Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Fly on Novak's Windshield

Right-wing journalist Bob Novak was so engrossed in NPR's "Morning Edition" this morning that he didn't notice the fly on the windshield of his Corvette convertible. But oops! That fly turned out to be a 66 year old guy who was "splayed" across Novak's window.

It turned out that Novak had turned illegally, hit a man who was crossing the street according to the light, and then drove away. Novak would have left the scene of the crime entirely except that he was chased down by a lawyer on a bicycle.

Liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias refers to Novak as a "sociopath" and "criminal." But to consider conservative involvement in crime, it's necessary to think about what Novak has in common with liberals like Yglesias. In fact, I bet that most conservative media figures in New York and Washington start out their day by obsessing over NPR's "Morning Edition." They also lead largely secular lives. Ann Coulter is one of the few big-league conservatives one will ever hear talking about her own religion or speaking at churces. Media titans like Novak, Sean Hannity, and Rich Lowry of the National Review talk a lot about traditional values, non-college educated constituencies and and guys in Wheeling, West Virginia. But they have just as little in common with the guys in the Wheeling or Winchester, VA pool halls as Al Gore and should be considered just as much a part of the political elite as Al Gore or Barack Obama.

So what do conservatives mean when they pose themselves as fighting against "liberal elites." Basically, they're fighting against liberals in order to improve their own position within the elite political culture they share with liberal politicians and media figures.

This is where the question of crime comes up.

In many ways the Bush administration criminalized politics as a strategy in their competition with liberal political elites. Bush, Cheney, Rove, and their allies viewed their illegal warrantless wiretapping, torture of suspected terrorists, involvement of civil servants in Republican campaigns, perjured testimony to Congress, and politicization of the Justice Department primarily in terms of gaining and maintaining the upper hand in the competition between conservative and liberal factions of the national political elite. The idea was to openly flout the relevant statutes, brag about it, and then let Congress, the courts, and liberal media elites enforce the laws if they dared.

To date, Congress and liberal political elites largely avoided the showdowns associated with confronting the Bush administration about their behavior.

Conservative media figures like Novak, Hannity, and Ann Coulter weren't committing these kinds of crimes, but they have been implicated in the Bush administration's criminality to the extent that they are 1000 percent behind the Bush administration's criminal endeavors. Bob Novak himself gleefully participated in the "outing" of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame as a way to get revenge on her husband for criticizing the Bush administration.

What gives Bob Novak his "criminal" mindset isn't his absent-minded driving. I have lots of liberal friends who are lucky they don't run people over while they're absorbed in listening to National Public Radion. What involves Novak in the criminal world is his decision to defend Bush administration to the hilt. Not unlike a mob lawyer, Novak and other conservative media figures devote their considerable talents and energies to defending, rationalizing, obfuscating, and diverting attention from the crimes of their allies in the Bush administration. In Rush Limbaugh's words, conservative media figures like Novak are "carrying the water" for the criminal enterprise even if they aren't committing the main crimes.

As a result, they deserve just as little respect as the Bush administration.

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