When the election is over and the people have spoken, it's time to get behind the incoming commander-in-chief to signal to our children and the world that we are a country united in democracy. But Sean Hannity has continued his faux-panic, planting doubt and implying Obama has radical, extremist loyalties even after the argument fell flat and drew wide criticism.
Hannity can now be considered anti-American by his own measure - for years he's criticized anti-war activists of not supporting the President. Now it is he who is undermining the authority of the incoming President.
The people heard the smears on Hannity's top-rated radio and TV shows and felt there was not enough basis in fact, calling for a loftier conversation of issues. Following the historic election, Hannity continued to make the same accusations: Obama is not to be trusted, an evil side of him will emerge. The back up? Hannity specifies nothing, flailing at undefined evil, doubting the electorate's ability to decide and discern. Without tangible evidence for these claims, who is the extremist now?
Perhaps Sean Hannity's father never had that talk with him. You know, the one fathers and sons have when the kid, just learning how American politics works, sees his preferred candidate has lost and continues to bad-mouth the winner. That's when the grown-up explains the American tradition to the child. My father told me plainly, when the election is called, it's time for the whole country to get behind the new leader and give the benefit of the doubt, because we are a representative democracy.
Some call it grace, being a gentleman, sportsmanship, or showing character - but elections in America and Zimbabwe are vastly different because win or lose, Americans defer to majority rule and established laws in peaceful transitions of power between administrations, especially given our diversity and established history of party pendulum swings.
But times may be changing. Sean Hannity's post-election broadcasts continue the same impugning of the incoming President's character McCain himself hesitated to use, because it was based more on conjecture than the concrete. Hannity's arguments ignore or distort Obama's policy proposals, for example telling listeners Obama wants to raise their taxes when most would receive a net tax cut under the new structure. Hannity also condemns a trillion in new spending without factoring in the stimulative effect of domestic reinvestment and burying the dire necessity of the inherited economic crisis.
Throughout the campaign, Sean's tactics were almost exclusively unsubstantive and negative, hinging on indeterminate musings and speculation. Hannity's plan was to plant suspicion based on radical theories - Obama as terrorist, Muslim, Marxist, racist, anti-American, election cheat, you name it.
It's true a handful of Barack Obama's past associations have detracted from his storybook narrative, but the level to which these relationships were used to smear Obama were alarmingly disproportionate to any facts established. Relative to known scandals marring our other choices, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, Obama's were minute, only affirming that the idea that insider experience in this Congress was exactly what swing voters opposed. They heard the allegations, followed the discourse on Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko, made their decision and moved forward.
Unfortunately, all sides in campaigns use isolated clips today to magnify misstatements, inconsistencies and embarrassing moments, but to continue doing so beyond election day is unprecedented to my recall - a new low. Though our expectations for media in general have sunk, parents and educators in particular know we set examples of moral authority for our young. Broadcasting to perpetuate discord shows a deliberate intent to pit Americans against eachother and prevent discourse on common aims. Senator McCain showed admirable poise in his concession speech, showing the world why American democracy is a model for peaceful, orderly transitions of power.
The suggestion that democracy did not work here exposes Sean Hannity's prioritization of his personal causes: tax advantages for the very wealthiest, deregulation, and a free hand for the most aggressive war-hawks. Along with #1 juggernaut Rush Limbaugh, the talk radio industry is a daily infomercial for the neoconservative movement and military-industrial complex we were warned about by President Eisenhower in 1961. In other words, this is not your father's Conservative, calling for small government and strong ethics and fiscal responsibility. Sean is combining the unethical campaign tactics used by Nixon with cowboy foreign policy and deficit-be-damned defense spending seen under Reagan.
This is not to say the incoming President should not be questioned or criticized - just the opposite, he should be engaged in continuous dialogue with the American people. The selection of Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff has already been heavily questioned from the left, but the Obama administration's first email blast just went out this week, asking for the input of ordinary people in shaping the future of America at change.gov. Having the President enjoin the millions on his email list in two-way conversation is a refreshing use of technology to push democracy forward.
Hannity, by contrast, seems to be facing several dead ends, trying to claim voters rejected "Republicanism" while they still love Conservatism. Hannity is playing games with nomenclature to defend himself after supporting President Bush and Dick Cheney throughout both terms, praising their economic and security policies daily. The public has overwhelmingly rejected Bush, but it doesn't erase that Hannity called him one of "our greatest modern presidents", a "masterful crisis president" and a "defender of our liberties".
In fact, Hannity's broadcasts have run so closely parallel to the Bush's daily talking points, many questioned whether Hannity was in direct contact with the White House. When Bush's former Press Secretary Scott McClellan confirmed Karl Rove did in fact have a "massive operation" running from the White House to supply comprehensive talking points to friendly talk show personalities, Fox's Bill O'Reilly bent over backwards to make clear he was not involved in this violation of domestic anti-propaganda laws. Hannity has not yet denied whether he has been in direct contact without disclosure, but as soon as Karl Rove left his White House post, he began appearing on Hannity's TV and radio shows in heavy rotation.
In full-on panic today, Hannity complains that a larger Democratic majority will enact some version of the Fairness Doctrine to silence him, cleverly painting himself as a victim. In fact, the Fairness Doctrine was never used to censor anyone, rather to compel them to provide responsible journalistic balance to the best of their ability. For example, Hannity wouldn't be able to state that Obama sat in Rev. Wright's pews for twenty years listening to hate-filled diatribes without also giving the fuller picture that the vitriolic rantings of Rev. Wright made up only a very tiny portion of the known sermons he's delivered over the decades and nothing available proves Obama was present during any such controversial speeches.
Before 1987, it was the broadcasting corporations who chose not to air lopsided political arguments because it was cheaper and easier to avoid back and forth debate. Enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine was difficult and inconsistent. Today, those who suggest reviving some version of the law are concerned about a serious issue - wholesale ignorance. The U.S. has been long ridiculed internationally for wrongly believing Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 and it's no news to anyone who our top rated "news" sources are - Fox on TV and Limbaugh/Hannity on radio. Our founding fathers created public education so our voters could not only discern candidate choices intelligently, but could keep an informed eye out for shenanigans.
Are not call-in talk shows better for their controversy and difference of opinion? Not on The Sean Hannity Show, where the guests are predominantly on the same page as the host, the make-up of aired calls doesn't approach real-world diversity, and the news items cited exclude altogether events like the filing of Articles of Impeachment in Congress against the President and Vice President, the removal of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, or the polls showing national disapproval of continuing the Iraq War.
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