I try to run a video clip of Bill Maher's New Rules, from HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher every weekend, because--well, it keeps the blog up to date with a very easy cut and paste, for one--but it almost always relates in some way to something I've been blogging about. The last new rule in this week's clip, is about something I've been blogging (and warning) about since before Barack Obama was even named the presumptive Democratic nominee.
That is, while we Democrats are entitled to feel a massive amount of schadenfreude over this election, we have to steel ourselves against a coming onslaught: the attack of the 50 foot conservatives. If we use the Clinton presidency as a model, we know what to watch out for. The far-rightest of wingnuts like Rush Limbaugh attacked Bill and Hillary Clinton from day one (or before that, if you count the time as President-elect). There was an instant hatred, and overwhelming chorus of "let's get this guy" from the moment he was elected.
Bill Clinton was a Presidency in search of an impeachment charge from the moment he set foot in the White House. Conservatives like Sean Hannity, Matt Drudge and Ann Coulter were figuratively born during the Clinton administration, and were among the henchmen who brought him down. When they finally found something to hang Clinton with (Lewinsky), Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes used the scandal to solidify and grow FOX "News," then a fledgling and foundering startup news channel, into a ratings powerhouse.
In short, the animus toward the Clintons changed the far-right fringe of the party into something approaching mainstream. Loony conspiracy theories from Rush Limbaugh (think Vince Foster) became conventional wisdom to a large chunk of the electorate. The ferocity with which party insiders and conservative punditry, and conservative money went after the Clintons forged a new "conservative America" that didn't really exist. But it was powerful enough to convince us for a while. And working in concert with political operatives like Karl Rove, the end result was George W. Bush becoming President, with control (for most of his term) over all three branches of government.
The list of immoral and illegal things done by Bush and his lawless lackeys is long, and detailed here on this blog, and all over the internets. These are not years-old land deals, cattle futures, suspect Christmas card lists, tit-for-tat nights in the Lincoln bedroom, or other frivolous "scandals" like lying about a blow job. These are real, honest-to-goodness examples of law breaking, cronyism, incompetence and (many believe) treason. And yet, it looks as though Bush and the rest will largely get a pass on everything.
And the real kick in the head, is that once President Barack Obama finally does measure for new drapes, he is going to be beset by the same nit-picking, stalker-like attention to every little thing that Clinton was--probably worse. Conservatives who let things slide from Bush--like torture, and ignoring Congressional subpoenas--will suddenly care about the slightest minutiae of everything. And if Democrats try to say, "Hey, this is nothing. Remember what BUSH did?", we're going to get the same response we used to give when someone would whine about Clinton: "Let it go, he's not President anymore!"
The difference between the offenses of Clinton and Bush are vast, but it won't matter. Watch and see. And if the Clinton years birthed Hannity, Drudge and Coulter, and helped legitimize FOX "News" and Rush Limbaugh, what are we in for now? Can the needle of far right or far-far-right move much further? Will we as a public allow ourselves to be fooled again? Might the center once again become the center? Time will tell.
Here is the Real Time with Bill Maher "New Rules" segment that inspired this post: New Rules