Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Bully Pulpits and Flyswatters

Peggy Noonan’s latest examines four recent episodes of "free speech" that demonstrate the madness prevailing on the left--despite their apparent approach to electoral victory. She looks at a shouting down of Minuteman leader, Jim Gilchrist, at Columbia University; the outrage following a suggestion from a man whose daughter was killed at Columbine, that recent school shootings might be related to an overall lack of respect for God; Barbra Streisand’s cussing out a fan at a recent concert because he apparently did not wish to pay for her political posturing; and the latest of a series of verbal intimidations coming from Rosie O’Donnell on "The View" (which, in my never to be humble opinion is the most brain-dead talk show ever created). Noonan concludes that these outbursts of intolerance from the left are, in a certain sense, inexplicable . . . coming, as they are, on the eve of an apparent liberal electoral victory. Why are they so angry and so crazed and so intolerant unless, as she suspects, they can’t afford to be tolerant or calm. Noonan correctly notes that a liberal victory, should it come, will come in spite not because of folks like Steisand, O’Donnell and student activists at Columbia.

To be sure, there are some conservative nutters out there. But they never have garnered much respect, even in conservative nutter circles! If anything, conservatives and Republicans are too polite, too acommodating, and too civil. Genuine respect for debate and civility is fine, but why cede ground to loons? The loonier the liberal, it seems the more he is lauded by liberal partisans and the more he is feared by Republican lawmakers. Like Elizabeth Hasselbeck on "The View" conservatives often seem like token opposition--there but not with much there there. "Here’s my opinion . . . now please don’t beat me!"

On the other hand, there is no evidence that this openess to liberal lunacy advances the cause of either liberals or of conservatives. In California, for example, Phil Angelides is actually running ads where an actor portrays a "young Phil" with love and butterflies 60s music playing in the background. Young Phil, a clean-cut little hippie in college, is learning more about a rally to oust Nixon. In another scene, he’s involved in actions against the (Vietnam) war. He continues in that tradition, even today as a neo-hippie pastes an Angelides sign on a college bulletin board. Yeah, he’s a real fighter. He’s sewn up that college protester vote. And . . . he’s way down in the polls! Now, true to his student protester form, he’s whining about not getting his 15 minutes on Jay Leno like Arnie did. Arnie laughs at him and, adding insult to injury, pointed out in a recent debate, that debating Angelides was like having dinner at Uncle Teddy’s house.

The desperation of the Angelides campaign is almost painful to watch. But Arnie has made it entertaining. Republicans can learn something from him. The desperation of other liberals--who seem to be losing despite winning--is even more painful to watch because conservatives--or, to be more specific--Republicans, seem incapable of exploiting it. Granted, all Arnie has to do is smile for the camera and throw out a joke or two about Uncle Teddy. Angelides is just a fly to be swatted for him. But the difference is that he swats! The lack of traction Angelides has in CALIFORNIA must show Republicans that if they lose this thing in November it will not be because of anything Democrats have done (the good news), but because of what they have not done (as usual, and the bad news). It’s time to get out the flyswatters!

Discussions - 10 Comments

Julie, you’ve applauded Ann Coulter on this very blog (as has Peter Schramm) at least a couple of times. She sure is polite, civil, and downright sweet when she talks about (literally) killing liberals, blowing up the NYTimes bldg., poisoning Supreme Court justices, 9/11 victims enjoying their husbands’ deaths, etc. So, assuming that you do not consider yourself to be a "nutter" or "operating in nutter circles" here at NLT, I’m curious how you would characterize her, if not as a "nutter." And if she’s not a conservative "nutter," who is? Tell me that Limbaugh is not your idea of "too polite, too acommodating, and too civil." I know, I know, he scored Claremont’s "statesmanship" award a while back, so I suspect you’ll answer in the affirmative.

The right AND the left make tactical errors in assuming the other half of the country, the one that doesn’t agree with them, must be stupid and crazy. If you’re seeing more evidence of "the angry left" recently perhaps it is because we’ve been labeled that so often that we have nothing to lose; and we think you’re already too stupid to know that you’re wrong.

I don’t know how to break this spiral but I do know that it is a statistical impossibility that half the country is experiencing a psychotic disconnect from reality. There would be more fires. :)

"If anything, conservatives and Republicans are too polite, too acommodating, and too civil."

That’s right: Just ask Macaca, and the reporter referred to by GW Bush as an A-hole, and just ask Patrick Leahy after Dick Cheney told him to go F himself.

This whining on the part of Republicans in the face of being "shouted down" is just a bit wimpy, isn’t it, for fans of "manliness?"

If voices were money, then the poor, outvoiced sufferers would be reminded of the greatness of capitalism, all the while being reminded to "vote with their checkbooks," and then regarded as lazy when they point out the negative balance therein.

Toughen up, you righties! If you don’t like the noise of the crowd, tune into more polite stations, and listen to Rush, and Savage, and O’Reilly.

Well, I don’t think it was the main point of the post, but Julie did touch on the fact that the Left doesn’t like to allow people who disagree with them to voice their opinions. The Right, I don’t think, is as bad about it. Ever since the 1950s-60s, the Right has been building an intellectual foundation once they realized the Left had a monopoly on the intellectual elite. Now the Right doesn’t mind debating the Left anymore because in many instances they understand the intellectual origins and foundations of the Left better than those promoting them (a far-Left friend of mine admits and laments this fact). The intellectual godfathers of the Right (for the record this does not include Limbaugh, Falwell, Coulter, et al) are more than willing to engage in debate, whereas the "intellectual leaders" of the Left (who would they be, anyway?) tend to shout down opponents because we hate gays and want to revert society back to a barbaric age and tyranize women’s bodies - so they don’t need to hold a discourse with the Right.

I think the whininess of the Left has something to do with the fact that they can’t explain or articulate why they want what they want, but they want everyone to agree with them and they want action taken NOW. So while the Right certainly has some angry cheerleaders (Coulter and Co.), those on the Left have an added frustration to their anger because they can’t explain why America should have free health care or no death penalty or gay marriage (most of the time their reasoning is that Europe does all those things).

Actually I think the left is whiny (and we are, often) is because we have been powerless for 6 years. Try it some time! You guys are in charge of all branches of governement and you still blame Bill Clinton for 9/11, North Korea, unemployment, and your low poll numbers. That seems whiny to me.

as for shouting down our opponents, well, we learned it from O’Reilly.

This reminds me of the time when Dick Cheney told a senator to "go f**k himself." What an "outburst of intolerance."

Since Julie thinks Dick Cheney is a "hottie" I’m sure she’s willing to overlook this.

It seemed to me that the left whined and complained about Republicans even when in power. If the poor, powerless Patrick Leahy had been saying about me what he had been saying about Dick Cheney, I might have had a similar "outburst." And OFTEN reporters are just what Bush called the one. To me, for a person to respond with a nasty response after years of being trashed does not seem inhuman.

However, those other rude people of the right that you guys complain about are professional rude people. They are paid well to be rude. Leftist hecklers at universities are rude for free. Does this mean that for the right there must be demand, while on the left it, rudeness, is a first principle covered by the term "free speech" and being free, there is an endless supply?

Andrew is right. It reminds me of my father-in-law, a Democrat who could never articulate specifically WHY Reagan was the greatest threat to mankind since Hitler, and if I insisted on facts, he descended into shouting and name-calling. Then he would kiss me good-bye, remind me that he loved me and go to work. If something comparable happened on the grander scale in America kids would not be asking me if I thought we were in the verge of another civil war. If auch "free expression" were toned down into coherence, as sometimes happens on this blog, actually, the left might find something intelligent in conversation with the right.

I really would like to know what you think, Julie (regarding my earlier comment/questions).

Kate, regardless of whatever excuse you make for the Coulters and Limbaughs (ok, they do it for money; is that supposed to be a defense?)...and Cheneys (!!), you’re forgetting how their very existence (and the list would be pretty long at this point) directly contradicts Julie’s point that "If anything, conservatives and Republicans are too polite, too acommodating, and too civil" and they possess "[g]enuine respect for debate and civility."

Andrew, that was almost as amusing as your reminder to everyone about how Clinton was convicted.

Craig Scanlon, What I meant about Coulter and Limbaugh is that people pay them to speak as they do. I hardly ever watch TV and have never seen Ann Coulter in action. I watched Bill O’Reilly, sans sound, once, when he showed pictures of Guantanamo when my son was stationed there. I listen to Rush Limbaugh sometimes, because he talks about politics and I like to think about politics, but when things get nasty I turn him off. (As anyone may do with a TV or radio, incidentally.) This means that, except for Rush, I only know about this vituperation you guys speak of like this, from what others say. People pay to watch all sorts of shows that slam republicans, consevartives, and, oh my! especially Christians, too. That is one reason I don’t watch. (Besides, who has time?)

However, I never go to any university to hear any conservative speak without some bunch of kids being led out because they felt they had to make a row. I sometimes wonder if they get together in the student union and draw straws to see who is going to have do it this week. "Come on! You do it this time. I have a paper due tomorrow!" Do you hear of right-wing hecklers at universities? I never hear of any politician of the left being booed at any place but at a NASCAR race, once.

The left seems to take it for granted that the right OUGHT to be shouted down in public. The left says the most ludicrous things about the right and the right usually doesn’t even say "Well there you go, again!" anymore. This, I think, was Julie’s point, that if Republicans do not say anything about such attacks it can appear that they think they deserve them.

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