There is a brilliant episode of the always brilliant South Park in which obese, racist 4th grader Cartman viciously mocks a motivational speaker at his school, a dwarf. After failing to enlighten Cartman through passive resistance, the speaker ultimately organizes the other students to mock Cartman’s weight, which infuriates him. At that point the dwarf confronts Cartman and tells him, “Now you know how it feeeels.”

To which Cartman responds with uncontrolled laughter before, once again, viciously mocking the dwarf.

The point that the show so precisely made is that you simply cannot force someone to recognize their own hypocrisy. This lesson came to mind as I watched  C-Span’s Washington Journal this past Sunday, which featured as its guest Mona Charen, a former speech writer for Nancy Reagan and now a conservative pundit and podcaster.

Mona came across as polite and intelligent (despite being the author of a book called Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First, thereby adding to the boorish compendium of conservative literature with inflamatory titles), but at one point she nearly made me do a spit take when she complained about certain rhetoric coming out of the White House allegedly comparing the pus-sucking, goat-raping  asshats of the House Tea Party to “terrorists”. (I mention the Tea Party’s fondness for goat sodomy only to remind any Republicans in my audience what a smear really sounds like.)

Said Mona:

You frequently hear people calling into C-Span… saying ‘Well, the people on the right called Obama a Muslim or the people on the right said that Obama wasn’t born in America”,  therefor anything that’s now said against Republican’s is only fair play… Those things were never said by leading Republicans, they were never said by leaders of the party… these comments about calling Republicans ‘terrorists’? That’s coming from the very top.

Come again?

I have no reason to paint this otherwise even-handed woman as a lunatic, but either Mona hasn’t been paying attention for the past couple of years  or she has been shooting kerosene into her brain. Let’s get this straight: the Republicans, for the four years of Obama’s first term, embraced racism at the highest level.

The birther hoax was, of course, a racist attack evident to anyone who didn’t have Tetley’s tampons dangling from their hat, and birtherism had (and still has) legions of support within the Republican apparatus.

How about congresswoman and presidential candidate Michelle Bachman? Does she rank high enough as a “leader” or is Mona only counting Republicans who live on Mt. Olympus? “I think the first thing I would do in the first debate is offer my birth certificate so we can get that off the table,” Bachmann once said when questioned about how she would aport herself in the presidential race she ultimately entered.

What about Sarah Palin (remember her? Vice-presidential candidate for some also-ran in 2008)? She was happy to flirt with the legitimacy  of birtherism when it suited her, too.  And Arizona governor Jan Brewer actually had to veto birther legislation that made it all the way to her desk!

This is the business the Republican party was making “Job 1” while America was trying to claw its way out of a depression.

Meanwhile, although there have been some justifiably colorful metaphors issued by the Democrats regarding the suicide bomber-like proclivities of the Tea Party, no one in the White House has actually called them “terrorists”, or even “terroristic”.

The tendency is to say that Dubya got it just as bad as Obama is getting it, but that is to miss the point of the nature of the slanders. Was George Bush the most hated blight on America since smallpox? Yes, and liberals expressed this frequently. But attacks on Bush’s intelligence, on his war-mongering, on his false folksiness in the face of an elite upbringing–these, apart from being the sorts of smears that every unpopular politician has faced throughout history, at least had some basis in truth. Bush did trip over his words regularly enough to set Swiss time by. He was a frat boy with a rich daddy, and he did con us into war (find any Republican who will sing Iraq’s praises today if you doubt the last claim).

Is Obama actually a Muslim? A Kenyan? An illegal alien? An Arab? And if he’s a socialist, why is Jamie Dimon still walking the streets with an unconfiscated passport?

And it wasn’t only the party elite that advanced the birther agenda. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh–virtual GOP party organs–as well as the entire sphere of conservative radio and punditry, not to mention Internet “news” outlets like the Breitbart cult, contributed to the spread of birtherism. To suggest that any of these are illegitimate or merely the corner bars for right wing rubes is horse shit. Top conservative politicians appear on even the most vulgar conservative programs often enough to have their own monogrammed towels in the bathrooms. The great wound done to our public discourse comes from the fact that now these leaders of the GOP take their cues from the propaganda mills instead of the other way around.

Mona Cheran may not realize it, but she is living in Karl Rove’s bubble as surely as any of the right wing’s more obvious fruitcakes. This leaves her ilk unable to comprehend how blowback from all their rage might be working against them in this (latest) budget crisis. Obama may have a thick skin, but even a rhinoceros has a memory. Is he really supposed to feel sympathy for John Boehner as the piranhas of the Tea Party chew up his career using the same irrationality that Boehner didn’t speak out against when it was used against Obama?

The attacks on Obama were then, and often still are, based in his otherness, his foreignness… at their core, his blackness. Yes, coded bigotry is still bigotry, but conservatives are long since  inured to any attempt to get them to recognize what all that birther bullshit was always about. Try as you might, you can’t make them know how it feeeels. All you can do is not let them get away with it.