The Clamor from the Right is Enough to Drive You Crazy

Like Charles Boyer tormenting Ingrid Bergman in “Gaslight,” well funded propagandists are telling me that the things I perceive are not really so and it’s things I do not perceive that are real. In the movie, these mind games would have driven the Ingrid Bergman character mad if a clever policeman (played by Joseph Cotton) had not come to her rescue.

In real life, the clever policeman is supposed to be the media. Sadly, in today’s buy-a-soapbox world, the few rational voices that still exist are barely audible. For every news outlet like the New York Times there are a dozen propaganda rags like the Washington Times; for every rational PBS commentator there are a dozen right-wing crazies on Fox News and talk radio.

Mainstream news sources like CNN have become timid handmaidens to the special interests who organized and funded a diabolical crusade to sell an alternate reality to the American public. In a naive effort to provide both sides of every story, CNN leaves me to sort out the truth from a cascade of scientifically engineered talking points and psychologically researched buzz words.

True, I can get my head straightened out by Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. But where are they on weekends when Fox News and CNN monopolize cable news?

So you might understand how relieved I was this morning to read a New York Times article by Paul Krugman that separates reality from theater. Like Joseph Cotton in “Gaslight” reassuring Ingrid Bergman that the lights really had dimmed, Krugman reinforced my perception that the “populist uprising” being reported by the media is really a false front for a corporate crusade designed to discredit President Obama.

“The antics of the socialism-and-death-panels crowd are only part of the story of anti-Obamaism, and arguably the less important part,” the Nobel prize winning economist writes. “If you really want to know what’s going on, watch the corporations.”

Here’s more from Krugman’s op-ed piece:

Many Obama supporters have been disappointed by what they see as the administration’s mildness on regulatory issues — its embrace of limited financial reform that doesn’t break up the biggest banks, its support for offshore drilling, and so on. Yet corporate interests are balking at even modest changes from the permissiveness of the Bush era.

From the outside, this rage against regulation seems bizarre. I mean, what did they expect? The financial industry, in particular, ran wild under deregulation, eventually bringing on a crisis that has left 15 million Americans unemployed, and required large-scale taxpayer-financed bailouts to avoid an even worse outcome. Did Wall Street expect to emerge from all that without facing some new restrictions? Apparently it did.

So what President Obama and his party now face isn’t just, or even mainly, an opposition grounded in right-wing populism. For grass-roots anger is being channeled and exploited by corporate interests, which will be the big winners if the G.O.P. does well in November.

If this sounds familiar, it should: it’s the same formula the right has been using for a generation. Use identity politics to whip up the base; then, when the election is over, give priority to the concerns of your corporate donors. Run as the candidate of “real Americans,” not those soft-on-terror East coast liberals; then, once you’ve won, declare that you have a mandate to privatize Social Security. It comes as no surprise to learn that American Crossroads, a new organization whose goal is to deploy large amounts of corporate cash on behalf of Republican candidates, is the brainchild of none other than Karl Rove…

So where does that leave the president and his party? Mr. Obama wanted to transcend partisanship. Instead, however, he finds himself very much in the position Franklin Roosevelt described in a famous 1936 speech, struggling with “the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.”

So, it looks as if I am not crazy after all.

I am one of those Obama supporters who are disappointed by his mild-mannered approach to straightening out Washington and Wall Street. I’ve been waiting for him to step into a phone booth and change into the caped super-hero I thought I was voting for.

I guess I haven’t fully recognized just what the President is up against. I expected the bad guys to hang their heads in shame and skulk off into the shadows. I didn’t think they eould have the gall to fight back when their evil deeds were exposed and reform was proposed. I guess President Obama didn’t think they would, either.

Maybe, once he gets over his surprise, he will take off that gray flannel suit and change into the bare-knuckle fighter America so badly needs.

Krugman writes that FDR turned corporate opposition into a badge of honor, declaring he “welcomed their hatred.”

He suggests that “it’s time for President Obama to find his inner F.D.R., and do the same.”

I second the motion.