. We are not virtuous -- America is a moral cesspool, and the increasing Hispanic population is only worsening the problems of illegitimacy, abortion, and crime." Kirkpatrick also announced that "conservative 'anti-racism' is simply... anti-white," and that Tucker Carlson's rightwing paper The Daily Caller "officially denies whites' right to exist." Also, "If 'real conservatism' is to be defined as an abstract belief in limited government, free markets, and traditional values, Hispanics have no place. Neither do African-Americans." Kirkpatrick did generously add that "neither do millions of American whites," so we're sure many of the brethren would defend him as not-a-racist.
So if they're not expecting to bring in minority groups, how do they expect to achieve a winning coalition? By looking for new alliances. For example, some rightbloggers are reaching out to the men's rights movement.
Many rightbloggers have been singing the praises of Helen Smith's book Men on Strike. Smith, better known as a Go Galt enthusiast who counseled conservatives to show their displeasure with Obama's election and statism by stiffing waiters, is also a sort of lonelyhearts columnist for men who believe women get all the breaks, and has conducted many hilarious online drum-circles on that theme. Now she's coalesced these MRA-style claims of male victimhood into a book. "American society has become anti-male," her publisher says. "Men are sensing the backlash and are consciously and unconsciously going 'on strike'... why should men participate in a system that seems to be increasingly stacked against them?"
Rightbloggers have rushed to praise her plaint. Leslie Eastman at Legal Insurrection called it "a real eye-opener about the feminist cultural demonization and trivialization of men"; Walter Russell Mead bemoaned along with Smith that on college campuses, "men are now increasingly depicted as villains, intrinsically given to aggression and assault"; Ed Driscoll promised an interview with Smith in which she would explain "why 'enslavement used to be based on race, [but] now it's based on gender,'" which we declined.
"Women are taking the lead in academia; they are the majority of grad students and med students, and approaching parity in law school," said Elizabeth Scalia in her rave review. "Increasingly, they are the household breadwinners, too -- they're even the distractors of terrorists, in certain situations -- while the men... well.. where are the men?" She added that "in many homes we see an over-represent the women living in them, in terms of decorating and the 'stuff' that is around, while the men's interests are relegated to a room or a 'man-cave' basement, out-of-sight and inoffensive to more 'elegant' sensibilities." We leave it to readers to judge whether men feel ghettoized by their man-caves and by their female partners' desire to keep the rest of the house sanitary.
Support for the theory of male oppression can also be found at such classy venues at the Wall Street Journal, where James Taranto has made a habit of explaining that American males are targets of a "war on men" which prevents them from doing God knows what -- maybe lighting up a stogie in the Journal's offices, or something equally central to human freedom.
We are also coming up to the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, which has inspired attacks such as Diana Furchtgott-Roth's at Real Clear Markets on the "myth" that American women earn 77% of the salary men get. "Nonsense," said Furchtgott-Roth. "The 77 percent figure is bogus because it averages all full-time women, no matter what education and profession, with all full-time men." If you're thinking, yeah, that's the point, Furchtgott-Roth wishes to inform you that "women make less than men because they choose more humanities and fewer science and math majors at college," which is apparently a big difference even on an assembly line or at a gas station.
And of course there's that anti-male prejudice the guys are struggling against: "Feminists routinely denigrate men, portraying them as misogynists and rapists," lamented Furchtgott-Roth. "Think of the number of 'Take Back the Night' rallies on campuses that focus on men as potential assailants..." It's no wonder men's self-esteem is so shattered they only make slightly more than women; if womankind would only apologize to them and maybe suck their cocks, the ego-boost might bring them back up to the much fairer 100/64 ratio of yesteryear.
As if to make sure no one misunderstood their attitude toward women, last week Republicans pushed through the House a bill outlawing abortion after 20-22 weeks' gestation. This was defended by Yuval Levin of National Review as an attempt "to save the lives of innocent children whose only crime is that they are unwanted by their mothers or would disrupt somebody's plans." Graciously, he did not recommend these women be prosecuted for murder, at least not at this time. "We pretend 20-week-olds aren't unborn children," said his colleague Kathryn J. Lopez. "Their value is infused by a mother's 'choice' - to be empowered or beheaded." Say, how did these women get a say in this anyway?
Some of the brethren tried new approaches -- "WILL CHRISTIAN ARTIST'S ANTI-ABORTION PAINTING ACTUALLY SAVE UNBORN BABIES' LIVES?" asked Billy Hallowell at Glenn Beck's The Blaze -- but their basic defense was the same as it has been for decades: That fetuses' rights trump those of the women they're growing in, and that the media is biased in favor of abortion because they insist on telling people the crazy things pro-life people say -- which they did again this week (see?).
Make no mistake, though, the brethren are still working the scandal beat. But the coming of summer seems to be wearing on their resolve.
In the matter of the NSA, for example, some of them appear uncomfortable with their new civil-libertarian roles. At National Review, Robert Zubrin had the neat idea of portraying Obama's surveillance, not as an expense of liberty in favor of security, but as bad for national security in itself. "NSA domestic-spying programs," he wrote, "...are actually harming our safety, so much so that thousands of Americans may have already died as a result."
This is an explosive revelation but, unlike Wikileaks, Zubrin doesn't have names. What he had was this: "The NSA metadata-collection program costs lots of money, and had funds not been expended on it, they could have been used to support other programs that might have been far more effective in saving American lives." For example, the billions of dollars spent on surveillance might have been redirected toward training police dogs to sniff out Muslims, or maybe on a death-ray that can tell who the bad guys are. But now we'll never know if that would have worked. Thanks, Obama!
They've thrown some new pebbles into the hydrant stream, too; some of the brethren are suggesting the last week's car crash that took the life of Michael Hastings, the Rolling Stone reporter whose writing took down Gen. Stanley McChrystal, was a mite too convenient.
Not being total idiots, by and large they took a "Questions Remain" tack, e.g. NewsMax, "Conspiracy Theories Abound on Journalist's Death"; Libertarian Republican, "Vince Foster-like murder plot emerging in Los Angeles?" (note the thoughtful question mark!); P.J. Tatler: "I ran into about ten people who were talking about this today. It certainly beats another 'Is the NBA fixed?' discussion (I say it mostly is). And, hey, now that paranoia has gone mainstream, it doesn't seem implausible"; and Glenn Reynolds ("Sounds like the beginning of a thriller novel").
Though only suggestive, stories like these were highly stimulating to message board conservatives at places like Free Republic ("With the left, it's thought control. If anybody steps out of line...").
"[Hastings] died yesterday in a HIGHLY unusual fiery car crash, hot on the heels of his most recent expose' regarding the runaway NSA, and whose most recent contact also happened to be with Assange from Wiki Leaks," reported Adina Kutnicki. "But don't be distracted by the 'truther' moniker in the above link, oftentimes such bugaboos are used to silence questioners."
Robert Stacy McCain attributed such imaginings to "the fevered imaginations of the kook fringe" -- but still found a way to blame Obama, whose "Nixonian" surveillance, McCain suggested, may have driven Hastings to crack up his car. "Welcome to America in 2013," cried McCain, "where Hope and Change have transmogrified into Fear and Loathing, where even a liberal reporter who last year praised Obama as 'one of the most talented politicians around' could not resist the pervasive paranoia inspired by what voters were once promised would be 'the most transparent administration in history.'"
This may help pull at Obama's trustworthiness a bit, at least among a certain segment of the population. But while the hoopla has been helpful, at the end of the day (or, more importantly, the election cycle), rightbloggers can't merely tear Obama down -- they have to find a way to build Republicans up. Maybe alienating women, minorities, and people struggling to make ends meet is the way to do it. Guess the only way to find out is to try -- again.
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