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Rucho & the GOP's Silly Season 

Who's in charge of the party's asylum?

N.C. Sen. Bob "The Human Meth Lab" Rucho made national news this month after a tweet he wrote compared the results of Obamacare to damage done to the U.S. by the Nazis, Soviets and terrorists, combined. The Matthews lawmaker responded to his critics by calling them members "of the socialist elite." He then snarled, turned in circles and started biting at the air.

What's most interesting about Rucho's tweet is that it wasn't all that surprising, considering that his fellow far-right wingnuts have kept busy griping about Obama and "socialism" for the last five years. And it's not like Rucho is exactly the only conservative crab making the rounds this December. After all, it's War on Christmas time.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought we were supposed to be all merry, opening our hearts and getting along with everyone during the Christmas season (or holiday season, Hannukah season, Kwanzaa season, flu season, NFL season, whatever you want to call it, OK?!). But no. For some reason the rest of us can't figure out, people on the far right seem determined to turn the supposed season of peace and goodwill into yet another reason to bellyache. Lately, though, the grumbling has taken a ridiculous turn, morphing conservatives' supposedly beloved time of year into Silly Season.

First, far-right websites and Fox News complained about the Obamas lighting the national Christmas tree: the tree looks crooked; some of the ornaments are "controversial"; you just know Barack and Michelle don't really celebrate Christmas; do we even need a national tree? Isn't that socialism? Tucker "Living Cartoon Character" Carlson's Daily Caller site even managed to get in a couple of comments about Michelle O's derriere.

And the annual conservative myth of horrid liberals conducting a war on Christmas continued in full force. Bill O'Reilly, who popularized the bizarre notion that liberals hate Christmas, was joined this year by fellow culture warrior Sarah Palin, who wrote an exciting new book on the subject (includes recipes!). Fox News even told viewers that the standard annual holiday safety warnings mean the government is "telling you how to decorate your Christmas tree." Some days it seems that if Obama walked on water, Fox's report would be about how the president is scaring the fish.

Megyn Kelly of Fox News grabbed for the silliness ring by announcing authoritatively that both Santa Claus and Jesus were white. Never mind that Santa Claus doesn't really exist, or that Jesus was a Jew from first-century Palestine, long before Jewish features were lightened by, um, mixing things up with Europeans during the diaspora. After being widely mocked for her silliness, Kelly said her remarks had been "tongue in cheek," which anyone who saw her make them knows is, well, just silly.

Even Pope Francis was subjected to right-wing silliness this season. As I noted earlier, Francis' criticism of unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny" — and, one imagines, his unrelenting call for helping the poor — don't sit well with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and WorldNetDaily, who accused the pontiff of "pure marxism" and, needless to say, being a socialist — just like Obama.

The wholesale use of the word "socialism" has become such an automatic jerk of the conservative knee, we hardly notice it anymore. Considering how much conservatives use the term, however, the right seems to have little-to-no idea what real socialism entails, e.g., government ownership of all energy production and distribution, steel production, railways, airlines, etc. Then again, today's American conservatives — or at least followers of the rabid Rucho/Fox version of what was once a respectable, sedate political philosophy — are notoriously ill-informed, particularly those who get their information from Fox News. Nowhere is that more evident than in their ignorant "socialism" fixation.

Take Rucho's characterization of his critics, which included members of his own party, as "the socialist elite." For today's conservatives, anything the government does for the common good rather than greasing the rails for big business is "socialism." Maybe they get their ahistorical views from their secular Christ — Ronald Reagan. It was the Gipper who gave a famous speech in the 1960s bemoaning the terrible fate awaiting America if it succumbed to the dark, evil socialism of — are you ready? — Medicare. The awful truth is that the kind of wingnuttery evinced by Rucho on a regular basis — views that get daily confirmation from the modern right-wing news/entertainment business — is right out of the Reaganite playbook. Rucho is but a minor player in the GOP's ideological nut house that still holds an undue and harmful influence in Washington.

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