When Christine O’Donnell beat Mike Castle last week to become the GOP nominee in the Delaware Senatorial race, a clown car pulled up and several bizarre O’Donnell quotes came piling out. The most famous of these, so far, are probably her remarks on the sure-fire comedy topics of masturbation and Satan worship.
In another era, these might have caused O’Donnell to be laughed off the public stage. But O’Donnell’s a tea party VIP, and rightbloggers defend such people unquestioningly.
Their rapid response: There was nothing wrong with what she said, but if you think there was something wrong with what she said, it’s not her fault, but that of the liberal media.
O’Donnell has said plenty of wacky things in her variegated career. A former campaign manager, for example, claimed O’Donnell once told her that Joe Biden had “tapped her phone line.” On The Bill O’Reilly Show, O’Donnell said that “American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.” Plus, as O’Donnell is an evangelical Christian, there have been the expected, unfortunate comments about evolution, homosexuality, etc.
O’Donnell’s greatest hits come from her days as a mediagenic young Jesus freak, sent by the Lord to make the Moral Majority POV look cooler to young folks.
In 1996, O’Donnell went on MTV to lecture teens about the evils of self-pleasure. “The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery,” she said, “and you can’t masturbate without lust” — anticipating by several years the kind of thinking that won Ross Douthat a column in the New York Times. She also suggested that a man who could “please himself” had no need of her, which we’re pretty sure she also meant as a negative.
And Bill Maher recently unleashed a 1999 clip from his old show Politically Incorrect, where O’Donnell frequently served as one of his rightwing foils. In the clip, O’Donnell appears to have attacked Halloween and, when challenged on it, explains that she had “dabbled into witchcraft” and “one of my first dates was [with] a witch was on a Satanic altar and I didn’t know it and, I mean, there was a little blood there…”
A few rightbloggers backed slowly away from the O’Donnell campaign. Others stuck with her, but felt compelled to explain that she had been an impressionable young TV pundit when she made those remarks, and didn’t necessarily stand by them anymore. (“Christine O’Donnell Clarifies Her Views on Masturbation,” ran one such defense.)
But many loyalists remained inside the fort, issuing optimistic communiques. Their big message: Evil media liberals had smeared O’Donnell by taking her comments out of context.
Michelle Malkin led this charge. After denouncing Maher’s “trademark smirk of pallor ” (as opposed to, say, John Boehner’s frown of orange) she explained that in the PI clip, O’Donnell is baited into her remarks: “One of the panelists on the show criticizes O’Donnell for criticizing Halloween,” apparently an insufferable provocation. “O’Donnell responds,” Malkin continued, “by explaining that she opposes witchcraft because she has had firsthand experience with what they do. So, she tried it. She rejected it. And she learned from it.”
And there was the nub of her argument: O’Donnell had to explain the evils of witchcraft because the godless liberals were defending Halloween.
Robert Stacy McCain denounced the “smear” on O’Donnell, offering some jokes about masturbation (“Also, I’d advise Maher to stop masturbating so much”), but no explanation of his charge.
An emailer called him on this, and McCain answered with “The Swiftboating of Christine O’Donnell.” (He explained that “Democrats have employed the term ‘swiftboat’ to describe what they perceived to be such tactics employed by Republicans,” presumably so his readers would know that he didn’t accept the cursed Democrats’ opinion of swiftboating, but was using it in some double-reverse-Alinsky way.)
“What was the context?” McCain demanded. “We don’t know, nor has anyone attempted to place this video clip in its proper context. Rather, the clip is being used to convey a clear message: ‘SHE’S A TOTAL KOOK!'”
It’s hard to see what context might rescue O’Donnell from this clip — maybe she announced in some as-yet-unseen footage that she was only pretending to believe the crap she was saying, or that it was an April Fool’s joke; her handlers haven’t tried that one on us yet, but we bet they’ve considered it.
Thereafter McCain yelled at his emailer (“Your bias against Christianity informs your antagonism toward Christine O’Donnell”) until he was spent; in a later post, he offered more masturbation humor, and a prediction that the subject would blow up, so to speak, in the Democrats’ faces. After all, hadn’t they made fun of Scott Brown’s nude Playgirl appearance, and hadn’t he won? Therefore, a candidate who opposed masturbation as a conduit for ungodly lust would enjoy similar support. “Being sexy is so bad for Republicans!” chortled McCain. How O’Donnell’s rants are “sexy” eludes us, but different strokes, so to speak, for different folks.
McCain was riffing on the PUMA (and strenuously anti-Obama) site HillBuzz, which endorsed O’Donnell (“because a victory for her would be a colossal defeat for not just the Democrats, but for the GOP Cocktail Party Romney Republican establishment”), and suggested she “start using witch imagery in all of your campaign materials.” Why, you might ask — to amplify O’Donnell’s PI message about the dangers of witchery? No, HillBuzz explained — O’Donnell should come out as a witch, at least figuratively: “O’Donnell should use every opportunity to talk about how often strong, confident women who speak their minds are called WITCHES,” they wrote. “She should stand there and say how she feels like a witch being burned at the stake by the Cocktail Party…”
This assumes, perhaps unfairly, that the godly O’Donnell opposes the burning of witches; maybe her policy shop is working out a position paper on this now.
John Nolte said that because TV comedians were making fun of O’Donnell rather than President Obama, America was now a dictatorship like North Korea. Also, “Does anyone find a young naive girl (or woman) under the influence of a guy she digs temporarily taking a wrong turn into witchcraft,” he wrote, “even a tenth as creepy as a grown man taking his children into Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s church?” While we appreciate his courtly defense of O’Donnell, we think this would have worked better if it were accompanied by photographs of blood on Reverend Wright’s altar. Isn’t James O’Keefe back on the job yet?
Fire Andrea Mitchell claimed people who mocked O’Donnell were hypocrites, because Hillary Clinton used to have imaginary conversations with Eleanor Roosevelt, which is worse than Satanism, at least since Republican Senatorial candidates started practicing it.
(Hypocrisy was a common rightblogger charge. For example, Pajamas Media’s Zombie made much of the alleged difficulty of distinguishing O’Donnell quotes from those of Jimmy Carter — though why O’Donnell’s similarity to a man conservatives consider the Worst American of All Time was supposed to be a point in her favor went unexplained.)
Others weren’t shy about saying they’d support O’Donnell because she was with the tea party and such people are by definition beyond criticism, now matter how crazy they are.
“I knew next to nothing about this woman,” said Dale Amon of Samizdat, a libertarian website, “but if the statist right and left attack someone as hard as they have her, I get a strong suspicion I might like her a lot. She certainly hits the Austrian economics and small government buttons in my soul.” Maybe Amon really does know next to nothing about her, and if he learned of her desire to get prayer and Bibles back in schools, he might be less excited — though, given the thumbs-up major libertarians have been giving the tea party, maybe he’s just letting that slide. (Tax breaks for the rich first and foremost — then we worry about religious freedom!)
“Frankly, if O’Donnell’s going to go to Washington and vote against the continuation of massively expensive failures, union bailouts and Marxist takeovers,” said Doug Powers, “I couldn’t care less if she spent the better part of the 1990’s buggering barnyard animals and snorting pixie dust.” Don’t speak too soon, Doug!
Really, this gets at the heart of O’Donnell’s appeal to rightbloggers: She’s cute, she has a nice smile, and (most importantly) she’s extremely right-wing. For the most part, therefore, rightbloggers will defend her no matter what she’s said. (She’s playing it closer to the vest now, of course — at her website, her positions on the issues are mostly gooey one-liners.)
And why not? You don’t see them fretting when a tea party leader jokes about killing gays. Or when a tea party House candidate claims the idea of the separation of church and state comes not from Thomas Jefferson but from Adolf Hitler. Or when a tea party gubernatorial candidate sends out racist emails. If insanity is not precisely the raison d’etre of the modern conservative movement, it is certainly no impediment to its success — which may be why, when people notice it in their candidates, their first response is not to apologize, but to demand that those who noticed do so.