Saturday, February 27, 2010

Why do "centrists" always need to find a false equivalency between "right" and "left?"

I walked into the current affairs section of the book store the other day to see this book featured prominently. Please take a moment and look at the cover ...

Ok, anyone see something that doesn't fit in the cover picture of the book titled Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America? That's correct: Keith Olbermann is not a left-wing fringe lunatic who is hijacking America. Olbermann is not as far "left" as Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are "right."

Keith Olbermann can be obnoxious and he can engage in hyperbole or go to far into over-the-top overhyped criticism (his freaking out over Hillary Clinton's remark about the Kennedy assasination comes to mind) but he is not an ideological left-winger who promotes bizarre, reality detached beliefs. Olbermann is, however, a vociferous critic of the former Bush administration, which I suppose makes him an evil, crazy, extremist by Beltway "centrist" logic.

Seeing this book reminded me of this book which lamented the silence of the "rational center." I had much the same feeling of frustration when I first noticed it in the book store as I flipped through it to come to a section where it said that the public was not serviced by a debate on Bush tax policies between Paul Krugman and Bill O'Reilly because both men are merely well-informed laypersons. Um, no. Bill O'Reilly is a sort of (mis)informed layperson. Paul Krugman is an expert in economics who has since won the Nobel Prize in economics.

The most laughable part of the book is the updated epilogue which celebrates how the Iraq Study Group represents the return of the "rational center" and the long arm of the George HW Bush administration reaching out to fix the Iraq debacle (how'd that work out?) Funny how the "centrist" position is only centrist by defining the acceptable spectrum as between those who are pro-war and those who are pro-war.

But the ultimate point I'm trying to make is exemplified by this post from Steve Benen about the latest crazy conspiracy theory from someone well positioned within the conservative movement

It's easy to laugh at the stupidity of all of this, but I think Max Bergmann's point is a good one: "Gaffney is a prominent member of the right wing security establishment. He writes a regular column for the Washington Times, is a frequent commentator on cable television, and runs his own right-wing defense organization. Just this past October, at Gaffney's Center for Security Policy 'Keeper of the Flame' annual award dinner, Vice President Cheney was the featured speaker and recipient of the reward. Other guest speakers included Sen. Jon Kyl and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld."

Right. It's tempting to think some paranoid nutjob with bizarre conspiracy theories is irrelevant in modern American politics. But prominent conservatives consider Frank Gaffney a credible figure.

The mainstream of fringe lunacy is one of the key differences between the left and right in contemporary politics. Both sides have their nutty fringe, but only side thinks its whackjobs are sane.

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