At first glance it looked like another bad week for the rightbloggers. There was a Presidential debate and, as has become customary, they scored it a success for McCain while non-blogger-Americans went the other way.
Failing there, rightbloggers milked McCain debate prop Joe the Plumber, expecting a blue-collar revolt of white workmen for McCain — “An Army of Joes,” as Jules Crittenden put it. This, too, lacked traction, for which Gateway Pundit blamed Evil Media villains including Jay Leno and David Letterman (“Obama-loving media elites are holding a feeding frenzy”). When some reporters impertinently discovered that Joe was not licensed to plumb, Michelle Malkin announced that the media was out to “destroy” and indeed “hang” JtP.
All out of debates, in the closing weeks of the election, rightbloggers went back to the mother lode of rightwing armament: slander and fraud. While these didn’t much move the American people (in the rightbloggers’ direction, we mean), they did win a victory of sorts: their messages and tone have broken through to the Republican candidates and pundits, who are behaving more like rightbloggers themselves.
If you follow this stuff, you may have noticed an uptick in rightblogger use of all kinds of anti-Obama tropes, ranging from the familiar (Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright) to the surreal (that Ayers wrote Obama’s book, that Obama had a secret girlfriend, that Obama is not a U.S. citizen, etc).
Their credulity grows apace with their desperation. Take, for example, the Michelle Obama rumor. No, not that one, the new one.
Heretofore unheard-of news agency African Press International published a fanciful interview “on telefon” with Michelle Obama, in which the eloquent, well-educated Mrs. Obama is made to sound like a street peddler for whom English is not a first language (“All dirt has been thrown onto my husband’s face and yet he loves this country”). Rightbloggers assemble! “The Obamedia probably won’t touch this,” said Gateway Pundit. “Michelle Obama’s temper tantrum… hasn’t been reported by the mainstream media but it is a very hot topic in the Blogosphere,” assured NewsBusters.
Some were more weaselly. Confederate Yankee, after getting in up to his elbows (“Michelle Obama’s caricature in the New Yorker as a black nationalist suddenly isn’t so funny”), suddenly headed for the washbasin: “Take it for what it’s worth… I’ll let this play out as it will.” Wake Up America reported the story as fact (“The African Press International got under Michelle Obama’s skin and she came out swinging”) before affecting a fair ‘n’ balanced perspective (“Is it true? API is standing behind it”).
And some, of course, blamed the media — not the made-up outlet that spread this crap story, but that other media which has been the bete noir of rightwingers since time immemorial. “I do think that [API’s] Mr. Korir should release an audiotape should he have one, and I do think that his credibility depends upon it,” said Jeff Schreiber. “That, however, has less to do with Mr. Korir as it does with the nature of the media, the Internet and the times as a whole.”
Meanwhile API kept upping the ante, claiming it would release tapes of the harangue, and added more unbelievable details (“Mrs. Obama asked API to write a good story about her husband and that will earn API an invitation to the inauguration ceremony when, as she put it, her husband will be installed as the next President of the United States of America next year”).
The circle was completed by Jammie Wearing Fool, who suggested that the API report may be “a clever bit of astroturfing by the Obama camp trying to dupe people into running with bogus information.” (Why would they bother?)
But there was one area in which this drive to lower the tone was a resounding success: among the Republican candidates themselves.
On the stump, both McCain and Palin suggested that Obama’s plans for America amounted to “socialism.” Palin also said she loved visiting the “pro-American parts of the country,” presumably more than she enjoyed the anti-American parts. And a McCain advisor told MSNBC that only the Republican parts of her home state were the “real Virginia,” because they were “more southern in nature, if you will.”
Rightbloggers were beside themselves with glee. “McCain finally calling Obama what he is… a Socialist!” crowed Tennessee Talk. They rushed to defend their newly wised-up champions. Michelle Malkin explained what Palin meant, showing shots of obnoxious protests in San Francisco, Chicago, and Portland, Oregon. (Don’t worry, she still hates New York, too.)
Another excitable Michelle — Congresswoman Bachmann of Minnesota — told Chris Matthews that Obama had “anti-American views” and she would like to see the press investigate Congress to reveal which of her fellow House members were “anti-America.” (She declined to provide them with leads, though.)
And now the usual roles were fully reversed, as rightbloggers sought to temper the impact of a Republican politician’s outlandish remarks.
Ed Morrissey protectively treated Bachmann as a special-needs Congresswoman, claiming she had been “trapped by Matthews,” whom Morrissey accused of “characterizing [Bachmann’s] statements as equating liberal policy with anti-Americanism.” Morrissey fleshed out his argument with Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, Joe the Plumber, etc.
Wake Up America also blamed Matthews, Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, and Tony Rezko, and reported that the media had committed “rape” on Joe the Plumber, though he disappointingly failed to provide a video. American Power shifted focus to one of Bachmann’s critics, Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation, whom he accused of “Marxist-Leninist ideololgy [sic]” and “rage.” And anyway, AP added, Bachmann was right, “able to enunciate so perfectly the nature of that anti-Americanism,” while leftist traitors “resort to unhinged cries of McCarthyism and fascism.”
We earlier noted the desertion of some conservative thinkers from the McCain cause. These continue to sting the rightbloggers: Ace of Spades attacked Ross Douthat’s “‘conservativism of the mind’ that exists wholly in cocktail chatter and Georgetown panel discussion,” Mark Steyn mocked David Brooks’ “cocktail-party banter” (what is it with conservatives and cocktails? We’ve seen more than a few of them drunk, and not on Old Milwaukee) and “Douthat’s DC/NY corridor,” The Strata-Sphere scored “the Peggy Noonans, David Frums, Chris Buckleys and David Brookes [sic] who prioritize the Political Industrial Complex (PIC) over any and all conservative values and policies” and favored “Barrack [sic] Obama,” etc.
They only got angrier when Colin Powell endorsed Obama on Sunday. The Astute Bloggers called the former Secretary of State “A BIG FAT JERK,” showed Powell embracing Yasser Arafat, and mentioned Jeremiah Wright and Joe the Plumber. Commentary‘s Jennifer Rubin suggested Powell was trying to “convince elite opinion makers what a swell, sensitive guy he was.” TigerHawk said “Colin Powell never makes a move without [Bob] Woodward there to ventriloquize his inner anguish.”
Some of their complaints were — er, darker. “JUDAS!” howled The Macho Response. “For Colin Powell, this is about race and nothing more.” “Oh, but it’s not about race or anything,” sneered Political Jungle. “There’s a lot of questions,” said Daily Conservative, “including the obvious fact that Obama shares his skin color…” “I know I will be branded a racist for referring to affirmative action…” said Wizbang, etc.
And lo — some highly-placed rightwing commentators who never penned a blog post adopted the rightbloggers’ Lost Cause as well as their tone. George Will declared that “Barack Obama gets two votes because he’s black for every one he loses because he’s black because so much of this country is so eager, a, to feel good about itself by doing this…” And Rush Limbaugh said he couldn’t find any “inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates [Powell] has endorsed.”
The abovementioned “PIC” conservatives do indeed lack their more rabid colleagues’ commitment to the Cause, and may simply be trying to establish some plausible deniability (and, in Powell’s case, a cabinet seat) in the Age of Obama. But neither John McCain nor even Sarah Palin troubled these conservative apostates earlier (Douthat, we recall, said in August “I’m probably rooting harder for Sarah Palin to succeed than I have for any politician in recent memory”). It’s only when mainstream Republicans began to adopt the tone of the rightbloggers that they — like many, many other Americans — began to move away from them.
Don’t tell the rightbloggers, but they may turn out to be Obama’s secret weapon.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 20, 2008