The right-wingers' attacks on twelve-year old Graeme Frost and his family have been despicable, and a new low even for them (let's hope it takes them a long time to outdo this one). It's not as if their poor arguments, distortions, outright lies and personal attacks are anything new, but their true inner ugliness has been on full display, more blatantly than usual. To date, I haven't seen any conservative say anything like, "We all feel bad for Graeme and Gemma Frost and their entire family, but this law would still be bad because..." Of course, arguing against health care for poor and middle-class children is hard on the merits, and arguing anything on the merits isn't the conservative style anyway. More pointedly, such a statement would require an expression of compassion, an acknowledgement of humanity, and perhaps some slight recognition that bad things happen to good people, the same thing could happen to any of us or our kids, and we're all in this together. But all of those are pretty antithetical to conservatism.
While the right-wing machine — and Michelle Malkin especially — have been at their most rabid and contemptible, many of the challenges to them have been superb. Outrage over how the Frosts have been treated doesn't make up for how they've been treated, of course, and sadly, they and other families continue to be targeted by the right-wing. It can't be easy, especially given everything else they've been forced to handle. Perhaps, though, enough exposure and outrage can help pass some good legislation and push these far right extremists a little further to the fringe, where they belong.
In case you missed any of the hubbub, here's a recap of some of the outpouring. It's a long post whose main use is to skim over as a resource. Feel free to add any related links in the comments, since of course I missed or skipped many worthy pieces, and unfortunately, the attacks are ongoing.
Graeme Frost delivers the Democratic Radio Address for the week, which can be heard and read here. He explains the benefits of the SCHIP program. As the Democratic Party site states:
Graeme Frost, 12, was in a serious car accident a few years ago and suffered severe brain trauma. He was in a coma and lost his ability to eat and walk. Fortunately, Graeme was covered by the CHIP program and was able to get the medical care he needed. After extensive therapy and continual treatments at a clinic he goes to every summer, Graeme has regained his functional abilities. He still needs to visit several different specialists, and his mother, Bonnie, says he would not have survived - or would at least be wheelchair-bound - without medical coverage.
Crooks and Liars posts The Daily Show's coverage of Bush's veto of the SCHIP law.
Whiskey Fire: "Next Time You Get Sick You'll Know -- You Might Even See" — Thers makes quick work debunking the initial Freeper lies about the Frost family and other conservative attacks.
Think Progress: "Right Wing Launches Baseless Smear Campaign Against 12 Year Old Recipient Of SCHIP" — As did Thers' piece, this excellent post sums up the key facts and attacks. Much linked, it helps bring the smear campaign to larger attention.
Digby: "Fetid Compost Where Their Hearts Should Be" — Digby voices the outrage perfectly:
This is so loathesome I am literally sick to my stomach. These kids were hurt in a car accident. Their parents could not afford health insurance --- and sure as hell couldn't get it now with a severely handicapped daughter. And these shrieking wingnut jackasses are harassing their family for publicly supporting the program that allowed the kids to get health care. A program, by the way, which a large number of these Republicans support as well.
They went after Michael J. Fox. They went after a wounded Iraq war veteran. Now they are going after handicapped kids. There is obviously no limit to how low these people will go.
They'd better pray that they stay rich and healthy and live forever because if there is a hell these people are going to be on the express train to the 9th circle the minute they shuffle off their useless mortal coils.
Whiskey Fire: Speaking of eloquent outrage, Thers is on a tear, producing "Uniquely Human," "Sad Freaks of the Nation," "Let Them Be and That's the Lesson" and "Kicking Loud Trash", noting how "Mark Steyn decides that dammit, nobody on the right is going to be nearly the asshole he is." As Thers puts it:
Nothing in this family's story is remotely implausible, and anyone who pretends otherwise is making up crap because they don't like a healthcare program that benefits the middle class. Period.
A word for all the wingnut "Citizen Journalists": you're no such thing. You're just crazy assholes.
Think Progress: "Rush Smears 12-Yr Old: ‘They Filled His Head With Lies Just As They Have Some Of These Soldiers’" — Rush joins the scrum, debasing it further as is his special gift.
Ezra Klein: "What Has Happened To The Right?":
This is the politics of hate. Screaming, sobbing, inchoate, hate. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to drive to the home of a Republican small business owner to see if he "really" needed that tax cut. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to call his family and demand their personal information. It would never occur to me to interrogate his neighbors. It would never occur to me to his smear his children.
The shrieking, atavistic ritual of personal destruction the right roars into every few weeks is something different than politics.
Joan Walsh: "Right-wing bullies pick on children."
Digby: "Judgment Daze," "Don't Go There," "Outsourcing The Dirt Gathering" on the apparent role of Republican leader Mitch McConnell's office in all this, and "Word To The Wise" on the GOP's use of kids in ads.
Kevin Drum: "The Looney Brigade" — "As near as I can tell, the right-wing blogosphere has spent the past three years fantasizing obsessively about uncovering a new Rathergate."
Balloon Juice: "When Rhetoric Meets Reality", The Distinction Is Clear" — "Questioning a political General is treason, bullying a 12 year old is patriotic," and "The Nut Of It." In the first piece, conservative John Cole writes:
I simply can not believe this is what the Republican party has become. I just can’t. It just makes me sick to think all those years of supporting this party, and this is what it has become. Even if you don’t like the S-Chip expansion, it is hard to deny what Republicans are- a bunch of bitter, nasty, petty, snarling, sneering, vicious thugs, peering through people’s windows so they can make fun of their misfortune.
The Moderate Voice: "The War Against Graeme Frost: Get That School Kid" — Moderate Joe Gandelman goes off.
Whiskey Fire: "King Shit and the Golden Boys" — Molly Ivors weighs in.
Sadly, No!: "Ahem," "OMG EXPLOITING KIDS IN POLITICS!!!!11!" "Let Them Eat Ayn Rand Novels" — Mark Steyn's pal Kathy Shaidle asserts that the poor "are no more real than Bigfoot" and Jesus wouldn't mind us hating them or something wacky, Worse Than Even I Could Imagine — Dan Riehl calls the Frost parents "spoiled brats," and "More on the Frost affair."
Crooks and Liars: "Graeme Frost: What Would You Do If This Was Snooping Around Your House? (Updated)."
The Baltimore Sun: "Frost family draws ire of conservatives" — this good article highlights characteristic comments (despite Malkin's protestations) from the right-wing site Redstate about the Frosts:
"If federal funds were required [they] could die for all I care. Let the parents get second jobs, let their state foot the bill or let them seek help from private charities. ... I would hire a team of PIs and find out exactly how much their parents made and where they spent every nickel. Then I'd do everything possible to destroy their lives with that info."
"Hang 'em. Publically," the contributor wrote. "Let 'em twist in the wind and be eaten by ravens. Then maybe the bunch of socialist patsies will think twice."
Media Matters: "NY Times uncritically reported that Senate GOP leadership "has not issued a press release criticizing the Frosts" over SCHIP."
Ezra Klein: "Let's Debate": Ezra Klein challenges Michelle Malkin to debate SCHIP with him on the merits.
Digby: "What, Me Worry?":
One of the things these snotty critics fail to acknowledge is that even if the Frosts had had private health insurance, after their kids got sick they would very likely have had to go bankrupt. Those kids spent five months in the hospital. The bills came to the millions of dollars and no middle class person, no matter what good "choices" they make, can afford to pick up the 20% or so they'd have to pay under an "affordable" health care policy when something like that happens. Medical bankruptcy happens every day, although our fabulous new bankruptcy laws make it far more difficult to get a fresh start than it used to be, even if you have a special needs kid and can't work full time.
Obsidian Wings: "The First Rule of Holes."
Whiskey Fire: "The Cartoon Bubble Explodes," and "Sink to the Depths":
...Why this garbage matters, to the extent that it does matter (not that I don't have sympathy for those who ask why on earth it should). It matters for two reasons: one, to minimize the damage wingnuts can and will do to those people they choose to target, and two, in order to discredit the system by which slime bubbles up from the wingnut cesspits and ends up as Conventional Media Wisdom.
Sadly, No!: "Brad Saved The Best For Last" — more wankerdom from Dan Riehl, "Will Someone Please Think Of The Children?" "Shorter Stalkin’ Malkin," "The Ezra Challenge" — features a great graphic, "Prosperity: Bad For America [Updated]," "Gods Help Us" and "Malkin vs. Malkin."
The News Hoggers: "Good faith arguments":
Voters also have choices. We can let people like Michelle Malkin run interference for a party that wants to punish us and take away everything we've worked for if, God forbid, something terrible happens, or we can vote for a different kind of society, where a safety net exists to ensure that a family in need doesn't lose its home when a car accident lands two children in the hospital.
Balloon Juice: Arise, Wingnuts, Arise! "A Republican Cloth House," "Next Stage: Denial" and "A Comparison" of "Real Journalism" and "Wingnutosphere Journalism." As John Cole notes in the "Denial" piece:
...We could go on and on, through [Malkin's] links and through her comments, and we will see it is simply not the case of one Red State commenter. It is Michelle’s monster that she helped to create and helps perpetuate. You didn’t get smeared by the Baltimore Sun, petunia, you were called out.
Crooks and Liars: "Malkin Debases Herself With Further Attacks On A 12 Year Old."
The Plank: "When Right-Wing Attacks Backfire."
"Dangerous, Hateful, Amoral Scumbags: Right Wing Bloggers and Radio Hosts" by Stephen at Shakesville and The Thinkery.
James Wolcott: "Calista Flockhart Confronts Cornholio" — Wolcott segues from pop culture to Limbaugh and the Malkin "orc pit" as he does so well:
Rush Limbaugh and his fellow talk-radio troll dolls didn't "pervert" conservatism--he didn't lay siege to some maiden fair and debauch her virtue. Rush Limbaugh didn't inject an "ideology of hate" into conservatism, he extracted the contemptuous, divisive animosity inherent in the Gingrich doctrine and sugared it up with comedy and his own personal saga for popular consumption. He, like Clarence Thomas, was just what the Republican overseers ordered. Rush Limbaugh is modern mainstream conservatism in all its bullying bluster, hypocrisy, jolly ignorance (global warming etc), slavish submission to military, corporate, and executive power, and slimeballing of political opponents. To believe otherwise is like putting your faith in those few remaining Republican moderates who always manage not to come through in the clutch, who put up a brief show of conscience or faint dissent before the inevitable capitulation. It's a little late to suddenly look around and realize what sleazebags you've got on your team, especially since those sleazebags were there before you arrived. The only difference between Limbaugh and the orc pit of the right blogosphere is one of degree, or perhaps I should say radius.
Ezra Klein: "An Answer!" - Shockingly, Michelle Malkin declines to debate Klein, who writes:
Remember this next time Malkin pretends to be interested in serious argument. I gave her the opportunity for one, on a subject she claims to care mightily about, and she hid behind ad hominem attacks and bizarre rantings. "'Debate' Ezra Klein?" She wrote. "What a perverse distraction and a laughable waste of time that would be. And that’s what they really want, isn’t it? To distract and waste time so they can foist their agenda on the country unimpeded."
That's what she believes policy argument to be. "A perverse distraction and a laughable waste of time."
The Plank: "Drat, Foiled Again!" - Riffing on Malkin and Klein, Jonathan Chait quips:
Yes, that was the plan. And now that she's on to it, I might as well confess our scheme: Dispatch Klein to tie up Malkin for an hour or so, and while she's distracted, push universal health insurance through Congress. Indeed, we've used similar tactics in the past, such as 1993, when we passed the Clinton tax hike after luring Rush Limbaugh to an all-you-can-eat buffet for much of the afternoon. Next time we'll have to be even smarter.
Via Crooks and Liars comes Countdown, with "Olbermann And Maddow On The Right’s Jihad On 12 Year Old Boy."
Digby: "MSM On The Frosts" — CNN's John Roberts literally parrots GOP talking points, and "Post Modern Serfdom" — exploring the right-wing hunger for social control over others.
Tom Tomorrow: "Health care continued" — Tom Tomorrow links many of his past (excellent) cartoons on health care, although as he writes, "It’s particularly depressing to see how relevant sixteen-year-old cartoons on the topic remain."
Obsidian Wings: "Why Coulter is Better Than Malkin" — and drowning is preferable to electrocution, but as always, Publius makes good points. Essentially, Coulter is an act, but Malkin actually wants to be taken seriously (I've argued the same about Coulter here).
Jon Swift: "Fair Game" — Jon turns his dry, satirical wit on the right-wing feeding frenzy.
Whiskey Fire: "Efforts Not Wasted" — Thers makes the point that covering this story is important, but it's also crucial to expose the existing dynamics that allowed it to occur. This entails giving credit where credit is due and "placing the blame precisely where it belongs -- with the right-wing "movement" and how it operates on every level, all the way from bottom feeder freepers to Rush Limbaugh to Mitch McConnell. It was not "blogs" who smeared the Frosts. It was movement conservatives." Amen.
Sadly, No!: "Then what do you suggest, Mr. Drum?" — Dr. Rocket addresses the whole "civility" issue:
You can’t fight these people by being calm and nice. You have to let people know that they’re vile, hateful scumbags with no sense of standards or simple human decency. You have to stand up to them and (rhetorically speaking) punch the sick SOBs right in the nose. Otherwise, they will walk all over you for the rest of your life.
Also from Sadly, No!: "Stalk Amongst Yourselves," "Shorter Amy Ridenour" and "Stalkin’ Malkin Is Losing It": "I’ve become convinced that Michelle Malkin is capable of feeling precisely two emotions: blood lust and self-pity. And the self-pity only comes around when people point out how bloodthirsty she really is."
Orcinus: "Stalking, then balking" — David Neiwert reminds us of Malkin's history of ducking honest debate (Neiwert's written several excellent posts on Malkin's intellectually dishonest, revisionist history of the Japanese-American internment camps).
Balloon Juice: "And Another Thing," "The Genesis of the Smears" — more on McConnell, and "Balkin’ Malkin." As John Cole observes in the first piece:
To what end are these Freepers and Malkinites and Corner readers attacking these people, as even if the Bush veto of the expansion holds, they are going to still qualify for the program? The inability to recognize this, and the instinctive need to just attack, attack, attack and smear, smear, smear is what has surprised me the most. This is not a policy dispute to these folks- this is tribalism, and something deeper and darker and more sinister. It was a mob whipped into a frenzy, a blind rage, and there was no point to it other than the rage itself.
TBogg: "Misty watercolored memories of the way she slurs" — Tbogg posts the video of Malkin in 2004 getting smacked down for telling Chris Matthews that John Kerry's wounds in Vietnam were self-inflicted (this is my favorite Malkin performance, and I wish she always received this response).
FireDogLake: "Late Nite FDL: See Malkin Run."
Paul Krugman in the New York Times: "Sliming Graeme Frost" — just read the whole thing. A taste:
I don’t know about you, but I think American children who need medical care should get it, period. Even if you think adults have made bad choices — a baseless smear in the case of the Frosts, but put that on one side — only a truly vicious political movement would respond by punishing their injured children.
E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post: "Meanies And Hypocrites":
Most conservatives favor government-supported vouchers that would help Graeme attend his private school, but here they turn around and criticize him for . . . attending a private school. Federal money for private schools but not for health insurance? What's the logic here?
The Non Sequitur: "Ad puerum" — Jcasey responds to Dionne's query about the logic of it all: "There isn't any."
Think Progress: "White House Embraces Right-Wing Blog That Called For ‘Destroying’ Graeme Frost" — an underreported aspect of the smear machine.
Whiskey Fire: "Smudged & Fiddled with" — Thers eviscerates right-winger Rick Moran's " unpersuasive defensive befuddlement" that he just doesn't understand how anyone can say he "smeared" Graeme Frost.
Balloon Juice: "Frost, Continued" and "A New Mission For The Wingnuts."
Crooks and Liars: "SCHIP Stories: Republicans Getting Grief From Traditional Supporters."
Crooks and Liars: "Malkin Debunks Malkin over Health Care: WSJ calls them the “Internet Mob.”
Whiskey Fire: "The Ogre's Trumpet Blaring."
Sadly, No!:"Insert Clever Title, Pt. Eleventy-Whatever' and "Ladies and Michelle Malkin, We Have a Winner."
The Horse's Mouth: "Even Right-Wing Wall Street Journal Edit Page Says Wingnut Assault On SCHIP Family Is Bogus."
Via Crooks and Liars, on Countdown, the "Frost Parents Talk About The Right’s Jihad Against Their Son." The photos are heartbreaking — unless you happen to be Michelle Malkin, as noted by Logan Murphy and Nicole Belle.
The Big Con: "Watching the Bus Plunge" — David Neiwert recaps many of the attacks and some of Malkin's greatest hits.
Balloon Juice: "Paging DougJ, Master Better" — Will predictions about Howard Kurtz defending Malkin pan out? Do you really need to ask?
"Human Shield" by Chet Scoville at Shakesville and The Vanity Press.
Crooks and Liars: "New SCHIP Video: Bethany’s Story" — Two-year old Bethany receives essential heart surgery thanks to SCHIP. (You know what's coming next, don't you?)
Think Progress: "Right Wing Gleefully Smears Two Yr-Old SCHIP Recipient Bethany Wilkerson."
Joan Walsh: "Another SCHIP family smeared."
Via Crooks and Liars, on Countdown: "The Right’s Attacks On Children Continue - This Time It’s A Toddler ."
Digby: "Valuez" — the attacks on Bethany and Graeme show a pattern:
This is what Republicans call "solutions to problems:" all of you people who work in jobs that don't offer health insurance, and can't afford the ridiculously expensive private health care plans that are available, well, you need to get a job that provides health insurance for your whole family --- or don't have kids.
Oh, and while you're at it, you'd better be prepared to do whatever it takes to keep that job no matter what, especially if your kid gets sick, because if you find yourself without health insurance for any reason it will be because it was your choice. This is what Republicans call "freedom"...
Of course, this doesn't actually have much to do with health care or the economy, does it? This is about the right wing hit squad doing everything it can to intimidate people who speak out in favor of progressive programs. (When they are in the minority, this is where their focus lies --- character assassination.) However, underlying this destructive sniping is a serious idea, and it is that children are a privilege that only those with means should be allowed to have.
Sadly, No!: Meanwhile In Malkinland — "‘Human shield’ is a clever one. It says that some people are so callous, so mercenary, that they’ll put a toddler where Malkin and her friends are sure to go berserk and savage her."
The Horse's Mouth: "McConnell Aide Acknowledges That He Tried To Spread Bogus Smear Of Graeme Frost," "McConnell Aide Keeps Dissembling About Role In Smear Of Graeme Frost" and "Video: McConnell Misleads Public About His Office's Role In Pushing Smear Of Graeme Frost."
More Crooks and Liars: "Senator McConnell Staffer Admits To Smearing 12 Year Old Graeme Frost" and "Jane Hall on the Frost family: "Right Wing bloggers swiftboated a 12-year old boy!”"
FireDogLake: "Ethics Schmethics."
Eric Boehlert at Media Matters: "Malkin and Limbaugh and O'Reilly! Oh my!"
Balloon Juice: "Danger, Will Robinson!"
The Horse's Mouth: "Imagine If A Democrat Had Done This, Part 9,487."
Digby: "Village X-Treme," "Beta Testing Their Product" and "Feeding The Beast."
Media Matters: "NY Times uncritically reported that Senate GOP leadership "has not issued a press release criticizing the Frosts" over SCHIP."
Sadly, No!: "Shorter Mark Hemingway."
Whiskey Fire: "Sad Freaks of the Nation (2X)."
Balloon Juice: "Mukasey Testifies, Right Wing Yawns" — Mukasey, Durbin and Graeme Frost.
Via Crooks and Liars, on Countdown: "Bethany Wilkerson’s Parents Talk About SCHIP Success And Right Wing Smears." Also at C & L: "The House Fails To Get Veto Override on SCHIP" and "Kurtz' Law."
Sadly, No!: "Wingnuttery" — the crazy attacks on SCHIP continue, but have moved to the House floor.
Whiskey Fire: "This Is Not a Vacation."
Rick Perlstein at The Big Con: "We Are Progressives" — a call to arms.
Digby at the Big Con: "Follow the Leaders" —"something truly ugly seems to be bubbling up from the primordial ooze of the conservative movement," and Digby offers a good recap.
And there you have it, so far. It'd be nice all conservatives were civil and argued the substance of issues in good faith, but it would take astounding naïveté or fierce denial to think Malkin and the rest have been doing that, or will at any time in the future.
Despicable attacks like theirs will continue until conservatives pay a cost for them. That's why it's important to grill Mitch McConnell's office for its role in all this, and expose Malkin and the gang for the hateful thugs they are. It's crucial to press the media to cover the real story and provide proper context, rather than letting them be bullied into passing on falsehoods or shamelessly and uncritically mouthing GOP talking points.
Honestly, even after a strong political backlash, Malkin and her ilk are likely to continue, because they're just that mean-spirited, unhinged or — dumb. It's not as if they want to debate anything on the merits, or even that many of them can. Ezra Klein's challenge to Malkin and her response drives that home. Attacking everyone and everything outside their authoritarian conservative bubble goes far beyond politics. It's a ritual, a group affirmation that serves some deep, twisted psychological need. The less they drive the national discourse, the better.
Thanks, and feel free to leave any other good links in the comments. Apologies for those I missed.
Update: More on Howard Kurtz' weak response.
(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)