Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crazy Much? The Scalise Amendment

Both sides of the partisan side have their cranks and crazies. It's hard not to believe, however, that tolerance for loonies is significantly higher on the Republican side than on the Democratic side these days. Need an example?

The Fairness Doctrine was a government policy mandating that broadcast media present both sides of controversial issues; it existed from the 1940s until it was eliminated by Ronald Reagan in 1987. To be sure, in those days Democrats strongly supported reinstating the Doctrine, and they tried over the next few years. But interest faded, and when the Democrats had a chance during the first two years of the Clinton presidency, nothing happened. According to wikipedia, the last time a bill was even introduced in Congress was in 2005. Democrats don't campaign on the issue (although every once in a while the occasional Dem mentions it), and of course not only was it not reinstated during the first two years of Barack Obama's presidency, but there wasn't even so much as a hint that any Democrat cared about the issue any more. It's as close to a 100% dead idea as there is.

But not to movement conservatives. For many of them, Barack Obama and the Democrats are mirror Scott Walkers, out to destroy conservative institutions as soon as they get a chance -- beginning with conservative talk radio. One would think that the failure of the 110th Congress to attempt such a thing in 2007 might change their minds, and if not that the failure of the 111th Congress and Barack Obama to follow through in 2009 would convince them. Nope.

So, how is the new Fairness Doctrine going to happen (presumably any second now)? Apparently through Mark Lloyd, Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer at the FCC, whose job (as the FCC's web site says) is to "help ensure that the communications field is competitive." Lloyd does in fact hold positions on the media that many conservatives legitimately oppose, but he neither supports nor has the power to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. No matter; Lloyd is, to conservative conspiracy theorists, a "Fairness Doctrine Czar."

Fine. Some wacko types believe that an obscure presidential mid-level appointee is really an all-powerful Rush-slayer. As I said, there are cranks and kooks on all sides.

But that's where we get to the Scalise Amdendment to the CR last week -- which prohibited funding for nine "czars" including the "Fairness Doctrine Czar." Putting aside how silly the whole "czar" thing is, and that an Associate General Counsel at the FCC hardly fits Scalise's definition of "czars with cabinet-level powers," what we have here is a Member of the House, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, trafficking in wacko-bait. There is no plot to reinstate the Fairness Docrtrine!

I'm sorry; did I say "a" Member of the House? Because Scalise's amendment wasn't just offered in the House; it received the unanimous-but-one support of the GOP conference (dissenting would be Reid Ribble of Wisconsin) and, 13 foolish Democrats. Granted, since there were nine "czars" included in the measure, it's possible that enthusiasm for eliminating the "Obama Care Czar" was the key thing here, but still: that's 236 Republicans voting for something that is, basically, pure hokum.

(And, yes, the underlying idea that White House staffers designated to coordinate policy across various agencies involved in a single policy area are some sort of conspiracy to subvert the constitution is equally nutters, but at least those WH staffers are in fact coordinating policy in those areas. I mean, the president really is implementing ACA, even if it's bizarre to claim that he and those working for him shouldn't coordinate that implementation).

Really, Republicans should be ashamed of themselves.

Hey, conservatives: can you find any example of a crazy conspiracy theory winning the near-unanimous support of Democrats in the House or Senate during the last four years of Democratic majorities?

I'm pretty sure that this is one area in which both sides are not even close to equally culpable.


  1. "Really, Republicans should be ashamed of themselves."

    Do you think that Democrats should be ashamed of Capuano's recent comment?

  2. @Couves

    One comments does not equal near-unanimous agreement among the caucus. I think that's his point.

    Once the Democrats introduce and pass a resolution calling for violence in Wisconsin, then your argument will be persuasive.

  3. Kal:

    Are calls for violence only shameful when they obtain majority support? Do we have to wait for “a resolution calling for violence in Wisconsin” before we say anything?

    Yes, Capuano was only speaking for himself… and I don't pretend that he represents his party on this. But I think it’s relevant that Capuano’s comment is *significantly* more disturbing than the Scalise Amendment.

  4. Couves: No, calls for violence are always wrong. But, JB's question asked "Hey, conservatives: can you find any example of a crazy conspiracy theory winning the near-unanimous support of Democrats in the House or Senate during the last four years of Democratic majorities?" What's significantly more disturbing about Scalise is that he received "near unanimous support" from Repubulicans.

  5. Geoff:

    I wasn’t responding to JB’s question... I was introducing one of my own.

    Yes, the extent to which each party supports the position is significant. But so is the distinction between a call for violence and a conspiracy theory. I think it's fair to say that the former is far more appalling... no?

  6. So the conservative spin on this is "hey, look over there!" Good to know.

  7. Anonymous: Lol, I don’t think that conservatives would let me write their talking points, because I’m happy to admit that there’s a strong current of wacky ideas on the right... ideas of far more consequence than this.

  8. Couves,

    Actually, I think that embracing conspiracy theories, or telling one's supporters things that just aren't true, is significantly worse than using a little violent imagery. I agree with those who point out that you really can't avoid some metaphors of violence in political rhetoric...I'm not thrilled with those who make it a major, recurring theme, but that's about it.

  9. And really, if we want to get into which side uses more violent rhetoric and imagery (or the whitewashing thereof, viz Santorum and the Crusades), there's little contest there either.

  10. "Hey, conservatives: can you find any example of a crazy conspiracy theory winning the near-unanimous support of Democrats in the House or Senate during the last four years of Democratic majorities?"

    Global warming and evolution, amirite?


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