Leslie Savan writes about media and politics for The Nation. A three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for her Village Voice column about advertising, Savan is the author of Slam Dunks and No-Brainers: Pop Language in Your Life, the Media, and, Like…Whatever and The Sponsored Life: Ads, TV, and American Culture. She has been widely published, including in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, New York, Mother Jones, and Huffington Post. She has appeared frequently on TV and radio, and can be seen in Helvetica, a film about the font, and the Netflix documentary Nobody Speak: Trials of a Free Press.
As rational, soaring, and adult-ready as Barack Obama's speech before the shrine of the Constitution in the National Archives was--and, in contrast, as full of retreaded lies as Dick Cheney's Personal Prosecution Protection Plan before the rightwing American Enterprise Institute was--the former vice was already hanging ten on a fear wave. The day before, the Republicans drew a blind fear response from the Democratically controlled Senate, which voted 90-6 against funding the closing of Guantanamo.
With that vote, the Dems returned to their customary defensive crouch. But it's not entirely their fault. Obama's White House made a basic mistake when it failed to recognize that if you leave a bunch of beaten dogs alone in the backyard for a week with the person who beat them, they'll whine and mewl and suck up to that abusive master all over again.
It doesn't matter that Cheney is on the other side of the fence now and can no longer hurt them. Old habits die hard, and it takes a firm hand to get a yellow dog up out of the middle of the road and home where it belongs.
What sort of psychological bent would lead people to want to be part of a dead-end political party like the GOP?
Clearly, fear--stirring it as well as succumbing to it--is central to such a psyche, and Republicans are swinging that big spiked mace as wildly as if it were the night before a bitterly contested election. This Web ad that came out last week isn't from Michael Savage or Glenn Beck (more from them later) but from House minority leader John Boehner and intel committee ranking Republican Pete Hoekstra.