The right targets FDR

THE RIGHT TARGETS FDR…. In keeping with the recent trend, Fox News personality Brit Hume became the latest in a series of conservatives to demonstrate bizarre confusion about the Great Depression. Hume insisted this morning that “the New Deal — everybody agrees, I think, on both sides of the spectrum now, that the New Deal failed.” He added, “President [Franklin] Roosevelt waged what could only be called a jihad against private enterprise.”

The right has been repeating similar nonsense for a couple of months now. It’s demonstrably ridiculous, but that’s not stopping them.

David Sirota has written a couple of excellent items lately, responding to the absurd Republican talking points related to FDR and the Great Depression, but yesterday, to his credit, MSNBC’s David Shuster did an entire segment on the patently false conservative argument.

We don’t often see this kind of fact-checking segment on national television, so kudos to Shuster and MSNBC.

(For more background on this, also note this Paul Krugman column from November, which notes the “intellectual industry, mainly operating out of right-wing think tanks, devoted to propagating the idea that F.D.R. actually made the Depression worse.”)

Why does the right bother? It’s hard to say for sure, but there are probably a few aspects to this. First, FDR was a Democrat, addressing a devastating economic crisis handed to him by a failed Republican president. This, of course, sets up Obama as Roosevelt, which the GOP would like to avoid.

Second, the conservative ideology demands that FDR’s approach to the Great Depression was fundamentally flawed, because it was premised on ideas like increased spending, public works, Social Security, and stronger unions.

It’s easy to mock Fox News and the rest of the Republicans for pushing obvious nonsense, but I’m afraid the economic conditions are so dire, the right’s ridiculous sense of history is actually kind of dangerous. Americans, I hope, know better, but I’d feel a whole lot better if there wasn’t an organized campaign from conservatives trying to convince Americans to reject the lifesaver while the nation drowns.