For all their talk about how Democrats’ policies will screw them in 2010 and beyond, conservatives in Congress and the media seem to be shooting themselves in the foot. Two events last week showed how the old Republican political tactic of fear and hate-mongering is still alive and well.
While “Tea Parties” have sprung up across the country since President Obama took office, Thursday’s gathering on Capitol Hill was the first explicit endorsement of these rallies by Republicans in Congress. After plugging the rally for days beforehand, they spoke and stood behind the podium at the event, playing to the protesters and smiling for cameras.
Last week, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-NC, shamelessly played the 9/11 card in vilifying President Obama’s health care plan, stating that “so-called health reform is more of a threat than any terrorist in any country.” She was rewarded with a front row seat behind the podium.
Though Republicans finally released their alternative to the Democrats’ health care bill, it was mentioned only in passing. You have to think the GOP realized that touting their useless money-drain of a bill would be less effective than continuing to bash Mr. Obama and playing to the Tea Party crazies.
Most disturbing about this particular protest, however, were the signs at the event. In addition to the tried and true “Obama is a Socialist/Kenyan/Communist/Muslim” drivel, a few particularly offensive signs took center-stage. A blown-up picture of a pile of bodies at a Nazi death camp with the caption “National Socialist Health care” made headlines.
One place card read, “Ken-ya Trust Obama?” Another read, “Obama takes his orders from the Rothchilds” — a reference to an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory holding that one evil Jewish family has manipulated events worldwide for decades. Yet another depicted Mr. Obama as Sambo, the main character of a children’s book published in 1889, whose name later became a racial slur.
A poster of President Obama with a Hitler mustache is too silly to offend. To equate government-run health care with the Holocaust, however, is a disgusting insult to survivors and their families. Not a single Republican representative or senator would condemn the signs, choosing instead to flip it around and lie about how the media never covered (much more tame) anti-Bush signs.
Republicans aren’t done exploiting tragedy for their own agenda either, apparently. The morning after Thursday’s shootings at Fort Hood perpetrated by a Muslim Army Major, the disgraceful hosts of Fox News’ morning show, Fox and Friends, implied that the incident indicated some kind of Muslim problem in the military.
Co-host Brian Kilmeade asked if “special screenings” of all Muslims in the military should commence, and Gretchen Carlson yelped about how political correctness regarding treatment of Muslims in the military basically allowed the shootings to happen.
Even Rep. Michael MaCaul, R-Texas, got into the act, spouting an inflammatory gem of his own: “Whether it was domestic or foreign, clearly when a U.S. military base is attacked in this fashion, that is an act of terror in my book.”
When a white man killed five people at Camp Liberty, Iraq this past May, it didn’t lead to calls of “special screenings” for all white men in the military. When two Neo-Nazis murdered a black couple near Fort Bragg in 1995, it wasn’t considered an “act of terror.” The pathetic individuals mentioned above are among many using this tragedy to try to set off a new wave of anti-Muslim hysteria.
It looks like Conservatives in both Congress and the media have resumed using fear and hate-baiting politics. The Tea Party rallies and record ratings for Fox News suggest that these messages are resonating with some. But they would be wise to note that voters remember this tactic from the Bush days; after all, that’s one of the reasons President Obama was elected.
Kevin Hollinshead is a junior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.