This week, we learned that the most powerful unelected, unappointed Republican in America, a man with extremely close ties to the Bush White House, was a bagman for the notorious felon and sleazebag lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
We also learned that a top liberal blogger responded to an embarrassing story about a colleague by recommending that other bloggers not write about it -- a recommendation that was sometimes ignored.
Guess which one of these circumstances prompted David Brooks to resort to 1940s crime-beat language in his Sunday New York Times column?
The Keyboard Kingpin, a k a Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, sits at his computer, fires up his Web site, Daily Kos, and commands his followers, who come across like squadrons of rabid lambs, to unleash their venom on those who stand in the way. And in this way the Kingpin has made himself a mighty force in his own mind, and every knee shall bow.
This is what I'm always talking about -- the ability of the GOP noise machine to turn all prominent Democrats into dangerous freaks, people with pathological or neurotic personalities who can't be trusted anywhere near power, while our side can't ever seem to do the same to even the worst Republicans.
(Notice that Kos, in this passage, is both dangerous -- a "Kingpin" -- and ludicrous -- "a mighty force in his own mind." Getting both of these notions into one paragraph makes this a classic dangerous-freak narrative.)
This kind of Republican attack happens all the time -- frequently, as in this case, just as the subject is making his way onto the national stage (think of the snickering about Wesley Clark just as he entered the presidential race in '04 or the pre-convention hit jobs on Kerry); the Republican attack machine defines the person before the person can define him- or herself.
There's never a slip-up on our side without this kind of response. You know the famous line of political advice, ascribed to James Carville --"When your enemy is drowning, throw him an anvil." Well, it's as if Republicans are able to monitor every body of water on the planet, and whenever a Democrat, or even someone who can be associated with Democrats (Jacques Chirac, Ward Churchill), stumbles, they're immediately on the scene with half a dozen anvils and a video camera, broadcasting the flailing in the water to the nation and saying, "Can we really afford to have people like this as lifeguards?"
Meanwhiler, here's Grover Norquist, a felon's bagman, about whom Brooks chose not to write:
In Jack Abramoff's world, prominent Washington tax-cut advocate Grover Norquist was a godsend.
Moving money from a casino-operating Indian tribe to Ralph Reed, the Christian Coalition founder and professed gambling opponent, was a problem. Lobbyist Abramoff turned to his longtime friend Norquist, apparently to provide a buffer for Reed.
The result, according to evidence gathered by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, was that Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform became a conduit for more than a million dollars from the Mississippi Choctaw to Reed's operation, while Norquist, a close White House ally, took a cut....
... Blunt e-mails that connect money and access in Washington show that prominent Republican activist Grover Norquist facilitated some administration contacts for [Jack] Abramoff's clients while the lobbyist simultaneously solicited those clients for large donations to Norquist's tax-exempt group.
Those who were solicited or landed administration introductions included foreign figures and American Indian tribes, according to e-mails gathered by Senate investigators and federal prosecutors or obtained independently by the Associated Press.
"Can the tribes contribute $100,000 for the effort to bring state legislatures and those tribal leaders who have passed Bush resolutions to Washington?" Norquist wrote Abramoff in one such e-mail in July 2002.
"When I have funding, I will ask Karl Rove for a date with the president. Karl has already said 'yes' in principle and knows you organized this last time and hope to this year," Norquist wrote in the e-mail....
And here's how plugged in Norquist is to the all-GOP federal government:
The "Wednesday Meeting" of Norquist's Leave Us Alone Coalition has become an important hub of conservative political organizing. President Bush began sending a representative to the Wednesday Meeting even before he formally announced his candidacy for president. "Now a White House aide attends each week," reported USA Today in June 2001. "Vice President Cheney sends his own representative. So do GOP congressional leaders, right-leaning think tanks, conservative advocacy groups and some like-minded K Street lobbyists. The meeting has been valuable to the White House because it is the political equivalent of one-stop shopping. By making a single pitch, the administration can generate pressure on members of Congress, calls to radio talk shows and political buzz from dozens of grassroots organizations. It also enables the White House to hear conservatives vent in private -- and to respond -- before complaints fester...."
And yet Kos is the big thug. And, to Brooks, the big story.
I keep thinking that the power is the left blogosphere needs is that it can be part of a message machine to rival that of the Republicans -- we generate a lot of ideas and messages, and if our side had a better radio/TV/print/Internet/think tank infrastructure, what bloggers do could feed into it much more effectively and help change Americans' perceptions. But that's not what people like Kos and Jerome Armstrong are stressing -- they think the left blogosphere needs to focus on electoral politics. (I think: If that's such a good approach, why aren't the Republicans doing it? They know how to win elections.) So I've disagreed with Kos-ism, and haven't been a Kossack. First I want that damn message machine. And now it seems to me that Kos and Jerome are victims of the far superior one the Republicans have built.