Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Fascism of Rush Limbaugh

Fascism is such an ugly word. I even hesitate to use it because it is so misunderstood. Fascism is used as an epithet so frequently, one might be justified in thinking that the proper definition of “fascism” is “describing someone with whom I disagree.”

Many thought National Review Online editor and smear artist in residence, Jonah Goldberg was going to educate people about fascism in his 2008 book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.

In fact, Mr. Goldberg merely found heroes of 21st century liberals who had sympathies in the early 20th century with nascent fascist movements in the U.S. and Europe. He faintly connected the two as if to say, “Well, even though liberals always demonize conservatives as fascists, it’s actually liberals who have more a more fascistic intellectual heritage.“ In the end, Mr. Goldberg’s book never defined “fascism,” but he proceeded to use the word as a club against people to his right. “Fascism” was once again being used to define someone with whom, in this case, Jonah Goldberg, disagrees. Another dud in the great fascism-defining-game.

At its most basic level, “fascism” merely means the ultimate subordination of everything in the lives of citizens to an authoritarian state.

Nazi Germany was not fascistic because we fought a war against them. It was fascistic because the needs of the people were secondary to the needs of the regime. The government did not give people jobs in order to save them from starving or to help pull up a people devastated by economic depression and national humiliation. They gave people jobs to serve the infrastructure of the centralized state, as Hitler’s well-known public works campaign accomplished.

So there is an actual definition of fascism after all. Unfortunately, there are times when “fascism” is the correct word to use to describe an opponent. Even more saddening is that, despite all of my frustration at liberals who wield the word as a political club, today there are mainstream conservatives who deserve the epithet.

On February 11 of this year, Rush Limbaugh began his program by decrying those dirty Democrats for their horrible stimulus bill, their ballooning of the government, and their terrible foreign policy. I don’t know if Mr. Limbaugh is aware of this, but everything he moaned about was also committed by his Republican heroes.

Reading the transcript from the day in question, Mr. Limbaugh, in not so many words, announces that he is actually okay with a big, intrusive government that tramples on liberties and personal freedom, as long as Republicans get to use most of its power.

He said he wanted to take the mechanisms of the huge government the Democrats are building up so that when Republicans return to power they could turn it against them. Talk about your endorsements for big government!

That is what fascists do. They use the mechanisms of the government to prosecute political enemies. Hitler did it. Mussolini did it. The Communists do it. Conservatives who concern themselves with issues of liberty, do not do it.

Take another example, during some of the most contentious days of the Bush administration, Rush Limbaugh had the audacity to insinuate that the Democrats hate this government. They certainly hated the now-departed occupant of the White House, but what rational person believes that Democrats, the official big government party, actually hates government? What they hated most about the Bush years was that they were in the minority for most of them.

What Rush Limbaugh actually hated was that Democrats were speaking ill of the president. I cannot say if el Rushbo actually wanted to see the reintroduction of the Sedition Act of 1798 that made it a crime to criticize the president, but he did speak of the Democrats with such vigor that the entire party in question must have been guilty of treason.

Mr. Limbaugh simply babbled on and on about how the liberals just hate the country, all the while he continues to defend the record of George W. Bush.

One would actually think that if Rush Limbaugh looked critically at the Bush presidency, he could only conclude that a liberal had just departed office.

George W. Bush presided over the largest increase of the federal government to date. Liberals traditionally increase the government. He had an open borders immigration policy that, for a number of reasons, has only hurt Republicans. He signed the massive prescription drug plan that came directly out of LBJ’s Great Society playbook. He adopted an aggressive and reckless foreign policy, whose origin can be traced to Woodrow Wilson, the man who decided it was okay to sacrifice young Americans not for legitimate external threats, but to “make the world safe for democracy.”

There was practically nothing conservative in the past eight years. It looks to continue.

The era of George W. Bush and his orgiastic growth of the federal government led his conservative followers to worship it and consider the government to be beyond question. No one could question the actions of the Bush-led regime without being assaulted as unpatriotic or treasonous. To conservatives from 2001 to 2009, the Republican-led government was the meaning of their existence. While people like Rush Limbaugh did not craft this disastrous agenda, they did give it support for the crucial party base.

Under George W. Bush’s watch, the government became more intrusive in all of our lives. The Patriot Act validated the belief of those who were called “kooks” and “whackos” that we do indeed live in a surveillance state. Records became public, privacy became nonexistent, and liberties were curtailed. American conservatives were supposed to believe in fundamental freedom, but for eight years, they defined “freedom” as whatever the government does.

There is your fascism.

All of this spells out exactly what is wrong with the “conservative movement” in this leaderless era of the Republican Party. Whereas conservatism once stood for the supremacy of the individual, the only coherent point conservatives can really make today is that they are against the Democrats. Big government is evil when it is orchestrated by the Democrats but it is used for noble purposes by the Republican Party, they imply.

Considering these examples, one might conclude that Rush Limbaugh is not a genuine American conservative, but a fascist. He does not believe government is the answer to problems, of course unless Republicans get to be at the helm.

February 11, 2009 was a date of utter betrayal. It was a day when the unofficial conservative spokesman let the whole world know that he is perfectly comfortable with big government. His only problem centers around who pulls its strings.

Stop the charade, Rush. You are no conservative.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Try Harder

Well, President Obama got his stimulus.

There is little in the bill that is likely to make the Right giddy. Yet, there seems to be a chorus of disgust coming from Republicans of all ranks. The amount of pork and spending is indeed revolting. Barely less revolting is the transparent disgust of Republicans in the House and Senate.

Until they demonstrate otherwise, Republican clamoring about wasteful spending should be taken as political posturing, nothing more and nothing less.

Someone might be inclined to ask, Why? The Republicans were, with the exception of three senators, completely unified in opposition to the president’s stimulus bill. I would say that that someone is right, the Republicans were extremely unified in their opposition. But why all of a sudden? The Republicans controlled both houses of Congress for six years and didn’t bat an eye at the monumental debt they created.

Even when they were demoted to minority party status after 2006, the Republicans didn’t get much better. When the vote came in the fall for the Wall Street bailout, House Minority Leader John Boehner led the GOP opposition against the bill, which led them to defeat the initial bill, and conservatives everywhere exuberantly cheered.

Hooray! Stopping this bailout and saving the taxpayers’ money is just what we need to retain the White House!

Then the bill got revamped, crammed with pork, and the Republicans, including their presidential candidate, turned around and voted in favor of the bigger bill. And then more Republicans were sent home after the election.

So how are things different now? There’s a Democratic president now, but his philosophy on spending is not much different from his predecessor’s. Both the defense and domestic budgets are bloated. There’s lots of pork and political pet projects. So what’s the difference?

It turns out Republicans are probably only concerned with fiscal sanity when it benefits them politically. They realize that billions in the bill are not “stimulus-related” and the actual stimulus the bill might provide will be marginal and won’t take effect for perhaps a couple of years. They had nothing to gain in voting for it. The stimulus was the initiative of the Democrats, it was loaded with pork and waste, and will probably instigate little growth that is outside the realm of the federal government. We already know that Republicans are just fine with stimulus bills if they are proposed by a Republican president. This is sheer political posturing and the Republicans’ only motivation is to take cover.

This is precisely why the Republicans are still a dormant party. Nobody should take this prodigal fiscal sanity seriously. The Republicans are screaming about how President Obama is spending the country into oblivion and that our children will have to shoulder the weight of this ghastly debt.

That is a very good point. Yet, where was this revulsion when George W. Bush was doing the exact same sort of spending?

And if Barack Obama is the one who sends us spiraling into terminal debt or an unscrupulous burden on our descendants, then it is because George W. Bush set the table for him. Why is President Obama’s spending evil and irresponsible when his predecessor’s was barely more responsible?

* * *
It is precisely because they supported George W. Bush’s every wish and whim and passed everything he wanted that this newfound opposition has to be politically motivated and nothing else.

Case in point: Missouri Republican Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond, inserted legislation into the bill committing money to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, a bill that he later voted “no” on.

That seems kind of odd. While I cannot gaze into the man’s heart, to the naked eye, it looks like having it both ways plus one: making sure money gets allocated, voting no on the entire bill, and then getting credit for appearing to care about the motorcycle industry. He doesn’t care about how much is actually in the bill, just how he can best benefit from his “no” vote. Those are not political principles at work, but sheer deception.

* * *

If the slow-moving stimulus really takes some sort of effect by 2010, the midterm elections will be just as disastrous for the Republicans as the last two have been.

If the Republicans wish to get out of their purgatory of minority status, they, like the president’s stimulus, will need some time. They will need it to prove themselves worthy of governing again, after such a dismal record during the Bush years.

But if the stimulus is an historic failure, then that will provide an opening for Republican congressional gains in 2010 and in 2012, our next presidential election year. It will take a new Republican president to determine whether Republicans have really learned their lesson or not. It’s easy for Republicans to oppose a liberal Democratic president with big-spending aspirations when the former’s constituents are seething. It’s quite a different story to oppose your own party’s president when he tries the same thing.

And for Republicans to come back, they do not need to move to the left or try to appease Democrats by dumping the social conservatives. To win elections again, they need to not only move past George W. Bush, but break his mold. No more “compassionate conservatism,” no more amnesty for illegal immigrants, no more LBJ-style domestic spending on prescription drugs, no more undeclared wars and nation-building, and no more they-might-as-well-be-the-51st-state alliance with Israel.

A Republican comeback lays in the somewhat distant future (4-8 years, the distant future in political years).

George W. Bush may be gone and not coming back, but the legacy he left to his party is still here and not going away. It will take a willingness to stand up to a president from their party who is overreaching in his executive power for us to see if the Republicans have really come home.

Of course unless the next Republican president has a record of responsible spending, prudent governance, and fidelity to the laws of the republic (be it Ron Paul, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, or someone else of their statesmanship) then it will be much easier for Republicans to lay claim for a new dynasty.

Again, that is for the future.

And I hope Michael Steele is reading.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Abraham Lincoln's Birthday

Unless someone has been comatose or was just released from a gulag, I am sure everyone is vaguely aware that Thursday, February 12, marks the 200th birthday of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.

It has been 200 years since the birth of “The Great Emancipator” yet I find little to celebrate on this occasion. Perhaps that is why I am dedicating this essay today not to the greatness of Lincoln, but to the horrors that the proceeded from his reign.

There have already been hagiographic tomes heaped on Lincoln’s cold body and I am sure there are plenty more to come, but they are really becoming more than I can bear.

To listen to the epithets, one might think that Abraham Lincoln was a combination of Moses, Jesus, Buddha, and this dispensation’s messiah, Barack Obama.

Judging from the adulations heaped on him, Abraham Lincoln foretold the coming civil rights movement and the work of Martin Luther King, he was the savior of the black race, his words of wisdom are constantly repeated to justify any government program or initiative, as if they were the words of Holy Scripture. By this point, any rational person should be tired of everything being said about our 16th president, if for no other reason, no one can possibly be that saintly.

The words of praise are so over the top. I can’t even estimate how many times I have read newspaper editorials and letters to the editor that find some way to incorporate both Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama. There appeared cartoons of the specter of Lincoln standing next to Mr. Obama while the latter took the oath of office. It is simply crass and beyond the scope of reality.

If only more people knew that Lincoln’s war was not so much about slavery but about centralizing his power. If only more people knew that despite graceful anti-slavery rhetoric, Lincoln was just fine with the institution of slavery as long as he could prevent the southern states from successfully seceding. If only more people knew that Lincoln thought blacks were inferior to whites. If only more people knew that once the slaves had been freed, Lincoln intended to ship them back to Africa because peaceful coexistence between the two races was an impossibility in Lincoln’s mind. I cannot speak for dead men, but taking those considerations into account, I would find it hard for Lincoln to be deliriously overjoyed at the election of Barack Obama.

Everybody, it seems, is trying to get a piece of Lincoln during this “historic” time. Liberals like Mario Cuomo still think Lincoln matters because he was a great liberal himself while National Review is trying to turn the big government warmonger into a conservative (which National Review has made a habit of doing in recent years).

Abraham Lincoln, who suspended the writ of habeas corpus, jailed the Maryland state legislature, issued an arrest warrant for the octogenarian Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, and unilaterally shut down opposition newspapers in the North, was perhaps not really the 16th president of the United States, but its 1st dictator.

But didn’t he actually free the slaves? Many people (including myself at one time) still think so. He is credited as “The Great Emancipator” because he issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. But students of history know that the Emancipation Proclamation did nothing to actually free a single slave. It was a deft piece of propaganda that purported to free slaves in states that were still in rebellion, even if he had no control over those states. However, slaves were not freed in states where the rebellion had been quelled, like Louisiana. So, to answer the question, who actually freed the slaves, we must look to the 13th amendment, passed eight months after Lincoln died.

This may be startling news for typical Lincoln-worshipers. What may be more startling is that besides being admired by today’s Republican and Democratic parties, Abraham Lincoln was admired by Adolf Hitler and communists everywhere. Why? Because Lincoln dissolved the Union as a compact of states and turned it into one unified nation under a centralized government. Hitler valued Lincoln’s crushing of the seceding states because it meant that the central government had power over all the other territories and states. Lincoln destroyed the concept of divided sovereignty, something that existed in America until that time, and brought every state under his control. Hitler enthusiastically endorsed Lincoln's actions of crushing the seceding states and forcibly unifying a country under the rule of one central government. Germany, like the United States before the Civil War, was a country that before 1871 was decentralized whose disparate provinces and territories were sovereign over their own affairs. Ensuring that divided sovereignty, the principle that each state was sovereign, was a thing of the past, Hitler could have dictatorial control over the Teutonic lands. It worked the same way 70 years before during the American Civil War.

The ultimate consequences of Lincoln’s war was that it crushed the old republic, one that was a voluntary union, embodied in the 10th amendment, stating that the individual states were sovereign. The Civil War, which itself did not end slavery (again, it was the 13th amendment that accomplished that) but did end the concept of a voluntary union. The victory of the North over the seceding southern states made the federal government supreme over all matters, nullified the 10th amendment for all intents and purposes, and made the state governments little more than satraps for the central government.

There can be more said about Lincoln’s actions as president but such a discussion could turn this blog into book form. Instead, I would recommend Thomas DiLorenzo’s book Lincoln Unmasked, a passionately written book that deals with both the economic and political consequences of Lincoln’s actions and how those actions did not always match up to his pious rhetoric. (DiLorenzo is an economics professor, not a professional historian, but his book is a decent introduction to the darker side of Lincoln)

What does all this mean, anyway? I’m sure this will come off as cranky to some readers. But, with so many tributes and eulogies coming out about Abraham Lincoln, I think more people should know that there is more to Mr. Lincoln than what is spoon fed to the public by the government and its schools. Many of these aspects have been covered up, because they are too blunt and politically incorrect.

So, when we celebrate the birth of this man, we should take careful note of just who and what we are celebrating. There are many conservatives today who are wailing over the expansion President Obama is making regarding the federal government. These conservatives should know that Republicans have been among the greatest expanders of the federal government. Whether it was the most recent Republican president or the first, Republicans have a lot of blame to put on themselves for the expansion of government. Conservatives who bemoan that federal growth, should keep in mind that Abraham Lincoln was one of the main movers and shakers of big government. And conservatives need to reconcile those ideas of loving Lincoln while hating big government because the two go hand-in-hand.

So on this day, I do not plan to celebrate. I only mourn, not for the slain man, but the old American republic which perished shortly before he did.

Afterword: I like picking on National Review, the one-time flagship of American conservatism (which in many ways it still is) and this piece is no different. Their February 23, 2009 issue is entitled “The Conservative Lincoln.” The summary of their cover story claims that Lincoln “was a torchbearer for free markets, individual liberty, and economic mobility, the rule of law, natural rights, and prudence in governing.” This is a remarkable statement considering Lincoln was a supporter of tariffs, which are an intrusion into the purely free market. He might seem like a stalwart of individual liberty because of his anti-slavery rhetoric, but even if he could have freed the slaves, it was only to ship them back to Africa. This is also the man who unconstitutionally suspended the writ of habeas corpus and absolutely ignored the Constitution altogether which makes it hard for me to say that he was prudent in governing. In my opinion, he is the man who most abused power during his time as president - far more than George W. Bush ever exceeded his authority. And such is the way conservatism has declined among the likes of the National Review crowd. This is actually a good lead-in to what will likely be my next piece: the fascism of Rush Limbaugh.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Stop It!

One of my favorite Mad TV sketches features Bob Newhart, as a therapist whose only advice to any patient was contained in two words: Stop it! When a woman who suffers from an irrational fear of being buried alive in a box comes in, his advice is the same: "Stop it!" No matter what inner difficulties the woman brought up, the therapist’s answer was always “Stop it!” I heartily recommend that our lawmakers see Bob Newhart’s most recent rendition of therapy.

One of President Barack Obama’s first initiatives as the chief executive is to implement an economic stimulus package that he repeatedly tells his countrymen is designed to save the American economy from the catastrophes of tax cuts and capitalism.

It should not be too surprising that Democrats wish to pass a package that would be the more invasive than any government measure into the economy since the New Deal, at a time when the current hardships are still nowhere near those endured during the Great Depression, which was only exacerbated because of those interventions. In short, the stimulus package is not so much meant to stimulate the economy, but an initiative to create more political capital for the new president. One portion that has since been excluded from the package, perhaps due to its sheer odiousness, was bailout money for Planned Parenthood (I don’t know about any of you, but I don’t believe the killing industry has any shortage of business).

The more President Obama says some version of "We have to do something because to do nothing would be worse," more people will get scared, remain scared, and eventually begin to believe it. Think of it as a Patriot Act for Democrats.

The Democratic president disparages the Bush tax cuts, one of his predecessor’s finest measures, because the national debt skyrocketed and our nation’s financial institutions crumbled during the final months of the lame duck administration. In other words, the new president is trying to tell us that the economy is teetering toward collapse because Americans were allowed to have more money in their paycheck, and nothing to do with the ridiculous spending spree President Bush and the Republicans went on. President Obama’s prescription for economic recovery seems to be, don’t cut taxes, but go on a ridiculous spending spree. President Bush’s problem was not that he cut taxes, but that he cut taxes, and then did not begin reducing the size of the government to compensate for the lost revenue. President Obama wants to leave taxes where they are, for the time-being it would seem, and then increase the size of the federal government.

Now that the Democratic-bashing portion of the blog is through, let us move on to the Democrats’ henchmen.

What should be more surprising, but that I fear is not, is that the Republicans are willing co-participants in this mad spending scheme as well.

How? you might say, didn’t every House Republican vote against the stimulus bill as it appeared in the House of Representatives? Yes, but every House Republican voted against a massive spending bill that could have caused revolts among their constituents had they voted for it, and every House Republican voted against a massive spending bill that did not need any of their votes.

The Democrats have such a strong majority in the House that they got the bill passed without any Republicans. By voting against the bill out of pure political expediency, they avoided the heat from their home districts. While many Republican cheerleaders on talk radio praised the Republicans and suggested that they might be returning to their fiscal principles, their votes meant nothing because the bill still passed.

By having nothing to lose by doing so, they voted against it. We still need time to see if the Republicans have made a prodigal journey back to fiscal sanity.

But what really made me reach for the Tums is what the party’s senators began attempting once the package reached their chamber.

When Democrats first suggested a $300 billion stimulus package, the Republicans gave the nod to them and then some: they said $445 billion would be just fine.

Republican senators want to give tax credits to homeowners since the housing market bubble has utterly popped. A tax credit, which sounds like it might be good, is really just another manifestation of welfare. Whereas a tax cut in the form of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan, allows the taxpayer to keep more of their income in their paycheck, a tax credit is a check from the federal government, with money that was printed from out of nowhere.

We can honestly say that we have a bipartisan government.

President Obama, during his never-ending campaign, said that he would bring Americans together and help heal our partisan wounds. Well, all that has happened since he took office is bring Republicans and Democrats together in a massive feast of pork. The parties are fighting over how much money should be in these stimulus packages and that should sound off alarms to conscientious citizens.

The only debate occurring over the spending bills are regarding how much should be spent and on what. There is no debate regarding whether so much money should be spent in the first place.

People seem to have forgotten that one short year ago, President Bush introduced a stimulus package to help boost a slumping economy. The stimulus did nothing to stop the collapse and nationalization of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Lehman Brothers. President Bush’s massive spending bill did nothing to stop the impending economic disaster. President Obama’s massive spending bill is even more massive and will only exacerbate the problem and ultimately cause more suffering for reasons already illuminated.

My prescription for the economy is to actually do very little. The current system cannot fix the disaster. It has been the invasive bipartisan federal government of this country that has caused this disaster.

Another appealing solution is to simply eliminate the Federal Reserve, that corrupt printer of bad money, which is the topic of Thomas E. Woods’ forthcoming book, Meltdown, A Free Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts will Make Things Worse.

Let this prescription for the horrific levels of spending and bad money be quick and to the point: Stop It!