I am often asked why we have heard or read for over two years the same lies about President Barack Obama. I have tried to explain that the Big Lie Technique is successful only if it is relentlessly repeated. Any lie heard often enough becomes “the truth.” Since WWII, the Republicans have mastered the art of the Big Lie, from Richard Nixon to the neoconservatives’ use of the philosophy of Leo Strauss. Today, I would like to comment on only two of the recurring Big Lies.
Big Lie Number 1: Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslim. If your parents gave you a middle name like that of the former dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, you must be a Muslim. In fact, if we weren’t a nation of immigrants, Obama’s whole name might sound “un-American.” You can see how easily it would be to fool uninformed, angry, and frightened people.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof blames himself for causing so many reactionaries to claim that President Obama is a Muslim. Mr. Kristof wrote a column about his interview with the then-future president. He included what he thought was a poignant story, in which Mr. Obama recalled an experience of his youth in Indonesia: the Muslim morning call to prayer that he heard nearly every day was so beautiful that he could still remember it. Mr. Kristof instantly regretted that the whole story got deliberately distorted.
Many of us remember that White House chief of staff Donald Regan complained about having to schedule Ronald Reagan’s trips and speeches around Reagan’s horoscope – Nancy had an astrologer, Joan Quigley, that she and the president relied on. Maybe we should ask Obama’s chief of staff whether he has to schedule Mr. Obama’s daily itinerary around his numerous required Muslim prayer rituals. I’m aware of no one who has known or worked with our president who thinks he is a Muslim. Even John McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign had to take the microphone from a pathetic woman who insisted Obama was a Muslim. Senator McCain tried to straighten her out, but I fear he may as well have been talking to the back wall.
Big Lie Number 2: President Obama is a socialist. No, but Mr. Obama is certainly somewhere in the liberal tradition of the Democratic Party that has existed from Thomas Jefferson to Ted Kennedy. He is clearly more progressive than moderate Democrats like Arkansas’s last two Democratic senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln. Republican president Theodore Roosevelt referred to those in his own party who did not want to reform capitalism as the “lunatic fringe.” TR and his Democratic successors Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson wanted to save capitalism from itself – from its own worst excesses. They succeeded so well that after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, we let our guard down. Now, Mr. Obama has fortunately returned to that same tradition.
Sadly, the “lunatic fringe” still exists, but now it’s the dominant wing of the Republican Party. Rather than submit to reforms and regulations, it apparently would prefer to see every bank fail, every auto manufacturer go out of business, every oil and coal industry pollute the planet, every one who loses a job go destitute, and every sick or injured person who can’t afford health insurance “die and decrease the surplus population.”
Many of us have utilized many or all of the following: public school systems; state universities; adult education centers; public libraries; public water utilities; fire and police departments; county health units; traffic and street lights; trash pickup; street and highway construction and maintenance; city, state, and national parks, wildlife refuges, and recreational areas; National Guard; U. S. Armed Forces; Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. All of these are socialistic services, but how many of us consider ourselves to be socialists?
Everyone knew before the Election of 2008 that it was George W. Bush who doubled the national debt, and it was he who authorized the bailout of the banks. Obama’s emergency responses to the Great Recession have only added about 10 percent to the anticipated debt. Voters are notorious for having short memories, but the instantaneous amnesia that set in after Obama’s inauguration in 2009 has been ridiculous and irresponsible.
Yes, health care reform did put restrictions on the for-profit insurance companies. They will not be able to drop clients because they get sick and will not be able to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions. And yes, millions of people previously uninsured and uninsurable will be able to get coverage. However, the choices we will have for health coverage are entirely in the private sector. No public option was created. Why? All the Republicans and many moderate Democrats believed that a public option would be so successful and so popular that private insurers would not be able to compete with it – this position was stated by Republicans in committee. Yes, President Obama was aware that the public option was the best way to go, but he never fought for it. Never!
According to David Corn of Mother Jones, Representative Bob Inglis (Republican of S. C.) believes that he lost his primary-reelection bid on June 22, 2010, to a TEA Party-supported candidate because he would not lie about Obama’s being a socialist. Mr. Inglis was one of House Speaker Newt Gingrich “Khan’s” mean and nasty horde when the Republicans gained control of Congress in the 1990’s. Like the hatred against the sheer existence of Barack Obama today, he had hated Bill Clinton and joined his party in its effort to destroy him. He is now remorseful of his previous conduct because he believes he violated the 9th Commandment: “Thou shall not bear false witness against one’s neighbor.”
The Party of Hell No seems intent to become an exclusively radical-reactionary party. Like Inglis and Utah’s Sen. Robert Bennett, many conservative Republicans are finding that they are not extreme enough for TEA Party enthusiasts. Will others like them be purged from the party the way the moderate Republicans were? Will the reactionaries gain absolute power and try to return the country to the policies of the Gilded Age (1877-1900)? Bob Inglis is concerned about his party’s future: “It’s a dangerous strategy to build conservatism on information and policies that are not credible.”
by David Offutt
A version of this essay was published August 14, 2010, in the El Dorado News-Times as a letter to the editor.