July 18, 2007

A Culture of Self Denial

Every now and again, I’ll get an occasional comment that I flush down the drain with the rest of the spam, usually a conservative web surfer long on gusto and short on intelligence, who rather than taking the time to read and learn something (either from me or the rest of the world) they’ll opt to leave some snark behind as if it’s their personal vindication. There’s a reason I don’t don’t post those when I get them – it’s not often, but when I do I like to refer to the fact that this is a safe space for the reality-based community, and sadly we all know that reality has a liberal bias. This time, the person said something that made me laugh so hard that I literally had to share it; he pointed out that “liberal” is just a word for people “buried in their own self denial.” Seriously, I had to share that one, because it was posted in light of so many recent events that it’s hard to even begin how a conservative could utter those words with a straight face.

It didn’t help that he sought to bolster his lack of point with an article from the infamous Heritage Foundation, a group known to have racists, xenophobes, and other far-right wingnuts on staff and parade themselves as a thinktank – I wonder if their sole reason for existance is to supply talk radio hosts with the manufactured “studies” and “polls” that they like to quote while on the air spouting their quarter-truth nonsense. Even so, I thought the real point was the whole “self denial” thing. So, winghunter, while I rarely find such commentary worth the time and energy of a post, you hit the jackpot. Let’s talk about self-denial, shall we? I think you’ll find it’s not the political left that seems to have a problem with saying one thing and doing something else. Let’s get started.

[ White House Is Accused of Putting Politics Over Science ]
Source: The New York Times

Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona testified in front of a congressional panel last week that essentially every move he made during his tenure as Surgeon General during the Bush Administration’s early years was watched and advised upon for its political impact. Every speech he wanted to give, every appearance he wanted to make, he was told by the White House that he would mention the president every so often or a certain number of times during the speech, and that his speeches and appearances would be, in part, platforms for the President’s political agenda. When the Surgeon General wanted to publish papers and documents setting health care policy and outlining the science behind it, the White House would step in and make sure that the science didn’t interfere with their political agenda, and if it did, it’d be removed, whitewashed, or simply altered to fit the party line.

Sadly, only the type of conservatives that this Administration embodies would pervert science and twist the facts in order to support their political agenda, or worse, simply remove the facts from public knowledge altogether to keep the American people in the dark about the truth. Control information and you control the populace, after all, and if you keep information like the fact that abstinence-only sex education doesn’t work under your hat, you can continue to rabidly fund abstinence-only programs, make your evangelical conservative base happy, and claim to server the public good when in reality you’re likely doing more harm than anything else. When Carmona attempted to point out that sex ed programs in America’s schools should include a mix of information about contraceptives and abstinence, he was rebuked by the Administration. When he was invited to a meeting about global warming, he expected that he was invited to explain the science to the people in the room. He came, did so, and was never invited back because they had already decided that global warming was a “liberal cause” and was to be dismissed, science or no science.

Dr. Carmona, who served as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, said White House officials would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues because of political concerns. Top administration officials delayed for years and attempted to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand tobacco smoke, he said in sworn testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

He was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of every speech he gave, Dr. Carmona said. He was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings, at least one of which included Karl Rove, the president’s senior political adviser, he said.

And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization’s longtime ties to the Kennedy family.

“I was specifically told by a senior person, ‘Why would you want to help those people?’ ” Dr. Carmona said.

Apparently reality, not to mention science, is a liberal cause – it would seem that the conservatives running the Administration are in a state of self-denial; believing that political will alone can make the world change, and that rewriting some text or refusing to publish a study or scientific report will be enough to alter reality.

[ Republican State Rep. Exposed Himself to Female Employee, Chased Her Screaming, “Suck It” ]
Source: Alternet

The North Carolina Republican that just happened to be the vice chairman of the North Carolina House committee on children, youth and families was forced to resign after a “personal complaint” was filed against him over the alleged “suck it” matter. So a gentleman, who spent his political career telling us what’s decent and indecent, what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable, and doing his utmost to wedge his own personal morality into public policy apparently has none of his own. I think that counts as living in a state of self denial: “I know what’s right and wrong for all of you, but it doesn’t apply to me.” Typical, frankly.

[ GOP Struggles With McCain’s Florida Campaign Co-Chair’s Oral Sex Bust, Vitter’s Diaper Fetish ]
Source: AlterNet

You know, people’s tastes are people’s tastes, but as a social progressive, I have no problems saying that whatever you prefer in the privacy of your bedroom is your business and I have no intention of enforcing arbitrary moral standards based on one particular belief system on you – partially because not everyone holds the same belief system, partially because what you do in the privacy of your home with a consenting partner is none of the government’s business. But it’s hilarious to watch people like this one, Florida Republican Rep. Bob Allen, the man who tried to pass a “Lewd and Lascivious Behavior Act,” then offered to perform on an undercover officer a sex act that would have violated his own provision. Yet another right-winger living in his own little fantasy world of – you guessed it – self denial. After all, his job is to enforce morality, not abide by it, right?

[ Rudy GOP Pal in D.C. Madam’s Little Black Book ]
Source: New York Daily News

Okay, I think we’ve driven home the psuedo-morality point, but between that and scientific suppression, a topic we’ve extensively covered here, I think they’re two absolutely fabulous examples of the conservative right’s own “self-denial.” It’s in light of reading stories like that that I find it incredibly amusing that someone could dare claim that the progressive left is the group that says one thing and does another, and while I’m sure that every politician is guilty of backtracking on their word at some point, for some silly reason it seems to be the conservatives that spout one thing from the bully pulpit of their statehouses and federal offices and then shove their heads in the sand when the truth comes to light, or worse, fail to embody those same morals and ideals themselves. Funny, isn’t it?

[ Arbitrary Justice, Hidden Truth ]
Source: TomPaine.com

Another fabulous example, one that has more to do with the rule of law – or lack thereof – when it comes to the right wing these days. The “Scooter” Libby trial, which was probably the most fair and widely accepted as impartial trial of a political figure in ages, turned out against the conservatives, and the man they chose to be the fall guy and excuse their friends from using the identity of a CIA operative as a political weapon to silence the folks who dared stand up and demand that the American people be told the truth before going to war in Iraq, wound up being sentenced to prison for his crime. The man lied to a grand jury in order to obscure an investigation into the leak of the operative’s name, and he was caught. He was tried, and he was sentenced in accordance with federal sentencing guidelines. The conservatives, somehow believing that the law doesn’t apply to them – again, what’s that? Self-denial? – brought out the torches and pitchforks to claim that Libby shouldn’t have been sentenced so harshly, and accused special prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald of this funny little thing called “prosecutorial overreach,” which is the conservative’s new label for “legal action we don’t agree with.” It used to be “judicial activism,” but we haven’t heard much of that since the Supreme Court started ruling in their favor. Wonder where that went.

Anyway, so Scooter is tried by a jury of his peers, convicted, and sentenced to prison by a judge. The President sweeps in and commutes his sentence, without consulting with the Justice Department or anyone else before making his legal decision, basing his decision on essentially nothing more than his personal opinion and the emails he likely received from his friends. He couldn’t pardon him entirely lest he really show the country that he has no respect for the rule of law, but he may as well have – Libby paid his fine by check and walks away a free man, completely unpunished for his crime, his silence on what he knew and his job obfuscating the truth to the leak, as one congressional Democrat put it, “bought and paid for.” So while we know who outed Valerie Plame, and we know what cabal of conservative warhawks decided that they were going to war, truth be damned – again, in a state of self-denial about their responsibility to the truth and to the American people – they’ll never face justice. Working as intended.

It’s so odd, that the judge in the Libby case, one not known for leaning in any political direction and known very well for following federal sentencing guidelines when handing down his rulings, was perplexed by the President’s desire to step in.
[ Libby Judge ‘Perplexed’ by Clemency ]
Source: The Los Angeles Times

Meanwhile, while investigating the political firing of US Attorneys from the Justice Department, the President has clamped down on any and all information using the Nixon-esque claim of executive privilege to keep anyone who might know the truth from saying anything. In fact, his executive privilege extends beyond the walls of the White House and the records of the White House and to Republican National Committee email inboxes that – simply by claiming privilege – we now know have information that would show that the President and his political advisers were part of a plan to fire US Attorneys that didn’t share their political beliefs. Similar to what they did with the Surgeon General, but they wanted people who would let Republican scandals like the ones mentioned above slide, but hone in on any Democratic misdoings, rather than upholding everyone to the same standard of the law. Again, the law apparently only applies to them when they feel like it. And now that it’s coming to light, the President claims that the rule of law doesn’t apply to him or his people again, and is telling them not to appear before congress in the face of a subpoena:

[ Miers Warned of Contempt Citation for Ignoring House Subpoena ]
Source: Bloomberg News

[ Miers Refuses to Comply, Contempt Front and Center ]
Source: TruthOut.org

All this in the face of a half-hearted attempt at reconciliation: “Sure, my people can talk to Congress, but only if there’s no record of the conversation so we can’t deny anything later, no oath so we can lie and get away with it, no cameras so the public doesn’t know, and well, no binding reason for us to talk to you or tell you the truth at all. Sound good?” Who’s in self denial, again?

Similarly, we have another example of the conservative bloc deciding that the rule of law applies to everyone but their own:
[ By Their Silence Today, U.S. Senators Condone House of Death Murders ]
Source: Narconews.com

[ Senate Panel Hears Fatal Border Shooting Case ]
Source: NPR News

So let’s set out the story, without any spin (at least for now) and dare to do something that didn’t even happen on Capitol Hill during the hearings into the matter.

Two border patrol agents stop an unarmed Mexican man suspected of trafficking drugs. The man starts to run towards the Mexican border. Two border patrol officers give chase. The two officers draw their weapons and open fire, injuring the man. The two officers then destroy evidence related to the shooting, one of them picking up their spent shell casings in order to conceal how many shots were fired. The two officers fail to report the shooting or the dead suspect to their superiors per protocol. The two men cover up their actions, and are caught. They are tried, and found guilty, and sentenced by the court to 12 and 11 years in prison.

Conservatives rallied against the ruling, claiming the sentences – mandatory per the law, mind you – are excessive, and that these two men were simply doing their duty and trying to apprehend a suspect. It’s amazing, somehow these two men are heralded as heroed by the conservative blogosphere and wingnut activists who want to see the officers go free. They shot an unarmed man in the back while he ran away, and then covered up the evidence, and somehow this makes them role models, worthy of public praise, and worthy of begging the President for yet another set of pardons. Aside from the fact that the man was unarmed, shot while running away, and the police officers didn’t bother to chase for long (the note about the Mexican border is irrelevant – the border patrol can continue pursuit if necessary) and decided to shoot first and think later, somehow this makes these officers worthy of praise. The worst part is that they did think later- they thought to cover up their actions, and that’s a crime.

But not if you’re a conservative – your thought process somehow gets mired in the fact that the man is Mexican, one of those people, and suspected of a crime himself, and somehow that allows police carte blanche to do whatever they choose. Unfortunately, the prosecutor in this case is being accused of – you guessed it – prosecutorial overreach, with even the venerable Diane Feinstein bending to the throngs of pitchfork-armed conservative groups in the hearing on Capitol Hill into the matter. But here’s the clincher for me:

Johnny Sutton, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, strenuously defended his prosecutors’ decisions in the controversial case, which has proven a headache for the White House, the Justice Department and Border Patrol. Sutton himself has been attacked as “Johnny Satan” and as the Mike Nifong of Texas, a reference to the much-criticized North Carolina prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case who was recently disbarred for misconduct.

“Agents Compean and Ramos crossed the line. They are not heroes,” Sutton said. “They deliberately shot an unarmed man in the back without justification, destroyed evidence to cover it up and lied about it. These are serious crimes.

I don’t think there’s much more to this. Just because he shot someone that the conservatives don’t like – and by that I don’t mean drug smuggler, I very much mean Mexican. (in fact, Republican John Cornyn tried to link this into the immigration debate somehow, which only further proves that there are other issues at play here, namely the racist, xenophobic mentality endemic in the conservative community. “protect our own at all costs,” they’ll say. Something they used to say every time a Black man was lynched or beaten, or when a Black woman was raped by a White man.) And yet, the conservative blogosphere has descended on the issue, outraged.

Somehow the law doesn’t apply to them when they don’t agree with it. No one’s disagreeing that the now dead admitted drug trafficker is a bad man and should have gone to jail, but somehow the rational and the conservative part ways when they get to the point of “but should he have been shot in the back by two border patrol agents who then covered up their shooting.” Amazing. Talk about self-denial.

Meanwhile, Presidential fellatio continues to be an impeachable offense.

But I suppose that’s my self denial coming to the fore, isn’t it?


  1. The two officers draw their weapons and open fire, killing the man.

    They did not kill him. The the victim was shot and injured, but he lived and escaped and testified against the agents. There was a similar case where a man was killed, but it wasn’t this case.

    Comment by Nelson — July 23, 2007 @ 3:27 pm

  2. Thank you Nelson! Completely my mistake, and I’ve corrected that error above.

    Comment by phoenix — July 23, 2007 @ 6:29 pm

  3. […] It must be nice these days to be a conservative. You have the freedom to talk out of both sides of your mouth and go on without fearing that the major media outlets will catch you, and you’ll always have an ally in channels like Faux News and Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers to make you out to both look good and be a victim of some imaginary left-wing smear campaign. In today’s most recent case of a conservative politician suffering from a severe case of self-denial, it looks like Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo, the man who’s called illegal immigrants a “scourge” on America, gleefully hired a contractor who employed them to renovate his house. […]

    Pingback by Not So Humble dot net || Proud Member of the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy » Tom Tancredo Hired Illegal Laborers to Renovate His McMansion — December 2, 2007 @ 5:40 am

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