The year of the sucker punch

Bush's reelection was a body blow to liberals, but right-wingers hit below the belt from the start. From O'Reilly to Limbaugh to Lott, a look at 2004's lowlights from the right.

Published December 30, 2004 6:13PM (EST)

It's liberals' worst nightmare, and it goes something like this. Not only does George W. Bush win reelection, but Republicans seize control of congressional seats, governorships and school boards from sea to shining sea. Eleven states pass legislation banning same-sex marriage. Vacancies loom on the U.S. Supreme Court, with Bush's favorite right-wing nominees lurking in the wings. American sons and daughters keep dying overseas, while the vast majority of the homeland has somehow gone code red -- forget about soccer moms and NASCAR dads; practically all 50 states have been overrun with legions of born-again, gun-slinging, homophobic anti-abortionists. Or some combination thereof.

And the pundit commanders of America's red army are bloodthirsty and on the march: Ann "liberals are with the terrorists" Coulter; Rush "Abu Ghraib is no worse than a frat prank" Limbaugh; Michael "nuke all the sub-human Arabs" Savage; and Bill "save Christmas from the Hollywood Jews" O'Reilly. As they lord over the airwaves, the defeated liberal minority cowers in the nation's fast-shrinking blue corners; some are even updating their passports and checking out housing markets in Vancouver and Montreal.

Well, that's how the year seemed to wind up anyway. It may have been more hype than actual horror show (the real reason a majority of voters chose Bush had little to do with marriage laws or going to church), but nevertheless, the right-wing had plenty of tasteful and well-considered things to say in 2004. Any election year is bound to be filled with shrill hyperbole and nasty barbs from both ends of the political spectrum -- but in the rhetorical race to the bottom the right-wing won this one in a walk.

Loving those boy-toys and bodacious babes
Speaking of "moral values," there was indeed a copious display of cultural virtue and caring, from Limbaugh's transsexual angst to Pat Buchanan's sympathy for the afflicted brethren of alcoholics and pedophiles to a crusade against gays inside the Beltway. And a handful of elite conservative bloggers made sure women got their due in the national spotlight by taking ample time out to ogle the many luscious babes in attendance at the Republican National Convention.

Tortured by the Iraq war
On the war front, when they weren't backpedaling over Bush blunders in Iraq, the ringleaders of the right kept busy peddling laughable "leaks" about a White House exit plan, and helping Team Bush stifle dissent by equating CIA whistleblowers with Nazis. When the discovery of sickening treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib put the administration on the ropes, Sen. Trent Lott piped up from his corner with a personal endorsement of torture. (Using vicious attack dogs on prisoners is OK, he said, because "you don't get information that will save American lives by withholding pancakes.")

American democracy on grand display
Ah, yes, then there was the thoughtful polemic of the presidential campaign. Let's make this one multiple choice: What, according to the political right, most accurately described the Democratic candidates John Kerry and John Edwards? They were:

A) prissy metrosexuals
B) "heavy-petting" homos
C) Osama bin Laden's best buddies

If you answered, D) all of the above, give yourself extra credit for paying close attention to the issues that really mattered in Election '04.

Bush's reelection victory wouldn't have been quite so sweet, of course, without a rousing chorus of nasty right-wing gloating for disappointed Kerry supporters.

When it feels oh-so-right
And all that's without even touching abortion, immigration or racial profiling. For more of this year's lowlights from the right, put the gloves on (or take 'em off?) and bob and weave your way through the Right Hook directory. Warning: If you're still in a black and blue-state of mind, you may want to remain ringside. But don't expect to be saved by the bell now or anytime soon -- a very long round two is officially about to begin.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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