Media

Secrets of the Right-Wing 'Brain': The Hilarious Scheme to Pretend Jeb Bush Is a Liberal

L. Brent Bozell's angle is transparent -- but perhaps effective.

It’s long been obvious that the Republicans had a special gift for “I know you are but what am I” politics. (Some people refer to this as “projection” in which someone applies their own faults and flaws onto another.) One example of this is how they routinely threaten to shut down the government unless the Democrats acquiesce to their outrageous demands by insisting that it’s the Democrats who are shutting down the government by failing to acquiesce to their outrageous demands.  It’s a very common right-wing tactic designed to twist liberals into pretzels trying to explain why that makes no sense.

But perhaps the single greatest achievement of this sort of projection is their insistence that the media is liberal. (This goes hand in hand with another very successful right-wing tactic called “playing the refs” in which they mau-mau the press by accusing them of being tools of the left.) This tactic has its roots in the 1960s and ’70s when the far right exploited cracks in the so-called liberal consensus, aided and abetted by establishment opinion writers who found themselves discomfited by the cultural changes of the era.

Nobody has been more successful at this game than L. Brent Bozell, the head of the Media Research Center, which has spent decades chronicling the alleged biases of the liberal media.  Each year the MRC gives out a series of awards to the liberal media in which they clutch their pearls over all the liberal hate they are forced to endure. You see, they are deeply concerned about the incivility and rudeness of liberal America so they get together each year to give what they call the “Dishonor awards” to reporters, commentators and citizens whom they believe are polluting the discourse.

Judged to be 2014s most horrifying leftist quote, which had the likes of delicate flowers such as Erick Erickson and Neal Boortz calling for the fainting couch, was this one from CNN’s Carol Costello:

“Okay. I’m just going to come right out and say it: This is quite possibly the best minute and a half of audio we’ve ever come across — well, come across in a long time anyway. A massive brawl in Anchorage, Alaska, reportedly involving Sarah Palin’s kids and her husband. It was sparked after someone pushed one of her daughters at a party….And now police have released audio of that interview. It does include some rather colorful language from Bristol. Here now is Bristol’s recollection of how that night unfolded. So sit back and enjoy.”

— CNN Newsroom anchor Carol Costello on Oct. 22, introducing audio of Bristol Palin describing how a man shoved her, dragged her on the ground and repeatedly cursed at her.

At long last, madame, have you no decency?

Bozell constantly berates liberals for being “haters.” Seeing as he has a bit of a history of saying what a reasonable person would likely see as being less than civil, perhaps it just proves the point that it takes one to know one. For instance:

On Fox News’ Hannity, Bozell said, “How long do you think Sean Hannity’s show would last if four times in one sentence, he made a comment about, say, the President of the United States, and said that he looked like a skinny, ghetto crackhead? Which, by the way, you might want to say that Barack Obama does.” [Fox News, Hannity, 12/22/11, via Media Matters]

Needless to say, one of the MRCs most vociferous complaints is that conservatives are unfairly accused of racism.

But despite the fact that Bozell has been doing yeoman’s work for the Republican Party for decades, he’s not universally popular among leaders of the GOP:

In a morning interview with a conservative radio talk show, Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for Republican super-PAC American Crossroads, dubbed conservative author L. Brent Bozell III a “hater” for his frequent criticism of GOP leaders in Washington. Hours later a group of influential Bozell supporters shot a letter to Crossroads President Steven Law calling for Mr. Collegio’s head. [Washington Wire, the Wall Street Journal, 2/6/13]

Bozell is an old soldier of the conservative movement, and part of what makes him powerful is the fact that he does not kowtow to the establishment. In fact, these folks prefer it when the GOP is out of power where their influence is greater than elected officials having to make excuses for Republicans who flail about ineffectually in Washington. (They call it “rebuilding.”)

And Bozell just keeps getting better and better at what he does so well. Case in point is his newest ad, which my colleague Simon Maloy wrote about yesterday. Bozell doesn’t want anything to do with a Jeb Bush presidency. Bush is as conservative as anyone who wants to be in the White House could hope to be, but he’s not a movement conservative the way their preferred candidates like Cruz, Jindal, Carson, Huckabee or even Walker might be. He’s a blue-blooded product of the Big Money establishment and the conservative movement will lose a tremendous amount of power if the next president is nominated without their explicit endorsement.

Bozell has a PAC called ForAmerica, which released a video attacking Jeb. Maloy describes it this way:

Their first salvo is a video of Bush presenting Hillary Clinton with an award for her public service on September 10, 2013 – “almost a year to the day after the terrorist attack in Benghazi,” the group notes as a dramatic “DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNNN” plays in your head. The political logic is as follows: Jeb gave Hillary an award; Hillary did Benghazi; therefore, Jeb gave Hillary an award for doing Benghazi.

On the surface this would seem to be the message. Jeb is “unelectable” because he was nice to Hillary but Hillary was responsible for Benghazi and therefore Jeb is tainted by his friendly association with her at this event. It’s hard to believe that anyone thinks this very thin association of Bush with Benghazi could possibly be used by, well … anyone. But Bozell is much cleverer than that. He’s making the case that Jeb is unelectable for an entirely different reason. He has taken the exact case against George W. Bush and 9/11 — “ignored evidence,” “refused to act,” “happened on his watch” — and applied it to Hillary and Benghazi. I’m sure many right-wingers have internalized the idea that this event is an act of terrorist aggression that Hillary failed to stop, but when you put it in the context of Jeb Bush it takes on another dimension, doesn’t it?

What are they really saying with this ad that immediately evokes the comparison of Benghazi with 9/11? They are really saying that Jeb Bush is unelectable because of his brother, not because of any award he gave to Hillary. Bozell isn’t aiming this ad at the rank and file. He’s aiming it at the Big Money Boys whom he obviously feels need to be reminded of the serious baggage Jeb brings with him.

These movement conservatives really do not want another Bush on the ticket. And the smart ones like Bozell who’ve been playing this game for many decades know how to undermine their own better than anyone. They can’t admit that “W” screwed the pooch, but it is the most powerful line of attack against Jeb and they know it. This is their way of getting that out there.

 

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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