My morning newsgathering got off to a sour start one morning last week. I almost spit out my rather unsatisfying new-mom coffee recipe of decaf and soy milk. Author Annie Lamott wrote on TPM Café, a blog edited–or not in this case–by liberal Joshua Micah Marshall:
I am able to believe, about half the time, that Bush and Rove would be capable of orchestrating a second terrorist attack on America, if and when they deem it necessary to instill martial law, which they will.
Maybe few people read the post and this explains why there has been no outcry. But more likely, plenty of people read her post and just passed it off as part of the new acceptable discourse of “anything goes.”
At first I figured Lamott must be joking, but then I realized: 1) It isn’t funny; 2) The blogosphere had hit a new low, if that’s possible. Her rant sounds more like the product of a career conspiracy theorist than a best-selling author. It would be less damaging if it came from the former.
Calling Bush and Rove capable of a mass murder for political purposes is about as malicious as one can get. There is no place for such hate-filled bile in public discourse.
Annie Lamott lives in picturesque Marin County, in northern California–where my friend’s car and those of his friends, which sported Bush bumper stickers, were vandalized during the last election because divergent thought is not acceptable in the land of peace and harmony. Ah, to live in an insular world where comments like hers probably raise no eyebrows.
As luck would have it, I started reading Lamott after my first baby was born seven months ago. I would open her book Operating Instructions whenever I could grab a moment, often in the middle of the night as I lie awake in anticipation of my newborn’s cries. Lamott is a colorful, talented, witty, writer. As a new mom, I felt solidarity with this mother who found humor in small accomplishments like brushing one’s teeth during the weeks following birth and worrying about losing weight. But she couldn’t resist bashing Republicans every few pages. (Sample slam, about the world her son was born into: “This country is becoming a police state and six million American children go to bed hungry every night. I lay both things directly at the feet of the Republicans.”) But I was so tired I simply shrugged off such rhetoric. It did, though, strike me that random pot shots against the GOP and then-President George Herbert Walker Bush seemed woefully out of place in a book about life with a newborn baby. Now I can see that she was just warming up.
Why didn’t Josh Marshall, who edits the TPM site and writes his own blog, Talking Points Memo, place a huge red flag on this entry? If there was ever an ugly charge that cried out for the delete button, this would be it. Of course, a blog’s respect depends on its reputation for accuracy, ethics, and decency. This one fell into the gutter. And new moms who might be tempted by Lamott’s thoughts on babyhood, consider yourselves warned.
–Sheri Annis, a native Californian, is a Washington, D.C., media consultant.