Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

A Republican member of Congress, Don Young of Alaska, said in a speech this week that any member of Congress who votes in favor of the House resolution opposing the war should be "arrested, exiled, or hanged:"

Further, Young attributed his words to Abraham Lincoln, even though Lincoln said nothing of the sort. In fact, Republicans around the country have been spewing forth this false quote for some time now, as part of their long-standing argument that people who oppose the war should be, well, "arrested, exiled or hanged." Young took his words from other conservatives who had falsely been quoting Lincoln, not from Lincoln himself.

Considering the "scandals" the media often focuses on, one would think that making a big deal out of this would not be difficult. A congressman misquotes Lincoln and argues that other members of Congress should be killed. This should be a slam dunk, right? There should be a long list of people going on CNN or MSNBC demanding that Young apologize that the Washington Times reporters who falsely quoted Lincoln be fired. There should be a new organization to pop up from nowhere, called "Americans for Lincoln's Legacy," or something. Every talking head should be doing a segment about this on their next program, and act aghast that a member of Congress would willfully misquote Lincoln, much less call for the murder of war opponents (note that the former is probably worse than the latter, since Lincoln was a Republican and most war opponents in Congress are Democrats).

Of course, this isn't happening. While the cable news nets spent dozens of segments talking about the Edwards bloggers, and while hundreds of newpapers picked up one or more of the numerous wire reports written about that story, so far only two newspapers have picked up the story on Don Young. I don't watch the cable news nets, but I can't imagine there has been any coverage of this there, either. While one would think that a Congressman falsely making Abraham Lincoln appear like a bloodthirsty tyrant while simultaneously calling for the murder of a majority of the members of the house of Representatives is at least as big a news story as what two junior staffers for a presidential campaign wrote on their personal blog last year, clearly that is not the case. This story is just not making a dent in the news.

The main problem here is not just the media, however. In this circumstance, the main problem comes from Democrats who refuse to take the opportunity to pounce on these regularly insane statements from Republicans. There isn't a single Democrat in Congress who is bothering to speak up in outrage over Don Young's comments. With the exception of the Center for American Progress, I don't know any progressive advocacy organizations that are speaking up either. Basically, the entire Democratic establishment is just giving young a free pass on this. There are far more establishment Democrats who continue to attack bloggers over the Edwards flap than there are who are doing anything to attack Young. This is extremely frustrating, because in the end there is simply no way that the blogosphere can push this story into the media all by ourselves. The right-wing blogosphere can't push anything into national news without assistance from other conservative organizations, media and elected officials. The difference is that the right-wing blogosphere frequently gets that support from their establishment, while we get absolutely none from our establishment.

The refusal of Democrats to jump on this story also speaks volumes on how utterly self-defeating the Democratic mentality has become in Washington. Basically, establishment Democrats have developed a chronic case of Sistah Souljah-it is, where they are far more eager and willing to denounce members of their own party than they are to denounce Republicans. Quite a few Democrats took, and continue to take, great pains to make it known that they disapproved of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan being hired by the Edwards campaign. However, none of the same people are making it known that they found Young comments offensive, and that they would like to see the Washington Times journalist who propagated the false quote be fired. This is because, ever since Clinton denounced Sistah Souljah, many Demcorats have convinced themselves that distancing themselves from their own party is the surest path to political and media fame as a Democrat. It is in this way that virtually every single media scandal about someone saying something outrageous, offensive or vulgar focuses on Democrats and progressives. This is one of the reasons why we are the ones always apologizing, where Republicans and conservatives are the ones always on the attack.

For a party whose main image problem is that we don't seem "tough," it is pathetic and self-fulfilling that the only people are "leaders" are willing to be tough on are ourselves. For crying out loud, take advantage of these moments when they come to you. Have some respect for yourselves. Don't let Republicans demand you apologize for year-old comments made by random junior staffers while their elected officials call for your murder on the floor of the House. Why would anyone respect a party that acts like that? How pitiful can we be, as we beg for mercy even after we took the majority in both House of Congress? If the Democratic Party doesn't learn to respect itself, and find that it is more important to denounce Republicans than it is to Sistah Souljah every single person in your own party, not only can we forget about winning the White House in 2008, but our time in power on Capitol Hill will be short lived indeed.

Tags: Democrats, Media (all tags)



Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

This is a beautiful opportunity for Obama to show he knows how to attack. Didn't he invoke LIncoln in his recent speech? (And, of course, he's from IL.) This is the sort of thing, too, which he could attack while still preaching message of unity, because it's so clearly factually false and so utterly divisive.

So. Emails to the Obama campaign, asking him to use his media megaphone to call Young (and the other Bizarro Lincoln promoters) onto the carpet?

What can we do?

by BingoL 2007-02-16 09:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?
I guess we could do something like that, but in this case it might be too late. Besides, it is very tiring to not only try and keep this story alive on the blogosphere, but to also have to drag leading Democrats into doing something about it. I would like it if they did something on their own.

Now, that said, it isn't a terrible idea for for supporters to organize something like that. In fact, it might be a really good idea.
by Chris Bowers 2007-02-16 09:12AM | 0 recs
Young's staff's already backpedaling

It was in the WP today.

But anyway:  HEY, CHRIS!  Why can't WE do this pushback, too?  If I waited for an elected official to tell the media something, I'd be waiting a long time.

Write letters.  Blog about it.  Spam the links by e-mail.  C'mon!  It's not as if we're helpless, yannow.

by Phoenix Woman 2007-02-16 09:15AM | 0 recs

Doesn't retract the quote, but says he won't say it anymore.

Oh, and he still agrees with the whole "hanging Congressmen" part:

His spokeswoman, Meredith Kenny, says the congressman took the quote from an article he read in the Washington Times on Tuesday.

"Now that he's been informed these are not the actual words of Lincoln, he will discontinue attributing the words to Lincoln. However, he continues to totally agree with the message of the statement," Kenny said.

by tparty 2007-02-16 09:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

I'm ambivalent about this. I agree that the Dems are too timid in many ways. And I wholeheartedly agree that they should fight back whenever they are smeared. But . . . when Dems have demanded apologies for various outrageous statements made by Republicans in the past, they have been branded as weak whiners -- not only by conservatives but also, to some extent, by those in the left blogosphere. Perhaps there's a better way for Dems to go about demanding apologies? I'm also ambivalent because I find the GOP's strategies so childish and repulsive. I know that they shouldn't be given free passes, but I"m not sure what the Dems should do, esp. when they're in the midst of all kinds of struggles as it is. I guess what I'm saying is that it's hard for any and all of us to avoid internalizing the Dems are weak message.

by mlsev 2007-02-16 09:15AM | 0 recs
Don't complain, ridicule!

The guy has made a ridiculous comment. So laugh at him!

Don't make a Federal case out of it, just underline the crass idiocy of the statement. Roll your eyes, sigh, all that jazz.

Sometimes I think that the problem with Dem MCs is not timidness but a terminal goo-goo unwillingness to harness humor to the their chariots.

by skeptic06 2007-02-16 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't complain, ridicule!

Boo. I'm all for a laughing left, but I think taking the man at his word is the best way to drive such comments out of the sphere of acceptable opinion.

by sdedeo 2007-02-16 09:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't complain, ridicule!

Problem is this: a GOP rep makes a completely bananas comment like Young's.

According to the Casablanca Calculus, his crack isn't worth a hill of beans; not even a can.

If Dems mock his ignorance and hysteria, they come off as the regular guys.

If they get on their high horses with outrage, and act as if they're taking the statement seriously, they come off as guys with no sense of proportion and - worse - no sense of humor.

by skeptic06 2007-02-16 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't complain, ridicule!

You might be right -- I'll think about it.

From my point of view right now, though, these guys are "serious" -- in the sense that they fully expect not to be taken seriously by the majority of the country, but do want red meat for the base.

In other words, by not taking them seriously we play into their hands. We allow them to play this double game that's perfectly described by the phrase "compassionate conservatism".

"Obviously, when we say 'gay people sodomize dogs', you're not meant to take us seriously! We just say that because, well, we get a lot of votes by inspiring hate. This message isn't for you, please ignore it."

by sdedeo 2007-02-16 10:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't complain, ridicule!

What I'm disposed to doubt is whether you can get any traction with the rational voter with complaining about the likes of Young.

Because - as you suggest - the rational voter already writes off statements like his as typical pol crap, only going to confirm his jaundiced view of pols in general.

Then the Dems come along and say how awful what he said was, with the implication that the voter should be seething with outrage.

So, on the one hand, you've got a GOP bullshit artist trying furiously to rouse his rabble; and, on the other, you've got a Dem social-worker type wagging her finger and telling him what he should be thinking, and implying he's somehow deficient for not thinking what she says he should.

Little surprise if his reaction is What. Ever.

by skeptic06 2007-02-16 02:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Don't complain, ridicule!

This is exactly the source of the problem identified but Chris.  We liberals are all too ready to conclude, "Oh, that was a ridiculous remark, no one really feels that way!"

Laughing off extremist rhetoric is how we wound up with Rush Limbaugh as a mainstream political figure who gets to host administration officials on his show without any negative political consequences.

There's a very good reason why blog outrage makes the jump into the MSM but blog ridicule never does.  
When we decide that we're "above" taking remarks like this seriously, all we do is hand out a free pass.

by Steve M 2007-02-16 10:55AM | 0 recs
and I don't agree

that Democrats cannot be successful criticizing crazy Republican statements.  I'm thinking of Trent Lott.

by John DE 2007-02-16 12:28PM | 0 recs
Re: and I don't agree

As I recall, Lott was basically done in by the WH and a bunch of GOP in the Senate, abetted by some righty blogs, who thought that he had failed to kick ass in the 107th, and wanted a new model, viz the Video Doctor. (Great call, boys...)

Not to say the lefty sphere didn't help; but I doubt if they'd have managed it on their own.

by skeptic06 2007-02-16 03:09PM | 0 recs
I wonder how Alaksans

Who oppose the war feel about their state representative calling for their deaths?

by Drew 2007-02-16 09:22AM | 0 recs
Re: I wonder how Alaksans

Well, my guess is "resigned".  

He was my rep for a long time when I was younger, and I still have family there.  Everyone except the wingnuttiest wingnuts (thugh AK has plenty) knows Young is at best a dunce, but he brings the bacon home.

by jsw 2007-02-16 09:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

"I'm extremely proud of my role in the formation of a party founded on such noble principles. However, I fear that in a short 150 years, our party will so degenerate that its national representation will be a pack of liars, thieves and perverts, led by a man unfit to govern himself, let alone the Nation."--Abraham Lincoln (maybe)

by BriVT 2007-02-16 09:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

"One day, a president will lie to the people to take us into an unjust war. Also, the first man to step on the moon will be named 'Neil Armstrong'. I'm just saying I know what's going to happen." -- Abraham Lincoln (maybe)

by sdedeo 2007-02-16 09:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

"Don Young's middle name is 'John Wilkes Booth' and he's not allowed to be alone near schoolchildren" - Abraham Lincoln

by Englishlefty 2007-02-17 06:16AM | 0 recs
radioisotope tracking

You know, when they want to study the brain, they sometimes inject glucose "tagged" with a radioisotope so that they can see where it goes.

It looks like we have a nice little radioisotope here: this "quote" has only one source -- Insight Magazine, a rather radioactive source of right-wing smears, as it happens. We can watch the glucose of hatred propagate through the right-wing mind from the comfort of our living rooms.

by sdedeo 2007-02-16 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

I couldn't agree more.  Democrats, for some reason, feel an eternal obligation to "rise above" fights like this.  Don't pay any attention to Rush Limbaugh, they told us for years, you'll just validate him!  And now liberals far less extreme than Rush have been rendered toxic by the right-wing noise machine, while Rush still happily hosts the Vice-President of the United States on his program.

For years we failed to push back against extremism like this and now it's a normal part of the public discourse.  Enough already.

by Steve M 2007-02-16 09:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

I think Chris's comments are spot on.

I really, really object to Democrats who dump on Democrats instead of Republicans; it's the main reason I'm not so crazy about Obama, who for about a year seemed to preface all of his comments with "The trouble with Democrats is..." rather than simply making his point in a way that puts elected Republicans on the defensive.  Which is really not hard to do, since they are an atrocious bunch of liars and incompetents.

I'm not afraid of our leaders being seen as whiners -- Jim Webb never looks like he's whining about anything.  How about a genuine expression of outrage over an outragious, lying, despicable comment?  We only look weak when we take this crap and say "Thank you, may I have another?"  People like fighters, and we have to be willing to fight for our beliefs.

by DaveG 2007-02-16 09:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

What I find amusing about the bogus Lincoln quote is that it contains a word that didn't exist while Lincoln was alive.

Etymology Online

sabotage - 1910, from Fr. sabotage, from saboter "to sabotage, bungle," lit. "walk noisily," from sabot "wooden shoe" (13c.), altered (by association with O.Fr. bot "boot") from M.Fr. savate "old shoe," from an unidentified source that also produced similar words in O.Prov., Port., Sp., It., Arabic and Basque. In Fr., the sense of "deliberately and maliciously destroying property" originally was in ref. to labor disputes, but the oft-repeated story that the modern meaning derives from strikers' supposed tactic of throwing old shoes into machinery is not supported by the etymology. Likely it was not meant as a literal image; the word was used in Fr. in a variety of "bungling" senses, such as "to play a piece of music badly." The verb is first attested 1918 in Eng.

by Nina Katarina 2007-02-16 10:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

I think Atrios pointed out a few months ago that the Sister-Souljah tactic (or in policy debates, triangulation) was only useful for individual positioning, and was therefore a selfish and ultimately destructive act.  Democrats' tendency to jockey for personal advantage-- intellectual, financial, PR, etc.-- at the expense of the party is possibly the biggest political character deficiency we have, and I'm not sure how to remedy it... it's like a gaggle of tenure-seeking associate professors constantly undermining their colleagues in the hope of 'distinguishing' themselves.

by latts 2007-02-16 10:28AM | 0 recs
Now, the really funny thing here

Here's something Lincoln actually did say:

Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion... whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose -- and you allow him to make war at pleasure... The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us.

Lincoln was, in fact, a perfect example of a congressperson who would have been "arrested, exiled, or hanged" if Don Young's philosophy of government were to be followed. We remember Lincoln almost entirely for his presidency, but in 1846 he was a Congressional house rep from Illinois at the beginning of the Mexican-American War. Lincoln was vocal from the beginning that the President had lied on the evidence that got America into war, and railed throughout the war against "a war unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun by the President of the United States." His refusal to hold back on the war made him wildly unpopular, left him widely denounced using terms like "treasonable assaults of guerrillas at home", and eventually lost him his congressional seat. But he did it anyway, with an intensity and vituperativeness that no one in Congress during the Iraq war has even come close to matching.

by Silent sound 2007-02-16 10:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

I agree with Chris - here's a good example on how to hit back...

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/2 /16/9192/62995

by CarolSoprano 2007-02-16 10:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

Every Democrat should be railing against this comment as an insult to the troops! Because it is. Young's argument can so easily be turned in a 180 and thrown right back at him.

The soldiers are out there to do the job that they're told to do, and the politicians determine what that job is. Any troop whose performance affected by dissenting views among politicians is a bad troop.

by Mirza 2007-02-16 11:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

Jim Webb really has the best way of looking at this: "It is inverted logic to claim that we should continue to fight this war on behalf of the troops."

Of course we support the troops, but the troops enlisted so they could serve their country, not so the country could serve them.

by Steve M 2007-02-16 01:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

Hear! Hear! Chris, this post is absolutely spot on.  The timidity of the Dems when it comes to framing and,  most importantly, driving the media narrative is almost pathological at this point.  It's like the victim of domestic abuse that blames herself (as the case may most likely be) for the beatings.  How can we get the national Democratic leadership (except for Howard Dean, who, as the recepient of one of the great media hit jobs of all time in 2004, kinda gets this) on the couch ... and/or to schedule that medically necessary spine transplant?  

by WestCoast WIzard 2007-02-16 03:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

I did my best to defeat this monster.  I helped raise $7,000 online for Democrat Diane Benson, which awakened the conscience of the Alaska State Democratic Party to make a significant last minute contribution to her race.  We held Young to 57% which is pretty shabby for an incumbent. If only if only if only.  Hope she will run again, and not be invisible to the state and national party this next time.

by egregious 2007-02-16 06:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Democrats--A Little Help?

Liberals use naughty words.....Conservatives advocate hanging Senators

http://www.micropoll.com/akira/MicroPoll ?mode=html&id=23186

by mattinohio 2007-02-17 06:10AM | 0 recs
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