The Right’s George Costanza Problem


    As the sirens of the right go out in a howl of fury and defensiveness, it’s becoming clear that the likes of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck have a more self-destructive streak than that for which we’ve given them credit. In a weird way, it’s starting to remind me of the nine-season saga of “Seinfeld”‘s George Costanza.  

    George, early in pretty much every episode, would get caught in some sort of lie, mistake, exaggeration, or otherwise embarrassing situation.  But that wasn’t really the problem. The problem was that he would inevitably double down on his nonsense, invest in it as if it were a blue-chip stock, and carry it to the bitter end until it all blew up in his face.

    We seem to be nearing the end of the movement about nothing that is the story of Palin and her ensemble cast. And like George – as usual – they are doubling down on their mistakes and thereby making them that much worse.  You can tell the episode is going to be over soon when the joke starts to be on them.

    Yes, Sarah and company would be wise to duck their heads for a while, mutter some words of calm and condolence and talk peacefully about something else, anything really.  But no.  For these folks, now’s the time to circle the wagons, escalate the attack, inflame the rhetoric to the “towering inferno” setting.

    Palin could say “Yeah, y’know, I might’ve turned the thermostat up a bit there at times, but we all get excited in the heat of the moment, and I’d be happy to work with both Democrats and Republicans towards a more positive tone in Washington.”

    As opposed to “Within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.”  (And you want to be my latex salesman president?)

    Limbaugh could say “Yes, I am a ferocious advocate for my case, but I certainly don’t wish to incite violence against anyone, and if any psychologically unbalanced person has ever taken my words the wrong way, I truly regret it, and hope I can choose those words more carefully in the future.”

    As opposed to “What Mr. Loughner knows is that he has the full support of a major political party in this country.”  (You very bad man, Jerry Rush.  Very bad man.)

    Bill O’Reilly could say “Look, there is a time to attack and a time to lay off the attack.  I’m happy to lead the attack when the time is right, but let’s all take a breath in the wake of this tragedy, pray for the victims, and think.”  

    As opposed to “The New York Times, MSNBC, Paul Krugman and others, are furious that their far-left vision is falling apart, so they are using a terrible tragedy, using it, to attack their perceived political enemies.”  (Yada, yada, yada)

    And Glenn Beck might’ve said: “Yeah, I’m an emotional guy.  I get overwhelmed sometimes – we all do.  But I know that there are people on all sides of the debate who love their country, and – without changing our core principles or values – we need to come together as one country.”

    As opposed to “Politicians [are] pushing a ban on certain symbols and words, a ban on guns, a ban on talk radio.”  (As George once said, “Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”)

    Y’know, maybe it’s time to stop being outraged at these folks and to just start laughing at them.  Maybe we should simply look at them as sad little George Costanzas, preposterous losers as opposed to terrifying opponents.  Because petty people like these ultimately tend to be the source of their very own downfalls.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that!


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