GOP and Conservative Pundits Grasp at Straws to Fuel Right-Wingers' Paranoia
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THE HARD-TO-ANTICIPATE PARANOIA.... It's generally wise for prominent political figures to consider how critics might interpret their words. If a team of detractors are studying every syllable, just waiting to pounce on something they can use, it makes sense to be cautious. There's no benefit in giving rivals ammunition.
But in this environment, it's hard to anticipate just how paranoid some people will choose to be.
Yesterday, for example, White House Office of Health Reform Communications Director Linda Douglass appeared in a three-minute video to debunk one of many bogus far-right claims. The White House blog post on this noted:
There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to email@example.com.
This hardly seemed controversial. There's an aggressive campaign underway to mislead Americans, and the White House wants to help set the record straight. If some especially pernicious lies are making the rounds, folks can let the White House know directly, so officials can get the truth out.
Except, that's not how the right sees it. RedState interpreted this to mean "the White House wants you to report ... anybody publicly opposing" health care reform. Soon after, Rush Limbaugh had embraced the same line, and Malkin wasn't far behind. Naturally, Drudge joined the fun.
By late yesterday, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was asserting that the White House wants Americans to report on each other. Today, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) appears to have completely lost his mind.
Cornyn says this practice would let the White House collect personal information about people who oppose the President.
"By requesting citizens send 'fishy' emails to the White House, it is inevitable that the names, email, addresses, IP addresses and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House," Cornyn wrote in a letter to Obama. "You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program."
Cornyn asked Obama to cease the program immediately, or at the very least explain what the White House would do with the information it collects.
Steve Benen is "blogger in chief" of the popular Washington Monthly online blog, Political Animal . His background includes publishing The Carpetbagger Report, and writing for a variety of publications, including Talking Points Memo, The American Prospect, the Huffington Post, and The Guardian. He has also appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," Air America Radio's "Sam Seder Show," and XM Radio's "POTUS '08."