Friday, August 28, 2009

Right Wingers Warn of "Politicizing" Kennedy's Funeral, While They Ignore How They Politicize Everything

(Huffington Post) by Sam Stein

Conservatives accusing Democrats of trying to reap political advantage from the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) are conveniently ignoring the politicization of former president Ronald Reagan's death by Republicans more than four year's earlier.

Just two days after Kennedy lost his yearlong struggle with brain cancer, conservative media personalities are already decrying Democrats for using his death to jumpstart health care reform's passage.

The main criticisms have come from the likes of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, who have warned of another "Wellstone effect" -- a reference to the partisan fracas that followed former Sen. Paul Wellstone's highly political memorial service in 2002, after his death in a plane crash.

But when the shoe was on the other foot, Republicans went to great lengths to use the death of a conservative icon to validate their candidates and policies. Four years before he accused Democrats of using Kennedy's death "as a sympathy ploy to advance a health care bill," Limbaugh was drawing direct lines between Reagan's legacy fighting communism and the need for further U.S. engagement in the war in Iraq.

"Back then," the conservative radio host said, following Reagan's death on June 5, 2004. "[Strategic Defense Initiative] was regarded much as the whole war in Iraq is today. SDI was treated was treated as a joke; SDI was dangerous; SDI was going to blow up the world; SDI was impossible. It was typical liberalism: greatness couldn't be done. Greatness can't happen."

"Reagan was right just as George W. Bush is today," Limbaugh concluded, "and I really believe that if Reagan had been able he would have put his hand on Bush's shoulder and say to him, 'Stay the course, George.' I really believe that."

Reagan's death was also used as a campaign tool for conservative pushing for Bush's re-election.

"[N]o one wants to politicize the death of a recent president," the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, bluntly declared during a July 13, 2004, appearance on Fox News Sunday. "But you know what? The Bush campaign should. And, in my view, they should go out with an ad next week, a very respectful ad about President Reagan and say, We have a disagreement. George W. Bush is a Reaganite. John Kerry thought the Reagan presidency was a period of moral darkness."

Kristol wasn't alone in his inclination toward political opportunism. A whole host of GOP officials pushed to frame Bush as a Reagan disciple - a tax cutting, war fighting, conservative firebrand to contrast with the more passive Democrat John Kerry.

"Americans are going to be focused on President Reagan for the next week," said then-RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie. "The parallels [between him and Bush] are there. I don't know how you miss them."

"[Reagan] was a large man with large ideas," wrote conservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer "He slipped a lot of the times. He had his difficulties, but in the end he was vindicated by history, if you get the big ideas right. And I think there's a lot of application to President Bush, who also is interested in the big ideas in the war on terror, the war in Iraq, changing the economy, all of this."

Indeed, Bush directly sought to profit from Reagan's passage. The campaign put a tribute page to the former president on its website. It also sent an e-mail inviting supporters to add to a "living memorial" for Reagan on the page. As the Boston Globe noted "one click away from the page," was another page "that solicits campaign donations and recruits volunteers."

The Reagan-Bush comparisons, on occasion, went too far even for the Reagans. Members of the former president's family complained after the Club For Growth ran an ad that compared Reagan's fight against communism to the war on terror.

The Drudge Report, meanwhile, memorably used a frame from C-Span of Bill and Hillary Clinton with their eyes closed to claim that the former first couple was taking a nap during the Reagan eulogy. They weren't.

At the time, Democrats were well aware of what was happening but felt almost helpless in stopping it. Jim Jordan, Kerry's former campaign manager, said he was "dreading" the fact that Bush would fully attach himself to Reagan. "He's going to turn Reagan into his own verifier."


T. Paine said...

I won't deny that Reagan was used to the Republicans' benefit. I also won't deny that the Democrats also do this as a matter of course. It is definitely one of the more unseemly aspects of politics.

Admittedly I am biased, but I can't help but feel the Democrats were more blatant in their attempt for political gain by doing this in the past, particularly when they turned the Wellstone memorial service into a campaign rally for Democrats. Rush is right. It turned people off big time back then so they should be careful not to repeat the same mistake again.

They should respectfully praise their hero and icon, attribute to him all the wonderful things he accomplished, and then let things be.

Of course, we both know that they can't leave well enough alone with just that. For the Democrats sake, I hope their actions don't come back to bite them. For freedom and liberty's sake...I hope that is precisely what happens! :)

Dave Splash said...

Rush thinks liberals espousing the virtues of a deceased liberal turns people off, eh? Yeah, sounds like a good reason to stop doing it, I guess. That Wellstone thing is the most overblown, overhyped, so-called issue of the last decade or so. The only people who were bothered by this so-called issue were Sean Hannity and Rush Limabugh. Somehow, I don't think there is anything a liberal does that would not draw criticism from those two.

I don't think it is beyond the pale to introduce politics at the funeral for a politician, I just have a problem with the double standard imposed by the right. Celebrating Reagan's conservatism = ok, celebrating Kennedy's liberalism = politicization.

They both do it, neither one has a monopoly. The left doesn't jump all over the righties when they do it, but the right starts the pre-emptive outrage attack before it has even begun.

Snave said...

"They should respectfully praise their hero and icon, attribute to him all the wonderful things he accomplished, and then let things be."

Thanks for admitting that wonderful things were accomplished! 8-)>

But let things be? You mean, like forget about trying to reform health care, forget about putting people above profit? Heh! I've seen some headlines saying "Camelot is dead". Well... they can only wish. I think the left is just getting started.