I generally approve of Jon Stewart. Among many reasons: he brings top opposition guests onto his show and argues with them respectfully, hearkening back to the style of William F. Buckley, on Firing Line… only punctuated with a little elevated potty humor. Stewart's mostly-liberal audience follows his lead and is generally gracious to major Republican officials or authors… who flock to The Daily Show in order to hawk their books. Which apparently do gain sales boosts, because Stewart's viewers are open-minded and curious. (Otherwise, those Republican authors would stop coming.)
In fact, Stewart has more top opposing guests on his one show than the entire Fox News network. (If you subtract the "adult in the room" at FN -- Bill O'Reilly -- FN would score zero, most months.)
Hence, I wan't too surprised when Stewart invited Judge Andrew Napolitano to convey his recent tirade - a real hit on Fox - against Abraham Lincoln. It's one of the most spectacularly deceitful and perniciously vile rants we have seen in an era rife with vile rants, but on the Daily Show Napolitano was allowed to argue his point with Jon Stewart. Then guest historians (in a faux game show called "The Weakest Lincoln") shot down Napolitano's purported "facts" amid a tenor of friendly humor. The judge chuckled amiably. Sure. Fine. I guess.
Still, I was drawn to recall something I read just last November, referring to how the angry white males of the New Confederacy are now dumping all their former heroes, like Adam Smith, whose version of open-fair-flat capitalism is no longer suited to the right's narrative… and the leader that their parents loved above all others:
"How ironic, for this coincides with the passing of the Greatest Generation -- men and women who fought down the curse of Hitlerism, who overcame the First Great Depression, who embraced the plan of Marshall, Truman, Acheson and Eisenhower to contain communism peacefully until its fever broke… without nuclear annihilation. All so that their unique nation might live.
"A generation that created the mighty American middle class, amid a burst of entrepreneurial productivity so fantastic that their children could afford to take on ancient evils that all others had taken for granted, like racism, sexism and environmental blindness. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled in those mighty causes shared one trait more common than any other. The Greatest Generation adored Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- once compared lovingly and in all ways to Lincoln -- but who now one third of our fellow citizens have been talked into equating with Satan Incarnate.
"How long until the same thing is done to Honest Abe?"
Okay, I didn't just read that, last November… I wrote it, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Indeed, that posting was one of my best and far more worthy of your attention than this little growl. But it came to mind as Andrew Napolitano's hateful slander began spewing across the Rupert-verse…. crashing upon the shore of The Daily Show. This spiteful revisionist attack upon Lincoln.
== The essence that Jon Stewart misses ==
Stewart had dealt with some of Napolitano's incantations in an earlier show. And mind you, there was time to only deal with a few of Napolitano's "inventive" interpretations of history. Like the fabrication that slavery was "on its way out" in America by 1860 when, in fact, every historical analysis shows it to have been fantastically profitable for the top 0.1% plantation owners -- though an economic disaster for poor whites. Indeed, the total value of southern exports of cotton and tobacco exceeded ALL northern industrial exports at the time. His screed is based on that outright lie.
Alas, many other falsehoods were left unanswered. For example, Napolitano asserted the southern states' top grievance was largely about tariffs. A howler that slides past because half-educated folks vaguely recall that John C. Calhoun had threatened secession around 1830 over tariffs. But a closer look shows that the 1830s levels were rescinded to appease the South. Soon the South took over the federal government for three decades! By 1860, tariffs were at their lowest rate in half a century. In other words, the judge just keeps those bald-faced lies a-coming.
Of the "grievances" that filled the secession declarations, there is no mention of "tariffs" or "states rights" even once, though "slavery" is praised in glowing terms in the S. Carolina document, thirty or forty times. The notion that such people would simply have let Lincoln "buy" the slaves' freedom isn't just laughable… it is functionally insane.
In fact, the Civil War did not start with the firing on Fort Sumter. It began in 1852 with the passage - and brutal enforcement - of the Fugitive Slave Act, which led to invasion and outright raids of northern states by squadrons of irregular southern cavalry, committing outrages and depredations from Illinois to Pennsylvania, supported first by southern-appointed U.S. Marshals and later - when locals began resisting - by federal troops. These slave-catcher raids, smashing into homes, terrorizing neighbors and dragging off friends you knew since childhood, were the prime provocation that radicalized northerners into re-starting their dormant militias. It is what drove many of them to support Lincoln.
Read more about this! Napolitano rages at Lincoln for continuing to let US Marshals catch and return a few slaves after the Civil War began. But note these were all along border states like Kentucky, that he was desperate not to rile up and to keep in the Union -- touch and go in the first two years. That may have been iffy realpolitik, but it does not make Lincoln a "kettle" next to the Confederacy's volcanically evil coal.
== The miscalculation ==
All right, all of that does not matter. What matters is that this time, Jon Stewart deeply miscalculated. He thinks he put Napolitano in his place, amid general hilarity and joviality, by showing some college professors refuting his "facts." But watch the clip and look at the judge's face! His smile.
He is winning. Because he is not playing to Stewart's Daily Show audience. And he is not doing this to convince a majority of Americans. Certainly not those who would listen to a college professor!
Napolitano is part of the Murdochian campaign to keep just 25% of the U.S. public riled up in frothing fury. A New Confederacy that's so far around the bend they'll help tear down every consensus effort and success of the American republic since FDR… and even since Lincoln. So stoked on hatred of "government" that they sincerely want to ensure that "government of the people, by the people, for the people SHALL perish from the Earth."
Older Republican icons are now toxic. Dwight Eisenhower is assailed as a lackey of FDR. Richard Nixon is called a "liberal" … (compared to today's GOP)... and Ronald Reagan is barely mentioned, so soft, progressive and "green" he now seems, by comparison. Confronted with the pro-competition positions of Adam Smith -- warning against oligarchy -- rightist shills now dismiss Smith as "archaic."
Should we be shocked that this radicalization now extends to Abe Lincoln? The Sumter shots of re-ignited Civil War have been landing for more than a decade in the America that pays the taxes, invents, creates wealth and forges the future. Like our forebears, we who are of cooler blood, steadier emotion and scientific-mindedness have been slow to realize the fiery heat of this assault. But we're not lesser men and women than those blue legions who finally stood up when pushed too far.
I said it much better here. If we must, we'll rouse and -- peacefully, with malice toward none and charity for all, but with the firmness of purpose to do the right, as God allows us to see the right -- we'll struggle for our Union. So that the great American Experiment may go on.
== Addendum: answering The Daily Show! ==
Way back in 1989, in my novel EARTH, I portrayed folks in the 2030s referring to this generation as “blackjacks”… because they were the first ones born in Century Twenty-One.
Blackjack? Twenty-one? Get it?
Cool, eh? Oh… never mind…
Cool, eh? Oh… never mind…