What David Brock Can Teach Us About The Latest Round of Right-Wing Taping Faux-Scandals.

I missed this when it came out.  David Brock, has a column at the Daily Beast in the beginning of January, The Coming Obama Wars. David Brock was part of the right-wing team that took on the task of taking down Anita Hill and Bill Clinton, (and since leaving the conservative movement and founding Media Matters). So it’s very interesting to read his thought on where the right-wing attack machine stands today, and it might help us understand the relentless and yet well-timed assaults on Planned Parenthood, NPR, etc.

The most fascinating parts of it explain that the rogue parts of the conservative network that they had to assemble in real-time are the actual core of the Republican Party communication strategy right now. I’d recommend reading all of it, but this part is worth reprinting at length:

My answer: this go-around will be much worse. The blow of the coming investigations and accompanying vitriol will be faster, harder, and the political devastation more acutely and widely felt in the Democratic Party than the impeachment of President Clinton.

I’m struck by how little we have learned from the political traumas of the ’90s. The anti-Clinton craziness had nothing to do with the Clintons; it had to do, now as then, with fear of progressive governance. Now as then, outrage will be fabricated at the slightest provocation and scandals will be doggedly pursued even after they are factually refuted.

Far from a maverick, on Day One Issa had secured the full-throated support of his leadership and caucus—he describes John Boehner as a “mentor”—that took Keystone Kops investigators in the ’90s years to win, overcoming Newt Gingrich’s initial disinterest in scandal politics.

Issa smartly has chosen to frame his inquiries in support of the overarching anti-government GOP message—as an ideological indictment of alleged government malfeasance, not personal wrongdoing. He has spent months softening up the mainstream media—witness the spate of profiles recasting him as “Washington’s whistleblower” that suggest a triumph of branding.  And he has assiduously worked influential watchdogs like the Center for Public Integrity, which honored Issa as the sole elected official who spoke at the group’s 20th anniversary dinner in October….

Such flip-flops indicate trouble ahead as Issa navigates the cross-pressures of tending to his Beltway image while feeding his bloodthirsty base.

In fact, Issa won’t have much choice but to relinquish the former for the latter or else lose control of the effort to a newly entrenched scandal-complex led by central players in the Clinton years: Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey reprising their roles, only now as prominent well-funded outside agitators. (By contrast, we launched the initial anti-Clinton salvos from obscure platforms like The American Spectator, with little mainline conservative support).

Gingrich, who recently wrote, “The secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did,” heads American Solutions, whose mission is “to save American civilization from the gravest crisis it has confronted since the Civil War.” Armey’s FreedomWorks orchestrated the 2009 Tea Party town hall protests which included members of Congress being shouted down and hanged in effigy and is largely funded by the Koch brothers, the oil and gas magnates who seem to have stepped into the role of Richard Mellon Scaife – the Daddy Warbucks of the Clinton Wars—as the new financial backers of the right. Karl Rove’s new attack machine, American Crossroads, controls tens of millions of corporate money. Then there is Dick Morris, who, following a prostitution scandal, has trained his website, books, Fox TV appearances and PACs on Obama, saying he “might be the first anti-American president we’ve ever had” and issuing approving statements about the seditious activities of burgeoning militia groups.

None of these four hold elective office, they have nothing to lose. Their funding drawn from the far right of the conservative movement, they have incentives to perpetually escalate their rhetoric. They will do or say anything to call into question the legitimacy of the president—and their steady drumbeat can only force Issa’s brigade to proceed down that course…

The investigations will play out against a backdrop of not only a more anxious and radicalized Republican presidential primary electorate but a very different field of candidates. In 1996, GOP standard bearers Bob Dole and Jack Kemp never practiced a politics of gross misrepresentation and character assassination. The same can’t be said of  Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum or Sarah Palin, who infamously posted a map on her Facebook page depicting spots where Democrats were running for re-election in the last cycle; those Democrats, including Gabrielle Giffords, were denoted by crosshairs symbols like those seen through the scope of a gun.

But nothing may be more important in the next two years than the centrality of Fox News, which did not exist in the early Clinton years and first became a political force in the 2000 elections. I well remember the cognoscenti scoffing when the Clinton White House produced a document accurately showing how right-wing forces in the U.S. used the British press to launder scandal stories that would then wash up on American shores. No such ingenuity will be required this time around….

Look for the tail to wag the dog as Fox ends up setting the strategies and storylines of the inquisitors. I have no doubt that now, as before, articles of impeachment will be filed—that’s what happens to egregiously “corrupt” administrations—and they will be believed by a substantial sector of the public regardless of merit. Whereas it was well into 1997 until a credible conservative like Robert Bork provocatively floated the notion of impeachment, the term is being casually tossed around on cable news now before a hearing even opens.

Now as then, my logic-minded fellow Democrats will figure the hearings can do no real harm because “there is no there there.” They won’t comprehend the emotional punch of the televised anti-government Fox show trials.

I just recently read Blinded by the Right, his book about working in the right-wing infrastructure in the 1990s, and what is telling from it compared to now – and it’s what the article above is about – is how institutionalized the mechanisms they had to pioneer to attack Anita Hill and impeach Clinton have become. The leadership didn’t like them, they had to be quiet in organizing and connecting right-wingers, their media presence had a hostile relationship with both mainstream and mainstream right.

Now it’s flipped. You can almost hear about Brock is saying his generation of right-wing attack dogs ginned up controversy when it was DIY punk (“right-wing forces in the U.S. used the British press to launder scandal stories…” as if he was sending his demo tape to NME) but now it’s all mainstream and corporate.  O’Keefe has a huge distributive network of conservatives and right-wing scandal outlets in which to build a narrative that everyone else has to go against the current to debunk.   And so will all future scandals until we actually get to admitting that these aren’t newsworthy.  Indeed without the heavy editing they don’t even seem like scandals.

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17 Responses to What David Brock Can Teach Us About The Latest Round of Right-Wing Taping Faux-Scandals.

  1. Brian says:

    You seemed to skip this part in your quote above,

    ‘I now run an organization devoted to defending progressives from spurious attack.’

    Sounds to me like he’s talking his book.

  2. Guillaume says:

    So now it’s basically Sonic Youth on Gossip Girl? More importantly: who plays Steve Albini?

  3. lark says:

    No, Brian, or should I say ‘Troll’, Brock is salving his guilty conscience.

    In a way I am past caring about the Dems. They don’t win the arguments because they don’t make them. They play rebuttal. They have never bitten their attack dogs because they are deeply invested in playing nice. It’s all they know. They are soft and ‘good’. It’s the curse of the prosperous liberal. They grew up in the burbs and they don’t know how to fight.

    It may be that the country needs to be lost before these people grow a pair. Look what it took in Egypt.

    Here is where I would START: “The Republicans are killers who thrill to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year, due to lack of health insurance. Our streets run red with American blood…”

    That is an attack, you dweebs. You can push thousands of stories of real people real tragedies Every Single Year. You can keep a counter: how many hundreds of thousands dead since the thugs in the Republican party defeated the Clinton plan. Arouse fear. Arouse pain. Arouse anger. Arouse the people!

    The point is, these thugs are attacking Americans by destroying health, welfare, the economy. And the Dems think they can win on policy. NO. You win by attacking back. You make the attackers PAY for the suffering they cause. You attack their values. You pin the consequences of their values to their character. You personalize it, every single bit. You make them pay the price for being untrustworthy bad people. You control the narrative.

    Of course the Republicans are getting worse. No one is slapping them down. It’s like a brat who grows up to be a monster. The Dems are enabling Republican fascism.

    • Dollared says:

      This. Exactly this. Republicans seek the pain and death of their fellow citizens, for their personal profit. In Iraq, via senseless military action. Throughout the US, via tax cuts for the rich funded by cutting health care for the middle class and the poor. Throughout the US, by fighting sensible regulation of pollution, guns, food, and dangerous products.

      It is that simple. It needs to be shouted from the rooftops and repeated every day.

  4. sdemetri says:

    I was impressed with Sean Wilentz’s piece, Confounding Fathers, in the Oct 8, 2010 issue of The New Yorker. He described William F. Buckley as an ultra-conservative but one that held the tide against the extremism of the ultra-right John Birch Society, relentlessly criticizing and repudiating their extremist views through his political influence and as much as possible while editor of The New Republic.

    I am certainly no lover of Buckley but his pragmatic views at least drew a line at calling the progressive opposition “socialist,” and warned that the extreme views being proffered by the ultra-right represented a slide toward fascism. He supported moderate Republican candidates (moderate relative to the extremists) as a bulwark against the extremists.

    Wilentz points out that today’s conservatives lack a figure like Buckley standing in the way of the extremists and their agenda. Talk of “fascism” and the extremism of the ultra-right is today not unwarranted. No one of equivalent stature with Buckley’s political influence has risen to counter Fox News’s hyperbolic attacks. God helps us all if this lurch to the right continues.

  5. Random Blowhard says:

    By the time the 2012 presidential elections roll around, Republican’s will be to busy fighting a full blown currency crisis and possible default/economic collapse ala Argentina 2001 to worry about Obama.

  6. LosGatosCA says:

    “Indeed without the heavy editing they don’t even seem like scandals.”

    With or without editing they aren’t scandals.

    The key to understanding Teabagging Republicans is that they are all on a mission from their gods, for many that’s the old Testament god of vengeance and for all of them it’s money. And on any mission from your god you have to be strong and resist those who try to dissuade you from carrying out the mission your god has sent you on. Even self evident facts can’t be trusted since the evildoers of the mortal world are only interested in confusing you, not helping you accomplish your mission.

    They must be certain, they must be strong, they can’t be deterred. And they are convinced they will, they must, prevail by any means necessary.

    Essentially half the country is in mass hysteria induced by self-serving manipulators of their prideful ignorance (we’re not teleprompting using elitistd and fear.

  7. Brian says:


    I am not a troll. I am a republican who enjoys reading opinions from people who I generally disagree with. It keeps the conversation honest by mitigating confirmation bias, and personalizes ‘the other side’ by showing that people whom I disagree with are decent, honest people with good intentions.

    Again at lark, when you encourage attacks along the lines of ‘The Republicans are killers who thrill to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year, due to lack of health insurance. Our streets run red with American blood…’ you do realize you are stepping into the Glen Beck realm of reality right? Have fun in that place, but understand even among conservatives he is fringe. Liberals love to hype him up to rouse their base, but he really has less influence then you think.

    Which brings me to LosGatosCA. ‘Teabagging Republicans is that they are all on a mission from their gods…’. Your ignorance of anything that does not prima facie confirm your world view is showing. The Tea party movement came out of the Bush administration’s attempt to save the banks, and has continued along mostly fiscal lines since. This group by and large is fundamentally opposed to social issue politicking, and does not represent the religious conservatives. We have that group for sure, but the Tea party movement is not it. For examples check out the number of freshmen Republican ‘Tea party’ house members who voted with Democratic house members on budget amendments to cut defense spending, most notably the alternative fighter jet engine program which was a major investment in speak Boehner’s district.

    Keep in mind, our political space is not one dimensional with tea party member’s ‘to the right’ of normal Republicans. Each party is not monolithic, they are coalitions held together, and as such our political space is multidimensional. In reality, Tea party Republicans are to the right of normal republican’s on some things, but have views more generally considered liberal on others, like defense spending and war funding. If you want to move ahead politically you have a choice, keep fighting this fight or look for area’s of compromise with parts of the other parties coalition. Trust me, most tea party members hate the established republican ideas as much as you do.

    • lark says:

      The Tea Party movement is distinguished by the toxin of racial resentment, which destroys both sense and values. That is why they elect thugs who advocate limitless subservience to economic elites and corporations. They don’t care about their own self interest, their children, or their environment and gleefully elect saboteurs of the middle class.
      The latest installment:

      You should be ashamed to identify yourself with such immoral cretins.

      • Brian says:

        The Liberal movement is distinguished by the toxin of racial resentment, which destroys both sense and values. That is why they elect thugs who advocate limitless subservience to government and policy elits. They don’t care about their own self interest, their children, or their environment and gleefully elect saboteurs of the middle class.
        The latest installment:


        You should be ashamed to identify yourself with such immoral cretins.

        Wow, this is a fun game. I’m like rubber your like glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.

      • Tim says:

        If you have to use cato to try to support your argument, you’ve already lost.

  8. Brian says:

    If you have to use ad hominem to try to support your argument, you’ve not even started.

    • Tim says:

      It isn’t a personal insult to say that using cato is essentially admitting defeat by inherent bias. So unless you’re referring to someone else, you should remember that “ad hominem” ONLY refers to personal attacks, not source derogation.

  9. Mike says:


    If the Tea Party is a reaction to the financial crisis, they certainly don’t seem very interested in any type of financial reform. I assume that this is because the funders want to keep the real economy financialized and the idea people want to return to the financial and monetary system of 1870 (1850?). What’s your take?

    Also I think that’s a false narrative. The Tea Party was announced on air by Santelli in reaction to HAMP, not TARP.

    Also I’m pretty sure that polls show the Tea Party far to the right of the median voter on social issues, and the wave of family planning legislation makes me think it’s the same old crew who set fire to the country showing up with the fire commissioner’s hat on.

    • Brian says:


      I think most Tea Party members see the financialization of the real economy as a problem as well, with TBTF now institutionalized as a case in point. The general feeling is against market intervention, the bond holders of the large financial institutions should have taken a haircut. I am not sure financial reform, headed by Chris Dodd, was ever going to get there. But in our political climate, any opposition to the bill is portrayed as not supporting the goal, while some of the opposition was really not supporting the means.

      It may not be a perfect narrative, but remember the TARP legislation was originally blocked by the republicans in the house, remember Paulson on one knee in front of Pelosi? I think Santelli’s comments was a continuation of the general sentiment among some people on the right that government should not intervene, not in the case of bank bondholders, and not in the case of underwater homeowners. That Santelli rant may have been the spark at best, but the imputes was TARP.

      I think focusing on one set of cuts to Democratic favored policies and then branding them as wanting to cut social programs misses the broader issue. Most people in the Tea Party are not out to cut social programs per se, they want to limit the scope of federal government to move it closer to the limits placed on it by article 1 section 8. This will mean targeting social programs, but equally in the crosshair of most Tea Party members are things like defense spending, agriculture subsidies, energy subsidies (ethanol), etc.

      Yes, part of the republican coalition are social conservatives, but not all and not really Tea Party folks. To lump them in with social and religious conservatives misses the very real opportunity to work together on shared goals. I have in mind things like cutting the defense appropriations for the second fighter jet engine, which passed on the backs of democratics and the freshman ‘tea party’ republicans against the personal interests of speak Boehner.

      Point is, you can demonize the ‘others’ and argue for a single dimension political space with the tea party ‘to the right’, or you can look at the facts and find common ground on outcomes, even where common ground on ideology may not exist.

      • Tim says:

        I doubt we’ll see any good major outcomes from a movement that is exploding at the seams from corporate dollars.

  10. LosGatosCA says:

    Teabagging Republicans are nihilists, convinced that only ‘others’ will be annihilated by their incoherent proposals.

    Everything else is just noise.

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