Biden's MAGA warning drowned out: Republicans' hissy fit works to distract the media

"The Art of the Hissy Fit" never fails for the GOP

By Heather Digby Parton


Published September 2, 2022 8:30AM (EDT)

U.S. President Joe Biden covers his mouth as he coughs while remotely attending a meeting on the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act, in the South Court Auditorium at the White House on July 25, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
U.S. President Joe Biden covers his mouth as he coughs while remotely attending a meeting on the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act, in the South Court Auditorium at the White House on July 25, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

I have often referred to what I call "The Art of the Hissy Fit," defined as the right using "faux outrage to get the media to press the Democrats to disavow or apologize for something they were perfectly entitled to say or do. Most often, it's something extremely mild compared to what Republicans say and do every day."

One example of this play to work the refs from the past was the GOP's flamboyant pearl-clutching over the Democrat's behavior at the funeral for progressive Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota who died in a plane crash during the 2002 election season. Democrats held a memorial service/celebration of life in which people eulogized Wellstone and also rallied for his political cause (as he would have wanted) with some stemwinding political speeches. The right went nuts, cynically decrying the event as being "disrespectful" and calling for the Democrats to apologize over the alleged insult to Real American values — which they dutifully did.

It was a crock, obviously, but those who've been around long enough to remember that event will recall that the pundits went crazy, demanding that the Democrats answer for the outrage while the Republicans snickered behind their backs. It was a minor incident but it illustrates this ongoing tactic of the right wing which has been on display again over the past few days after Joe Biden described the "MAGA Republicans" as "semi-fascist." The hand wringing and rending of garments by Donald Trump's minions has been a sight to behold.

So-called GOP moderate New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu called for Biden to apologize as did House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy in a pre-buttal speech on Thursday in which he said:

"In the past two years, Joe Biden has launched an assault on the soul of America, on its people, on laws, on its most sacred values. He has launched an assault on our democracy. President Biden has chosen to divide, demean, and disparage his fellow Americans -- Why? simply because they disagree with his policies. That is not leadership. When the president speaks tonight at Independence Hall, the first lines out of his mouth should be to apologize for slandering tens of millions of Americans as 'fascists'"

And yet:

It's enough to make you dizzy, isn't it? Here we have evidence of Republicans routinely calling Democrats fascists (and communists and even pedophiles etc.) yet they are, once again having a hissy fit over Biden using the same word to describe them, as if he's the one beyond the pale.

Meanwhile, this week their leader Donald Trump demanded to be reinstated as president and went on a podcast Thursday morning to declare that he is financially supporting the January 6 insurrectionists with plans to pardon all of them and have the government offer them apologies if he becomes president again. I don't know if that's fascist but it certainly is demented.

Normally the Democrats immediately fall all over themselves backtracking and apologizing in these situations but they have been remarkably stalwart this time. In fact, on Thursday night President Biden gave his speech in Philadelphia expanding on his judgment of the MAGA movement's turn toward fascism (although he did not use the word again) and he was unsparing in his description of what a toxic dangerous movement it has become. He said:

For a long time, we've reassured ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed. But it is not. We have to defend it. Protect it. Stand up for it. Each and every one of us. MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people and refuse to accept the results of a free election.

Biden said, correctly, that "they see their MAGA failure to stop a peaceful transfer of power ... as preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections," quoting conservative former federal judge Michael Luttig. And he noted that they are working "in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisan and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself." And he rightly pointed out that "they promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country."

He made a distinction between these "MAGA Republicans" and mainstream Republicans, suggesting that the latter were to whom he was addressing this speech. I'm not sure the difference is as obvious as he would like to think, however.

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Mainstream Republicans who are still backing the party after January 6 and the leadership's ongoing endorsement of Trump, despite his obvious unfitness, probably aren't going to be persuaded. But it needs to be said anyway. As Biden put it, "too much of what's happening in our country today is not normal" — and it's important to keep reminding people of that.

It's still hard to believe that a president of the United States is compelled to give such a speech but here we are. Biden stood at Independence Hall and warned that we have a powerful fascist movement in this country and exhorted the American people to fight back.

Journalists, meanwhile, were hand wringing over this:

Why am I not surprised? Here we had a serious speech warning about a real threat to democracy and the press decided the optics of the marines standing behind Biden was an equally important issue that needed airing. As usual, the Democrats are held to a different standard as if this triviality is the equivalent of Trump holding the Republican Convention at the White House or bringing a bunch of military gear onto the Washington Mall for his tacky 4th of July celebration. You see, Biden pledged to "do better" so really, it's even worse.

Here's an example of the respectful tone by the Republican leadership in the wake of the speech:

Here's another:

Satanic, Hitler, Nazi, that's all fine. Just don't call it semi-fascist. That would be wrong, very wrong. And having those Marines standing there was a dangerous threat to all we hold dear so I'm sure they'll be calling for Biden to apologize for that too. Some things never change. 

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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