For a while now I've contemplated this: A specific weekly column that catalogs for posterity the latest examples of the Republican party and conservative movement in general's descent into absolute, painfully stupid chaos. Last week, an entire piece could've been written on the unprecedented filibustering of Obama defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel -- notice how many, usually shameful and embarrassing, things have happened in American politics over the past few years that have never happened before? -- and the fact that it stemmed from the ongoing apoplexy over conspiracy-minded Republican House-members' Great White Whale, Benghazi. But certainly there was more than that last week. There always is. And I think that's why I haven't really bothered trying to keep track of the madness: It would take up too much of my time. A column detailing the damn-fool lunacy that is the modern Republican party on a week-to-week basis would probably take two full days to write and be 8,000 words long. Who has the time, or the miraculously regenerating supply of Tylenol, for that?
So I guess the best thing to do is keep it to only the biggest, most pronounced embarrassments of the week. I realize that even those will be up for debate by many, but I'll do my best to highlight what I can and if I leave out your favorite example of conservative stupidity on occasion, my sincerest apologies.
So, let's begin.
With Friends Like These...
For those who still insist on playing the both-sides-are-equally-screwed-up game, please stop. Democrats and progressives do dumb shit all the time, true, but very little these days on the level of basing an entire campaign of political righteous indignation -- one that's helped to halt the confirmation of a presidential cabinet nominee -- on a misinterpreted joke. Last week, conspiratorial rumors began circulating among Republicans on the Hill that Chuck Hagel had received money from a shadowy group called "Friends of Hamas." This, as far as they were concerned, gave them even more reason to hold up Hagel's confirmation besides simply the need to take a hostage in a desperate attempt to make somebody finally give a crap about Benghazi. One problem: there is no "Friends of Hamas." The group doesn't exist. And this week, we learned where the rumor, and the reference to the non-existent group itself, came from. Dan Friedman of The New York Daily News admitted that during a conversation with a GOP aide a few weeks back, he had asked, jokingly, what the Republicans were looking for that could be considered "anti-Israel" in fellow Republican Hagel's background:
"So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the 'Junior League of Hezbollah, in France?' And: What about 'Friends of Hamas?' The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed."
Ah, except that these days to give the benefit of the doubt to the Conservative Entertainment Complex is to court disaster. Hilarious disaster, but disaster nonetheless. The "Friends of Hamas" tip was quickly leaked to the Keystone Kops who now run Brietbart in the absence of its late namesake and the site's Ben Shapiro ran with it, trumpeting it as a major exclusive. The meme was picked up by the usual suspects like Hugh Hewitt, Fox News and the increasingly adrift National Review and within days it was a talking point for giddy Republicans on the Hill. Again, a joke. A joke became an honest-to-God point of contention in the ugly and shameful fight over Chuck Hagel's confirmation.
But here's where it goes from profoundly stupid to fucking spectacularly stupid: When Friedman explained how the rumor had started, rather than accepting that explanation, Shapiro doubled-down on his hyper-serious indignation, writing:
"Since the original 'Friends of Hamas' story was written, the media has downplayed or ignored the myriad of borderline anti-Semitic Hagel comments regarding Iran and the State of Israel, as well as the 'Jewish lobby.' They have deliberately obstructed news coverage of Hagel’s well-documented supported base among friends of Hamas. Instead of asking Hagel to release the requested documents, the media has attacked Breitbart News."
Yes, the responsible media haven't paid attention to the story that was based on a joke, about a group that doesn't actually exist, because they're the responsible media and not an online fan 'zine for idiots. The "Friends of Hamas" miasma perfectly typifies the current state of Republican thinking -- namely, there is no thinking. There's just a lot of knee-jerk reacting by grifters looking for viewers, readers and listeners and the very powerful men and women trying to avoid having their cushy D.C. jobs taken away by the millions of rubes who believe the word of those grifters as gospel.
I already know that if I do continue to do this on occasion, most of what I post will be whatever latest conspiracy theory the right has either conjured out of thin air or desperately latched onto. But really nothing illustrates the state of a political organization better than its willingness to eat any amount of bullshit that's ladled onto a plate in front of it, absent any evidence whatsoever that what it's being asked to scarf down isn't, in fact, bullshit.
Case in point: Al Jazeera America might possibly activate Al Qaeda terrorist sleeper cells in Detroit.
Yesterday on Fox News -- of course -- regular network contributor Lisa Daftari offered up the worrisome suggestion that Al Jazeera's expansion to American markets would include Detroit, and Detroit, as you know, has a large community of expatriate Muslims who could be secret members of Al Qaeda and could therefore be, I guess, subliminally flashed the Queen of Diamonds by Al Jazeera and turned into active killers bent on the destruction of America. Or something. Daftari implored viewers to Google information about sleeper cells in Detroit. Unfortunately, if you do that, the dominant story that will come up is about a group of men who were accused of plotting to blow up Disneyland in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 but who were eventually cleared because the prosecutor may have purposely withheld exculpatory evidence.
Regardless, there are Muslims in Detroit and there are Muslims at Al Jazeera and since Muslims aren't to be trusted because they're all potentially terrorists be afraid -- be very afraid. It's the conservative way these days.
I try to avoid any story about Donald Trump, mainly because nothing he does is of any consequence and everything he does is carefully engineered to keep people talking about him, and secondly because -- well, fuck him, that's why. Still, his recent suing spree has been so over-the-top desperate that it's actually worth commenting on simply because it's just that indicative of Trump's cultural, to say nothing of intellectual, bankruptcy.
You probably already know about Trump's suit against Bill Maher for breach of contract because the comic refused to pay him after making a joke on a late night show offering $5-million in exchange for proof from Trump that the alleged billionaire isn't the son of an orangutan. As Maher responded perfectly, it speaks volumes about Trump -- whom Maher calls a "rich idiot" -- that for a little publicity he's willing to actually allow a public debate to continue over whether he has his family reunions at the zoo.
Well, now Trump's no doubt exhausted and embarrassed lawyer has issued a cease-and-desist letter -- taking the gun out of his mouth long enough to do so -- threatening to sue Angelo Carusone, who started an online and brick-and-mortar protest campaign aimed at getting Macy's to drop Trump's name brand from its stores and dump Trump as a celebrity spokesperson in commercials.
According to Trump and Trump's attorney, Carusone owes the reality TV star $25-million for “mob-like bullying and coercion” and “intentionally disseminating misinformation.” If you're quizzically staring at your screen right now and thinking, "Gosh, that sounds an awful lot like all Donald Trump does these days," congratulations, you've graduated Summa Cum Laude from Irony U.
I mention Trump as an example of the stupidity of the GOP this week simply because, inexplicably, he continues to be coddled by Fox News and held up as a hero by its mercifully dying-off demographic of angry old white people. He's brashness without brains and indignation without intellect -- and, best of all, he puts on a good show. And that's all that those who are easily enticed into the tent by the carnival barker really need these days.
Okay, that's it -- time to go take another handful of Tylenol. Or maybe Vicodin. Anyway, see you next week, I'm sure.