Busted: America's Right-wing Heroes Mything In Action

Random Lengths News | April 4, 2008
It’s not the hypocrisy, stupid—it’s the reason behind the hypocrisy of rightwing moral rectitude that’s the focus of NY Times best-selling author Glenn Greenwald in his third book, Great American Hypocrites: Toppling The Big Myths of Republican Politics. Hypocrisy is surely nothing new and Republicans hold no monopoly on it. But Greenwald, a former constitutional lawyer, cuts right to the chase in explaining what’s different about Republican hypocrisy today in the first two paragraphs of this most timely book.

Over the past three decades, Americans have vastly preferred Democratic Party policies to Republican ones Greenwald observes, yet they have elected Republicans the majority of times. “The most important factor, by far, is that the Republican Party has used the same set of personality smears and mythical psychological and cultural imagery to win elections,� Greenwald argues. “These myths and smears are amplified by the rightwing noise machine and mindlessly adopted by the establishment media. Right-wing leaders are inflated into heroic cultural icons, while Democrats are demonized as weak and hapless losers. These personality-based myths overwhelm substantive discussions and consideration of the issues.�

That’s his case in a nutshell, and the rest of his book is devoted to proving it, in agonizing and often embarrassing detail. In chapter one, he begins by deconstructing the myth of John Wayne, the thrice-married, drug-addicted, alcoholic, string-pulling draft-dodger who is the prototypical right-wing culture hero on whom all more recent versions—from Ronald Reagan to Rush Limbaugh to George W. Bush—are based.

Chapter two examines how the mainstream press feeds off of stories feed to it by rightwing operators, almost always with the ample support from rightwing media outlets and figures such as Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge and Fox News. Chapters three, four and five cite chapter and verse in tearing the mask off of rightwing claims to military heroism, “family values� morality, and “small government� restraint, respectively, while chapter six concludes with a detailed look at GOP presidential nominee John McCain.

Particularly telling is the frank admission from two elite journalists, Mark Halperin of Time and John Harris, of The Politico, that “Matt Drudge rules our world,� a curiously overlooked admission in their 2006 book, The Way To Win. Greenwald then proceeds to show just how true this is. For example, The Politico ran eight stories in two weeks on John Edwards getting $200 haircuts—a reinforcement of the “effeminate Democratic male� mythology, but just one single story on Mitt Romney getting $150 make-up treatments—an even more feminine affectation that was duly buried. Drudge linked repeatedly to The Politico’s Edwards haircut stories, but not to the Romney makeup story.

How much did Drudge matter? Greenwald notes, “one web analyst estimated in March 2007 that Drudge accounted for 65 percent of Politico’s traffic (the next-highest source of traffic for The Politico was Google at a mere three percent.)

And how much did The Politico matter? Two different elite reporters—Brian Williams in April and Tim Russert five months later—asked Edwards about his haircuts in presidential debates.

“Most certainly, the press will pretend to be above it all,� Greenwald observes, “But they yammer about Drudge-promoted gossip endlessly, and then insist that their own spouting is proof that it is an important story that people care about…. It is an endless loop of self-referential narcissism.�

Greenwald also provides repeated admissions from media insiders—from already-published accounts—about how much they admire Republican tough–guy poses, regardless of any relation to reality, and how much they enjoy being close to those they admire, in a genuinely high schoolish fashion.

Consider the following, from Time campaign reporter Michael Scherer’s online article, when Romney was still challenging McCain, “The GOP’s High School Debate: The cool kid vs. the valedictorian�:

“Here’s one thing you need to know about John McCain. He’s always been the coolest kid in school. He was the brat who racked up demerits at the Naval Academy. He was the hot-dog pilot who went back to the skies weeks after almost dying in a fire on the U.S.S. Forrestal. His first wife was a model. His second wife was a rich girl, 17 years his junior.

“He kept himself together during years of North Vietnamese torture and solitary confinement. When he sits in the back of his campaign bus, we reporters gather like kids in the cafeteria huddling around the star quarterback. We ask him tough questions, and we try to make him slip up, but almost inevitably we come around to admiring him. He wants the challenge. He likes the give and take. He is, to put it simply, cooler than us.�

What Scherer won’t tell you, but Greenwald will, is that McCain repeatedly cheated on his first wife with the much younger and much wealthier woman who became his second wife. His first wife had been in a near-fatal car accident when McCain was a POW, which left her four inches shorter, dependent on crutches and considerably heavier. So he did what John Wayne, Rush Limbaugh, Fred Thompson or Newt Gingrich would do—find a much younger model to accompany him in his endless crusade for family values and against the “homosexual agenda.�

How cool is that?

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