Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I love Steve Benen's Carpetbagger Report, but I think he has a much less jaundiced view of human nature than I do -- or at least a much less jaundiced view of the nature of some humans.

Today he responds to this steaming pile from right-wing columnist and blogger Debbie Schlussel:

Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always A Muslim

... even if he identifies strongly as a Christian, and even if he despised the behavior of his father (as Obama said on Oprah); is a man who Muslims think is a Muslim, who feels some sort of psychological need to prove himself to his absent Muslim father, and who is now moving in the direction of his father's heritage, a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?

Is that even the man we'd want to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency, if Hillary Clinton offers him the Vice Presidential candidacy on her ticket (which he certainly wouldn't turn down)?

NO WAY, JOSE . . . Or, is that, HUSSEIN?

Steve says:

It's tempting to think this is some kind of bizarre joke, made up by a satirist to make conservatives appear foolish....

I can't help but wonder about a possible backlash. Many Americans are uneasy about the Middle East and Muslims, but there's a fundamental decency among most people in this country that, I suspect, reject the kind of hate Schlussel is espousing.

Maybe Schlussel and others like her believe they're doing the GOP a favor by smearing Obama before he even announces his intentions, but I think it's far more likely that they're simply embarrassing themselves and creating a degree of sympathy for Obama. The abject stupidity of the right-wing attack machine has its limits.

No, Steve. No, no, no, no, no.

What conservative pundit has ever "gone too far"? Bill O'Reilly accusing American troops in World War II of a massacre? Ann Coulter wishing a terrorist attack on The New York Times, calling for the poisoning of a Supreme Court justice, attacking a disabled Vietnam vet, or slandering 9/11 widows? Glenn Beck talking about his thoughts of killing Michael Moore, asking an incoming congressman whether he's a traitor, or calling Katrina survivors "scumbags"? None of these incidents led to widespread outrage on the right or banishment by the media. Why should this be any different?

And if this is different, if some people are put off by it, so what? The line of attack is out there -- the idea that Obama may be a crypto-Muslim (a crypto-jihadist!) has been put in the mix, successfully insinuated into a thousand dinner-table conversations.

Now, I hope nobody thinks Schlusser is a loose cannon. I hope nobody thinks this has Republican insiders upset. While Schlusser may be operating on her own, no one's going to step in and tell her to tone it down because she's very, very useful to the GOP. Schlusser and her ilk are like "enforcers" -- the players certain sports teams keep on the bench and send into the game to hurt opposing teams' stars, nastily and pointedly. Schlussel does the GOP's business with this vicious hit, but if public opinion does turn against her, she can be deemed a rogue lunatic, because she's not a GOP star and she's expendable.

Or to put it another way, Schlussel is, between campaigns, what groups like the Swift Boat Veterans are during campaigns -- she does the nasty work better-known figures can't do.

Now, how far out of the mainstream is she, really? Let's look at her bio:

... Schlussel is a frequent guest on ABC's "Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher" and FOX News Channel's "O'Reilly Factor," "Hannity & Colmes," "FOX News Live," "Beyond the News," and "Judith Regan Tonight," MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews," "Buchanan & Press," and "MSNBC Live," CNN's "Crossfire," "Talk Back Live" and "Weekend Wrap," and ESPN's "Outside the Lines."

... you can read her popular twice-weekly online column, "Debbie Does Politics," on the Internet, at the Heritage Foundation's and, where she is a Contributor/Columnist. Schlussel is also a frequent New York Post columnist. Her columns have often been read on the air by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, on whom she broke the Monday Night Football story. Schlussel's columns are also frequently reprinted and excerpted in several major newspapers, including The Washington Times and Detroit Free Press. She has also written columns for

... Schlussel worked for Fred Barnes, Editor of The Weekly Standard Magazine, host of FOX's "Beltway Boys," and a former regular on "The McLaughlin Group," and Mort Kondracke, also of the "Beltway Boys" and formerly of "The McLaughlin Group," when Barnes and Kondracke were Senior Editors of The New Republic. Schlussel also worked in Washington for several Congressmen -- including Rep. Phil Crane, Chairman, House Trade Subcommittee -- throughout high school (at one point, she was the youngest Congressional intern on Capitol Hill) and college....

However much resume-padding is in there, she's not a wild-eyed outsider, and this isn't punditry brut. She knows the how far she can go -- and it's pretty damn far.

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