In the Arena

No, Actually, It’s that the Economy is Falling Apart

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It has been fascinating to watch the right-wing press lap up the anti-media nonsense put out by the McCain campaign’s Steve Schmidt regarding Sarah Palin. The latest is Jeffrey Bell, in the Weekly Standard, who makes the media’s attempt to find out just exactly who Palin is part of a seamless, anti-clerical cloak that goes all…the…way…back…to…the French Revolution:

The most important thing to know about the left today is that it is centered on social issues. At root, it always has been, ever since the movement took form and received its name in the revolutionary Paris of the 1790s. In order to drive toward a vision of true human liberation, all the institutions and moral codes we associate with civilization had to be torn down. The institutions targeted in revolutionary France included the monarchy and the nobility, but even higher on the enemies list of the Jacobins and their allies were organized religion and the family, institutions in which the moral values of traditional society could be preserved and passed on outside the control of the leftist vanguard.

Wow. What hogwash. The deviation from the actual truth of the matter–pretty close to 100%, I’d say–is astonishing. If the Democratic Convention is any gauge, liberals aren’t very much interested in social issues at all–but they are obsessed by the frightening economic conditionss we’re facing right now. (Mr. Bell might consider taking a gander at the front page of the paper today–6.1% unemployment, the costly collapse of Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac.) They are concerned about making the tax code as progressive as it was during the Clinton boom, and also about rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, finding new jobs in alternative energy industries and making health insurance available to all Americans. You may feel positive or negative about their solutions, but that’s what liberals care about.

Then there’s this:

From the instant of Palin’s designation on Friday, August 29, the American left went into a collective mass seizure from which it shows no sign of emerging. The left blogosphere and elite media have, for the moment, joined forces and become indistinguishable from each other, and from the supermarket tabloids, in their desire to find and use anything that will criminalize and/or humiliate Palin and her family. In sharp contrast to the yearlong restraint shown toward truthful reports about John Edwards’s affair, bizarre rumors have been reported as news, and, according to McCain campaign director Steve Schmidt, nationally known members of the elite media have besieged him with preposterous demands.

Again, hogwash. The vast bulk of mainstream media reporting has been about Palin’s record as a public servant and her personal beliefs as a politician. The tabloid media are treating her precisely as the tabloid media treat everybody. Steve Schmidt has done a brilliant–fabulously dishonest–job of setting up straw men, but it’s a smokescreen to hide the fact that McCain rushed into this choice and didn’t vet her properly. All these vast requests for personal information about Palin’s family have produced–what? No major news outlet has gone with the various personal rumors that Schmidt is trying to promote. Only Sally Quinn and a few others raised the question of whether Palin should be home taking care of the children–although when the noted feminist Rudy Giuliani made that a part of his speech, the cable networks suddenly took it up, in their reliably Pavlovian fashion.

Maybe I’m getting old, maybe it’s that I’ve seen this act so often before, maybe it’s that the people I talk to when I go out on the road really are having a harder time paying for things like health care, gasoline and college tuition, but I’m finding the Republican attempts to derail the conversation from the actual state of the country really depressing and disgraceful this year. They practice Orwellian politics of the crudest sort. They are trying to sell a big lie–that the election is about the social issues of the 1960s, or Barack Obama’s patriotism or his eloquence, or the “angry left,” when it’s really about turning toward a more moderate path after the ideological radicalism and malfeasance of the past eight years.