Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bring out smear no. 247

Another modest request from a historian to the giddy-with-victory Republicans in Congress: can't you come up with some imaginative, new stories to use against a Democratic president, rather than recycling oldies from decades or more ago?

The latest one making the rounds comes courtesy of the tea-party's perennially fact-challenged Rep. Michele Bachmann — who, when she isn't calling the president "very anti-American" and his administration "a gangster government," or urging the people of her native Minnesota to be "armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax," likes to invent interesting facts such as that the government now controls 51 percent of the American economy, or that Jimmy Carter (President of the United States, 1977–1981) was responsible for the 1976 swine flu outbreak and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (President of the United States, 1933–1945) for the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff.

Bachmann — who is claiming her right to the No. 4 spot in the House leadership as a fitting reward for the tea partyniks' contribution to the GOP electoral victories — told CNN the other day that President Obama is spending "$200 million a day" of taxpayer money for his trip to India. Asked where she got this fact from, she said, “These are the numbers that have been coming out in the press.” Part of the story, repeatedly circulated by Rush Limbaugh and the usual chain-e-mails, was that "34 warships" had been dispatched for the president's trip as well.

This one unmistakably brings to mind the 1944 charge by Republican leaders that FDR had ordered a navy warship to fetch his dog. But FDR, being an old political campaigner from way back (who, in his own words "loved a good fight"), knew how to use an opportunity like this; and in a speech laced with deadpan sarcasm he used the GOP's own smear as the springboard for the take-no-prisoners opening assault to his 1944 reelection campaign:
These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks — on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but [brief dramatic pause] Fala does resent them.
   You know — Fala's Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress had concocted a story that I had left him behind on an Aleutian Island and had sent a destroyer back to find him — at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars — his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself — such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as [small chuckle] "indispensable." But I think I have a right to object to libelous statements about my dog.
I'm just hoping Bachmann really slips one of these days and attacks Bo.