By James M. Wall — My Catbird Seat
Politicians, pollsters, media and pundits would have us believe ”the economy and taxes” were the burning issues in our late, unlamented midterm elections.
Don’t believe it. A 30 second campaign ad (shown below) was used by a winning Republican candidate to peddle fear. It ran on behalf of one of 60 new House members who returned Republican control to the House of Representatives.
The ad was false. It arrived on the airwaves with the media backing of numerous Fox News pundits and newscasters.
Fox News is the right wing Republican-oriented television network run by Rupert Murdoch, shown above with his old friend and ally, Israeli leader Shimon Peres.
The “economy-taxes” mantra sounds reasonable enough. And there is no doubt that the uncertainty over the nation’s economic future is the source of considerable public anxiety. However, that future called for serious campaign discussions, which most politicians avoided, reaching instead for deception and fear-mongering.
Renee Ellmers, a Republican House candidate in North Carolina, defeated incumbent Democrat Bob Etheridge, in a campaign in which Ellmers ran this ad which linked “terrorists” to the building of an Islamic Center–of course she called it a “mosque”– near Ground Zero in New York City.
In a televised interview discussing the ad, CNN reporter Anderson Cooper confronted Ellmers with her interchangeable use of “Muslim” and “terrorist” in the ad. He was suggesting Ellmers had inferred that all Muslims are terrorists. She hedged her answer.
The Roman poet Juvenal’s Satire X, circa 100 AD, described the politically manipulative practice of rulers employing “bread and circuses” to control the citizens. It is a term that fits our mid term elections perfectly. Here is Juvenal in Satire X:
… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.
Doug Perry writes on his blog, Fellowship of the Martyrs:
Juvenal here makes reference to the elite Roman practice of providing free wheat to some poor Romans as well as costly circus games and other forms of entertainment as a means gaining political power through popularity.
Our “bread” in the 21st century are loaves of distortions and lies which appeal not to our finer natures, but to hate, fear and ignorance. Our circuses are to be found, among other places, on news/entertainment channels like Fox “news”. The first casualty in both war and politics is truth-telling.
Republican challenger Sharon Angle, who almost unseated Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid in the race for Reid’s Nevada Senate seat, never repudiated a lie she repeated during her campaign that Sharia Law is enforced in Dearborn, Michigan. Asked how she knew this, Angle said she had read it, somewhere.
The right wing media world repeats these lies so often they become the “truth”. The Godfather of that media world is Rupert Murdoch.
In a recent speech at an ADL (Anti-Defamation League) dinner, Rupert Murdoch, arguably the most influential mainstream media chief on Planet Earth, made some extraordinary statements which must be challenged. . . .
In his speech Murdoch said his own perspective on the evil of anti-Semitism was “simple”. He put it this way:
“We live in a world where there is an ongoing war against the Jews. For the first decades after Israel’s founding, this war was conventional in nature. The goal was straightforward – to use military force to overrun Israel.”
That was Murdoch’s carefully understated way of endorsing Zionism’s assertion that for the first decades of its life Israel lived in danger of annihilation, the “driving into the sea” of its Jews.
As I document in detail through the three volumes of the American edition of my book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, Israel’s existence was never, ever, in danger from any combination of Arab force. . . (To read all of Hart’s analysis, click here.)
Talking Points Memo (TPM) identified a cadre of victorious midterm Republican candidates as “crazies”, candidates swept into office with the support of right wing voters who find their” truth” inside the “right wing media bubble” dominated by Murdoch’s Fox News.
TPM identified Ellmers as one of the “crazies”.
Also on the TPM list is a conservative Republican from Florida, Allen West, an African American, who according to TPM:
. . . built his conservative political career on a particular event from his own military service — when he tortured an Iraqi policeman, and was proud of it.
Since then, his attitudes on foreign policy haven’t changed much: “A nation goes to war against an ideology. We are against something that is a totalitarian, theocratic, political ideology, and it is called Islam.”
The incident ended his time in uniform, and launched him on a track to Republican politics. West ran against then-freshman Democratic Rep. Ron Klein in 2008, losing by 55%-45%. In this strong Republican year, he won by 54%-46%.
What have so many voters done to themselves by electing candidates who use hate-driven fear and ignorance to win back the House of Representatives?
By electing a House majority, the voters have drastically shifted power in the Congress. The voters handed control of House committees to Republicans. Many of the new committee chairs have records that do not bode well for the causes of peace and justice, or a human rights agenda.
Elections have consequences. Ellman and West are now part of the new Republican House majority.
They join veteran House members, Steve King (Iowa 5th CD), back for his fifth term, and Michele Bachmann (Minnesota, 6th) who was elected to a third term.
Bachmann has announced her candidacy for Republican Conference Chair when Caucus elections are held the week of November 15. Bachmann has been endorsed by King, who described her as a leader who “embodies the agenda of the constitutional conservatives, the majority makers, the conscience of America and the new agenda setters.”
What exactly does this “conscience of America” bring to our congressional table?
Blogger Juan Cole is not encouraged. He offers this recent Bachmann venture into foreign policy as Exhibit One:
Bachmann is among those spreading the ridiculous rumor that President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia, including India, will cost $200 million a day. In 2010 dollars, President Clinton’s 10-day visit to Africa over a decade ago cost about $5 mn. a day. That is probably ballpark for Obama’s trip as well. The Pentagon called ridiculous the idea that a tenth of the navy (right wing fantasy radio alleges 34 battleships) will be diverted for the trip.
What Bachmann does not know (and what she does not know would fill a parallel universe) is that even if the allegations were true (which they are not, being off by a factor of 40), it might be worth it. Obama will be in India three days during the 9-day trip, so let us attribute a mythical $600 million to Obama’s stay there (again, a fantasy– it is more like $15 mn. in all likelihood–but let’s play the game).
India’s external trade with the United States in 2009 was roughly $37 billion. But India’s ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar, has just predicted that US-India trade will grow to the level of $50 billion a year by next March, i.e., it will increase 30% over 2009 levels. That would be an increase of roughly $13 billion over the 2009 total.
Obama isn’t going to India for his health.
In a column published in the New York Times as he left on his trip to Asia, the president wrote:
It is hard to overstate the importance of Asia to our economic future. Asia is home to three of the world’s five largest economies, as well as a rapidly expanding middle class with rising incomes. My trip will therefore take me to four Asia democracies–India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan–each of which is an important partner for the United States.
The president also wrote:
The more we export abroad, the more jobs we create in America. In fact, every $1 billion we export supports more than 5,000 jobs at home.
Going to Asia immediately after the midterm elections was a good idea when you realize that exporting goods produces more jobs in the US. Does Congresswoman Bachmann understand this?
Another big shift in Congress created by this election was the elevation of conservative Republicans to House committee chair positions. A major committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will now be led by Republican Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
The Cable blog of Foreignpolicy.com tells us what to expect:
Ros-Lehtinen has been a force on the committee for years as the vocal, passionate, sometimes combative ranking Republican.
A Cuban-American lawmaker from a heavily Jewish district, Ros-Lehtinen has staked out firm positions on several issues that stand in contrast to now outgoing chairman Howard Berman (D-CA).
Her ascendancy as chairwoman will change the tone and agenda of the committee and will pose new challenges for the Obama administration’s efforts to advance its foreign-policy agenda.
Over the mid to long term, Ros-Lehtinen is poised to thwart Obama’s efforts to move toward repealing sanctions on Fidel Castro and resist any White House attempts to pressure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She isn’t likely to move Berman’s foreign-aid reform bill through the committee and she is likely to seek cuts in the foreign-aid budget in her authorization bill.
The most powerful House Republican foreign policy chieftain in the next Congress is both a hard line Zionist and a leader in the anti-Castro House caucus. She will be joined on the anti-Castro front by another Floridian, the newly-elected Senator Marco Rubio, who is also Cuban-American with strong anti-Castro credentials.
The Cable blog predicts that Ros-Lehtinen will “most likely seek cuts in the foreign-aid budget in her authorization bill.” Will Israel’s foreign aid annual gift be a target of those cuts? Of course not, that’s not aid, its security.
And speaking of Israel, Common Dreams reports that AIPAC (American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee) looked down upon the 2010 midterm election and pronounced that it was good.
America’s largest pro-Israel lobby group on Wednesday hailed the results of midterm elections in the US. which saw staunch supporters re-elected to Congress on both sides of the party political divide.
“Many of the strongest friends and supporters of the U.S.-Israel relationship were reelected on Tuesday,” the group said in a statement. . . .
“It is abundantly clear that the 112th Congress will continue America’s long tradition of staunch support for a strong, safe and secure Israel and an abiding friendship between the United States and our most reliable ally in the Middle East,” AIPAC said.
There may be no joy among Mudville progressives, because so many mighty Caseys have struck out. But rest assured, there is considerable joy in AIPAC-land because the new Congress is even more solidly pro-Israel, thanks to the addition of a number of new Christian Zionist House and Senate members eager to demonstrate their faith in Israel.
James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. He has made more than 20 trips to that region as a journalist, during which he covered such events as Anwar Sadat’s 1977 trip to Jerusalem, and the 2006 Palestinian legislative election. He has interviewed, and written about, journalists, religious leaders, political leaders and private citizens in the region. Jim served for two years on active duty in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF (inactive) reserve. Jim launched his new personal blog Wallwritings, on April 24, 2008. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org