A little timeline.
16 October: Sarah Palin states, at a rally in North Carolina, that she likes to visit "pro-America" parts of the country, apparently forgetting that blue states are also part of America. (And that her husband is a member of a secessionist party, but let us overlook that for now.)
(Mini-rant: Shut up, you! Dissent is the oldest American tradition!)
17 October: Joe Biden responds. (The Obama campaign also asks, in an e-mail to the press, what parts of America are not pro-America.)
18 October: Chris Matthews is on Hardball with Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN). They talk about Barack Obama and other Democrats with respect to Ms. Palin's comments of the other day. To quote Crooks and Liars, he "[gives her] all the rope she [wants] and [lets] her hang herself with it." It's wonderful, if watching someone make a fool of herself by displaying all her ignorance and hate can be considered wonderful.
"I would say, what I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look -- I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think the people would love to see an expose like that."Why hello, Joe McCarthy! How's the alcoholism?
Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC), after reminding his crowd of the importance of "[making] sure we don't say something stupid, [making] sure we don't say something we don't mean," nevertheless affirms that "liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God." Guess he means it.
20 October: Ms. Bachmann denies that she called liberals anti-American, evidently forgetting that there's this thing called a video camera. No, it's not just for making porn. It will prove that she did, in fact, go off on a McCarthy fantasy. (Meanwhile, there's a petition asking Congress to censure her, and her opponent has received almost a hundred thousand dollars in donations.)
21 October: Ms. Palin apologizes. Sort of. It's that kind of apology where the person's really saying "It's not my fault for saying something dumb, it's your fault for misunderstanding." Which is rude to begin with, but it's just stupid when you're implying that saying small towns in red states were the "pro-America" ones was misunderstood. (Note that she did make a retraction of sorts earlier, terribly ungrammatical as is her fashion, and said that all parts of the country are pro-America.)
Mr. Hayes, after his campaign unsuccessfully tries to totally deny it although there are audio recordings, explains that he just doesn't remember saying that liberals hate America, and that if he did, it came out the wrong way. (And here I thought people on alcohol blackouts weren't nearly that coherent.)
Ms. Bachmann now says that Mr. Matthews tricked her into saying the things she said, and continues to deny that she called for media investigation into un-American activities. Putting aside the fact that she's all over Youtube saying that, if she's tricked so easily into saying dumb things, should she really be in Congress?
(The answer is no. Of course. But not because she's easily tricked.)
23 October (edit): Gail Collins has an op-ed on this exact thing in today's NYT. I'm reading Gail Collins's mind! This is so exciting.
On the other hand, Ms. Bachmann went on the Hugh Hewitt radio show yesterday and called Mr. Obama's views anti-American again! And the fundraising letter she sent out to try to compete with her opponent continues to deny that she called liberals anti-American or asked for a witch hunt. This would be funny if it weren't at the same time so utterly pathetic and so worrying.
The bizarre part, actually, is why they keep denying it.
More and more, we're seeing from the Republican side this identification of the country with the party. (Yeah, "Country First" makes slightly more sense if you imagine that America = Republican Party.) There's no concept of a loyal opposition for these people.
Not only that, we're seeing a severe narrowing of the definition of what is Republican and thus what is American. Look at the conservative reactions to Colin Powell's endorsement of Mr. Obama the other day. He was never a real Republican anyway, he did it because they're both black. On its own, this doesn't necessarily imply "real Republicans aren't black," but with the other instances of racism we've seen from local Republican parties, individual Republican congresspersons, and the mob at McCain/Palin rallies, it's hard not to extrapolate.
In the final presidential debate, "Joe the Plumber" came up a lot. When we hear "Joe the Plumber," we are meant to think of a white, Christian, straight, small-town, conservative male - the ideal Republican and the idealized American. (Blue-collar, too, which he isn't and certainly won't be if he buys that business.) Certainly not any of the types listed in this piece, which I recommend highly.
The narrowing I discussed above is not an effort from the top of the party. Rather, with more and more people going over to the Democrats because the economy is just that sunk, the only demographics left to the Republican Party are the evangelical right, who'd never vote for a Democrat but could stay home on election day, and the racist right, who'd never vote for Barack Obama. And they are a scary lot. (They frequently overlap, of course; see "Obama is a Muslim!") If the Republicans are to survive the next decade or two as a viable party, I've got a feeling it's going to have to be without these groups, because people with that much of a religious agenda work against their own interests in the service of that agenda. People like this woman.
Later in the debate, in the question about the attack campaign, Mr. McCain said, after an unspecific, offhand repudiation of the "fringe peoples" at his ticket's rallies:
"Let me just say categorically I'm proud of the people that come to our rallies...I'm not going to stand for people saying that the people that come to my rallies are anything but the most dedicated, patriotic men and women that are in this nation and they're great citizens. And I'm not going to stand for somebody saying that because someone yelled something at a rally..."How pathetic is this? Anyone would think the smart thing to do would be to say "yes, it was very wrong of our supporters to shout 'kill him!' and 'Waterboard Barack Obama' and we do not support that in any way." Not to attack Mr. Obama for implying that the people screaming for his head might be anything other than good, patriotic Americans. But he's that desperate. People like Ms. Palin, Ms. Bachmann, Mr. Hayes, and the woman in the video are his base now, and he can't afford to lose them.