Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Re(Pete)ing rifle

It's probably not smart to make fun of a Marine …
Oh, the many gifts last week's Republican National Convention gave us! We got to see Clint Eastwood overplay his persona in one inglorious, ignominious moment. We oohed and ahhed to vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's ghost stories around the Big Tent campfire.

And, per the Republican convention's convention, I got to dust off Pete Wilson.

California's multi-term governor and U.S. Senator re-emerged in Tampa as a senior statesman. Given what followed Wilson's time in office, in the state and nation, his anti-immigrant, tough-on-crime stance looks moderate now. And sane. Discourse and compromise across party lines; what a bygone concept.

After awhile I began drawing Pete Wilson's featureless face with Orphan Annie eyes, and
Dianne Feinstein more like Betty Boop.
The convention also blew dust off the term "happy warrior," applied this time to Ryan. I'm not sure how this term bubbled into politics, or whether it comes from William Wordsworth's poem. Both parties have used it — lavished alike on Hubert Humphrey, Ronald Reagan and assorted congress folk and state legislators. Wilson used it for himself running for governor against Dianne Feinstein.

To me it means an errand runner, giddily pushing party over policy. Maybe that's what it means to each party, too.

• Why exactly is John Burton, California's Democratic Party chairman, apologizing this week for likening Ryan's convention speech and some key Republican campaign statements to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels' so-called "big lie" tactics ("tell a lie often enough and it becomes fact …")?

For one thing, bombast is Burton's bailiwick. For another, it was one of those insincere, "I'm sorry if anyone was offended" apologies. For yet another, he's not the only one making this association.

For still another, isn't it true? Republicans aren't alone in this, just the latest with the mostest (though the Democrats are convening now, so stay tuned). Ryan's intentional deceit during his floor speech is breathtaking in its bald-faced boldness, right there for fact checkers to vet. My best guess is that he preached to the crowd, which didn't care if he was lying or bending truth to breaking.

Maybe the most egregious lie Republicans repeat on the campaign is that President Obama has weakened the work requirements for people receiving public assistance under the Welfare Reform Act. The statement lives like a zombie, blundering past repeated attempts to show it's plainly false.

Maybe it's the Nazi connection that offends, or triggers foes to pretend offense; though I agree that pundits and celebrities and political propagandists play the Nazi card too often and inappropriately, here it connects, however unfortunately.

Incomparable, of course, to the unthinkable barbarity on Goebbels' agenda, but the process is the same, isn't it? Say a lie, say it again, say it again, let people talk themselves into thinking they heard what you said from somewhere else, layering it with legitimacy until it becomes the thing people believe. People act on their belief, which is to vote for the liars, and maybe take lengths to keep others from voting for the other candidate. Bonus!

Pot, kettle; kettle, pot. Fight on, happy warriors.

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