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Bill Moyers & Thomas Frank: How America's Demented Politics Let the GOP Off the Hook for Their Giant Mess

Bill Moyers interviews Thomas Frank on how our short attention span has allowed conservatives to escape blame for their role in the economic meltdown.
 
 
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Editor's note: In the following interview Bill Moyers and Thomas Frank, author of "What's the Matter With Kansas" and "The Wrecking Crew," talk about why conservatives can get away with blaming Obama for the past decade of conservative failures. 

Bill Moyers: There were hands in the air in Washington this week, but it wasn't a stickup. The new Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, appointed by Congress to find out how America got rolled, began hearings this week. These four are not the victims of one of the greatest bank heists in history - they're the perpetrators, bankers so sleek and crafty they got off with the loot in broad daylight, and then sweet talked the government into taxing us to pay it back. 

Watching that scene on the opening day of the hearings, it was hard enough to believe that almost a year has passed since Barack Obama raised his hand, too -- taking the oath of office to become our 44th President. Even harder to remember what America looked like before Obama, because we've also been robbed of memory, assaulted by what the Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz described as a "fantastic proliferation of mass media." We live in a time "characterized by a refusal to remember." Inconvenient facts simply disappear down the memory hole, as in George Orwell's novel, "1984." 

President Obama's made plenty of mistakes during his first year, and we've critiqued them frequently here on the JOURNAL, but hardly anyone talks any more about what happened in the years before. He inherited from George W. Bush the biggest financial debacle since the Great Depression, along with two unpopular and costly wars, and a dysfunctional and demoralized government. 

It's important to remember those years, a time that has been characterized by the historian Thomas Frank, as "A Low, Dishonest Decade." He's here to talk about them with me. Thomas Frank is editor of the recently relaunched BAFFLER magazine, a literary journal; a contributing editor of HARPER'S; a weekly columnist for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL; and the author of ONE MARKET UNDER GOD, the bestselling WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS? and his latest bestseller, THE WRECKING CREW, now out in paperback. Good to have you back. 

THOMAS FRANK: It's my pleasure, Bill. 

BILL MOYERS: How is it that the people who are responsible for the mess that Obama inherited are getting away with demonizing him when he's only had less than a year to clean it up. Let me show you just a sample of commentators railing against the President. 

RUSH LIMBAUGH: President Obama and the Democrats are destroying the US economy. They are purposefully doing it, I believe. 

GLENN BECK: This is a well-thought out plan to collapse the economy as we know it. 

JONATHAN HOENIG: The president has, I think if you listen to what he says, a hatred for capitalism. Where do jobs come from? They don't come from the government, they come from the profit seeking self-interest, from what I hear and see, the President never misses an opportunity to smear and [no audio] slap! 

RUSH LIMBAUGH: This guy is a coward. He does not have the gonads or the spine to even stand up and accept what he's doing! All of this is his doing. He cannot even probably say, you should like this -- you may not like this, but I'm telling you it's the best thing for you, it's the best thing for me. No! He knows it's a disaster, he has to slough this off, on his previous-- or his predecessor, the previous administration. 

 
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