This week, President Obama awarded former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney with the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. “[It has been] nearly half a century since four lads from Liverpool first landed on our shores and changed everything overnight,” Obama said, commemorating McCartney’s influence on American culture. At the end of the ceremony, Sir Paul appeared to offer praise of Obama while taking a jab at President Bush. “After the last eight years, it’s great to have a president who knows what a library is,” he said.
The view that Obama is more of an intellectual than Bush is one that many well-known figures publicly hold — including the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. Nevertheless, House Minority John Boehner (R-OH) found McCartney’s opinion too much to handle, and demanded that he apologize:
“Like millions of other Americans, I have always had a good impression of Paul McCartney and thought of him as a classy guy, but I was surprised and disappointed by the lack of grace and respect he displayed at the White House,” Boehner told HUMAN EVENTS. “I hope he’ll apologize to the American people for his conduct which demeaned him, the White House and President Obama.”
The House Minority Leader finds it somehow politically advantageous to not only defend the deeply unpopular former president but also attack Paul McCartney — a cultural icon, a member of one of the most successful and popular rock bands in history, and essentially a non-political figure. But this sort of petty political attack is nothing new for conservatives:
— Newt Gingrich recently called religious leaders socialists because they supported Obama’s health care reform effort.
— Bush administration officials objected to awarding Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling the Presidential Medal of Freedom they claimed the books promoted witchcraft. Bill O’Reilly once wondered if Rowling is trying to indoctrinate children with “the gay agenda” because her books have a gay character.
— Conservatives pressured Build-A-Bear to take down educational videos on manmade climate change.
— The right wing was outraged at Pixar’s film “Wall-E” — a story about a lonely robot’s quest for love, as he is left to clean up a trashed earth — calling it “leftist propaganda” and “Malthusian fear mongering.”
— Media “critics” Newsbusters attacked legendary rock band The Eagles because their new album is allegedly “one long, sustained attack on the integrity of the United States” that doesn’t have “a word about Islamofascists trying to blow us all up.”
— Bush Education Secretary Margaret Spellings wrote a letter to PBS chastising the network for airing a children’s show that featured children with two moms.
— Fox News’ Neil Cavuto called the animated film “Happy Feet” “offensive” and “far left” propaganda because the film’s penguin characters have trouble finding food because of overfishing and oil drilling.
And of course, Glenn Beck recently attacked the President’s 11 year-old daughter Malia, suggesting that she is not intelligent for her age.
Given the right-wing’s history of these petty attacks, and now Boehner’s condemnation of the infamous Paul McCartney, is there anyone conservatives won’t vilify to make a political point?
The Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen notes:
The same day McCartney told a harmless joke about George W. Bush’s limited intellect, George W. Bush boasted about having ordered torture as president, and insisted he wouldn’t change a thing if he had it to do over again.
So, just so we’re clear, a musician telling a Bush-is-dumb joke generates a fair amount of outrage in some conservative circles. A former president admitting to ordering torture — bragging about utilizing a technique that the United States has long considered criminal, and has even prosecuted — is completely fine.
One, in Boehner’s mind, requires an apology; the other is a source of partisan pride.