Katy Burns: Where’s the outrage in the GOP?
Some years ago, ’70s-era rocker Ted Nugent reinvented himself as a professional rhetorical bomb-thrower on behalf of right-wing causes, especially gun supremacy. He mostly blathered on the fringes, unnoticed by mainstream media but embraced by a collection of Republican candidates and conservative media figures.
Then he went into his act at a gun show in Las Vegas in January, really outdoing himself.
“I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame, enough Americans to be ever-vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America,” he said.
Well! But even then, calling the duly elected and re-elected president of the United States a “subhuman mongrel” seemed initially to be unremarked on by anyone but a few leftist bloggers.
Then Nugent went to Texas to campaign for that state’s attorney general, Greg Abbott, who’s running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. And bingo, Ted’s words were Real News.
One of the first – and most direct – reporters to denounce the has-been rocker’s inexcusable words was CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
And he did so by pointing out, directly and forcefully, that “subhuman” and “mongrel” are exactly the words used by the German Nazi Party elite to justify their unspeakable determination to exterminate the Jews of Europe.
It is almost a cliché today to say that it is unacceptable to compare any political player or policy to Nazism. But in this case Nugent – who is old enough to have grown up at a time when this country’s social memory of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust were still vivid – used the actual words, direct translations of Untermensch, or subhuman, and Mischling, or mongrel.
Words that University of California historian David Myers pointed out “were intoned with daily regularity by the Nazi propaganda machine” from 1925 on.
Nugent knew exactly what he was saying.
And I don’t doubt for a minute that all the Republican politicians who heard him knew exactly what he was saying as well. Or they’re astoundingly ignorant people who really shouldn’t hold public office.
Nugent’s words should trigger outrage and denunciation from sane Republicans. But as the party increasingly becomes a home for extremists, they don’t.
Take Abbott, the Texas candidate, who campaigned with Nugent for several days – drawing huge crowds, too, which tells you something about the GOP base in Texas. Asked by reporters, Abbott said he couldn’t respond because he wasn’t aware of the remarks. He said he “can’t read everything” about those who join him campaigning. Now, politicians almost never agree to appear with anyone without having that person vetted. Good work, Abbott staff!
And outgoing Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is likely to try a second run for president? Oh, he said airily at first, “Anybody that’s offended – sorry, but that’s just Ted. . . . I don’t take offense, no.” When that wasn’t flying too well, Perry weakly added later that Nugent’s remarks were “an inappropriate thing to say.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, not to be outdone by the profiles in courage around him, said – after major prodding by a persistent questioner on CNN – that “you’ve never heard me say such a thing, nor would I.” After which he implied it was actually President Obama’s fault because Nugent is “a passionate defender” of gun rights, which he believes the president is threatening.
All of these protestations are absurd.
A simple internet search turns up dozens of examples of outrageous sentiments espoused quite publicly over the years by a man accurately described as racist and misogynist. Any sentient American can see his record smeared across the internet. A few Nugent nuggets, those that can be printed in a family newspaper:
President Obama is “vile,” “evil,” “a chimpanzee,” “America-hating” and “a piece of s---.” As recently as last year, he likened the president to “a German in 1938 pretending to respect the Jews and then going home and putting on his brown shirt and forcing his neighbors onto a train to be burned to death.”
Obama voters are “pimps, whores and spiritual brats” and “subhuman varmints.”
While he’s aimed most of his epithets at the president, he reserved bile for some Democratic women. Hillary Clinton is a “toxic c---,” ” a “worthless bitch,” “a two-bit whore.” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein is a “worthless whore.” Sen. Barbara Boxer “should suck on my machine gun.” And a feminist is “some fat pig who doesn’t get it enough.” Detecting a theme here?
Other observations: African-American rappers are “big, uneducated, greasy black mongrels.”
Nugent on American history: “I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”
As I said, there is no way Republicans can honestly maintain they are shocked, shocked when Nugent says yet another disgusting thing.
Nugent isn’t the only offender embracing the GOP, of course. A lot of them fall into two broad categories, preachers and talk radio extremists. The preachers seem to show up every four years and, once they’re firmly planted in a candidate’s tent, loudly spout racist, homophobic, sexist cant and otherwise sulfurous opinions. They were attracted like maggots to poor John McCain six years ago.
First among the radio talkers – although there are others who are more unhinged – is, of course, Rush Limbaugh, who years ago attached himself like a leech to the GOP and, thanks to his army of dittohead acolytes, is too powerful for any Republican politician to criticize.
Remember when he went after Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who testified before a congressional hearing that access to inexpensive or free birth control was vital to the health of young women students?
Limbaugh savagely attacked her, saying that Fluke is “a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.” Fluke is “having so much sex, it’s amazing she can still walk.”
This was too much for many who ordinarily tolerate Limbaugh, but not for then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney. After several days of being pressed by reporters, he responded only that it was “not the language I would have used.” You might say his response was a template for the later milquetoast responses of Abbott, Cruz and Perry to Ted Nugent.
Of course it’s worth noting that Romney himself sought and won Nugent’s endorsement.
The GOP itself has its share of hate-mongers and crazies, and party leaders are loath to deal with them. Take the Republican birthers in Congress, who not that long ago went so far as to submit legislation that called for a probe into the president’s birthplace. Speaker John Boehner, asked about them, demurred. “It’s not up to me to tell them what to think.”
Earlier this year Jim Bridenstine, an Oklahoma congressman, held a small meeting with constituents. A woman stood and said that President Obama “should be executed as an enemy combatant.” Executed!
Astonishingly, Bridenstine cordially answered the woman, agreeing about “the lawlessness of this president.” It was not until eight days later, after the tape had become an internet sensation, that the congressman weakly said he “did not condone” the woman’s suggestion that the nation’s president should be killed.
Contrast that to John McCain in his 2008 campaign for president. When an overwrought older woman at one of his rallies suggested that Obama was an Arab and a Muslim, McCain stepped over, bent down to her and said “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man . . . (a) citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.”
Ah, the good old days.
(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)