The GOP Throws a Tampa Tantrum | The Nation


The GOP Throws a Tampa Tantrum

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Condoleezza Rice, after being ushered onstage with the most tasteless introduction music (“Sweet Home Alabama,” a paean to Governor George Wallace) since David Letterman’s band played “(Push, Push) In the Bush” for a certain white-haired former first lady in 1994, repeated the performance, but at least she had the wit to change the subject halfway through to economics, education reform and a magic-pixie-dust portrayal of the racial history of Birmingham—one that implied all it took to overcome segregation was parents who pretended it didn’t exist. (And for that bit of moral absolution—just the kind Ronald Reagan used to offer—she received a colossal gust of applause.) But what was striking, in the foreign policy part of her speech, was the pleading she felt she had to do (“To be sure, the burdens of leadership have been heavy”; “I know too that there is a wariness”) when asking the audience to care about “the promise of the Arab Spring,” and about Russian and Chinese stumbling blocks to confronting “dictators in Iran and Syria [who] butcher their people and threaten regional security” while the rest of the world asks, “Where does America stand?” The Fox News transcript reads “(APPLAUSE)” after that question, but not really: I timed it at three seconds.

About the Author

Rick Perlstein
Rick Perlstein
Rick Perlstein is the author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, winner of...

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The mainstream and liberal press’s quixotic search for a ‘good’ conservative merely reinforces the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Failing upward at the Democratic Leadership Council with Al From.

* * *

So what happened? The Republicans used to love their wars so lustily! Don’t call the change “moderation”: given that the crowd’s indifference was in response to calls to mitigate human suffering, it better resembled the morally indifferent isolationism of the late 1930s and early ’40s, when the right opposed rearming the nation to fight Hitler.

What they really love—shown by the way McCain and Condi were able to win back their audience by taking cheap shots at Obama—are enemies. And within their authoritarian mind-set (as George Orwell taught us with his talk about Eurasia, Eastasia and Oceania), enemies are fungible. The invocation of enemies from the podium, of course, is usually gentle—wouldn’t want to frighten the folks watching the show on TV. The uglier, more genuine GOP reveals itself just outside the camera’s range. On the convention’s last day, I found it at the “American Action Network Pavilion” at Liberty Plaza, a parking lot near the convention hall repurposed as a colony for top-dollar fundraisers and for staging Two Minute Hates.

There were several gleaming white, air-conditioned tents like the kind you’d see in a forward operating base in Afghanistan, including a “VIP Tent,” a “Cigar Tent” and a “Theater Tent” devoted to screening the productions of Citizens United, the conservative “grassroots” organization made infamous by the 2010 Supreme Court decision that greenlighted its laundering of millions in secret contributions in order to produce lunatic propaganda like the film we were all there to see: Occupy Unmasked. Before we were allowed inside, we had to endure a security gantlet more intense than the one to get into the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

It extended, I would discover, inside the theater itself. A towering man in a plaid shirt pointed to my digital recorder and said—this was getting old—I couldn’t record. He wouldn’t say who he was, but he did say he would have me arrested if I didn’t erase the sound file while he watched. When one of the half-dozen or so Hillsborough County sheriff’s officers milling about in khaki riot garb backed him up, I obliged, which was probably for the best: the distinguishing feature of Occupy Unmasked’s soundtrack was an unceasing, loud, dull, dissonant…well, you couldn’t call it music. It was more like a deep rumble, the aural equivalent of a laxative to loosen one’s critical faculties.

Thanks to the movie, I learned about the “e-mail archives that show how Occupy was really planned”—though I also learned that it was planned, a year before it began, at the headquarters of the Service Employees International Union, which “gave $100 million to Barack Obama’s presidency”; and also in New Orleans in 2005, where all the principal conspirators just happened to gather to “occupy the Ninth Ward” under the guise of helping hurricane victims; as well as in Madison, Wisconsin, where protesters last year tried “to start a war on the grounds of the Capitol”; or maybe in the basement of Saul Alinsky, who was mentored by Chicago mobster Frank Nitti and who mentored Barack Obama in turn (this is illustrated with a clip of Obama talking about how everyone should pay their fair share of taxes). Bottom line: “This was not done spontaneously.” Just look, David Horowitz admonishes, at Stalin’s purges, and the Cuban Revolution, and the Black Panthers, and SDS: that’s just how they do it. Just look at the footage of these movements’ various riots: they all look exactly the same. They start the same way too, Horowitz says: “You pretend to be interested in the issues…. The goal is to destroy a society you’re alienated from…. They want chaos. Then they can seize power.”

The next step in the plan, a former leftist named Pam Key explains, is “to occupy properties and homes.” The reason “you aren’t seeing a lot of black people,” ACORN staffer turned conservative belle Anita MonCrief reveals, is that “they’re being prepared for part two: the race war.” Part one, apparently, was the rape campaign: did you know that the media have conspired to cover up the dozens of rapes at Occupy encampments? During the question-and-answer period, I asked how Saul Alinsky could have been the president’s mentor if Obama was 10 when Alinsky died. A woman looked at me like I was one of the rapists.

Magnolia Pictures, the marquee film company co-owned by billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, will be distributing the movie. I guess that’s why I was almost arrested: they didn’t want me threatening the intellectual property of a job creator.

Speaking of job creators, I met one down the street from Liberty Plaza: a young man in a T-shirt advertising his small business, YoungObamaHaters.com, which sells products featuring a map of America crisscrossed by rifles and the slogans “My Country My Future,” and “Deport Barack Hussein Obama.” He asked me “where the hippies are protesting at.” He looked about ready to beat one up. Since there aren’t any moderates left to disagree with, Republicans have to find someone to fight.

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