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Nov 29 2012

ODS vs BDS and Benghazi

Back in the darkest days of the Bush administration a meme arose on the right that liberals held an irrational hatred for W called Bush Derangement Syndrome. It was based on real anger, some of it irrational, some of it deserved, so let’s unpack it for a second. Newsflash: I don’t think Bush was intentionally rotten or a psychopath. In fact only a handful of my progressive peers did think that, and we pushed backed on them with reason and common sense until they mostly gave it up. We can insert an artificial line between the rational and irrational in lots of gray cases, but in this case it’s not hard to find it in black and white. On the rational side, George Bush came into power in 2000 in the most controversial Presidential election in history and proceeded to get a lot of innocent people killed through a combination of bad luck and lousy judgement. Those are facts.

And yes, it was razor close in Florida in 2000, as close as it gets, so close that either candidate could have won (Had Gore won the right would have been at least as angry as the left was). Not long afterward the horror of 9-11 burned its awful image into the national conscious and the neocons pulled the big bait and switch of Iraq. GOP strategists hyped intel mercilessly, and in the following midterms and then the 2004 election, the usual suspects used terrorism as a political club to bludgeon democrats into submission and defeat.

Controversial election, fearmongering over 9-11, Iraq and then Katrina, thousands and thousands of dead and maimed Americans; there’s plenty there to be angry about. Stop and think for a second just how much of the Bush admin’s failure was due directly to Iraq, imagine how different things might have been if Bush had had the wisdom or just the blind luck to choose Powell’s advice over Cheney and company regarding Iraq. Some anger on the opposition to the horror and tragedy, much of it completely avoidable, is not only justified and rational, it would be bizarre if it didn’t crop up. But everyone on the left was accused of having Bush Derangement Syndrome or BDS, not just the fringe. And we were labeled as suffering from a syndrome; meaning our concern over factual events that ruined or ended the lives of so many was, somehow, misplaced or delusional.

But a handful of conspiracy theoristes on the left (And on the right for that matter) went much further. There were stories that Bush et al planned the 9-11 attacks, that they planned to screw up in Iraq, that they knew how bad Katrina was going to be and purposely dragged their feet afterward. Truthers, as we called them, insisted that not only were the 9-11 attacks staged, but the entire 2004 election was stolen by a vast voting machine conspiracy. Conservatives were able to use the Truthers as justification for painting everyone who didn’t cheer the emperor’s Baghdad clothes as victim of BDS. But that’s all it was, justifiable anger among progressives with some powerless conspiracy nuts sprinkled in.

Truthers never gained any power in the democratic party or the progressive movement. At Daily Kos they grew so tedious we ended up having to invite some of the most vocal and irrational ones to leave the site for good. Contrast that with the ongoing meltdown on the right over Barack Obama. The entire teaparty surge was built on irrational hatred of Barack Obama.

Being unhappy about losing an election is normal, it is to be expected. But what exactly does the right believe Obama did, beyond winning, that compares with Iraq? The conspiracies are as endless as they are substance-less and bloodless. The President was secretly born in Kenya — or fathered by Louis Farrakhan — and a vast cold war alliance of commies and Islamists and democrats conspired to conceal his roots and place him on the throne of democracy to destroy America (We were successful on every detail no matter how small — except choosing a proper red, white, and blue name?). Obama is taking away your guns, even though he has devoted zero energy to gun issues. Obama is in league with terrorists, even though he ordered the raid that took out bin Laden. Some of it is really off the deep end of an already very, very deep pool: Obama is secretly gay, which for the right is about as bad an insult as can be leveled. And of course none of these baseless paranoid claims resulted in unnecessary wholesale death or a trillion dollars pissed away in the Middle East on a mistake.

Which brings us to Benghazi. Rightwing conspiracy theoristes would have us believe the WH purposely concealed an act of terrorism out of fear it would hurt democrats in the election. Obama could have easily used Benghazi to smear Romney and scare up more votes alright — you betchya! — by getting up on stage as the man who ordered bin Laden killed and fear-mongering the shit out of 9-11 and Romney’s complete lack of military and foreign policy experience.

Benghazi is nothing more than the latest incarnation of a very real and potentially fatal condition on the right, full-blown delusional Obama Derangement Syndrome. OBS isn’t a fringe thing policed by more sober members of the opposition like it was on the left, it isn’t based on electoral controversy or a deeply unpopular war based on false intel or thousands of dead citizens. It is the thin, fabricated veneer for hatred that bad losers and racists can openly wear that has come to define virtually the entire GOP base and many Republican leaders.

It remains to be seen what happens in Obama’s second term. But his reelection may have already driven large swaths of the conservative base clinically insane when it comes to their grip on political and historical reality. It’s probably going to get much worse becuase we are going to crush the Teaparty on the fiscal cliff. They can either get a shitty deal now or we can wait for the tax cuts to expire and pass whatever we want — I couldn’t care less which one they choose. But the result, when that reality boils over into their conscioness, could be the last straw, causing an all out Cold Civil War in the United States of America. With guns and bombs.

The last time this civil war flared up an anti-US separatist nutcase, a Teapartier by any other name motivated by conspiracies eerily familiar to those now making the wingnuts rounds, blew up a building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 innocent people including 19 preschool age kids. This is hard evidence that any remaining sane Republicans and responsible rightwing pundits that fail to denounce OBS, along with those who flirt with crazy teabagger delusions, are playing with fire. Mark my words, when the terrorist attacks on innocent Americans and/or assassination attempts inevitably follow in the years to come, it will be on their heads.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    jamessweet

    Couple comments… first, I think you mean ODS, not OBS. Or perhaps it’s Obama BeRAGEment Syndrome!

    Second, although I agree with the thrust of you piece (see below), I think in the specifics you are a little to kind to us liberals as a whole. For example, maybe in your peer group the idea that Bush is a psychopath was rare, but it’s certainly not unusual amongst the fellow liberals I know! Bush = Hitler comparisons weren’t entirely mainstream, but they weren’t all that rare either.

    Third, though, the overall point is totally valid. All you need to do is point out that not a single mainstream Democratic politician made comments intentionally pandering to Truthers. We can debate how rare BDS really was (my impression is that it is not nearly as rare as you paint it in this post), but what’s clear is that it was never legitimized the way ODS has been by the Republican party.

    That to me is the big difference. Like any large group of H. sapiens, liberals include quite a large number of lazy thinkers, tribalists, people who just blindly hate The Other Guy and blame him for everything, without really thinking about the reasons why. What’s different is that sort of conspiratorial thinking has not permeated the party mainstream the way it has with the GOP… there’s no risk of being labelled a DINO if you don’t drink every last sip of the Kool-Aid.

  2. 2
    richardelguru

    I thought it was more BiIS: Bush is Idiot Syndrome that everyone on the left had (I know I did).

  3. 3
    Raging Bee

    Bush = Hitler comparisons weren’t entirely mainstream, but they weren’t all that rare either.

    Actually, there are real similarities between the Bush Jr. team and the early Nazis (I repeat, the EARLY Nazis): simplemindedness, incompetence, disregard for people and events outside the “fatherland,” eagerness to find scapegoats and blame others for problems caused by their own actions and/or mindset, willingness to embrace dangerous radical answers to questions they didn’t really care to deal with, lack of self-discipline, and overall refusal to get their backs into the real work needed to govern.

    The similarities between early Nazi thuggery and present-day Republican thuggery are, in fact, quite striking to anyone willing to see past the relentless stigmatization from the “Godwin’s Law” camp.

  4. 4
    Raging Bee

    PS: There are even more such similarities that popped into my mind just after I hit the “Submit” button; such as infantile jingoism and the well-known loony-right policy of insulating themselves in a bubble-verse and a fantasy of a “pure Golden Age” that never really was. And there will probably be more Pog-Nazi similarities I’ll think of after I submit this comment. Seriously, I could probably do this all day…

  5. 5
    Raging Bee

    Sorry, that’s “PoG-Nazi similarities.”

    Oh, and another thi

  6. 6
    Kevin

    I hope you’re wrong.

    I fear you won’t be.

    However, I don’t think it will be any sort of an organized thing. It will be like McVeigh. A single lunatic, maybe working with someone else, maybe not.

    You don’t have to walk very far down the rabbit hole that is YouTube to see all sorts of batshit crazy people espousing all kinds of batshit crazy ideas.

    I hope that all of these petitions to secede and everything else is as “violent” as the Tea Party gets. BTW and FWIW: those petitions are prima face evidence of sedition, right? All it takes is an act to turn it into overt treason.

  7. 7
    Pierce R. Butler

    Had Gore won the right would have been at least as angry as the left was…

    We ranted about the dirty deeds of Katherine Harris and the Duval County elections board and the Florida Highway Patrol and the Brooks Brothers rioters jetted in by the RNC and Gov. Jeb Bush and Dubya Daddy’s cronies on the Supreme Court and … anyway, what could the Repubs have come up with to match any of that?

    Gotta admit, though, it would’ve been great fun to watch Pat Buchanan on the receiving end of the same shit-flinging that Ralph Nader experienced.

  8. 8
    brucegee1962

    The sad thing about the whole Benghazi incident is that there really is a scandal there. But the scandal is the fact that the security for the installation was so poor in a location where a terrorist attack should have been foreseeable.

    I suspect that the reason the Republicans in Congress haven’t been focusing more on that is because some of the blame probably goes back to, well, Congress, for not giving the State Department the funds it’s been asking for to beef up security. Still, there are probably some senior officials who made poor decisions in the run-up, and the GOP could conceivably have made a case that the head of, say, the Under-secretatry of State for the Middle East ought to roll.

    But that isn’t a high enough target for them. By focusing on the post-attack press releases, rather than the pre-attack decisions, the GOP wants to take out Rice and give Obama some splash damage. Never mind that this pretty much guarantees that nothing will come out of all these hearings to prevent an attack like this from happening again.

  9. 9
    johnbrown

    Steve this is an absolutely brilliant essay. Did you post on DailyKos, too?

    I hope that you are wrong, but fear that you will not be. The wing-nut authoritarians are identifiable as people who are moved to violence by opposition to their beliefs. This is a well established social science finding.

  10. 10
    comfychair

    OBAMA KILLED VINCE FOSTER!!!!11one

    As far as the Nazi-Republican comparisons, I think the relevant point is that no matter what question or problem or obstacle presents itself, they somehow always manage to come up with the absolute worst possible solution.

  11. 11
    elpayaso

    @Kevin: A single lunatic, maybe working with someone else, maybe not.

    what scares me is how many of those single lunatics own and are reasonably proficient with stuff like .50 BMG and .338 Lapua rifles. an example why it concerns me:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/british-sniper-craig-harrison-silent-assassin-breaks-record-kills-target-1-5-miles-article-1.444566

  12. 12
    nathanaelnerode

    “Newsflash: I don’t think Bush was intentionally rotten or a psychopath”
    You should. If you don’t, it shows a failure to look at the evidence.

    George W Bush’s sadistic killing of frogs with dynamite (as a teenager), and his laughing mocking of the woman who was begging not to be executed, are very indicative.

    …Bush definitely had some form of abnormal, callous disregard for life, whether it was psychopathy or simple sadism.

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