U.S. Has Survived Bouts of Arch-Conservatism Before

By George McEvoy
Palm Beach Post, Wednesday, December 16, 1998
� Copyright 1999 The Palm Beach Post

One thing that intrigues me about right-wingers is the way they profess to be super-patriots, but don't seem to think this country is made of very strong stuff.

No matter what issue occupies their zealous little minds, the nation - according to them - is always about to go down the tubes. They claim to love the United States. They just don't have much faith in it.

Judging from some letters and e-mail messages I've been receiving, the impeachment brouhaha has brought this conservative dichotomy to the fore.

One e-mailer wrote, "We are circling the drain morally and he (President Clinton) is an indication of how far we have gone . . . Too bad that we now live in a time when it's a shame to be an American."

We do? Gee, I've never been ashamed to be an American, and neither have any of my friends, yet none of us claims to be any more patriotic than anybody else. We stand up when the national anthem is played at ballgames, vote and pay taxes, and that's about it.

The super-patriot ended his message with these words - "But as our country falls, you and others can pat yourselves on the back and say, 'I helped.' Congratulations."

That's mild compared with some of the dire predictions being made by so-called conservatives. Up in Central Florida, there is a columnist who recently referred to President Clinton as "a sociopath," thereby equating him with serial killers, and went on to write, "If Congress fails to do its duty and impeach this sorry excuse for a human being, then this country will never be the same afterward. No one will ever look at the flag or the White House or our other symbols in the same way as he or she once did.

"America will have branded itself incorrigibly corrupt and, like other corrupted empires, inevitably lose its power."

I don't know about that. I figure if the nation survived such Republican moments in history as U.S. Grant and the Whiskey Ring, Warren Harding and Teapot Dome, Richard Nixon and Watergate and the grafter Spiro Agnew, it can come through any crisis in good shape.

A couple of letter-writers lavished praise on one member of the House Judiciary Committee who apparently has become their poster boy, Rep. Bob Barr, the Republican from Smyrna, Ga. He is the undistinguished-looking guy with the mustache. (I remember another angry little man with a small mustache who gave the world a great deal of trouble.)

Mr. Barr was demanding that the president be impeached long before anybody ever heard of Monica Lewinsky. He just seems consumed with hatred for Mr. Clinton. But then, hatred may be part of his nature.

Just the other day, it was revealed that Rep. Barr was the guest speaker last June at a gathering in Charleston, S.C., of the Council of Conservative Citizens.

The CCC, as it calls itself, is a racist group that advocates, among other extreme measures, a return to the days of segregation. When confronted with this, Rep. Barr twitched his little mustache and said he had no idea the organization held such views when he agreed to speak to it. He said material he was given before the speech indicated that the CCC was a mainstream, conservative, grass-roots group. As a further defense of his actions, he added that the CCC had endorsements from such other political figures as Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C.

Boy, those are some endorsements. Trent Lott? Jesse Helms? What happened, was David Duke too busy?

Gordon Lee Baum, who calls himself the national CEO of the CCC, said Rep. Barr was given copies of the organization's magazine, Citizen Informer, before his speech. The magazine runs columns and feature stories warning that the white race faces the danger of extinction.

"He knew what we were all about before he spoke to us," Mr. Baum said. "We don't invite people and let them walk into the dark on us."

I think the nation will survive even the likes of Bob Barr.

Still, I'm not a super-patriot, so what do I know?