Jonathan Chait

Scarborough Unfair

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A couple months ago, I wrote a column quoting a Clinton administration official during the 1990s, who said of the Republican Party's self-destructive aggression, "Every once in a while the Hezbollah wing of their party gets ahold of the steering wheel and drives right off the cliff." Joe Scarborough complains:

Chait who once criticized mainstream Republicans for using an apocalyptical approach against their opponents compared the GOP’s leadership to a terrorist organization that killed over 250 Marines in Beirut, tortured to death a CIA operative and a Marine colonel, kidnapped scores of Americans and hijacked TWA Flight 847.

I wonder why Chait and Democratic officials from past administrations feel the need to associate fiscal conservatives to bloodthirsty terror organizations. I also wonder how such inflammatory rhetoric does not qualify as the kind of politics that Chait himself criticized not so long ago.

I'd like to note that my column was not actually attempting to assert that the Republican Party shares the Hezbollah Party's advocacy of violent jihad in order to spread a particular brand of Shiite Islam. Nor, for that matter, was I arguing that Republican officials literally drive cars off cliffs. The point of it was a cheeky metaphor.

Now, Scarborough tries to zing me for hypocrisy, but he doesn't actually quote anything I have written that expresses outrage over the use of cheeky metaphors. Instead he quotes Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen doing so. ("Cohen wrote a piece titled “On the Right, Hateful Words Are Fired Like Bullets," in which he bemoaned the fact that GOP candidates used heated rhetoric to attack Democrats.")

It's true that I've contradicted Richard Cohen's prissy aversion to cheeky metaphors. But that really isn't the same thing as being a hypocrite myself.

As for my views on cheeky metaphors, I have a longstanding belief that there's far too much umbrage about the use of political metaphor. I've written defending Rick Santorum for making Nazi analogies. And I even defended Sarah Palin over the absurd controversy regarding her use of targets to symbolize congressional districts Republicans planned to target. Scarborough may want to pull out the fainting couch because some of us are pointing out that House Republicans are nuttier than a fruitcake*, but I'm not a hypocrite for running afoul of his sense of proper discourse because I never shared it in the first place.

*They do not literally contain nuts.

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