Responding To A Very Annoyed Cathy

Referring to my last post on the Tea Party, reader Cathy comments:

“I was absolutely NOT silent on the Patriot Act under Bush. I very clearly told you (by email) that I deplored it, and still do…”

To which I would say that my Tea Party columns, while attempting to answer hers and other readers’ questions, were not solely focused on her. I’d have to go back and check our correspondence, but while she may well have protested the Patriot Act, and good for her for doing so, I’m sure she can understand that my comments don’t specifically have only her as their target or as their point of origin.

Then she continues:

“As an act of fairness, please, do me a favor and name some Democratic buffoons. Surely there are some…

… As always, I agree w/little of what you have written. And, I tire of the racism accusation just because people actually have the temerity to question things about Obama. I am one of those thinking people. Why is it that if I question Obama on any number of issues, it’s racism, but when you call Bachmann, et al, a buffoon, it’s tempered, measured thoughtful criticism? This one ticks me off. I think Cain has some good ideas. Should I deduce from your post that you’re racist because you seem less than enthralled w/him? Argue words, but not the motivation of the heart. You cannot read minds, nor hearts, so stop accusing people of racism just because they don’t like Obama as president. Don’t impugn motives … Are there ANY conservatives you like?

That’s all.”

I think I may not be one of Cathy’s favorite people. But I do appreciate her willingness to do battle with me, and so I’ll answer her “name some Democratic buffoons” question first.

It’s not too tough, frankly. The whole party is tone-deaf at times and utterly lacking in the kind of backbone that leaves a legacy, not just wins elections. I believe I mentioned Charles Rangel already, and while I like Barney Frank’s politics, and probably would like him personally, he’s too sputtering-angry/smart-ass for my tastes. Although that doesn’t quite rise to the level of buffoonery, I guess, as he at least shows a command of facts and a high level of understanding of politics. I don’t much care for Jesse Jackson, I think John Edwards is a despicable man, I think that Bill Clinton was a brilliant president with serious, pervasive character issues, and I’m not fond of Washington Senator Maria Cantwell.

Other nationally-known liberals I don’t like include John Stewart, who is brilliant not only in his satire but also in his knowledge of politics, but far too mean-spirited for my tastes, and I detest the odious ramblings of Bill Maher, about whose contributions to political dialogue “odious ramblings” would seem sufficient. I love Rachel Maddow, like Lawrence O’Donnell, tolerate Keith Olbermann, and can’t stand Norman Goldman. I think Al Gore is right on global climate change, but he has an oily quality about him that turns me off. I wish Tipper had been the politically ambitious one in that now-failed marriage. And I’ll never apologize for thinking John Kerry could’ve been a remarkably effective President, even if his political instincts seemed lacking.

Neither will I apologize to liberals for finding Barack Obama’s relentless pragmatism and almost preternatural fondness for compromise maddening beyond belief, nor do I apologize to conservatives for my unalterable intention to vote for him in 2012. I suspect he will be a far better second-term president than he was in his first term, where he rightly acknowledges that a loss in 2012 would allow for the very real possibility of a Bachmann, Perry, or Romney victory. He also fought a House full of Republicans determined to defeat his every proposal, simply because they were HIS proposals. They’ve as much as said so; it’s difficult, then, to imagine how he could have done all that he likely planned to do. But still — I voted for a Democrat, and I’d like to see him act like the kind of 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and even 1980s Democrats heralded in my house growing up.

I fault Obama for being so tardy in doing away with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, for ramping up the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, for presiding over an administration that’s actually deported more undocumented immigrants in its first 2 1/2 years than did the Bush administration in a similar period, and for only allowing us flashes of the inspiring brilliance, leadership, and understanding that so many of us saw — and were NOT fooled, but impressed, by — in 2008-2009. This man, should he survive his second term, has everything it takes to be one of the best presidents in history, and I want to see Barack Obama ignite not his base but the entire country. I’m not seeing that.

And Cathy would be wrong if she deduced from my criticism of Herman Cain that I’m a racist. If I applauded the entire Tea Party but only criticized Cain, and then only for nonsensical, made up, or superfluous reasons, that would be a reasonable deduction. Here’s where I charge much of the Tea Partyers with either practicing or countenancing racism:

The Tea Party’s entire goal is “cut government’s reach, cut spending, and cut taxes,” yet its loudest voices and the masses those voices command were largely silent during the eight years of a white, Christian president’s grotesquely intrusive government, out-of-control spending, and tax cuts for the super-wealthy. These shifted an enormous burden to the middle- and lower-class who now pack the meeting halls and fill the stadiums, and these things so purportedly offensive to the Tea Party all happened after the white, Texas, Protestant guy inherited a budget surplus he and his cronies ate up by reckless spending on two wars whose premises were, generously speaking, built on shifting sand. Oily sand.

But a too-powerful government, rampant spending, and “high taxes” (currently at about the rate they were in the 1950s for most people, considerably less for the richest in America) suddenly became a galvanizing state of affairs, with no remedy in sight save revolution, in 2008-2009 when Obama ran for the presidency, and the clamor and desperation and furor upon the Inauguration of a Black man Tea Party activists too often portrayed as a dark, devious, shadowy, lying foreigner — and a Muslim! — has to at least suggest that their discomfort has much to do with Obama’s race, perceived religious affiliations, and sinister “outsider” status. Almost half of all Tea Party believers polled consistently say they “don’t know” where the man was born, even when every other rational human being not living under a cabbage leaf sees that the question has been answered. Until I see a Tea Party protester rebuke a fellow activist for signs and rhetoric that portray Obama as a savage Kenyan, a Muslim, a Nazi, and a Commie/Socialist, I’ll have to believe, as I think any honest person would, that race and perceived nationality and religion have been tremendous energizers for the movement.

Does that mean that every Tea Party supporter is a racist? Of course not. But to suggest that the combination of racism and xenophobic suspicion somehow isn’t one of the proteins that fuels Tea Party muscle is dishonest. Put simply, George W. Bush violated these most precious tenets of the Tea Party and did so in spades — with nary a peep from the Right. People with integrity really ought to examine how it is that he got off scot-free while the guy they portrayed as the dark, sinister “other” has caught nothing but shit and vitriol for what he inherited from the good ol’ boy. And so, Cathy, let me ask you: Has the Tea Party and the GOP Right in general been unfair NOT in analyzing Barack Obama’s politics, but in burdening him — hobbling him — with charges that he’s not an American but a Kenyan posing illegally as a U.S. citizen, a socialist, a Muslim, someone reeking of “anti-American values,” and simply, in all the ways important to most people, “just not like us”?

Please take care with your answer; I want to consider my assessment of you as a reasonable person of integrity and insight.

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