The other day I watched in indignant awe as Fox News' Glenn Beck weaved and spun half-truths, outright lies, innuendoes and fragments of statements to tell Americans that there is a communist conspiracy now taking place in America and that President Barack Obama is leading this social and political transformation and ultimate takeover.
With a straight face, an animated and energetic Beck railed against the president, big government, and runaway spending, concluding that the president's past associations -- personal and professional -- was proof positive that he was a Marxist/Socialist and that Americans must be vigilant to avert his carefully hatched "plot."
Ordinarily, I would have dismissed these wild rantings as simply the figment of Mr. Beck's infantile and severely limited pea-sized brain. But on closer examination, his mouthing off against the president whom he called "a racist who hates white people" is part of a larger plan by many in American society who do not like this president. But before I ask President Obama to push back against his lunatic detractors and abandon his policy of appeasement and rapprochement with right-wing Republicans in Congress I want to put the Glenn Beck phenomenon and the conservative right-wing fear-mongering tactics and strategy into perspective.
Fox News is owned by Fox Cable News that is owned by the Australian billionaire Rupert Murdock, an arch-conservative. Mr. Murdock's riches came about by his use of a certain kind of media product that he offers throughout his media empire. Rarely do his TV stations or newspapers engage in constructive, analytical or investigative journalism but serve up dishes of lowest-denominator, low-intelligence, sensationalistic television programs that promote mass escapism as opposed to credible information, intelligent discourse, thought or contemplation. What passes as news is simply the latest gory sensation of the day packaged and presented as credible journalism that masks a simple desire to gain more ratings that drive corporate big-money advertising.
On the other side of the coin, Murdock's stock-in-trade is to allow the most outrageous, asinine and bigoted "talk show hosts" on his TV stations -- slots that people like Glenn Beck fill easily and fit the profile. Beck's role is to shock people with the outrageous; make inflammatory statements, and display a haranguing, bullying, in-your-face kind of commentary that is packaged as truth in reporting. Of course, this also masks the true anti-Obama agenda of this neo-conservative, rabid, right wing cabal now given a bully pulpit to spew its venom by a billionaire only concerned with making more and more super profits.
Beck is also the de facto facilitator of the various factions of the anti-Obama movement. His vitriol against what he sees as "big government" is a decidedly white, right-wing ideology promoted by nutiacs like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others. This anti-big government movement has morphed into a hodge-podge of smaller no less rabid minions like the New Tea Party movement, FreedomWorks (founded by Texas Republican Dick Armey), ResistNet, and the National Taxpayers Union. The bottom line here is that while Glenn Beck is the public TV face of the anti-Obama campaign, behind him lurks a well-organized, well-funded and focused movement hell bent on embarrassing President Obama and ultimately hounding him out office after one term.
That is why the debate over healthcare has reached such angry and ridiculous levels. The Republican right-wing, its sponsors, enablers, and other lunatic movements are united in their purpose to derail any constructive dialogue on healthcare reform and to drown out the sane, reasoned voices by shrill shouting and angry rhetoric. Ultimately, it is about creating the conditions that demonize President Obama, drive down his approval ratings, and bog him down in trivial distracting nonsense and side-show antics to make his job harder and governing near impossible.
And that is why President Obama, I am urging you to push back -- hard. It is time to get tough and bold. It is time to move decisively and to get things done. Let me start from the premise that the vast majority of white America does not support this nation's first Black president. That he came to power on a wave of a minority coalition is evident from the election numbers: Only 43 percent of white voters voted for Obama, while 95 percent of Blacks, 66 percent of Hispanics and 63 percent of Asians voted for the president. This is his base and he must rally, agitate, and involve it in his new campaign.
The Glenn Becks of the world, the members of the "birther's" movement, the Tea Baggers movement, assorted nut jobs, right-wing wackos, and a whole host of people who believe that President Obama is a socialist who will kill grandma and set up "death panels" all come from that 57 percent of white voters who voted for John McCain. President Obama must stop trying to change these folks' minds. In the Caribbean there is an old African saying that my dear sainted Great Grandmother used to admonish me about people whom she considered impossible to change. She used to say of them: "you cannot teach a crab to behave." Mr. President, apply this pearl of wisdom to the Republicans in Congress.
With this in mind, President Obama must stop trying to reason with these borderline lunatics. This grouphas not yet understood that it's a new day in America. They still see the White House and the Presidency of America as a white entitlement program from which Blacks are excluded. Today, that mindset and attendant ideology has bred fear and apprehension within this group and they are lashing back in the only way that they know how: by verbal lynchings, fear-mongering, and smear tactics egged on by loud-mouths like Glenn Beck and an irresponsible mainstream media.
The brouhaha over the stimulus package (not President George Bush's own) has died down and the signs of economic recovery are evident. Notice how the conservative amen chorushas ceased to vilify the president over it. When Glenn Beck and company pummel President Obama about the economy and the high cost of healthcare, they conveniently forget to mention the costs of two wars that he never started. Now, even as President Obama struggles to get healthcare reform passed, there are calls from this group for more troops in Afghanistan.
But President Obama must resist these cunning calls that come wrapped in patriotism and the "need for us to win in Afghanistan." They know that things are getting really bad over there. Heck, the new general spelled it out in unambiguous terms in his recent report. They know that this is an unwinnable war. They know that the Russians warned President Bush about a military adventure there and the consequences of such an action. They know that importing American democracy at gunpoint in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) is impossible and self-defeating. Yet, they are now urging President Obama to commit more treasure and manpower. The reason? So that in 2010 they can say that he failed in Afghanistan and, without missing a beat, say tongue in cheek: "Gee, see how many men we lost and all this money we spent with nothing to show for it. It's President Obama's fault." It's a trap. A dangerous, dirty trap designed to politically ensnare the president. I hope he does not fall for it.
The president's critics are very comfortable about him spending more billions of dollars to prosecute two unwinnable wars -- more than $30 billion a month in Iraq alone-- than the $750 million annually to set up some type of universal healthcare system. Today, the US healthcare system is a trillion-dollar wasteful, inefficient juggernaut that services only 37% of the population and puts life-saving medicines out of the reach of ordinary Americans. Yet, we are hearing unbelievable hypocrisy from the President's political enemies who only want to score cheap political shots while over 30,000 Americans die each year either frominadequate care or no health insurance.
It is therefore imperative that President Obama remain focused on the economy and get the healthcare reform bill right and not bow to the minority ravings and rantings. What he needs to do is to engage his base in the debate,especially the under-40voters. This group is the missing voice in the healthcare debate and they need to get on board and take back the national debate from people like Glenn Beck. President Obama must also answer accusations by the right wing that the federal government's involvement in healthcare reform is socialism (as if that is all bad)-- a loaded word used by artful right-wingers to drum up deep fears and resentment among the ignorant and misinformed.
Finally, President Obama would be well advised to end his counter-productive engagement with Republicans who are ideologically and politically opposed to meaningful, constructivehealthcare reform. This is a losing proposition and a misdirection of his energy. The Democrats control both houses of Congress and are in a position to deliver on the president's agenda. He should work with them, pass his healthcare reform bill, and quit trying for bi-partisanism that has become a one-sided practice only "good" when Republicans gain.