Saturday, August 01, 2015 7:12 AM
I don't know what came over Chris Matthews, putting the DNC's Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on the spot like that, calling on her to explain the difference between a Democrat and a Socialist.
What was the poor "chair" supposed to say? One party believes in free enterprise and limited government and other doesn't? Such a lie (no problem!) would "alienate the base." Admitting that both creeds are identical in their drive to "redistribute the wealth" -- Marx 101 -- would blow the smiley-face off the Democrat brand.
Then again, what if the DNC honcho-ess had decided to say something like: Well, Chris, maybe it's time to recognize the outmodedness of the "Democrat" label. We were, after all, the party of racism, Jim Crow. Meanwhile, as everyone can tell, most of our party principles come straight from socialism -- and, to be perfectly honest, from fascism, too! She could then have whipped out a copy of The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics by Sheldon Richman and read the basic definition of fascism....
Poor Chris Matthews would still be on the floor.
Speaking of distinctions without differences -- remember when Candidate Obama told Joe the Plumber how good it was "to spread the wealth around"?
And then Charles Krauthammer on Fox News said it was time to dispose of all the ugly talk of socialism?
Yup. That's what happened.
From American Betrayal:
Frankly, we were lucky to get as close as we did to the whole socialism issue. It was only the unexpected and electrifying emergence of “Joe the Plumber” about three weeks before Election Day 2008 that put Obama’s belief in economic redistribution on display, briefly, for the wider public. “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody,” Obama famously told Joe Wurzelbacher, during a televised campaign stop in Ohio on October 12, 2008. Obama’s “postpartisan” mask had slipped. Did it reveal the Marxist underneath? Did this would-be emperor wear antidemocratic clothes?
If so, no one wanted to look too closely, John McCain’s fainthearted jabs and Sarah Palin’s full-throated sloganeering aside. The MSM, clutching their candidate’s invisible train, decided that what American voters wanted to know—or, rather, should have wanted to know—was not whether the next president was a Marxist but rather whether Joe was a licensed plumber. Stranger still, significant conservative voices downplayed the socialism issue, too.
The timing was critical. Recall that in the 2000 presidential election, a late-breaking wavelet of outrage crested over carefully leaked “news” that George W. Bush had been DUI in 1976, likely causing him to lose the popular vote, and very nearly the election. The socialist issue (Marxist, collectivist, statist, Com- munist), had it caught fire, might well have frightened some measurable percentage of Obama voters, particularly among his more conservative or in- dependent voters. The MSM seemed to hold its breath. On October 24, 2008, however, with less than two weeks before Election Day, Fox News’s Special Re- port with Brit Hume took up the issue in a panel discussion featuring Mara Liasson, Fred Barnes, and the quasi-oracular Charles Krauthammer.
The conversation kicked off promisingly enough with a question from Hume as to whether Obama’s recent comment to Joe the Plumber had “raised legitimate questions about whether he has a socialist or socialistic policy.” Conversation stalled with Barnes, who seemed more intent on fending off similarly justifiable questions regarding the socialist underpinnings of both John McCain’s and George W. Bush’s taxation and banking policies, ignoring the Obama story altogether. As a legitimate line of inquiry, however, the topic dead-ended when it got to Charles Krauthammer. “Since the word ‘socialism’ has reared its ugly head,” he began, “let’s dispose of it.”46
Think of it. The presidential front-runner—the supposedly “postpartisan” presidential front-runner—says, “When you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody,” and the leading pundit of what passes for conservatism knocks the issue down on the first go-round. On the contrary, he wants to explain why socialism could not possibly be at issue. His reasoning? Socialism just isn’t “socialism,” Krauthammer explained, unless the government owns the means of production. So, presumably, because Obama didn’t tell Joe that it’s good for everybody when you spread the wealth around and as President, he would take over two of the Big Three automakers, one-sixth of the economy (health care), and much of the student loan and home mortgage industries, there was no reason to wonder what type or even whether a Socialist was about to be elected president. (Meanwhile, the extent to which the social engineer and megaregulator George W. “I’ve abandoned free-market principles to save the free market” Bush had already “pre-socialized” the economy, to use Michelle Malkin’s term, shouldn’t be forgotten, and he was hardly the first, as we will see.)47
Rather than consider “spreading the wealth around” in the context of Obama’s lifelong ties to card-carrying Communists, Marxists, Maoists, and socialists, Krauthammer introduced an irrelevant and distracting historical context. He said, “What Obama is talking about is what we have had for a long time, progressive taxation.” Progressive taxation “for a long time” should pre- sent a conservative with a problem, not the Adam Smith stamp of approval.
But back to Krauthammer: “Now, he wants to raise the marginal income tax rate from about 36 percent today to about 39.5 . . . But let’s remember, under Eisenhower, the marginal income tax rate was 91 percent . . . [Such tax rates] are not the Supreme Soviet, it’s not Sweden, and it isn’t even Eisenhower’s America.”
A sound bite is sometimes just a sound bite, but this one still reverberates. In pairing these late-breaking glimpses of Obama’s redistributionist beliefs with “Eisenhower’s America,” Krauthammer invoked the worn Rorschach prompt for plain vanilla conservatism, which could hardly be more inaccurate. Eisenhower may have been elected on his solemn pledge to roll back the New Deal and war-inflated spending and taxes, but he did neither. That doesn’t change Ike’s chiseled-in-stone reputation for “conservative” stability, however. By referencing Eisenhower’s America, Krauthammer was promoting a sense of politics as usual. Quite possibly, it reflected his own desire to believe in politics as usual. Joe the Plumber aside, this emperor does wear clothes. Nothing sub- versive here. The center can hold.
The electorate, of course, was similarly undisturbed. Just as revelations about Obama’s lifelong involvement with anti-American radicals failed to reso- nate beyond remote outposts of the Right, Obama’s breaking-news espousal of Marxist theory fell completely flat. The possibility that the next president of the USA might be a not-so-crypto Marxist didn’t alarm or distress many voters. Why not?
One plausible explanation put forward by author and professor Paul Kengor is this simple fact: “The history and truth about communism are not taught by our educators.”48 Americans are not equipped, not prepared, to regard any- thing resembling Communism—Marxism, socialism, statism, collectivism, and other such terms that are much more interchangeable than we are taught to think—as an existential threat to liberty. Ignorant of Communism’s history of blood and terror, we are susceptible to its false promises. In fact, we are continually conditioned to embrace Communistic principles, all serving to expand the power and authority of the state over the individual—and it all started long before Barack Hussein Obama came on the scene.
Again, which side was it that won the “ideological” battle of the century?
It was one thing for the liberal likes of The New York Times to wait until two months after Obama was inaugurated to get around to asking him “whether his domestic policies suggested he was a socialist, as some conservatives have im- plied.”49 It was another for Fox’s flagship pundits, in essence, to stow the sub- ject, pre–Election Day, before it could be even partly aired. We knew from Stanley Kurtz, writing as early as June 2, 2008, at the mainstream conservative Web site National Review Online, that on the eve of Obama’s first election in 1995 (he won an Illinois State Senate seat), Obama said the following:
In America, we have this strong bias toward individual action. You know, we idolize the John Wayne hero who comes in to correct things with both guns blazing. But individual actions, individual dreams, are not sufficient. We must unite in collective action, build collective institutions and organizations.50
Obama could not have been clearer about his intentions to replace what he denigrated as the old “right-wing,” “individualistic bootstrap myth” with a collectivist order—pure Marx. Such sentiments were underscored by other statements from his career, including that “redistributionist” radio interview unearthed by bloggers and mentioned above. Media on the left and most media on the right just let these choice scoops lie, flopping on the Internet, denying them the mainstream oxygen that would have turned them into living, breath- ing campaign issues. This same blanket of silence lay heavily on those of us who judged the evidence as it lay there, untrumpeted, unheralded, almost entirely unreported, subtly pressuring us not to break ranks. If a story broke in the forest and no one reported it . . . It was as if the s-word (socialist) came with a gag. I remember feeling that way at CNN. I remember thinking extra long and hard before one of my regular appearances on the political roundtable of the old Lou Dobbs show about whether to use the word “socialist” on the air (I’d al- ready used it in my column), triple-checking already double-checked facts, reevaluating the evidence, almost as though I didn’t trust myself. If no one else was talking about it, could it be true? If no one else was bringing it up, did it matter? Such questions are unavoidable in the silence of a sound booth. What I was responding to, however, was the force of taboo—the unspoken vow of si- lence. No one in the mainstream media, liberal or conservative, wanted to talk about it. Finally, I overcame the ultrasensitivity and wondered aloud on CNN whether as president “Obama will lead the country in a socialist direction” and was instantly accused of “Red-baiting” by the next panelist. Coincidentally or not, I never resumed regular appearances on Dobbs after that, and my contract was not renewed. Even National Review’s Kurtz, with his clear-cut and ground- breaking reportage, at that time danced around directly calling Obama or his New Party affiliation “socialist,” arguing that what was important here was not the label, but rather the fact that Obama and the New Party were clearly far to the left of mainstream liberalism.
I disagree. The label, the clarity, is always of paramount importance.51 Of course, with Krauthammer at Fox summarily disposing of the label that set off the cry of “Red-baiting” at CNN, little wonder mum remained the word. It still does. As long as Obama, or anyone else, isn’t correctly identified and discussed as being “socialist” or “Marxist,” his place and that of others like him in the continuum of American liberalism is secure; the same goes for the socialist tenets of American liberalism in general. (In 1933, the Democratic Party should have changed its name to the Democratic Socialist Party. The Republican rem- nant would have done well to take the name Constitutionalist Party.) This is the identical argument I frequently make about our failure to speak freely about Islam—and yes, absolutely, our deferential attitudes toward the two ideologies are deeply and tragically related.
I much appreciated the counsel of a British writer named Adam Shaw. Describing the wide range of socialists, so labeled, in British and European politics, and commenting on the contortions of the American media, particularly conservatives in the media, to avoid the “obvious fact [that] President Obama is quite clearly a socialist,” he tried to shine a little wisdom across the water: “To call someone a socialist is not conspiratorial, and it is not fear-mongering; it is simply the truth, and it is time for some in the conservative media to take a deep breath and admit it—America has a socialist leading the country. Welcome to the club: It stinks!”52