Tuesday, March 5, 2013

How to Not Be Reasonable -- or Truthful -- and Why

Ezra Klein's epiphany: The GOP lie because they can't help themselves.

A quote being cited often in the past couple of days with respect to the Republicans has a ring of truth to it that is so apt in the current political climate. It's from Upton Sinclair:
It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his livelihood depends upon his not understanding it.
If you've ever wondered how Republicans say the things they do, consider the above quote. Ezra Klein of WaPo's WonkBlog had an epiphany about that just yesterday. I found it astounding:
My column this weekend is about the almost comically poor lines of communication between the White House and the Hill. The opening anecdote was drawn from a background briefing I attended with a respected Republican legislator who thought it would be a gamechanger for President Obama to say he’d be open to chained CPI — a policy that cuts Social Security benefits — as part of a budget deal.
The only problem? Obama has said he’s open to chained CPI as part of a budget deal. And this isn’t one of those times where the admission was in private, and we’re going off of news reports. It’s right there on his Web site. It’s literally in bold type. But key GOP legislators have no idea Obama’s made that concession.
Then Klein references an article by Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine in which Chait explains why Obama will never be able to cut a deal with the GOP:
The most striking and disconcerting thing about the latest round in the budget war is that the debate within the Republican Party is proceeding on the basis of completely false premises. I don’t mean false in the sense of wrongheaded policy beliefs. I mean Republicans are debating their strategy as if President Obama’s offer consists solely of making rich people pay more taxes. They won’t acknowledge his actual offer, which includes large cuts to retirement programs. I keep writing about this. It’s crazy.
[...]I have spoken to many Republicans, and very few of them actually believe that opposition to marginal tax rates is vital, let alone that it ought to supersede all other priorities. Very often, I discover that their beliefs rest on an objective misunderstanding of the situation.
Yet the anti-tax wing has managed to maintain control of the party’s agenda for many years. The information floating in the heads of members of Congress isn’t just the collection of the best data available to them. They read news largely from conservative news sources dedicated to framing issues from the perspective of the party’s decisions. They rely on like-minded partisans to help them make sense of the issues – especially on fiscal policy, which is complex. The small handful of people in the party who actually care about this stuff tend to be militant supply-siders like Paul Ryan.
 I get all this and have been grumbling about it since Obama's been in office (I didn't get it during the Clinton years -- I just thought the Republicans were unhinged by Clinton's canny machinations). But it's great to see it here in an exchange between two currently and generally on-the-mark progressive journalists. Klein and Chait have coalesced around a notion that makes so much sense: The Republicans lie effortlessly about Barack Obama because they are constitutionally ill-equipped to allow the truth to enter their noggins, because they're deluded by the Faux News/conservative rag sources of their information and opinion, and because it's vital they don't process information either for themselves or for their constituents that might burst the dam of misinformation they need to float in.

Okay, so, I could issue 50 plans a day and they'd ask me where's my plan? Hmm...

The mainstream media, especially inside the beltway, take what the GOP says about the issues of the day and generally just stream it to the public uncontested. Maybe that's starting to change. Take David Gregory, who did something astounding -- for him -- when on Meet the Press he actually challenged John Boehner on his truthiness Daily Kos reported it best:
During Speaker of the House John Boehner's Sunday appearance on Meet the Press, host David Gregory did a fairly good job of holding Boehner's feet to the fire and challenging some of his more obvious misstatements ... but Gregory did miss the boat on this one:
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Now listen, we've known about this for 16 months. And yet even today, there's no plan from Senate Democrats or the White House to replace the sequester. And over the last 10 months, House Republicans have acted twice to replace the sequester. There are smarter ways to cut spending than these automatic across the board...
DAVID GREGORY: But Mr. Speaker that's just not true. They've made it very clearly, as the president just did, that he has a plan that he's put forward that involves entitlement cuts, that involves spending cuts, that you've made a choice as have Republicans to leave tax loopholes in place. And you'd rather have those and live with all these arbitrary cuts...
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well, David that's just nonsense. If he had a plan, why wouldn't Senate Democrats go ahead and pass it?
Gregory pivoted to tax revenues at that point, missing the very obvious response: Senate Democrats did vote for a plan. But Senate Republicans filibustered it. Just as they've filibustered every major piece of legislation that's come down the pike over the past four years.
So close, Mr. Gregory, so close.
So close indeed, but it's a start. Of course, Gregory should have immediately struck back with the fact that the Senate put the plan up for a vote -- and had enough votes to win -- but the Senate Republicans filibustered it. Well, maybe next time.

Gregory challenges Boehner on the facts. What next, pigs will fly?


  1. As far as not doing a job, I blame both sides they are so worried about their own agenda they will never agree to do anything if it will affect what they believe hurts them. The only people really being hurt is the middle class employees.