Beginning with 9/11, there has been no tragedy or near-tragedy that the Rove message machine has not used to advance one or a whole bunch of their twisted agendas. It happened again this Tuesday, as the compliant GOP surrogates were out in force to spin the suicide truck bomb attack that occurred near Dick Cheney in Afghanistan.
Even an attack on a deplorable human being like Cheney should bring out the noble and concerned in all of us. When our politicians suffer violent attacks or attempts on their lives, it affects all of us who stick our heads out to make noise, run for something or otherwise try to make a difference. Despite all of the death and devastation he has visited on tens of thousands of his fellow humans in Iraq and elsewhere, no one serious wants Dick Cheney to die a violent death himself. I think just the fact that he has to live with himself is bad enough for anyone to suffer.
But, opportunity being the mother of all spin, the wing-nuts were out in force already on Tuesday morning. None of them – I personally heard Limbaugh, Medved, Hannity, Ingraham and I’m sure there were many others – talked at all about how bad the bombers were or how glad they were that Limbaugh’s “personal hero” avoided injury. Instead of using the occasion to revel in a little bipartisan sympathy for “our” veep, the finely-scripted radio squawkers, like trained rats in a maze, decided to use the occasion to define all Democrats as Cheney-hating death-wishers.
To do so, they all pointed -- not so coincidentally -- to the little-read comments section of a story about the bombing on the Huffington Post. There, apparently, various anonymous commenters posted stupid things like “too bad they didn’t get him”, “better luck next time”, and such. These commenters, the wing-nuts claimed, are the heart and soul of the “Democrat” base. Look how they want our precious Cheney to die at the hands of the Taliban. Look how little respect they have for the office, the person, our souls.
This is a favorite game of the wing-nuts – to take the most extreme posts they can find out on the fringe somewhere and pretend like it’s coming straight out of the Democratic National Committee. It is how they define us for others who (they hope) don’t know better. Of course, most of the blogs they pretend to get all worked up about aren’t written by lefties at all, but by right-wing interlopers pretending to be lefty. Notice how Tuesday’s tirades all cited only the Huffington Post – isn’t it interesting how they all knew right where to look for these supposed outrages? Anonymous is as anonymous does. Which, I think, means anyone can leave stupid messages, but who is more likely to do so – an over-heated lefty on a caffeine bender in a Starbucks somewhere or a right-wing functionary, dutifully setting up strawmen?
But even if they are quoting sincere, if deluded, fellow travelers, so what? Right-wing sites have been raining down death hopes on Bill and Hillary Clinton for decades now, and no one takes them for more than the ravings of the lunatics they are. Left or right, the fringe is the fringe. That’s why they call it the fringe. The only difference is that people on the right-wing fringe have their own radio and TV shows, while the left fringe is left howling at the moon.
Just to be sure, I checked the venerable right-wing Free Republic site to see if I could find death wishes for a Clinton. On his radio show, Hannity loves to give props to his Freeper constituency, and they did not disappoint me. In one thread, the posters “discuss” a comment Bill Clinton made about the fear of death. “I can't wait for him to die,” says one. “Show us how it's done Bill,” says another. In another thread about a homeless man in trouble for death threats against Hillary, the clever comments keep coming: “Shooting is too good for treasonous, socialist scum,” says one sober commentator. “I would think that a barrel of hot tar and a bag of feathers would be more appropriate. Followed by a long drop at the end of a rope.” Well, alrighty then. Case closed, no?
Soon after the phony brouhaha started on the radio, the Huffington site searched out and deleted the oh-so-offensive comments and issued a statement about how no one is happy about the attempted bombing of the vice-president. But the battle was already won –another smear has been made, stuck in the collective subconscious of the wing-nuts’ targeted electorate, several more of whom are now under the impression that mainstream Democrats would be just fine with our vice-president getting hurt or killed in a suicide bombing overseas. The GOP political operation has no shame. But you’d think, at some point, the wing-nuts would get sick of reading the script.
[UPDATE: Thanks to Jay Bullock -- his comment below cites to an excellent (i.e.: better than mine) discussion of this same topic by Glenn Greenwald on Salon.]