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A step forward

By EDITORIAL  |  October 22, 2008

The basest elements of the Republican base can not seem to shake the bizarre idea, the perverse characterization, that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is an Islamist terrorist. It is a core belief, as closely held as the notions that the Earth is flat, that God created the Earth in seven days, and that Darwin is, well, a monkey’s uncle.

Some nut jobs, such as radio talk-show windbag Michael Graham, even go so far as to suggest — by means of a discredited computer-altered image of Obama speaking in front of a Che Guevara poster that he uploaded to his Web site — that Obama is a communist. Never mind that a student of the Koran, which he is also accused of being, would by definition be excluded from the Marxist ranks. Deceit is elastic and has a very low common denominator. To the ignorant, much is profound and even more is scary.

Nothing is more frightening to the lower rungs of Republicanism than an independent mind. Christopher Buckley, the son of the late conservative guru William F. Buckley and a former speechwriter for Republican president George H. W. Bush, is a case in point.

Buckley, until several days ago, was a columnist for the magazine his father founded, the National Review. Was, that is, until Buckley wrote an essay for media bigwig Tina Brown’s new Web site The Daily Beast explaining why, for the first time in his life, he was voting for a Democrat, rather than Republican presidential candidate.

Buckley’s beef with John McCain is symptomatic of the problems that some of his fellow Republicans have with their party’s candidate.

Simply put, the case is as follows: McCain is erratic, of questionable competence, and has run a divisive campaign that undercuts his ability to lead this nation in its current moment of crisis.

The reaction was predictable: the National Review was swamped with e-mails calling for Buckley’s head. Buckley offered to resign. And his exit was arranged with all deliberate speed. That the son of the nation’s leading conservative intellectual could be cashiered with such unseemly dispatch speaks volumes about the intolerance of the conservative mind-police. If the educated elite of the conservative movement can not tolerate dissent, what can the rest of the nation expect from the unlettered yahoos who bay for Obama’s head?

The right wing of the right wing has become unhinged by the prospect of losing the White House. What can the nation expect when it wakes up on November 5 to discover that Republicans have lost even bigger in the congressional elections than they did two years ago? The forces of hate and division are scary enough in power. They will be even scarier when shouting from the sidelines.

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