The GOP’s Double Standard on Anger


* By Nat Parry *

In the wake of the bitter health-care debate and some ugly incidents of violence against Democratic members of Congress, there have been some belated – and halfhearted – appeals from Republican leaders to tamp down the fiery rhetoric on the Right.

In a statement on Wednesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner said the recent wave of violence and physical threats against Democrats is “unacceptable” – but he was quick to point out that he sympathized with the motivations:

“I know many Americans are angry over this health-care bill, and that Washington Democrats just aren’t listening. But, as I’ve said, violence and threats are unacceptable.”

While stumping for Sen. John McCain’s reelection in Arizona on Friday, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin also dialed back from the implications of her own recent comments, like telling her backers to “reload” and putting crosshairs on the districts of endangered Democrats.

“We know violence isn’t the answer,” Palin said. “When we take up our arms, we’re talking about our vote.”

She also blamed the controversy on “this BS coming from the lame-stream media, lately, about us inciting violence.”

So, while Republican leaders may be disavowing specific acts of political violence, their broader message appears to be that these feelings of anger are a healthy and legitimate response to objectionable Democratic policies.

This lenient attitude toward expressions of anger may come as a surprise to many progressives who remember that several years ago anger over President George W. Bush’s actions, such as having his political allies on the U.S. Supreme Court put him in the White House and his launching an unprovoked war in Iraq, was dismissed as a sign of mental illness.

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Neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer (a onetime psychiatrist) dubbed it “Bush Derangement Syndrome,” a term he coined to describe “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency – nay – the very existence of George W. Bush.”

The term was picked up by commentators in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Fox News and the blogosphere.

While Krauthammer came up with his diagnosis of angry liberals in 2003, its origins could be traced to the earliest days of the Bush administration, when Americans were told they must unite behind the new President despite the fact that he had assumed the White House after losing the national popular vote and stopping the counting of ballots in Florida.

On Inauguration Day 2001, as thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators protested in the streets, Bush promised to usher in a new era of civility in Washington. Most of the press corps and congressional Democrats took him at his word. Those Americans who were still bitter about the outcome of Election 2000 were told to “get over it.”


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