Sunday, January 31, 2021

From the Archives: When Were Republicans Not Horrible?

Editors' Note: Among the noteworthy recent arrivals on Capitol Hill is a sweet young [Young? – Ed.] Georgia peach,  Rep. Marjorie Greene.  She's gotten a lot of press describing her – well, let's let the press speak for itself:

WASHINGTON — Marjorie Taylor Greene had just finished questioning whether a plane really flew into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and flatly stating that President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim when she paused to offer an aside implicating another former president in a crime.

“That’s another one of those Clinton murders,” Ms. Greene said, referring to John F. Kennedy Jr.’s death in a 1999 plane crash, suggesting that he had been assassinated because he was a potential rival to Hillary Clinton for a New York Senate seat.

Ms. Greene casually unfurled the cascade of dangerous and patently untrue conspiracy theories in a 40-minute video that was originally posted to YouTube in 2018. It provides a window into the warped worldview amplified by the freshman Republican congresswoman from Georgia, who in the three months since she was elected has created a national brand for herself as a conservative provocateur who has proudly brought the hard-right fringe to the Capitol.

We suppose some delicate flowers could take exception to this, but the principal reactions from Republicans have been variously:


and (2) they don't make Republicans like they used to.

The home planet for the what-happened-to-my-Republican-Party whine is The Bulwark, where a whole platoon of former Republican apologists and hacks now claim that things today are so different from the Republican Golden Age.  Here's long-time reliable hatchet woman Mona Charen:

Strange as it is to write those words after 30 plus years as a conservative columnist, I have to say that when you compare the state of the two major parties today, the Republicans are more frightening.

It is the Republican party that has officially become a personality cult, declaring that it will not adopt a platform but will simply follow whatever Trump dictates. It is the Republican party that pretends that COVID-19 will magically disappear. It is the Republican party that has elevated a series of criminals and grifters including Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Roy Moore, Steve Bannon, Wayne LaPierre, Rudy Giuliani, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Roger Stone. It is the Republican party that shamefully declined to uphold the Constitution when Trump diverted funds to his border wall. It is the Republican party that has become truth-optional. And it is the Republican party that now opens its arms to adherents of a deranged but nonetheless dangerous new cult called QAnon, which a (defeated) Republican called “mental gonorrhea,” and which in December, 2016, inspired a man to open fire in a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., as part of a “self investigation.”

And here's Profile in Courage and lifelong Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski:

Lisa Murkowski, in almost the same breath as she called for Trump to leave office, considered what she had in common with her fellow Republicans anymore. “If the Republican party has become nothing more than the party of Trump, I sincerely question whether this is the party for me.”

Her many days of sincerely questioning what had become of her cherished party led her last week to fall in line with it, by joining the blockade of pandemic relief despite a death toll racing toward 500,000 and the worst economic performance since 1946.

Don't forget the, um, intellectual leader of the bereft ex-Republicans, Billy “Let's Invade Iraq!” Kristol, who channeled his inner Barry Goldwater in sounding the alarm in November about the Republican effort to overturn the election:

A little alarmism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Complacency in the defense of democracy is no virtue.

See what he did there? Anyway, it occurred to us to send our intern Louise into our extensive archives to take a look at what the supposedly halcyon era of the Republican Party was like. Let's start with Billy's inspiration, Barry Goldwater.

July 16, 1964

We remember that our Political Correspondent, David Bloviator, claimed that the Telex ate his exclusive dispatch from the Republican National Convention, leaving us no choice but to run this report from The New York Times News Service:


The John Birch Society was course the fun-loving Belmont, Mass. group that labelled everybody to the left of Joe McCarthy a Communist, including former President and Allied Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower.  

March 21, 1966

Just a few years later, the Young Republicans of New Jersey celebrated their true moderate colors in song, according to this dispatch from The New York Times News Service we printed, with a few edits:

August 5, 1980

How about the patron saint of the sane and moderate Republican Party, St. Ronald of Bitburg?  Remember the unifying, inclusive way he began his 1980 Presidential campaign?  This time our David Bloviator was there:

Republican nominee Ronald Reagan, kicking off his general election campaign after several weeks of rest and relaxation following his nomination, today spoke before a crowd of 10,000 white people at the Neshoba County Fair.  Sources close to the former Governor told the Spy that the location in the same county where three civil rights workers were murdered 15 years ago was purely what they called an “amusing coincidence.”

In his speech, Reagan offered a lusty defense of “states' rights” which is understood in these parts as code for opposition to equal opportunity and civil rights for black Southerners, including the right to vote.

In fact, St. Ronald had quite the civil rights record, Paul Krugman noted years later:

So there’s a campaign on to exonerate Ronald Reagan from the charge that he deliberately made use of Nixon’s Southern strategy. When he went to Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1980, the town where the civil rights workers had been murdered, and declared that “I believe in states’ rights,” he didn’t mean to signal support for white racists. . . .

When he went on about the welfare queen driving her Cadillac, and kept repeating the story years after it had been debunked, some people thought he was engaging in race-baiting. But it was all just an innocent mistake.

When, in 1976, he talked about working people angry about the “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks at the grocery store, he didn’t mean to play into racial hostility. True, as The New York Times reported,

The ex-Governor has used the grocery-line illustration before, but in states like New Hampshire where there is scant black population, he has never used the expression “young buck,” which, to whites in the South, generally denotes a large black man. . . .

PS: It has been pointed out to me that Reagan opposed making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday, giving in only when Congress passed a law creating the holiday by a veto-proof majority. But he really didn’t mean to disrespect the civil rights movement – it was just an innocent mistake.

February 17, 2012

We could go on, but let's take one last look at a mainstream Republican victimized by a ruthless cancel culture.

For decades, Pat Buchanan had been a prominent figure in Republican politics.  He was a key adviser to Richard M. Nixon and as keynote speaker of the rollicking 1992 Republican National Convention launched a “culture war” based on intolerance and bigotry.  He then enjoyed a long and lucrative career as the jovial regular-guy defender of Republican orthodoxy on cable news.  

And then it all went, um, south:

Can you believe some vindictive leftists accused
beloved Republican Pat Buchanan of Nazi ties?

Yesterday, Pat Buchanan announced that his tenure as a commentator at MSNBC was finally over, . . .

Calls for Buchanan’s firing by groups like Color of Change, Credo, and Media Matters had been loud and growing, following years of controversial, offensive and outright bigoted statements made by Buchanan without apology or remorse. Here is a look back at 10 of the most offensive and outrageous statements made by Pat Buchanan:

. . . . 8. Argued that Poland and the United Kingdom had it coming in World War II. Buchanan seems to suggest in a 2009 column that World War II — and all the atrocities that accompanied it — was really the fault of Poland and Britain, for refusing to engage in diplomacy with Germany. “Why did Warsaw not negotiate with Berlin, which was hinting at an offer of compensatory territory in Slovakia? Because the Poles had a war guarantee from Britain that, should Germany attack, Britain and her empire would come to Poland’s rescue.”

9. Dabbled in Holocaust denial. Pat Buchanan danced alarmingly close to denying key facts of the Holocaust. In a 1990 column for the New York Post, he defended convicted Nazi war criminal Ivan Demjanjuk (whom he later compared to Jesus Christ) against charges from Holocaust survivors that he was guilty of murder by accusing the survivors of misremembering all of it: “This so-called ‘Holocaust Survivor Syndrome’ involves ‘group fantasies of martyrdom and heroics.’ Reportedly, half of the 20,000 survivor testimonies in Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem are considered ‘unreliable,’ not to be used in trials[…]The problem is: Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody.”

10. Argued Hitler was an individual of “great courage.”
. . .  In 1977, he qualified his labeling of Hitler as racist and anti-semitic by adding that “he was also an individual of great courage, a soldier’s soldier in the Great War, a leader steeped in the history of Europe, who possessed oratorical powers that could awe even those who despised him[…]His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.”

Apparently NBC News did Not-zi that coming.   

So we have to wonder where all those never U Bum renegade ex-Republicans were when Goldwater opposed civil rights, Reagan crooned about strapping young bucks and states' rights, and a long-time Republican insider said the wrong side won the Second World War.  

It's almost as if there isn't, in George Wallace's famous expression “a dime's worth of difference” between the stalwart old Republicans of bygone days and the new bright lights like pistol-packin' Marjorie Greene.

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