By Tom Johnson | February 1, 2016 | 10:10 AM EST

The kids in The Family Circus blame their misbehavior on gremlins with names like Ida Know and Not Me. The Week’s Damon Linker believes grown-up conservatives do something similar when they deny what Linker sees as the plain truth: that they run the Republican party.

In a Tuesday column, Linker contended that the right-wing “counter-establishment” that first gained a share of power in 1981 now “simply is the conservative and Republican establishment…[But] because its ideological outlook was formed when it was out of power, this establishment seems incapable of thinking about itself as an establishment.” He charged that "by thinking of themselves as perennially outside the Republican power-structure, members of the counter-establishment conveniently exempt themselves from the need to admit and learn from their own mistakes. It's always someone else's fault.”

By Tom Johnson | January 31, 2016 | 12:49 PM EST

Once upon a time, Martin Longman didn’t think Republicans were so bad, but that was before the Tea Party, before the Iraq war, before Fox News became a major force. The Washington Monthly blogger detailed his decades of disillusionment in a Tuesday post.

According to Longman, events which eroded his belief that Republicans were “decent people” included the “excesses of the Gingrich Revolution”; the “giant looting exercise” that GOPers allegedly executed during George W. Bush’s administration; and John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin. He also argued that “Donald Trump actually is an ideological match for the modern conservative movement” given that movement conservatives are motivated less by philosophical principle than by “1) fear 2) hatred 3) greed and 4) a need to be led…Trump encapsulates those almost perfectly.”

By Tom Johnson | January 26, 2016 | 9:43 PM EST

Calling into question the brainpower of right-wingers is a longstanding practice. John Stuart Mill famously said that even though he didn’t believe conservatives were “generally stupid,” he did maintain that “stupid persons are generally Conservative.” Penn State professor Sophia McClennen followed that tradition in a Monday piece for Salon, and, yes, a certain former governor of Alaska was prominently featured. “It is time to take seriously the role that stupidity is playing in shaping GOP politics,” declared McClennen, “and there is no better figure to help us think about that problem than Sarah Palin.”

By Tom Johnson | January 24, 2016 | 11:33 PM EST

“Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” is a well-known tune from the Golden Age of Broadway. A Friday Salon article made it sound as if a song about how today’s conservatives feel could be called “Besieged, Badgered and Beleaguered.”

In a piece pegged to Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump, Andrew O’Hehir opined that the right “has become exactly what it has long accused the left of being, not entirely without justification: a bunch of whiners and perennial victims who never shut up about how much they have suffered at the hands of evil but nebulous enemies.”

By Tom Johnson | January 23, 2016 | 3:14 PM EST

Commenting Friday on National Review’s anti-Donald Trump editorial and symposium, The New Republic’s Jeet Heer and New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait agreed that conservatives are responsible for Trump’s Republican frontrunner status, but differed on which unpleasant right-wing trait, “white identity politics” or anti-intellectualism, was the prime mover.

By Tom Johnson | January 22, 2016 | 6:37 PM EST

Édouard Manet, Igor Stravinsky, and Sarah Palin: peas in a pod, contended Salon pundit Marcotte in a Thursday post analyzing Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump. “Palin is the vanguard of a new way of right-wing speechifying,” declared Marcotte. “Her methods are the most outrageous, but as with most artistic revolutionaries…what seems iconoclastic now will swiftly become the norm.”

For Marcotte, what made Palin’s speech “brilliant” was its absence of ideas: “Thinking is the enemy of the conservative populist mission. What she wants is to make you feel, to have those feelings of bitterness and misplaced entitlement wash over the crowds until they are screaming for more blood…Her innovation helps Republicans get over the logic and evidence problems that plague them.”

By Tom Johnson | January 20, 2016 | 9:01 PM EST

When it comes to battling President Obama, implies Paul Waldman, Republicans should (to borrow a phrase from Sinead O’Connor) fight the real enemy, not the cartoon ideologue of their imaginations.

“If you spend some time investigating what evidence Republicans offer when they call Obama divisive, what you find is not actually evidence at all, but their own skewed interpretations of events," wrote Waldman in a Tuesday column for The Week. “You might think he has been a good president or a bad one. But the idea that blame for the political divisions we confront lies solely or even primarily at his door is positively deranged.”

By Tom Johnson | January 17, 2016 | 11:14 AM EST

Five years ago this month, a great many Tea Party Republicans took office in Congress. For some on the left, however, that may not have been the worst political development of January, 2011. This coming Thursday, notes The Washington Monthly's D.R. Tucker, “marks the fifth anniversary of the bitter night…when progressive Americans, and indeed Americans of all political persuasions who value honor, truth, respect, intelligence and decency, were shocked to learn that MSNBC had decided to end Countdown with Keith Olbermann.”

“What Keith Olbermann did for this country was profound,” declared Tucker in a post last Sunday. “He told the truth…He did more than just live up to the highest standards of American journalism. He did more than just stand up when so many around him stood down. Keith Olbermann kept our democracy safe.”

By Tom Johnson | January 16, 2016 | 12:07 PM EST

During the 1980s, a favorite talking point of liberals was that President Reagan tended to confuse movies with reality. In a Friday article, Zack Beauchamp accused a current Republican presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, of doing something similar, and alleged that the GOPers who took part in Thursday’s prime-time debate stand for a “view of the world [that] is as much a work of fiction as” Michael Bay's new film, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.

Towards the end of the debate, Cruz touted 13 Hours. Beauchamp commented, “The movie portrays politicians as ‘abandoning’ the Americans in Benghazi. But in reality, that is a conspiracy theory that has been roundly debunked…This moment, Cruz citing a fictitious movie as truth, was of a piece with the debate as a whole. In it, much of conversation about world affairs existed in a make-believe world, and a terrifying one at that, in which the very existence of America is in perilous danger. In other words, it wasn't just Ted Cruz who was living in a fiction last night — it was the entire stage.”

By Tom Johnson | January 10, 2016 | 2:15 PM EST

In the present, liberals vehemently oppose what conservatives stand for (and vice versa, of course). But do liberals believe there was a time when conservatism was somewhat reasonable, or at least not appalling? Martin Longman offered an answer in a Friday post: It was “the reaction to FDR’s New Deal” that crystallized the suspicious, radical conservatism of today.

“Conservatism is supposed to revere institutions,” commented Longman. “But what institutions has Movement Conservatism respected?...Not Congress or the federal government. Not the Supreme Court. The Office of the Presidency is respected only when it is in the hands of a conservative…What characterizes the conservative attitude to our institutions isn’t respect but paranoia.”

By Tom Johnson | December 28, 2015 | 10:06 PM EST

In his new documentary, Where to Invade Next, Michael Moore jaunts around Europe showcasing what he deems enlightened social and economic policies, including Italy’s lengthy paid vacations, Norway’s treatment of prison inmates, and France’s school-lunch program. New York Times reviewer Stephen Holden observed that Moore’s “examples…are cherry-picked to make American audiences feel envious and guilty.”

On Monday, Salon ran an interview with Moore in which he talked about the movie as well as the U.S. presidential campaign. One of his comments: "I also think it’s a little gauche for Americans to point out to anybody in the world what their problems are at this point…I think we need a little time in the timeout room, you know what I’m saying? A little chill-down from running around the world: ‘You need democracy! Now you need democracy!’”

By Tom Johnson | December 26, 2015 | 12:12 AM EST

Bill Scher runs a website called Liberal Oasis, which makes it unsurprising that his Monday RealClearPolitics column celebrated President Obama’s avoidance (so far) of the “second-term curse” that supposedly afflicted George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and some of their predecessors in the White House.

Scher exults that Obama “has not been knocked off course by scandal” and lauds him for “master[ing] the art of scandal management, while his Republican opponents lost credibility by transparently politicizing every investigation…Instead of following the facts before drawing conclusions, [Republicans] proclaim the worst—and then fail to prove their allegations. That’s why the pursuits of wrongdoing in Fast and Furious, Solyndra, the IRS audits and Benghazi have all fizzled.”