Remember during the George W. Bush administration when a former Clinton official appeared on “Hardball,” stated that President Bush had allowed 9/11 to happen for political gain, and Chris Matthews nodded along in agreement? Of course, you don’t. Because that never happened. But this week former (and disgraced) FEMA chief Michael Brown on Fox News Channel asserted that President Obama had permitted the BP oil leak to continue for days in order to justify reversing course on expanding offshore drilling to “pander to the environmentalists.” And Fox host Neil Cavuto nodded.
Just when you thought the conspiratorial wacky right couldn’t become more detached from reality — see Glenn Beck — it has. With the oil spill and the New York City terror plot, prominent conservative pundits have jumped the rails. I often ignore the cranks and blowhards of the right. Life is too short — and too real. But the past few days have served up too many examples of extreme conservative nuttiness. Sorry if that sounds uncivil. But there’s no other way to describe it in polite company.
Michael “Heckuva Job” Brown was not the only clown on the oil spill conspiracy bus. Rush Limbaugh was at the front. On his radio show, he suggested that environmentalists might have created this disaster to sabotage pending legislation in the Senate that would allow for more offshore drilling and nuclear plants: “What better way to head off more drilling and nuclear plants then by blowing up a rig? I’m just, I’m just noting the timing here.” Former Bush White House press secretary Dana Perino — on Fox, of course — declared, “I’m not trying to introduce a conspiracy theory, but was this deliberate? You have to wonder . . . if there was sabotage involved.” (The explosion that created this spill occurred a mile beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. How many wild enviros have their own underwater vehicles?) Eric Bolling, a host on the — what else? — Fox Business Network, hinted that the Obama White House “let this thing leak” so the administration could dump its proposal for expanding offshore drilling
But I’m confused. Which is it? Did the Obama administration allow a catastrophe to proceed unchecked? Or did green meanies in a submarine (a yellow submarine?) pick one of the hardest wells to reach and blow it up to show people how environmentally dangerous an oil spill can be? Hey, maybe it’s both. How ingenious of all those environmentalists, secret socialists, and covert Muslims. I bet they worked this out years ago during a meeting in Kenya.
Meanwhile, Limbaugh and other right-wingers also went cuckoo over the failed car-bombing in New York City. “I wonder if [the] SUV had an Obama sticker on it?” Limbaugh said. “Notice how quickly they got it out of Times Square before anybody could hop and maybe see an Obama 2012 bumper sticker on the damn car.” Referring to suspect Faisal Shahzad, he added, “Of course, he’s a Democrat. Who knows how many times he voted and where.” Anything to tie the president to terrorists, right? And before Shahzad’s arrest was announced, several conservative bloggers suggested the NYC plot was the work of leftists looking for a big May Day blast, with one writing, “So, we have the suspicious explosion of an oil rig in the gulf that happened the day before Lenin’s birthday (Earth Day) and now we have an attempted attack on May Day, another day celebrated by left wing communists.” What a busy week for the left: destroying the Gulf and attacking New York City.
Should we laugh or cry at all this nonsense? After all, who cares about a few no-name bloggers? But Limbaugh and Fox do have millions of followers — even if most of them live in a bizarro alternative world. Does this toxic sludge, like an oil spill, spread, and then poison the national discourse?
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs seems to believe so. At Tuesday’s daily briefing, he lit into Fox News correspondent Wendell Goler about the Michael Brown interview. When Goler asked the already-clichéd question — is the spill “Obama’s Katrina”? — Gibbs noted it was essentially pointless to answer a Fox News query:
I’m not entirely sure that a factual answer that I might give to any one of your questions is going to change the notion that your network put out the former FEMA director to make an accusation that the well had been purposely set off in order to change an offshore drilling decision.
Gibbs also told Goler that he and Major Garrett, another Fox correspondent who covers the White House, ought to “get on a conference call and maybe do some work.”
Gibbs was right to be ticked off. With both the oil spill and the failed Times Square attack, there are serious matters to ponder. What are the implications of the oil spill for future drilling plans? Did the Obama administration make a mistake in accepting BP’s early statements that this leak was not so calamitous? Did the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling screw up? (Short answer: yes, big time.) How can we best protect the people and ecosystems in harm’s way? As for the near-bombing, how could Shahzad get so close to committing such an attack? Why did he almost get away on that flight to Dubai? How can an open society prevent someone from stuffing an SUV with explosives and detonating it in the middle of one of the great cities of the world? This is all dead-serious stuff.
Yet Limbaugh, Brown and Co., when their country needs informed discussion, seem to be most concerned with setting new records in bogus political exploitation. They are not patriots. They are sound-bite scoundrels.