(Here's the second installment of a year-end bottom-ten of the lowlights of 2014, culled from my archives and elsewhere. The first installment is here. Read 'em and weep!)
7. Impeachment for the hell of it. Conservatives have been threatening to impeach Obama since 2009. You’d think the schtick would have gotten tiresome even to them by now, particularly when their favorite impeachable offenses, like #Benghazi, keep going belly-up in their own Congressional committees.
But it’s a key part of the job of professional propagandists to tart up old schtick. In 2014 National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy, previously best known as a torture enthusiast, published Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment. Impeachment, he explained elsewhere, “is not a legal matter; it is a political remedy.” The Founders left “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” vague for that reason; presumably there were no impeachments before Andrew Johnson’s because all our earlier Presidents, including national-bank-buster Andrew Jackson, were scrupulous about the Constitutional order, unlike Obama -- whom we can’t get at, sighed McCarthy, because nowadays “we put our faith in law, not judgment, and it becomes a ready-made excuse for inaction while the lawyers temporize.” Another black crook works the system!
This may be why top conservatives such as Sarah Palin, Joe Miller and Rep. Steve King felt free to rev up the impeachotron without coherent legal justifications when Obama announced executive action on immigration last summer. When Democrats began to notice and comment on this impeachment chatter, however, conservatives changed direction, suggesting Obama was actually trying to get impeached, despite their best efforts to stop him. This "might be the first White House in history trying to start the narrative of impeaching their own president," cried GOP House Whip Steve Scalise. "Does Obama WANT to Get Impeached?" asked National Review's Rich Lowry. "Such a calculation — amnesty-by-fiat to deliberately court impeachment — is breathtakingly cynical," look-who's-talkinged Charles Krauthammer.
Fox News even recruited McCarthy to tell viewers that his book — which, I remind you, is called Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment — isn’t an argument for impeaching Obama.
Assuming this isn't a misguided effort to get Obama's supporters on board, this seems to be conservatives' way of coping with memories of the disastrous Clinton impeachment while leaving their options open. If they can pretend that, should impeachment come, it really won't have anything to do with what they actually want, maybe they won't get the same treatment Newt Gingrich got when, unable to resist their new majorities in both houses of Congress, they finally succumb to temptation.
6. The Gruber maneuver. We’re at a strange place in the history of Obamacare: conservatives hate it and insist no one wants it, but insurance-starved citizens are rushing to obtain it. Republicans are understandably scared to repeal it, and hope like hell the Supreme Court will do it for them with the mother of all nuisance lawsuits, or one of the others they have lined up.
If SCOTUS doesn’t oblige, the new GOP two-house majority may not have the balls to return America to its old Pay or Die healthcare system without serious backup. So, in the absence of a believable Republican alternative, conservatives seek ways to make the program look so bad voters won’t mind when it croaks. Most of their 2014 arguments in that line — for example, that Obamacare is bad because it lets people quit jobs they don’t want, or that the long lines of people waiting for Obamacare remind them of “Venezuelans waiting in bread lines” — didn’t get very far.
But then some guy circulated some tapes of one Jonathan Gruber referring to the role of voter ignorance in getting Obamacare passed, and the brethren hit the battlements, denouncing Gruber and convincing House Republicans to get up a committee to yell at him.
What government position does Gruber occupy? None; he’s a freelance policy expert who helped the Democrats build the ACA (and helped Mitt Romney build You-Know-Who-care in Massachusetts). But Gruber had an unofficial title — Architect of Obamacare! When the shit hit the fan, this led to the following hilarious Google News results:
If that weren’t enough, investigative outfits like Breitbart.com dug up more connections between Gruber and the Feds — for example, “OBAMA CLAIMED TO HAVE 'STOLEN IDEAS' FROM GRUBER IN 2006.” He was practically a member of the family!
Why all this effort just to elevate an enemy consultant? I mean, even Alger Hiss had a real government job. Well, like Hiss, Gruber is a pointy-head with much book-larnin’. Plus, he had suggested, in his muttering way, that Americans were stupid, and one of the pillars of conservatism (along with tax breaks for the wealthy and persecution of minorities) is resentment against them high-toned liberals who look down on you, Mr. and Mrs. America, and your simple ways. Connect that with Obamacare and you’ve got something.
Thus, we got headlines like “Obamacare Architect: Yeah, We Lied to The ‘Stupid’ American People to Get It Passed” and “Gruber Got 24 Times the Average ‘Stupid’ American’s Salary for Obamacare Work” (he’s hoity-toity and rich — prob’ly cosmopolitan and rootless, too!). “So the left has disdain for average Americans?” said Flopping Aces. “Tell me something we don’t already know.” Ah, but soon the whole world would know, thanks to the rhetorical genius of Trey Gowdy!
Gruber testified, and for the brethren it was Watergate all over again, only this time a real bad guy was under siege. “At critical points, of course, Gruber couldn’t recall,” reported Scott Johnson of Power Line. “He couldn’t recall if he had heard his friends in the Obama administration discuss the need to conceal the Obamacare tax on health insurance… When Gruber says, ‘I honestly do not recall,’ the ‘honestly’ puts screaming exclamation points on his lying.” “For those keeping track, that is not a ‘no,’” scrupled Noah Rothman of Hot Air. Sounds like Gruber was in real danger of losing his imaginary job!
When insulted Americans did not descend on Washington with pitchforks, conservatives bitched that the press was engaged in a Gruber cover-up (“Besieged by stupid Americans, Media circles the wagons around Gruber,” headlined Hot Air), notwithstanding the hundreds of thousands of videos of Gruber available on the internet. Breitbart.com actually attacked the Washington Post’s Fact Checker column on Gruber’s testimony, not because they defended Gruber, but because they “really should have bumped their rating from 2 to 3 Pinocchios,” and offered 1,538 words in defense of this proposition.
It seems like another wash-out — but Judge Andrew Napolitano, frequent Fox News guest nut, holds out hope that the Gruber maneuver will convince someone, at least: “Now we all know this was done intentionally, and guess what?” he told NewsMax. “The Supreme Court now knows this as well… If this phrase, this admission by this professor, gets before the Supreme Court, Obamacare loses." Now who thinks other people are stupid?
5. All the free speech money can buy. In 2014, conservatives were very concerned about free speech. Not everyone’s free speech, of course — for example, if you recently protested police brutality, Rudolph Giuliani and others said at year’s end, your speech caused two NYPD officers to be killed, so shut up. No, they were mostly concerned, as they usually are, with the rights of the wealthy and the powerful.
There was a big uproar in the spring, for instance, when seniors at some colleges decided they didn’t want conservatives to speak at their commencement ceremonies. Some people might imagine that was their call to make — after all, no one has a Constitutional right to a well-paid speaking engagement before an unwilling audience. But conservatives felt differently: “Critics rail against liberal bias for commencement speakers,” reported the Washington Times, quoting an activist who complained of “a severe bias against conservative viewpoints.” The expected follow-up, in which the Times revealed that DJs at graduation parties were biased against country music, was never published.
“Liberal bias at America’s universities is on display more than ever during this year’s commencement season,” reported Claire E. Healey at TownHall. For instance: “Robert Birgeneau, a chancellor at the University of California when police broke up an Occupy protest, refused to attend Haverford College’s ceremony to receive an honorary degree when students and faculty made objections.” The nerve of the guy!
Their biggest upset was saved for former Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was deprived of $35,000 from Rutgers University when students squawked. “Mob rule,” cried Sonny Bunch of the Washington Free Beacon; “Censorship 1, Condoleezza Rice 0,” tallied Dick Polman. National Review’s Jonah Goldberg actually compared Rice not getting the gig to the Palmer Raids of the early 20th Century, and huffed that on campus “social or administrative policing of thought crimes is all the rage.” (“Social” policing means people just don’t want to listen to you, I guess, which is Liberal Fascism farrrt.)
When both the free-speaker and the organization that didn’t want to hear it were rich and powerful, conservatives split the difference and took the side of… well, see if you can figure it out:
In April Brendan Eich was dismissed as Mozilla CEO after the company’s Board of Directors learned he’d supported an anti-gay-marriage drive. It’s not as if the brethren were saying that corporations couldn’t fire people for their speech — perish the thought! In fact, one Eich defender, PJ Media’s Bryan Preston, originally demanded that Mozilla employees who said they wanted Eich gone be “fired summarily,” before exploding with rage when the board instead dumped Eich.
No, it was the gay angle that turned Eich’s dismissal, in the eyes of some, from acceptable corporate behavior to an attack on straightness and on Christian morality itself. Imagine, firing an CEO for insulting homosexuals, which once was de rigueur for a successful exec! Why, soon they’ll be purging Klansmen from the C-suites… whoops, that already happened, or so it seemed, with the Donald Sterling fiasco in the NBA. Yes, a few dozen billionaires desired to disassociate from a team owner who had made racist statements, and once again conservatives rushed to defend the defenestratee.
You’ve probably figured it out: Conservatives reliably defend the powerful against the powerless but, when both parties are powerful, they side against the one that associates with the powerless. This, by the way, also explains the modern Democratic and Republican Parties.