When Oregon US Rep Earl Blumenauer invited Portland musician Thomas M Lauderdale — leader, composer, arranger and pianist for the internationally acclaimed big band Pink Martini — to President Obama’s State of the Union speech tonight I’m sure that he would never have imagined that his guest would end up sitting to the guest of Texas Rep. Steve Stockman. Who turned out to be Ted Nugent.
Yes, that Ted Nugent. The Motor City Madman. Terrible Ted. Auteur of “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” and “Yank Me, Crank Me, But Don’t Wake Me Up to Thank Me.” And also a swaggering right wing political voice with a serious taste for assault weaponry of all kinds.
Thomas, on the other hand, is a longtime advocate for gay rights and other socially/culturally progressive causes in Oregon. He has never written or performed a song that compares himself to a dog in heat or a jackhammer tearing up the street.
More than 25,000 American citizens signed a petition urging the United States government to build its own Death Star. Thus, the White House was obligated to research and respond to the query. The official response, as composed by Paul Shawcross, the chief of the Science and Space branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget, cited the death star’s estimated cost ($850,000,000,000,000,000), and posed this question:
“Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?”
Hmm. Good one. Here’s the rest of the (surprisingly detailed) response, including the fact that NASA’s very real Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office is known by the acronym: C3PO.
In days of yore when the Republican party held the White House and sometimes one or both houses of Congress besides, displays of protest against the POTUS, particularly when made overseas or, worse, to his face, worst of all in the midst of the pomp of an address to Congress, were viewed as a kind of treason. A unified voice was necessary; dissent was for traitors; my president right or wrong.
But in the last, oh, 12 months or so, their position has shifted dramatically. When Obama addresses congress the R caucus smirks and rolls their eyes. During his address on health care reform they waved their own papers in the air and chanted insults. The notorious Joe Wilson wailed “you lie!” when he took issue with the president’s (and I believe the congressional budget office’s) numbers. He should have been escorted outside, aggressively, by congressional security. Instead, he was made into a hero by the like-mindedly seething.
I won’t address the issues here, nor ignore the fact that the SOTU’s, and all similarly formal intra-government speeches, are full of kabuki-like displays of respect, awe and disapproval.
Yet, the contempt shown for this president – not just by typical wing-nut foamers, but also by supposedly reputable elected leaders – has sunk to scarifying lows. The persistent muttering about his place of birth, despite endless evidence to the contrary; the ongoing assertions that he is secretly a Muslim, the persistent use of race-baiting code-words. . . and so much of it from the actual halls of Congress, and their paid helpmates on K street and beyond. . . edges ever-closer to terrifying.
In a nostalgic mood I sifted through my Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tunes this morning, and finally bit the bullet and downloaded the “Deja Vu Live” album, which is basically a live version of Young’s “Living With War” album. Some nice moments in there, even if it’s a bit out of date and wanky at times. But CSNY really only matter to the extent that they’ve got Y on their side; and it’s refreshing to hear those three ego-driven quasi-revolutionaries actually sound like they mean it, for once. I go back and forth on these guys, wildly at times, but some of their good stuff, particularly with Neil onboard, was, in fact, really good. And his guitar playing, particularly on stage, lights those coots up like an electric current.
I dig the audacity of “Let’s Impeach the President,” which is quite the cheery singalong, and definitely not to be recited/performed/emulated by anyone in an official chamber during a ceremonial presentation. Barring, of course, official and well-reasoned (and not intern-diddling-inspired) proceedings. “Thanks to the First Amendment!” Neil declares afterwards. And while you could argue that mid-State-of-the-Union snarling and snapping and insulting by opposing lawmakers might in fact be protected speech, I think it’s important to recall that there are times and places to consider, and my understanding, even when I don’t like the guy at the podium, is that in certain official circumstances, you must show your respect for his/her office, and the vital importance it plays in protecting the Constitution. Including the part that allows you to talk shit about him.
Neil Young and the boys talk plenty of shit on their album, but mostly it’s a call to support the troops and take their lives, and the nation’s priorities, in some serious, logical and not entirely cowboy-like way. Fiery dissent is for rockers. And there’s a hell of a good reason why rockers don’t set policy (and why Rep. John Hall, once the leader of Orleans) isn’t a rocker anymore. Here’s hoping he writes better policy than pop tunes.
And sometimes it takes a Canadian to remember what’s great about America.
So distressing, and yet true: A lot of people want to harm, or kill, the President of the United States.
And maybe that’s always true, no matter who the president is. Maybe it’s natural that the most powerful, famous man in the world will also be the natural target for anger, hatred and the murderous intent of crazy people. We are a flawed species, particularly clever in finding new ways to leverage our imperfections into more efficient ways to harm ourselves, and others.
So why is the American media so intent on goading the hatred?
Not everyone in the media, perhaps. But certainly the political commentariat. And not just the far right, either. Think of the breathless, scandal-rich narrative heard every day on CNN’s “Situation Room.” Fair and balanced, I suppose: any pol with a hot story to tell, or be told upon, gets their moment in the klieg lights.
But the further right you go, the worse it gets. At least, that’s how it been for the last, oh I don’t know, nine and a half months, or so.
You know who we’re talking about. And the vocabulary they use.
I give you Rush Limbaugh:
Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates? “He’s a racist,” Mr. Limbaugh said. “He’s an angry racist.”
Sonja Sotomayor? “She’s a bigot. She’s a racist. How can a president nominate such a candidate? And how can a party get behind such a candidate? That’s what would be asked if somebody were foolish enough to nominate David Duke or pick somebody even less offensive.”
President Obama? He’s “the biggest reverse racist in history.” On another occasion: “Just as he is ACORN, just as he is Van Jones, he is racism.”On a third: “How do you get promoted in a Barack Obama administration? By hating white people.” So implicitly Mr. Limbaugh is labeling multiple figures within the administration as racists too.
Democrats generally? “The racism that everybody thinks exists on our side of the aisle has been on full display throughout their primary campaign.”
Liberals? “You know, racism in this country is the exclusive province of the left.”
All that from this Daily Beast analysis on the same guy who proclaimed last week that his failed attempt to buy the NFL’s St. Louis Rams was a result of a high-tech lynching, ala Clarence Thomas.
follow the jump, and the hate, for more…
So incendiary language. What else is new? Not enough. Until you get to the ever-increasing hysteria. And the apocalyptic overtones. And what seems frighteningly like a media-borne incitement to McVeigh-style violence.
Not that anyone on the bright side of the camera is going to admit it. Glenn Beck, by his own assertion, is little more than a “rodeo clown.” When pressed Limbaugh dismisses himself as an entertainer, a broadcaster whose sole mission is to fill airtime and sell ads.
Which would be fine if he (they, and not just the far right) weren’t so obviously playing at leadership. And aiming themselves squarely at the most feverish, and possibly dangerous, segments of society.
It’s all fever talk. Fire and brimstone. Flames and locusts. The world is exploding. The other side is satanic. They are criminal, murderous, evil to the core.
It’s great for ratings. So black-and-white (literally, when the Limbaughs of the world are talking). So visceral and real. Catch me on a bad day and I talk that way about my various antagonists, too. Only I’m not imagining anyone’s death. And as we keep hearing, a lot of people seem to be doing just that.
Every day has its own aspiring John Wilkes Booth. Only the 19th century didn’t have the constant blazing commentary flowing through the media 24/7. Or maybe it did, only a penny newspaper could never pack the punch of the 21st century’s constantly moving pictures, blaring soundtrack, and more.
Nothing new. Except for the obvious, which I hardly ever seem to hear: That an unregulated, profit-starved media operates with the same guiding principle of a great white shark: all appetite, no conscience. You expect the spotlight-dazed, gratification-obsessed, attention whores like Rush, Beck (and Olbermann, to be fair) to say and do whatever it takes to get attention. What you don’t expect, or deserve, is how the corporate sector will serve to amplify them, and juice the craziness as high and hard as it’ll go.
JFK, RFK, MLK, Oklahoma City, the WTC. What they have in common is large-scale craziness. Seething hatred. Sharkish appetite. And damn, they were all great stories, too.
It’s that last part that makes them so, you know, killer.