Who doesn’t support small town values, right? Shucks even TIME magazine had an article about those small town values in the last issue. Mom, apple pie, sock hops and Sunday socials. When Sarah Palin quoted “a writer” about small towns in her acceptance speech, I wondered what writer? The answer came from RFK Jr. and the ever helpful wikipedia. I am sure gwb’s speech writer chooses his words very carefully, right?
Interest in Pegler was recently revived when Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin quoted him in her acceptance speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. “We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity”, she said, a Pegler quote that also appeared in the book “Right From the Beginning” by Pat Buchanan. Rather than acknowledging Pegler by name, Palin merely cites ‘a writer’. The speech was written by Matthew Scully, a senior speech writer for George W. Bush.
Following the Palin acceptance speech New York Times columnist Frank Rich elucidated the political significance of quoting Pegler. Mr. Rich noted that “Pegler was a rabid Joe McCarthyite who loathed F.D.R. and Ike and tirelessly advanced the theory that American Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe (“geese”, he called them) were all likely Communists.” He pointed out that Palin’s use of a quote from “once powerful right-wing Hearst columnist Westbrook Pegler” was intended to send a subtle but unmistakable signal to far right wing supporters.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the son of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, expressed outrage about Palin’s quoting of Pegler in her speech. Referring to Pegler as a “Fascist writer” and an “avowed racist”, he reminded readers of the fact that, when Senator Kennedy considered running for president in 1965, Pegler had expressed hope that ‘some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow flies.’
Pegler’s campaign as a Fascist (or “pro-Nazi” or “antisemite,” etc.) seems to have begun in the late 40s, when Pegler’s column intensified its swipes at such leftist politicians as Henry Wallace and pro-Wallace journalists such as Ralph Ingersoll of New York’s PM newspaper.
There you have it. Small town values like Pegler’s. Where violent words beget violent deeds. It is a lie to say that you are for decency when you include references from a fascist/anti-semite author in your GOP acceptance speech. It is a lie to say you will represent all the people of these United States when this is your dog whistle shout out to the not-so-far right wing. I am all for “honesty and sincerity and dignity” but I am beginning to suspect that some people may be severely lacking in just these crucial traits. Obama continues to appeal to the angels of our better nature, but some people are driven solely by demons.