Friday, July 9, 2010

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right - Obama and McChrystal, Sticks and Rolling Stones, Part II

Clowns to the left of me!
Jokers to the right!
Here I am stuck in the middle with you.
Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you,
and I'm wondering what it is I should do.
It's so hard to keep this smile from my face.
Losing control yeah I'm all over the place.
Clowns to the left of me!
Jokers to the right!
Here I am stuck in the middle with you.

Well you started off with nothing
and you're proud that you're a self-made man
and your friends they all come crawling,
slap you on the back and say
Please . . .
Please . . .
"Stuck in the Middle with You"
Bob Dylan,  1972

This is the second in my series looking at the reactions from the right and the left to the resignation of General Stan McChrystal and the events which led up to the change in command in the War in Afghanistan. These reactions are worth noting for their response to this event specifically, but also as an example of the larger pattern of problems with the reactions from right and left to current events.  My first post on June 24th addressed the excesses of MSNBC broadcaster Ed Shultz on the left.  This post addresses the idiocy of Rush Limbaugh on the right.  The lyrics quoted came to mind thinking of the arrogant grinning images of Rush as he basks in the adulation of his carefully screened followers while he does his radio show.  It also seems very apt in how the right has to crawl to Rush for approval, and how right-wing dissent with Rush fails. Of course there are other voices even further right than Rush, who proffer up even crazier points of view and wilder and more improbable conspiracies; but Rush's words illustrate the point well enough. 

According to Rush, McChrystal is a "Warrior Liberal", part of an improbably convoluted policy plot.  Here is an excerpt from Limbaugh's own web site transcript of his June 24th broadcast on the McChrystal / Rolling Stones article controversy:

"If this guy is as far left as he is -- and, by the way, if this is true (and I happen to believe it now), if this is the case, you can't say that Obama got rid of McChrystal for politics. They're two peas in a pod here. The guy voted for Obama. So whatever PR somebody wants to attach to it. Obama just got rid of a like-minded soul except for the fact that McChrystal likes to pull the trigger and kill the bad guys and Obama doesn't. McChrystal likes to win. Obama doesn't. But now Obama has been maneuvered into a position where the only option is to win, because that's what you go get Petraeus for. That's why you get rid of McChrystal. So now Obama's really screwed himself and the left-wing base because he'd made it clear he's hired Bush's most hated general -- the successful architect of Iraq, of the surge, counterinsurgency strategy -- and charged him with winning. What do you do bet that July 11th withdrawal date gets moved now? Whatever Petraeus wants, folks, we receive."

McChrystal actually exploiting the Rolling Stone reporter, intentionally making these statements, so as to give Obama the opportunity to put Petraeus back in charge on the ground, in Afghanistan?  Really? "McChrystal likes to win.  Obama doesn't."  Is that so

Now apart from the fact that these are stupid statements to make about either man - both are known to be pretty hard-driven individuals in pursuit of their goals - there is NO substantiation for either claim.  It's just an incredibly stupid thing to say, thrown out as if it were fact -- accepted for no other reason than because "St.-Rush-of-the-Far-Fringies" says so.  No one challenges this kind of thing, any more than anyone challenged Rush asserting that the area of the Exxon Valdez spill was pristine afterwards, or any of his other statements pulled out of his posterior.  Another example is the Rush Limbaugh conspiracy that the SWAT teams - a kind of engineering and inspection crew for oil drilling rigs - was the same as the kind of police special units, and that they were being deployed to defend oil rigs from environmental terrorists, who had already blown up the Deepwater Horizon.  Yup, and he gave equal time, more or less, to the notion that the BP rig was blown by a North Korean mini-submarine-launched torpedo. Not because it was a plausible well-sourced idea, but because it was a cheap pretext for attacking the administration for imaginary or hypothetical failures.

Rush produces nonsense conspiracy theories, without even a tenuous foothold in fact, and his ditto-heads pound it down, they can't get enough of this ideological rot-gut propaganda.  If there were ever an example of the uncritical, unthinking audience, swallowing stupid conspiracy-style explanations for current events, this is it.  Listeners call in to pat each other on the back for these stupid notions, and to praise Rush for them, not to challenge them.  It is no wonder that the listeners who consume this mindless pap will believe that gun ownership is a "God-given Right", or that we are about to be invaded by new-world-order UN forces (or should that be ' farces'?), or that we need armed rogue Oathkeepers defying legitimate orders, to protect us from government re-education camps.... or, over and over, the sweet refrain to ditto-heads "they're a-comin' fer yer guns!!!!!!"  Sheesh, take a step back, ditto-heads.  Take a deep breath, and think for just a minute.

Rush was so impressed with himself, he devoted an 'extended segment' to the topic.  Which makes pretty much all of the time devoted to that extended segment more wastage than usual, precious minutes his ditto-heads will never get back.  This is as stupid as any birther conspiracy, as fact-deficient as anything I've seen come out of the right, or left.

Someone should be ashamed of themselves; and then they should wean themselves away from this nonsensical ideological pollution, and start acquainting themselves with factual sources, and better reasoned premises for understanding politics.

Too much of this, and your brain might liquefy and begin leaking out of your ears; and maybe out of your eyes and nose, and trickling down the back of your throat, too. 

Perhaps it is time for the right to stop worrying so much about growing a pair of testicles, real or symbolic, and time for them to devote more concern to the health of their frontal lobes. Because these statements from Rush make Ed Shultz look positively like the brilliant voice of sweet reason - and that isn't easy.

So long as we have this large a gap between the left and the right, between facts and reason versus paranoid conspiracy theories, we will never bridge the gap between the right, the left, and the majority in the middle who reject this kind of pure fantasy.  We will continue to be more divided, moving closer to the muddled logic promoting insurrection and sedition and away from any hope of consensus

For more of my thoughts about Rush, you can look at something I wrote just over a year ago, back when I was a new contributing author here on Penigma:


  1. Limbaugh vascilates between claiming that Obama is inept and claiming that he sacrificed his own political pawn (which McChrystal definetly was NOT) to put in power someone else's preferred General (namely Patreaus whom the left supposedly hates according to Limbaugh).

    IF Obama killed his own political operative (McChrystal) to put in place someone NOT politically popular in his own party but who is seen as capable of being successful (i.e. winning), isn't that EXACTLY what we want our President to do? Don't we want our President to put aside politics and in the case of war especially, simply give the best man(or woman) for the job, the job?

    Doesn't sound very inept to me, and it sure as hell doesn't sound like Obama's being a political animal either - that is, IF you think Limbaugh knows anything at all.

    Conversely, maybe it just was that what appeared to be most likely true, namely that McChrystal, like many senior officers is both a self-indulgent person and a conservative and he let his mouth run away when he shouldn't - and he got rightly canned. Obama then took someone SOME in his party didn't like, just as many conservatives didn't like Patreaus when he was in charge in Anbar, and put the best man for the job into the role. Gosh, stop the presses!!!!!

    Talk about trying to create a crisis where none existed other than the fact that Afghanistan, if it was ever winnable, was allowed for 7 years to rot, and now Obama has to try to clean up Bush's first and most important military failure.

  2. Popularity for generals is not static; it changes continually, fluctating up and down.

    Petraeus seemed, from his confirmation herings, to be quite well loved by all sides.

    I get tired of talking heads lik Limbaugh, and the sycophantic right-wing bloggers who emulate him, always assigning the most noble of motives and ethics spin of competence where the facts suggest otherwise, to their side; and conversely assigning implausible, but consistently negative, motives and evalutations of competence to the left.

    As our own ToE pointed out recently, the right is never all bad or the left all good. There are conscientious and talented people on both sides.

    And some stinkers.

    Limbaugh is a very large, very consistent stinker, along with the likes of Glenn Beck and a few others. What makes him such a stinker is his lack of integrity, his sloppy lack of acquaintance with facts, but most of all his mean spiritied character which feeds gluttonously on malice.

  3. Well McCrystal said in the Rolling Stone interview he voted for Obama, so he might be a moderate but I doubt he was a conservative. Both sides are making too much of this. McCrystal was frustrated with the politics of the war. That has happened to American generals since George Washington. We have a civilian at the top of the military and an elected Congress deciding how much equipment and men to fund. Once the American people get tired of the war Congress and the President start playing politics with it. This has happened right around the 4 yr point of every war America has fought going all the way back to 1776. Any good general is going to be frustrated when that starts to happen. Even Washington had generals under him who wanted to march the army to Congress and demand their pay with a gun to the head of the congressmen. Obama did what he had to do to maintain discipline, whatever respect he has with the military would be lost if he just ignored the Rolling Stone article. Petraus did a great job in Iraq and so, like most people who do great with a shitty assignment, he was given another shitty assignment to clean up.