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Right-Wingers Don’t Want to Kill Me; Just Lie About Me

By Paul Begala, July 20, 2005

By Paul Begala

Imagine my surprise in returning from taking my boys fishing with their grandfather in a remote mountain village in upstate New York to find I’d “accused Republicans of wanting to kill” us.

If the Republicans truly did want to kill us, that would have been the time and the place. No cellphones, no internet, not even any radio stations reach this isolated and beautiful part of New York. Not many progressives, either.

But, of course, the right-wingers don’t want to kill us. They just want to lie about us. In large ways and small, that’s what they do.

At the groundbreaking Campus Progress National Student Conference, I participated in a panel discussion in front of hundreds of brilliant young progressives. When the matter of national security came up, I repeated an argument I’d made scores of times on television and in speeches: that the terrorist threat is, in fact, very real. And while President Bush and many of his conservative supporters use the 9-11 tragedy for their political purposes, they’ve shamefully neglected homeland security. They’ve put trillions into tax cuts for the rich, while under-funding the strong measures experts say we need to protect us from another terrorist attack.

This, I argued, was an example of their “piss-poor national security” strategy. I concluded with the observation that, perhaps if the terrorists killed me, conservatives would want my children to take comfort in knowing they won’t have to pay any tax on the money they’ll inherit.

The young progressives chuckled. The next panelist took up the next topic, and I left the conference to pursue the wily rainbow trout.

Trouble is, rather than clearly delineating between right-wing conservatives and terrorists, I’d referred to each as “they” – in very different contexts. Still, I did use the pronoun “they” without a clear antecedent. Miss Charlotte Moore of John Foster Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas taught me better, and, Miss Moore, I apologize. But no one – not one of the hundreds of people in the room had a hard time distinguishing between “they” the terrorists (who want to kill us) and “they” the conservatives (who’d rather cut taxes for the rich than do all we must do to defend America).

And then the pronouns hit the fan. Or, rather, the blogosphere. Perhaps uninterested in covering the Bush White House’s cover-up of a top aide’s alleged role in leaking the identity of a CIA operative, the vast right-wing conspiracy (well, more half-assed than vast in this case) pounced. They accused me of accusing them of wanting to kill me. Methinks they protesteth too much.

Still, it got me to thinking. Maybe Republicans do want to kill me. Bill Frist’s speeches can certainly induce a coma. President Bush’s tortured responses to questions about his aides’ potential criminality are enough to give me an aneurysm. Rick Santorum’s breath has been registered with the EPA as a lethal chemical. And you do not want to be sitting behind Denny Hastert on an airplane when he leans his seat back. And if all that doesn’t put you in fear of your life, I have four words for you: Rush Limbaugh. Bean Burrito.

In the immortal words of Elvis Costello, I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused. And amused I am.

Amused that the right-wing bloggers could be such dunderheads – or so duplicitous. Amused that they’ve given my argument so much airtime (or ethertime, or whatever it is they have in the blogosphere.) Amused that they have such a low image of themselves that they would think that anyone would confuse them with terrorists. And amused that they’ve driven traffic to this website to an all-time high.

Yes, I’m amused. You might even say those Republicans just kill me.

Read more about this controversy and offer your opinions here and here.

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