Sunday, July 26, 2015


In his latest New York Times op-ed, Timothy Egan notes that Donald Trump's rhetorical style is nothing new in the Republican Party. I'm happy that Egan is making this point -- but see if you can spot the point where Egan succumbs to amnesia about recent history:
The adults patrolling the playpen of Republican politics are appalled that we’ve become a society where it’s O.K. to make fun of veterans, to call anyone who isn’t rich a loser, to cast an entire group of newly arrived strivers as rapists and shiftless criminals.

Somewhere, we crossed a line -- from our mothers’ modesty to strutting braggadocio, from dutiful decorum to smashing all the china in the room, from respecting a base set of facts to a trumpeting of willful ignorance.

Yes, how did we get to a point where up to one-fourth of the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan now aligns itself with Donald Trump?
Reagan? He's on Egan's list of Republicans who understood the need for "dutiful decorum"? Reagan -- the guy who, as governor of California, said, "It's silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking stripes on it and still be home by Christmas"? And said of student demonstrations at Berkeley, "If it's to be a bloodbath, let it be now. Appeasement is not the answer"? The guy who also said this as governor?
We have some hippies in California. For those of you who don't know what a hippie is, he's a fellow who dresses like Tarzan, has hair like Jane, and smalls like Cheetah.
Reagan, the guy who -- and I know I've run down this litany before -- demonstrated "dutiful decorum" by doing this in 1983 as president of the United States?

During a speech to the White House News Photographers dinner, President Reagan sticks his thumbs in his ears and wiggles his fingers. Says the leader of the free world, "I've been waiting years to do this."
Reagan's wisecracks were crafted like Bob Hope jokes -- they weren't off-the-cuff Trumpian trash talk. But let's not pretend that Reagan was a man of undeviating gravitas. Let's remember that he said this:
You know, when it comes to this yearly budget process, I keep thinking of that current movie hit, "The Little Shop of Horrors." [Laughter] Now, the budget isn't exactly like the man-eating plant in that movie. It isn't mean, and it isn't green. It doesn't come from outer space. But it does only say one thing: "Feed me! Feed me! Feed me!" [Laughter]
Or this:
And the way I see it, if our current tax structure were a TV show, it would either be "Foul-ups, Bleeps, and Blunders," or "Gimme a Break." If it were a record album, it would be "Gimme Shelter." If it were a movie, it would be "Revenge of the Nerds" or maybe "Take the Money and Run." And if the IRS, Internal Revenue Service, ever wants a theme song, maybe they'll get Sting to do, "Every breath you take, every move you make, I'll be watching you."
Or this:
...we were being led by a team with good intentions and bad ideas -- people with all the common sense of Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
You know, when we got to Washington, this country was in the fast lane headed toward economic oblivion. The folks who'd been at the wheel were more reckless than the Dukes of Hazzard....
And Reagan bequeathed this rhetorical style to George W. H.W. Bush, who gave it a nastier edge (in 1992, about Bill Clinton and Al Gore: "My dog Millie knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos"). But the man who really picked up the torch was the next Republican hero, Newt Gingrich:
The left-wing Democrats will represent the party of total hedonism, total exhibitionism, total bizarreness, total weirdness, and the total right to cripple innocent people in the name of letting hooligans loose.
"Woody Allen is not having incest with his non-daughter for whom he has been a non-father because they have a non-family," Gingrich said. "It's a weird situation and it fits the Democrat Party platform perfectly."
"I think the mother killing her two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick society is getting and how much we have to have change," [Gingrich] said [in 1994]. "I think people want to change, and the only way you can get change is to vote Republican."
Egan is right to say that "the crazies have long flourished in the Republican media wing, where any amount of gaseous buffoonery goes unchallenged" -- many Republican politicians have chose to outsource such nastiness and intemperateness to radio and TV hosts.

But Egan is wrong to say that "Trump is a byproduct of all the toxic elements Republicans have thrown into their brew over the last decade or so." It's been a lot longer than a decade. I didn't even mention Spiro Agnew or Dick Cheney. Egan invokes Joe Wilson shout of "You lie!" during President Obama's September 2009 address to Congress, but he neglects Jesse Helms in 1994:
Republican Sen. Jesse Helms says President Clinton is so unpopular on military bases in North Carolina that he "better have a bodyguard" if he visits the state.

"Mr. Clinton better watch out if comes down here," Helms, the incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, told the News & Observer of Raleigh on Monday.
This disease has been incubating for a long time. It's only now that the symptoms are obvious to some people.


oc democrat said...

"Egan invokes Joe Wilson shout of "You lie!" during President Obama's September 2009 address to Congress,"
The EXACT MOMENT that any pretense of civility regarding MY President went out the door, and has never looked back. It has been downhill since then; if the President
is Obama, you can SAY anything, no matter how low!

Wasn't That speech about the ACA?

Glennis said...

That would be George H. W. Bush, who claimed his dog knew more about foreign policy.

Steve M. said...

Right -- fixed now.

Victor said...

The symptoms are obvious to everyone except the oblivious DC MSM Villagers.

They look at today's GOP, and still see Ike.
The rest of us look at it, and go YIKES!!!

Yastreblyansky said...

No votes for Bill Safire's sock puppet Spiro T. Agnew?

This is the criminal left that belongs not in a dormitory, but in a penitentiary. The criminal left is not a problem to be solved by the Department of Philosophy or the Department of English—it is a problem for the Department of Justice…. Black or white, the criminal left is interested in power. It is not interested in promoting the renewal and reforms that make democracy work; it is interested in promoting those collisions and conflict that tear democracy apart.

Ten Bears said...

Trump Trump Trump. Trump Trump Trump.

How much is he paying you for this?

petrilli said...

I read that column this morning and stopped at the same point. I felt almost a little punked to be honest. Like the guy pulled me in and then, "Reagan?" I thought "hey, I see what you just did there."

These pundits is sneaky, Steve.

petrilli said...

From my non-google aided memory of the time I recall the Reagan era offering support and succor to a species of shocking vicious slander I had certainly never seen before. Today's GOP stands on the slimy shoulders of pioneering giants of filth from those days such as Richard Viguerie, Newt Gingrich (often forgotten what a mean craven bastard he was back in the 80s), The execrable freshman congressman John LeBoutillier and the most rancid of them all, Terry Dolan of NPAC who at least died a miserable, painful, ironic death, which he richly deserved.

CH said...

Like petrilli said about Egan's ahistorical inclusion of RR with Lincoln & Ike, and like Yastreblyansky said about Spiro Ted Agnew deserving dishonorable mention. We could of course keep going back... Joe McCarthy, the younger Nixon, John Bricker (Dewey's running mate in '48), et cetera. But the familiarly modern version of that hardy perennial, i.e., the GOP's gutter-level, ad hominem attack rhetoric with scant (to be generous) regard for facts, is definitely and directly traceable to the late Ronald.