Thursday, February 17, 2011

GOP Whackjob Throwdown: Gaffney vs. Norquist

President of the American Center of Spiritual Flames and Security Warmth and friend of the site Frank Gaffney made the news again this week, boycotting the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and alleging that it has been infiltrated by a secret cabal of agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.

These were damning charges, tying the kickoff weekend of conservative mendacity's 12-month regular season with an Islamic internationalist group whose breakaway factions have included some of the most notorious terrorists of the last quarter century. But Gaffney went one better, claiming that the prime agents in this conspiracy were Grover Norquist, his wife and Suhail Kahn, a man who spearheaded pro-Muslim outreach for the George W. Bush White House. There was only one problem with Gaffney's boycott of CPAC: he wasn't officially invited to it.

Take it away, Think Progress:
Gaffney was actually prohibited from participating in CPAC — disinvited from speaking this year by conference organizers fed up with his increasingly vicious attacks on fellow conservative leaders. Indeed, Gaffney appears to have invented the entire theory about the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrating CPAC as a pretext to explain his absence from the event.

A source close to conference organizers told ThinkProgress that Gaffney was “specifically not to be invited” to speak at the conference this year because CPAC Chairman David Keene and other conservatives were “sick of him” attacking other conservatives. “The whole boycott thing was just to save face,” the source said.
This is the sort of thing that happens to policy center presidents when they don't walk everywhere bearing a flaming scepter of insinuation and purified anti-Muslimry.

It's hard to tell whose side to take. Not even appearance makes one distinct. Variations on a theme of cuddly keep Dana Perino's deadly idiocy slightly cute, while Ann Coulter's deadly idiocy seems like the spikes in a North Vietnamese pit trap, but here neither man stands out. On the one hand, you have Gaffney's supercilious faux-academician "Tweed Spock" persona, one eyebrow perpetually theatrically raised over a herringbone ensemble. On the other, you have Norquist's vibe of the eternal midget anti-tax vampire, which he seems to try to change up every few years by adjusting the length on his Norelco beard trimmer, but which nevertheless fails to hide the fact that his contract with the devil has kept him ageless.

If we want to reason things out, from a conservative mindset, Gaffney may even have a point. Norquist represents something of the fiscal Ur-Reaganite, founding his group, Americans for Tax Reform, at Reagan's behest. Via seeking the elimination of most taxation, ATR aims to eliminate federal funding for almost everything. Doubtless such comprehensive de-funding would result in the same sort of military bartering that saw Norquist and Oliver North supporting the Nicaraguan Contras only after securing money for them by the Reagan administration's selling arms to Iran — a member of the Axis of Evil — and their Islamic revolution.

Worse, Norquist can barely muster a critical breath against Reagan himself, a man who cut and ran from Beirut after a terrorist bombing in 1983, which only emboldened and helped to mythologize Hezbollah. Under a Norquistian treatment of the Middle East, you get the installation of radical Islamists in Syria and Lebanon, as well as the increase of the military of Islamic Revolution in Iran. The best thing you get is cruise missiles and jet fighters sent over Libya. But, come on, really. The Air Force? That's some gutless display that pussy Bill Clinton can push a button on, like some kind of intercontinental ballistic clitoris.

On the other hand, you have to feel bad for Norquist. He's been the most vocal conservative castigating GOP talking points against the Park51 Community Center (the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque"). Granted, he hasn't couched his denunciations in the form of praise for American Muslims so much as a fussy, "Shhhut uuuuuuup, guyyyys! We could totally win more seats in mid-term elections if we talked more about taaaaaaxes!" But maybe he feels a little circumspect when people like Gaffney are on the national scene.

After all, Gaffney thought a mosque in Tennessee would provide the beachhead of sharia law in the United States. Gaffney has doubled down again and again on "birther" insinuations about Obama, and even 15 years later, he claimed there were connections between Saddam Hussein and the Oklahoma City bombing — which is like claiming OJ Simpson was the cop who Zsa Zsa Gabor said slapped her around. Plus, Norquist's wife of over five years is a Palestinian Muslim.

With his Reaganite and anti-tax bona fides, Norquist should be immune to this. He should be able to point to his wife and say positive things about Muslims and enjoy a kind of "only Nixon could go to China" moment. But he and Gaffney famously broke over the crypto-Muslim issue. Gaffney's insinuation that Norquist "caught" Muslim Brotherhood from her is probably the first time an American conservative's paranoid interpersonal-power argument about the application of sharia law has involved its being sexually transmitted, by force, from the woman to the man. It shouldn't stick, but, then again, World Net Daily shouldn't be a factor in any intelligent conversation, and Gaffney courts their interest regularly.

It's almost impossible to pick a horse to back from a liberal standard. On one hand, you have Gaffney, who has yet to meet a fact he can't transform into a scare quote about something totally unrelated and yet somehow Islamophile. His essential riff is a sad reprise on a McCarthyite theme: everyone who opposes him is complicit in a conspiracy to destroy America. Look at what he has to say about Norquist and CPAC: he has a list of three names.

And then on the other hand you have Norquist. His toleration of Muslims is publicly tempered to optimize votes and not heartily propounded as a personal and desperate issue to Americans who adore religious freedom. More importantly, Norquist is the man who came up with the line: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." His concern about the scope of the American military budget has always been situational, vague, profitable to conservatives in power and immediately and sharply detrimental to Democrats enjoying the same.

It's pretty easy to understand the metaphor once you take the defense budget out of it. He means to destroy or wither human assistance to the underprivileged, reduce it to a point of nonexistence or non-functionality. The largest non-military part of the budget goes to human support, the remnants of the welfare state created from 1932-1968. And, given that said state overwhelmingly rescues the white poor, blacks and hispanics, it's even easier to come up with a more fitting metaphor for the GOP strategy for the nation.

Gaffney might be scared to death of a black-latino boy prostitute who might convert to Islam in prison, but Grover Norquist will drown him in a bathtub after another GOP member of congress accidentally uses his real name while having sex with him. Even the boy's naming names isn't so offensive as the idea that he might have had a future.

Watching the Gaffney and Norquist spat play out again is like watching one of those episodes of House, M.D. where the patient of the week is an unmitigated asshole, but his disease is horrifying. The natural, human impulse is to alleviate suffering and to recoil at the bacterium or virus that creates it. Enough intimacy with both, though, and you hope that they can just consume themselves in the worst and most terminal way possible.

Two-hundred and twenty years ago, in the America both Gaffney and Norquist cannot invoke without rhapsody, longing and empty rhetorical emulation, they couldn't have gone more than a year or two without shooting each other. Instead, they'll continue to proselytize from a place where words will never meet deeds. That's an originalist shame.