Happy Martin Luther King Day, y’all. At the end of a week in which unseemly Russian rumors rained, so to speak, on his inaugural parade, The Leader responded to criticism by civil rights hero John Lewis by calling him “all talk” and claiming Lewis’s congressional district was “in horrible shape and falling apart” and “crime infested,” an opinion neither confirmed by evidence nor shared by Lewis’s constituents.
This was sort of a litmus test for rightbloggers, to see which were such obsequious Leader-lovers that they would defend him against a man who in the cause of justice sustained beatings — and not Twitter beatings, mind you, of the kind conservatives constantly lament, but actual skull-breaking physical assaults.
You’d be surprised how many of them lived down to it. Or maybe you wouldn’t.
It’s not their first post-nightsticks attack on Lewis. In 2010, Lewis said he’d been greeted with racial slurs at a Tea Party rally in Washington. At that time, a number of conservatives who were not there challenged Lewis’s word on the grounds that no one took video of the event (“I called bullshit on the story as soon as it was reported” — Ann Althouse). Others, like Leon Wolf of RedState, called Lewis a “lying bastard” and a “race pimp.”
Their casus bellow last weekend was that Lewis said in an interview that The Leader was not a “legitimate” president, in that his many Russian connections (not merely the purported golden-shower ones, but also the obvious Russian-mobbed, Putin-loving ones) had not been unravelled by congressional leadership and, given the current makeup of that body, were not likely to be anytime soon.
This caused some TV anchors to cluck that Lewis had gone too far, and Leader loyalists to attack him more forthrightly. Chicks on the Right, showing no awareness of Lewis’s record, judged him “a man dictated by his emotions” who rebuked The Leader because “that’s what his feeeeeeeeeeeelings tell him.” If they’re alive and online, the troopers who clubbed Lewis must be wishing they’d thought of that one!
When The Leader counterattacked, the duller brethren responded as you’d expect: “LMAO: Whiny Lib John Lewis Pathetically Bleats, ‘Trump’s Illegit’ – Trump’s Response Is PURE GOLD” (Clash Daily); “President-Elect Trump Slams Racist, Anti-White Congressman John Lewis” (Pat Dollard); “After John Lewis Refuses Inauguration Invite and Says Trump Is Illegitimate, LOOK What Donald Does to Him” (Young Conservatives); “PUNCHING BACK TWICE AS HARD” (Instapundit); “Ouch! Trump DESTROYS Dem Lawmaker” (SMOTI Jim Hoft who, as is common with successful titleholders, went the extra mile with a reference to The Leader’s “landslide win”); etc.
The ones who tried to make sense were worse.
“Lewis is invariably described as a ‘civil rights icon,’ but the man is an utter fraud,” said Power Line’s John Hinderaker. “He has been coasting on his 50-year-old reputation for decades.” Hinderaker, on the other hand, was one of Time magazine’s Bloggers of the Year in 2004, show some respect.
At Hot Air, Allahpundit admitted The Leader’s response made him look bad — so he suggested the Democrats had planned it, and suggested this was dirty pool.
“Did Lewis freelance his attack on Trump’s legitimacy or was it plotted with Democratic leaders in hopes of drawing a response, to strategic ends?” Allahpundit asked. Lewis’s heroic past “gives him a degree of moral authority beyond partisanship that no one else in Congress enjoys,” said Allahpundit, but forget all that because he’s a “reliable liberal,” and — brace yourself — “a usefully vicious critic of Republicans for his party.” And in this era of bipartisan comity too! Amazing he gets away with it.
“Criticize [Lewis], for whatever reason and no matter how justified,” Allahpundit went on to lament, “and you’re criticizing social progress writ large — exactly the sort of perception Democrats want to create about Trump.” If only The Leader had responded as Allahpundit suggested: “Call Lewis out for being a partisan hack and, more importantly, for dubiously questioning Trump’s legitimacy even though no one’s showed that the Wikileaks material affected the outcome of the election.” Then everyone, not just the dregs of the earth, would have sided with The Leader, instead of rushing to buy Lewis’s books!
Perhaps sensing this was not moving the needle, Allahpundit went for Joker-Batman equivalence — “Trump and Lewis are yin and yang. Their mutual contempt is useful to each.” You complete me! — and, before bailing from his flaming argument, criticized what he called an “intractable problem with crime” in Lewis’s Atlanta district — which is perhaps why Atlanta is one of the nation’s fastest growing cities: Misery loves company!
Breitbart.com came up with “SIX FALSE ACCUSATIONS BY JOHN LEWIS, HERO-TURNED-HACK.” Among these alleged falsehoods were what the decently-educated would consider non-falsifiable matters of opinion — “compared Donald Trump to George Wallace,” for example, and “accused Republicans of wanting to take Americans back to Jim Crow.” In an update, Breitbart further charged that Lewis “falsely claimed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) played no role in the civil rights movement” — that is, when Sanders’s civil rights activities were mentioned to him, Lewis said, “I never saw him. I never met him.” Same diff, right?
Other rightbloggers whose readers may be more discerning than Breitbart’s tried to be nicer about it. RedState’s Jay Caruso, for example, made the reasonable point that “the role [Lewis] had in The Civil Rights movement does not mean he is now immune to being criticized,” then laid into him, claiming that “during the Benghazi hearings, Lewis was not interested in getting to the truth of what happened on that day,” an interesting interpretation of opposition to the years-long, non-fruit-bearing Benghazi investigation. Caruso admitted The Leader had been harsh, but insisted that “While Trump’s comments were absurd, they were no worse than what Lewis said,” which you must admit is one hell of a defense.
These conservatives were in a way trying to gild their lily; others were less circumspect. For example, Dinesh D’Souza, who made his bones as a college wingnut mocking African-Americans, not only called Lewis a “nasty, bitter old man,” but also shit on Rosa Parks: “OVERRATED DEMOCRATS DEPT: So Rosa Parks wouldn’t sit in the back of the bus — that’s all she did, so what’s the big fuss?” You might almost admire his directness: While his colleagues tried, in their inept way, to emulate the forms of reasonable discourse, D’Souza just laughed off the civil rights movement as an irrelevance. There have been endless arguments over whether the “economic anxiety” allegedly motivating The Leader’s fan base has a large racist component. D’Souza evidently thinks there is, and hopes to capitalize on it. Time will tell whether The Leader — who, after the controversy, made a last-minute decision to cancel an MLK Day visit to the Museum of African American History and Culture — thinks so, too.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 16, 2017