|"I have thoughts! Technically, I have thoughts. Probably."|
Sometimes there are slow news days. Washington Examiner
commentary writer Joe Gehrke must have had the slowest of his life yesterday.
He was criticizing a blog post by smirking HBO commentator Bill Maher
, a nice, soft target for a conservative gentleman. Maher's post was a meandering meditation on everything from Congress not being able to pass a bill to how "the same old Washington pundits haven't said anything interesting since disco." What Gehrke decided to seize on, however, was Allen West -- and racism
He starts in on the tired political analysis hackery in the first sentence:
Bill Maher, a comedian who donated $1 million to President Obama's superPAC, attacked the only Republican member of the Congressional Black Caucus while describing the GOP as "the party of the apes."
Guilt by association is a great trick to give bloggers something to blabber about -- the blabbering looks pretty shallow, though, when there isn't actually an association. Take, for example, the media pants that were crapped when Rick Santorum funder Foster Friess joked on CNN that back in his day, birth control was a woman holding an aspirin between her knees
. Yeah, maybe he and Santorum share ignorant, unfair views on health care, but it's not fair to attack Santorum for taking money from an asshole. Assholes give money to everybody.
Now, on to this "Allen West is an ape" thing. Here's what Maher says in the third paragraph of his post:
The idea that the blame for our government's dysfunction is equally shared by the parties just is a giant, steaming mound of horseshit and anyone who has paid attention to politics over the last 20 years knows it. Or as I like to call it, "The Rise of the Party of the Apes."
OK. No actual mention of West yet, just a joke based around a sci-fi movie. But let's keep reading. From Maher's eighth paragraph:
Or take Allen West. Seriously, take him to the padded cell and give him 20 CCs of the high test. Ornstein and Mann start off their Post op-ed by noting that recently Rep. Allen West said that there are "78 to 81" Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party. And not one Republican said, "Allen, come on. You're making us look dumb."
Oh, god! The racism! Tell us about it, Joel:
The liberal comedian... targets Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., as his proof that "the apes" have taken over the GOP... Maher's indirect description of West as an "ape" -- a term historically used to denigrate black people as subhuman -- would undoubtedly provoke cries of racism if a conservative figure, such as Rush Limbaugh, made such a remark about a Democratic member of the CBC.
Sure it would. But nobody made "such a remark" about anybody. Maher isn't saying black people are stupid, he's saying Republicans are stupid, and Allen West is their enthusiastic mascot. That much should be obvious to anyone who makes money typing words, even someone who looks like his internal monologue is mostly humming.
"Given his history with the Democratic Party, though, it seems unlikely that Maher will be rebuked for characterizing West as an ape," he continued. Brilliant! Make up racism, then preemptively blame Democrats for not condemning it.
Nobody's suggesting we start calling Allen West an ape. Even if you disagree with him, even if you think he's gleefully extinguishing the last lingering embers of civil political discourse, being racist is not OK. Also, Bill Maher can be a jackass. We get it. But columnists (and bloggers and journalists and weird mashups of all three) are supposed to be holding politicians, and each other, accountable -- and columns like Gehrke's aren't helping anybody.