Thursday, April 02, 2009

Old, New, Borrowed and Dumb

by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Columnist

An Elementary school student at portable classrooms paid for by FEMA. (Photo: MSNBC)

When I think over what I have said, I envy dumb people.

- Seneca

Everyone knows the old adage about new brides needing something old, new, borrowed and blue for their weddings. Well, a number of Republicans have taken the line and recreated it for use in their attacks on the Obama administration. For them, now it's all about old, new, borrowed, and really, really dumb.

Old: certain elements of the Left accused George W. Bush of using FEMA to construct concentration camps for the involuntary incarceration of Muslims, liberals, activists and anyone else who didn't watch the 700 Club on a regular basis. Sander Hicks, writing for the Guerrilla News Network in 2003, explained it thusly:

In the summer of 2002, FEMA published a bid request for qualified construction companies to compete for contracts for three $6 million projects to create temporary cities that can house massive populations in the event of a disaster. Published on conservative web site Newsmax, this news was dismissed by FEMA Spokesman Chad Kolton as "totally bogus." But when challenged by the publishers on the phone, Kolton confirmed the essence of the story. The camps and temporary cities are being planned, to be built in 2003. FEMA says the sprawling temporary cities are being built to handle millions of displaced persons in the event of a large-scale terrorist attack on a major population center. Perhaps. Maybe FEMA has shed the yoke of its dark history. But considering the agency's legacy, is it so far-fetched to think it is not in some small way laying the groundwork to deal with those who dissent from our government's increasingly draconian program of permanent war?

There were a number of very smart people who gave great credence to these claims back then, yet in the aftermath of the Bush administration, it appears those fears were either unfounded or at least unrealized. Now, however, we have another FEMA-is-coming claim that is new, borrowed and dumb: Barack Obama is using FEMA to construct concentration camps for the involuntary incarceration of conservatives, Republicans, and anyone who doesn't live in Nancy Pelosi's congressional district. This particular claim was offered up by none other than Fox News personality Glenn Beck two weeks ago. Jeffrey Feldman, writing on the DailyKos web site, explains it thusly, with video goodness of Beck's claim to boot:

FOX News personality Glenn Beck has been using his airtime to broadcast a right-wing conspiracy theory about the Obama administration setting up "concentration camps," part of a secret plot to establish totalitarian rule. While Beck claims he is not 100 percent certain that the camps exist, he has proclaimed repeatedly that the Obama administration's economic policies are pushing the country into "totalitarianism" and that he "cannot debunk" the existence of the camps, which are supposedly being set up under the auspices of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), but which Beck claims will be used soon for mass imprisonment of American citizens with right-leaning political views. According to Beck, "If you have any fear that we might be heading toward a totalitarian state, look out. There is something happening in our country and it ain't good."

Pretty scary stuff if it were true. Unfortunately for Mr. Beck, it isn't.

Old: George W. Bush intended to set himself up as an American dictator and destroy our constitutional rights. Dumb? Well, he did annihilate the separation of powers in an attempt to create a Unitary Executive that was legally beyond any and all oversight, and he did ignore lawfully executed subpoenas in a move that directly threatened the very rule of law, and he did start a war of choice which was used to rally the populace for two separate national elections in 2002 and 2004, and he did deliberately scare the cheese out of the American people repeatedly with dire yet totally unsubstantiated threats in order to coerce more power for himself, so one could make an argument that the old theory wasn't all that far off the mark.

New, borrowed and dumb: Barack Obama intended to set himself up as an American dictator and destroy our constitutional rights. This one comes courtesy of Newt Gingrich, speaking on Fox News (shocking, I know):

So the hypocrisy and the, I think, danger is very real. And then look at what they're trying to do on the budget, where they're trying to ram through a resolution to break the rules of the Senate, to be able to get through both an energy tax increase and a massive change in our health system on 51 votes, which is clearly a power grab of unprecedented proportions. I think dictatorial is a strong word, but it may, frighteningly, be the right word.

New, borrowed and dumb, part II: Barack Obama intends to create a brownshirt jackbooted thug brigade to help him destroy the Constitution and send conservatives to those FEMA camps. This one came from Georgia Republican Rep. Paul Brown in an interview with The Associated Press:

"It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he's the one who proposed this national security force. I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may - may not, I hope not - but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism. That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did. When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the US military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist. We can't be lulled into complacency. You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I'm not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I'm saying is there is the potential of going down that road.

Stay tuned for our next installment of Old, New, Borrowed and Dumb, when prominent voices on the Right accuse President Obama of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby, hiding the truth about the existence of Bigfoot, and thwarting attempts by automakers to make hybrid cars that don't look like roller skates.

Gad zooks.


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.

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