It’s hard for me to get hung up on every nutty thing that Glenn Beck says, at least in part because I’ve never watched his show or listened to him on the radio. If Atrios hadn’t spent years mocking his CNN ratings, I might not even know that Beck existed. So, despite his higher ratings on FOX News, I don’t particularly care about Beck. He seems transparently buffoonish and, for that reason, fairly unthreatening.
But I’ve noticed a certain element of the right among elected officials, echoing some of these Beckian talking points. You have Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) comparing Nancy Pelosi to Ayatollah Khamenei and Kim Jong-il. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says she is almost an autocrat. You have Michele Bachmann referring to the ACES bill as a form of ‘tyranny.’
You can see that this is a new theme both on the inside and in right-wing media. Rush Limbaugh is comparing President Obama to an African dictator and Newt Gingrich is comparing Obama’s energy policy to the Soviet subjugation of Poland.
Now, I understand that the Republican Party is feeling a bit besieged, what with their diminished numbers and all. And, when you’re feeling powerless, it’s understandable that you’ll feel like the other side is abusing their power a bit. But there isn’t the faintest substantive suggestion in any of this criticism that Obama or the Congressional Democrats are violating laws or the Constitution. You can find more legitimate claims of abuse of power everyday in Glenn Greenwald’s columns. There is a valid libertarian critique of the Democrats. Either the Obama administration is continuing dubious practices that do violence to our privacy and civil rights, or they are obstructing people’s attempts to hold the Bush administration accountable for those abuses. But, strangely, the Republicans are nearly silent and sometimes supportive on those issues.
They’re accusing Obama of tyranny, not for indefinite detention or covering up torture, but for trying to address global warming and extend health care coverage to the uninsured. If you take their rhetoric seriously, Obama is turning America into North Korea or the Soviet Union or Zimbabwe. And, if that were really the case, we’d all be justified in rising up and overthrowing our government. It’s dangerous, irresponsible rhetoric that incites people to violence.