With the Bush administration in a state of prolonged decline and with Republicans out of power on Capitol Hill, it's the right-wing media machine that maintains the highest profile among conservatives on a daily basis. And it's Malkin and Limbaugh and O'Reilly who have become the face of the Republican Party.
For liberals, that's a good thing, as the GOP is forced to deal with the sludge that keeps washing up on its shores, courtesy of its favorite media stars who now bide their time insulting black entrepreneurs, war vets, and injured children.
[W]ith specific regard to Limbaugh and O'Reilly, the fact that both men physically could not stop talking about the controversies (i.e. themselves) was a huge boost for progressives, many of whom were privately nervous the O'Reilly-goes-to-Harlem and Limbaugh-attacks-the-troops stories might fizzle after a day or two.
Instead, thanks to O'Reilly and Limbaugh's inability to look away from their own reflection or to turn down the volume of their own microphones, the stories motored on week after week, doing great damage to both men and to the conservative movement, which defends the talkers at any cost.
[T]he Malkin-led jihad unfolded like a parody of blood-thirsty Republican bloggers -- an Onion-worthy spoof -- the kind that even I would have been too sheepish to dream up because the premise made them seem even loonier than I thought they were. How far off the range did Malkin and company roam with their wayward attacks on the Frost family? So far that even the trigger-happy crew at Fox News refused to saddle up and join the midnight posse, out to unmask a sick kid and his needy parents. (Keep in mind that for years Malkin maintained a steady presence on Fox News, yet the channel still wouldn't touch her pet project of hate last week.)
[T]he Republican Party was on-board with the smear campaign. Fanning the flames early was an aide to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who sent out an email to journalists urging them to follow up on the online swarm that was enveloping the Frost family. Days later the White House rewarded Redstate.com for its litany of Frost attacks by sending the site an exclusive statement regarding the upcoming SCHIP vote. (That kind of White House nod is considered to be a major coup among the right-wing blogs.)
The examples of depravity were everywhere last week, with virtually every robotic right-wing blogger dutifully dumping on the Frost family, and often doing it with a demented sense of glee. Go here to read Weekly Standard blogger Samantha Sault's take on the Frost story and count the number of falsehoods she passed along, while making fun ("just for laughs") of the working family with two seriously injured children. Also note that when the right-wing lies about the Frosts were quickly disproved (i.e. they do not pay $20,000 a year to send their kids to private schools), Sault failed to acknowledge the litany of smears she helped spread about a 12-year-old boy who survived a coma. (No wonder so few people take the Weekly Standard seriously when it lectures The New Republic about journalism ethics; the Standard appears to have none of its own.)
Where did the right-wing bloggers learn their brand of drive-by invective? From Rush Limbaugh of course, who has made a career out of making hollow and erroneous allegations. So it was fitting that when Limbaugh recently stepped in it with his "phony soldiers" slur, it was right-wing bloggers who came to his rescue.
They wrote about the controversy obsessively -- you could almost hear the blood vessels pop over at RedState -- while most progressives were content to let the story play out, watching Limbaugh feed himself just enough rope each day. Like when he first claimed his "phony soldiers" comment (note the plural) was in reference to a single serviceman who faked his military service, then changed his story. Or when he later included Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA.), a retired Marine colonel and decorated Vietnam veteran who opposes the war in Iraq, on his list of "genuine phony soldiers." Or when Limbaugh claimed to play "the entire transcript" of his "phony soldiers" exchange and post it on his website, when in fact he edited out a large chunk of the discussion. Or when he likened U.S. Iraq war vet Brian McGough to a suicide bomber after McGough taped a television ad criticizing Limbaugh's comments.
But here's what was most telling: It wasn't just bloggers who rushed to Limbaugh's defense, it was also key leadership members of the Republican Party. It was presidential contenders Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney. It was Senate Republican Conference chairman Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). It was House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and his number two, Roy Blunt (R-MO), along with fellow Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who supported legislation that commended Limbaugh following his "phony soldiers" crack, and Eric Cantor (R-VA) who unveiled a Stand With Rush e-petition, urging "conservatives around the country" to fight for Limbaugh.
An attack on Limbaugh is now seen by Republicans as an attack on the party itself. Why the GOP prefers to have a polarizing, hateful, and widely disliked talk show host as its point person remains open to speculation. What's not debatable, though, is that Limbaugh can often be an anchor around the GOP's neck.
Does anybody think Limbaugh helped Republicans win a single extra vote last autumn when, on the eve of the midterm elections, he uncorked a startling attack on actor Michael J. Fox for having the nerve to tape a television commercial urging political support for stem-cell research. Limbaugh claimed Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, was faking his life-threatening ailments during the commercial: "It's purely an act. ... This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox." While Limbaugh made his audacious claim on the radio, in-studio video captured him making mocking, herky-jerky motions, as he did his best Parkinson's patient impersonation.
As I wrote here, they can't help themselves, so on cue, we have a new target - a 2-year-old and her family. Boehlert's use of the word "depravity" doesn't even begin to catch the depth of ugliness involved here.
Like the Frost family, the Wilkerson family has already become the subject of right-wing attacks. Michelle Malkin — whose baseless smear campaign against 12-year old Graeme Frost was deemed too bogus for even Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — is now trying to rally the right against Bethany.
Heralding the arrival of a “new toddler-aged human shield,” Malkin writes that “the Wilkersons made a choice” — a seeming reference to the fact that Malkin now believes she has the license to attack the Wilkersons for their public support of SCHIP. “We need more ‘partisan bickering,’ not less,” added Malkin.
Malkin’s not alone in her rage. In a piece entitled “Meet the New Frosts, Same As the Old Frosts,” the National Review’s Mark Hemingway attacks the Wilkersons as irresponsible parents:
As Think Progress noted last night, Bethany's family understands what will happen to them, and they are moving forward with eyes open, courageously facing the shrieking demons of the right.
The last SCHIP family to go public about the value of the health insurance program — the Frosts — was smeared by the right wing. The Wilkersons said today they aren’t scared of the attacks that may come against them:
The Wilkersons said they are fully aware of the possibility that their finances and personal lives may be investigated by opponents of the SCHIP bill.
“We rent a house, we have one car that is a junker. Let them dig away,” Bo Wilkerson said. “I have $67 in my checking account. Does that answer your question?”
Why, you might ask, did I title this post "Doomed"? Why, that's easy! With the National Republican Campaign Committee broke and having trouble recruiting candidates, having a bunch of rabid wolves be the public face of the Party cannot be a help.
I do believe we are watching the slow implosion of the Republican Party we have known and loved ever since 1964.
As I said, it's a beautiful thing.