More semantic antics…

…from our friends on the right. Hot on the heels of arguing that a “gathering”, “urgent” threat that “cannot wait” from a man who can launch a biological or chemical attack within “45 minutes” — that none of this was ever meant to imply “imminent,” nosirree — conservatives are now defining themselves as the party of civility, in contrast with those rabid lunatics in the Democratic party. For example, consider this exchange from Hannity & Colmes last night, with “Diamond Bill” Bennett:

BENNETT: The thing that strikes me, you know, in these two stories you’ve talked about already, the Democrats’ ads, the nature of that rhetoric that’s starting to come out is that, I think I said a couple of weeks ago, guys, that this was going to be one of the nastiest campaigns ever. It’s going to be one of the nastiest campaign ever early. And it’s starting so early. This is going to be a very brutal — What are we now talking about, 13 months?

HANNITY: Yes, and I think we’ve got to make a distinction here because Democrats are saying, “Well, people were very critical of Bill Clinton.” I was one of them. I’m a talk show host.

If we look at President Bush’s comments, the worst thing he said was “We’ll restore honor and dignity to the White House.” Didn’t call them a liar, didn’t say he was a gang lead or any of these other comments.

BENNETT: Right. Right.

HANNITY: And if you look at Ted Kennedy’s comments. If you look at the nine Democratic presidential candidates, Bill Clinton himself, against the president, I mean this rhetoric is beyond the pale.

BENNETT: I agree with you. But a little difference, Sean. It’s not so much what you say, it’s whether you can justify what you say.

I was very tough on Bill Clinton. Much tougher than George Bush was in the words I used. I think I could justify it.

I was also tough on Richard Nixon, and I thought he should resign because of Watergate. And I’ve criticized Republicans before, and I’ve criticized Democrats.

But let’s not compare lying under oath, lying to a grand jury, the things that went on that were by the chief constitutional executive officer with the notion now we’re getting, which is that relying on intelligence given to him by others constitutes a lie. This is a denial of the meaning — the natural and obvious meaning of words.

You see what’s happening here, of course. A month or two ago, they started trying to spread this idea that all criticism of the president comes from a minority of “angry leftists” — but unfortunately for the spinmeisters, the eldest and wisest among us vaguely remember a distant time, nearly lost in the receding mists of memory, when a man named “Clin-Ton” was the leader of our people — and remember a certain level of public discourse which was, to put it kindly, not always as elevated as one might hope. In other words, the “angry left” thing wasn’t flying because people remember just a few years back when conservatives were absolutely bugfuck crazy, foaming at the mouth. So now the conservatives are drawing a distinction — sure, a few talk radio hosts, a few pundits, got carried away sometimes, heat of the moment, you know — but the worst thing that George W. Bush said was the he will “restore the honor and dignity,” blah blah blah.

It’s always Calvinball with these guys, rewriting the rules in the middle of the game.

It does seem to me that even if it’s true that George W. Bush was, himself, always a model of civility — and if anyone has time to dig up quotes to the contrary, I encourage you to do so — there were other Republican politicians running for President in the last campaign cycle. And I’m willing to bet a few of them may have made an intemperate remark on occasion. Let alone the Republican politicans who gave Clinton so much grief before and during the impeachment process. Let’s dig up some choice quotes from Tom Delay, Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott, Bob Barr, Henry Hyde, and of course Dan Burton, and then let’s talk about how much more civil Republican politicans are than Democratic politicians.

(Note: the transcript above is pulled off Lexis, I don’t have a link for you. And for my take on the “Angry Left” meme, see my cartoon in the current issue of The American Prospect.)