Frank Rich: An Embarrassment to the New York Times

In Sunday’s New York Times, its far-left shotgun columnist Frank Rich has written a column with the title “The Axis of the Obsessed and Deranged,” which is ironic, since the title so well describes most of his own articles! In a paper whose editors think of themselves as moderates or centrists, but in which most of the columnists and many of the news stories tilt so far to the Left that it approximates the style and contents of the 60’s Village Voice, Rich stands out as the most extreme of their writers.

This time he goes after the tea party movement, and instead of a nuanced and balanced appraisal, he begins by trying to blame the murder suicide of Andrew Joseph Stack III, who flew his small plane into a building housing an IRS division in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 18th, on the new movement. Rich ignores what we know about Mr. Stack. He was furious about IRS rules that prohibited him from using knowledge he had as a software engineer to start his own business. In his rambling, sometimes incoherent letter, Stack attacks “organized religion” and different laws for the rich rather than the poor (standard leftist boilerplate), and goes after the late “neo-con” Senator Daniel P. Moynihan as his arch villain, all targets that distinguish him a great deal from today’s tea party advocates.  George W. Bush, whom certainly Frank Rich did his share of attacking for months on end, is described by Stack as “the presidential puppet” of the rich who pull the strings.

Tea partier indeed! Oh, Rich covers himself by writing that he was obviously “a lone madman,” and that it would be “glib and inaccurate to call him a card-carrying tea partier or a "Tea Party terrorist.’” But then Rich, having made the accusation while pretending to disavow it, goes on to say that his manifesto is a “frothing anti-government, anti-tax rage” that “overlaps with some of those marching under the Tea Party banner.” In other words, he was not formally a tea party member or advocate, but nevertheless well might have been because he shares their views! A distinction without a difference!

Next, Rich goes on to chastise all those Republicans whom he accuses of basically standing with or apologizing for Stack -- and of course, chooses to quote those on the far right to smear all Republicans. Rep. Steve King may believe that the IRS “is unnecessary,” but do all Republicans? Quoting one is enough to brand the entire Republican establishment as a bunch of crazies.  Next is to brand the tea party as the same, citing as proof -- of course -- the Times’ own biased report of the movement.

Naturally, Rich then moves on to the affiliation of the tea partiers with “the unhinged and sometimes armed anti-government right,” which to Rich is what really threatens our nation. While he never even mentions that some of us are worried about the inability of our institutions, even our armed forces establishment, to take on the documented threat of radical Islamists in our midst, to the mind of someone like Frank Rich the real threat is the nascent right-wing extremism that Republicans are failing to stand up to.

So enough of summarizing Rich. You can read his column yourself and get a good sense of how his conspiratorial mind works. Instead, I suggest two articles that should be read carefully for a good sober analysis of the real issues.

First, one should not miss Jamie Kirchick’s article in February’s Commentary, on the very real threat of homegrown terrorism from Islamists whom the entire establishment -- including of course Frank Rich -- completely ignore.  As Kirchik writes, liberals have drawn all the wrong lessons from the facts:

Despite all the available evidence pointing to the destruction that homegrown terrorists can wreak on free societies, some seem to have drawn the completely opposite conclusion about their proliferation and potential. They have interpreted Hasan’s “loner” credentials as, in the words of Ezra Klein, a blogger for the Washington Post, “encouraging,” for it indicates that his killing spree was not connected to a larger series of plots designed and carried out by an extensive, international network, all orchestrated from remote, hard-to-target locations in foreign countries.

He goes on to nail precisely the syndrome that Rich exhibits:

One would think that the increase in successful and near successful domestic-terrorism plots over the past year would engender some sort of recognition on the part of people who think and write about current events that a very real threat exists. And, to be sure, reading the mainstream press and listening to elite pundits over the past year, it is clear that the peril of domestic terrorism does occupy their thoughts. But it is decidedly not Islamist terrorism that they consider to be the great danger facing the country but rather violent extremism of an altogether different sort: “right-wing” extremism.

As Kirchick continues, “The not-so-subtle purpose of this campaign has been to associate the deplorable rhetoric of a handful in the right-wing fever swamp with the appreciable mass of conservatives, thus painting the president’s critics as racists prone to violence.”  Is he correct? Yes, and the proof is that Rich writes: “Such violent imagery and invective, once largely confined to blogs and talk radio, is now spreading among Republicans in public office or aspiring to it.”