By Charles Cooper
CBS News Blog, September 30, 2009
(AP) There's a screwball meme making the rounds about whether the United States is ripe for a military takeover.
Normally, I'd dismiss this as yet more apocalyptic blather from the same folks who get worked up about black helicopters and FEMA concentration camps. What's interesting is that both extremes on the political spectrum are offering up the same apocalyptic prediction. Maybe it's a slow Wednesday but their prognosticatons have managed to garner quite a bit of attention - perhaps another sign of the increasingly fraught condition of our nerves in this autumn of our discontent.
A writer named John L. Perry kicked things off when he published a column on the right-leaning web site Newsmax. The piece has since been pulled from the Internet. (Another conspiracy to rob Americans of their liberties?) Click here to read the archived version. Among other things, Perry writes:
"Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a "family intervention," with some form of limited, shared responsibility?"
"Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making."
"Military intervention is what Obama's exponentially accelerating agenda for "fundamental change" toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama's radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible."
Hardly the second coming of Thomas Paine but good enough to strike a chord with the faithful who were already convinced the president is a (take your pick: A) Socialist, B) Nazi, C) Socialist-Nazi or D) Other. At the very least, he's an illegal alien and thus unconstitutionally residing in the White House. Happily , one self-described conservative blogger solved the puzzle for the rest of us: "The real issue is that the Left is trying to scare the American people – to further divide us. Conservatives have ZERO interest in a military dictatorship."
I feel so relieved.
It so happened that a similar forecast came from Gore Vidal, one of the great figures in contemporary letters, who let loose with another of his periodic jeremiads on the perils facing the republic. In an interview with The Times of London, Vidal returned to familiar themes: that we're a nation of no-nothing knuckleheads with little idea what's going on outside of our back fence; that Americans are "the worst-educated people in the First World," and that we make up a malleable lumpenproletariat that clever advertisers can manipulate to their hearts' content.
That was just the table setter. Vidal told his interlocutor that the United States is ripe for a military dictatorship "fairly soon, on the basis that nobody else can hold everything together."
If you've followed Vidal's career, this isn't a particularly new theme - especially in the aftermath of September 11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. You don't need to buy his argument entirely but Vidal has spoken eloquently about the consequences of the United States being engaged in a seemingly permanent state of war. (See, for instance, his 2007 interview with the Financial Times.)
But when you mention Gore Vidal and the immortal John L. Perry in the same breath, is there any doubt whose name is going to attract more attention? So it was that National Review's Jonah Goldberg cites with disapproval excerpts from the interview. (Curiously, he omitted completely mention of Perry's far more hysterical warning or its strange disappearance following publication.)
Hot Air's Ed Morrissey was much better at recognizing intellectual hooey falsely offered up as analysis. Writing of Perry, he termed the column "a lunatic fantasy straight out of Greek theater" while dismissing Vidal's warning as equally ludicrous. "Both men should be encouraged to take some time off and regain their senses, and should be roundly ignored until they do."
PS: A spokeswoman for Newsmax told Talking Points Memo that Perry was an "unpaid blogger" for the site. However, TPM points out that Perry is described on the Newsmax bio page, as someone who "contributes a regular column to Newsmax.com."