Thursday, October 04, 2007

Rush's "Macaca" moment

I think we can officially call Rush Limbaugh's devastating gaffe--calling all soldiers (and marines) who speak out against the War in Iraq "phony soldiers"--a new "Macaca" moment. I honestly did not think we would see another one of these for a long time. I am surprised that a major Republican figure like Rush Limbaugh could have screwed up so badly. You would think that Republicans would be more on their guard since last year.

Let's quickly review what a "Macaca" moment is. Back in June I wrote about the elements that go to make up the kind of meltdown suffered by former Senator George F. Allen last year. Those elements are:
  1. Someone must say or do something that deeply offends a deeply held belief or value system. The speech or act must be perceived to be fundamentally indefensible. As we have seen, this kind of offensive speech is usually based on overt racism or a perceived attack on the men or women serving in the U.S. military.
  2. Then there must be an attempt to deny or avoid the consequences of the first element. Few things anger an offended person more than being told that they have no right to be offended, that the action they found offensive was not offensive at all. The reason why a "Macaca" moment becomes disastrous instead of merely damaging is that the bad actor attempts to defend the indefensible. The original offense may be inadvertent, a mistake: the real self-destruction occurs with the willful denial of obvious wrong-doing.
With Rush Limbaugh's attack on U.S. service men and women who oppose the War in Iraq we have a clear "Macaca" moment. Limbaugh' insulting speech was--like Allen's infamous stump speech--caught on tape. We know what Rush Limbaugh said and what the plain meaning of his words was: according to Limbaugh, all U.S. troops who oppose President Bush's policies in Iraq are "phony soldiers." This clearly satisfies the first prong of our test for scandal.

What about the second prong? Has there been an attempt to deny or avoid the consequences? Well, let's consider the possibilities: 1) either Limbaugh meant what he said; or 2) Limbaugh very badly mis-spoke in the heat of the moment and did not mean what he said. There is no third possibility.

If Rush Limbaugh meant what he said, he should probably be fired. His statements were too over the top, too direct an attack on the approximately 60-65% of our troops who oppose the president's policies even as they serve in harm's way. On the other hand, if Limbaugh mis-spoke, then he should have quickly apologized, retracted his comments, and better explained what it was he was trying to say. But Limbaugh is one of those Republicans who pretend to infallibility, he cannot admit a mistake.

Instead of apologizing, Limbaugh and his Republican supporters have been attempting to create a third possibility: they claim that Rush was only talking about a tiny handful of people who have actually pretended to be soldiers. These claims simply don't stand up to scrutiny: we have the tape and the transcript. We know what Rush said and what the plain meaning of his words was. Limbaugh and his supporters are attempting a massive spin campaign, and nothing more. So we do in fact have an attempt to deny or avoid the consequences of serious misconduct: a classic "Macaca" moment.

The only question now is how badly this will damage Limbaugh, and by extension the Republican brand, and when--if ever--Limbaugh will apologize. Limbaugh's statements are far more damaging than anything has done or said. insulted a single, highly political general participating in a highly political hearing. Limbaugh attacked hundreds of thousands of ordinary American service men and women. His actions cannot help but damage the Republican brand as the war grinds on.

In the meantime, the entire Republican noise machine, from national talking heads to local bloggers, is tied down in a futile attempt to defend the indefensible.


Brad said...

And did you see Eric Can'tor coming out swinging in defense of this numbnuts? Oh, boy, he got some 'splainin' to do.

Charles said...

Except in the Allen case, you could at least argue that he actually said something, even though we'll never know if he said what is claimed or meant the obscure definition. His problem was that even if you ignored the meaning of the word, he made up a name for someone, which was still bad.

When you do something bad, it's almost impossible to argue that it wasn't "badder". That's what made "macaca" so infuriating, that the left could build an entire fiction around the word "macaca" and because the base story was true (Allen making up a name for someone), it couldn't be defended.

That plus his idiot campaign manager making up excuses instead of letting Allen just come out and apologize (which Allen btw did, and rather quickly, which kind of throws off your "criteria" but that's not surprising).

In this case, since Rush never said what you claim he said, and since as you say we have the tape to prove he didn't say it, the attack isn't working. Most of your fellow bloggers have realised they were caught on this and have given up, maybe you missed the memo.

The Richmond Democrat said...

Well Charles, I understand your frustration, even though I disAgree with it.

The Facts:

1. George Allen said "macaca" three times to a young man of color, on tape.

2. "Macaca" is a French-Tunisian racial slur.

3. Allen's mother is French-Tunisian and Allen is fluent in French. (I'm not saying his mother taught him the word, but there seems to be a family connecion; perhaps a grandfather, an uncle or a cousin).

4. Allen told this young man of color "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia," as if this young man wasn't a native born American (as well as a native born Virginian, something George F. Allen is not).

These are the facts Charles.

As for Allen's apology: you are right thst Dick Wadhams bungled Allen's response. It took Allen 13 days to issue a real apology, one that said "I am sorry I said what I said" and not "I'm sorry you were offended by by what you incorrectly thought I said." If you are going to apologize, then apologize.

So it was 13 days. Is that a short time or a long time when you are running for Senate?