Former reporter Timothy Egan's Wednesday night posting on his nytimes.com blog, "Building a Nation of Know-Nothings," was an off-target bullet spray across various conservative targets, from John McCain to the Obama-is-a-Muslim rumors to Rush Limbaugh to Fox News to global warming.
Having shed much of his dignity, core convictions and reputation for straight talk, Senator John McCain won his primary on Tuesday against the flat-earth wing of his party. Now McCain can go search for his lost character, which was last on display late in his 2008 campaign for president.
Egan relayed a campaign moment when McCain knocked down a supporter's idea that candidate Barack Obama was "an Arab."
That ill-informed woman - her head stuffed with fabrications that could be disproved by a pre-schooler - now makes up a representative third or more of the Republican party. It's not just that 47 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.
Speaking of polls, does Egan remember the 2007 Rasmussen poll showing 35% of Democrats believe Bush had prior knowledge of the 9-11 terrorist attacks?
In the much-discussed Pew poll reporting the spike in ignorance, those who believe Obama to be Muslim say they got their information from the media. But no reputable news agency - that is, fact-based, one that corrects its errors quickly - has spread such inaccuracies.
So where is this "media?" Two sources, and they are - no surprise here - the usual suspects. The first, of course, is Rush Limbaugh, who claims the largest radio audience in the land among the microphone demagogues, and his word is Biblical among Republicans.
Egan relayed some quotes, probably plucked from Media Matters, of host Limbaugh (who Egan has previously called a "sweaty, swollen man") purporting to question Obama's Christian faith, then laid out what he sees as the grand GOP conspiracy to undermine the president. Egan is also an expert on internal GOP machinations, apparently.
Once Limbaugh has planted a lie, a prominent politician can pick it up, with little nuance. So, over the weekend, Kim Lehman, one of Iowa's two Republican National Committee members, went public with doubts on Obama's Christianity. Of course, she was not condemned by party leaders.
Egan somehow extracted a racial innuendo out of standard criticism of Michelle Obama's expensive trip to Spain during a recession:
The White House said Michelle Obama and her daughter Sasha were accompanied by just a few friends - and they paid their own costs. But, wink, wink, the damage is done. He's Muslim and foreign. She's living the luxe life on your dime. They don't even have to mention race. The code words do it for them.
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