All politicians lie. Sometimes it’s by necessity, like if you have to protect military secrets, and sometimes it’s by choice, but as with all things there are degrees of untruth. Sometimes you just have to marvel at the construction of a good lie, something that reaches the precipice of full-on untruth but stays just fair, meandering around a dangerous boulder of a fact that could demolish the whole thing with the slightest push. All lies have internal tension because the truth of a thing is intrinsic to it, and really the only thing that makes any of them work is the cleverness with which they are constructed, and Eric Cantor has constructed a great one today. Ladies and gentlemen, your House Majority Leader:
“I have seen several reports of Mark Zandi this morning saying that cutting spending would somehow cost hundreds of thousands of jobs,” Cantor said. “I would also note that Mr. Zandi was a chief proponent of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi stimulus bill that we now know has failed to deliver on the promise of making sure unemployment did not rise above 8 percent.”
This is technically true as far as it goes (though I have no idea if Zandi personally supports any Obama legislation). But the 8% figure was based on an estimate of the economy at the time Obama took office–as it turned out, the damage to the economy was far worse than expected. This isn’t exactly uncommon knowledge. For example, Jon Alter wrote about the situation at length in his book on Obama’s first year, The Promise. Now, it’s entirely fair to criticize the Administration for not waiting a few more weeks for more current economic information to come out. Indeed, I would support that critique. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Cantor would have us believe our situation is equivalent to someone ordering up a bike on the internet, taking it out for a spin, and then having it break down after riding it for a while under entirely expected conditions. But, really, the equivalent analogy would be someone deciding to buy a bike and getting one suited to riding fast through the city so that he can get to his new job every day. Then after he orders it, he finds out he’s going to have to take a different job and he’ll have to ride a bike through tough mountainous terrain. The bike’s not the problem, it’s just that the guy later found out that he needed a mountain bike instead. Cantor’s no fool, and his wording suggests he isn’t disputing that the stimulus created a bunch of jobs. He’s holding it to a standard that was based on an estimate that was too optimistic, and thus concluding that it was a complete failure. It’s fallacious reasoning. In any basic logic class, they tell you that if you have an “if A then B” rule, a situation in which A is not true does not invalidate the rule. Unfortunately, discrete math isn’t required of all college programs.
So, thanks, Mr. Cantor. You’ve lived up to your weaselly nature once again.
Grape favorite Haley Barbour once again finds himself in the news for racial stupidity:
Gov. Haley Barbour recalled hearing Martin Luther King Jr. speak at the old fairgrounds in his hometown of Yazoo City in 1962. “I was there with some of my friends,” Barbour told the Weekly Standard. “We wanted to hear him speak.”
Asked what King had said, Barbour replied, “I don’t really remember. The truth is, we couldn’t hear very well. We were sort of out there on the periphery. We just sat on our cars, watching the girls, talking, doing what boys do. We paid more attention to the girls than to King.”
A search of the King Papers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute and the papers of David Garrow, author of the definitive biography on King, Bearing the Cross, failed to find evidence King spoke in Yazoo City in 1962.
My take on Barbour is that he’s more or less a Lost Causer and sympathizes much more with those who mythologize the Confederacy than those who would critique it. But as a guy who sees himself moving onto the national stage, he’s aware that even the appearance of believing in any of that will be completely fatal to his ambitions. The inevitable result is that the ass-backwards record on civil rights he’s cultivated to rise in Southern politics is now a liability, but he’s never really had to develop the sort of rhetoric and issue positions needed to play outside the Deep South. I think stuff like this needs to be seen as an attempt to innoculate himself against racial insinuations, but it’s quite obvious he’s unprepared on the one hand and has no feel for this sort of politics on the other. There’s an extent to which this could help him gain sympathy from Republicans in a primary race, but I find it more likely that a lot of Republicans will just decide not to bother with the guy and choose someone else. You can’t keep making mistakes like this as an underdog and expect the base to sprout up and support you if they have little interest in following you to begin with.
I think there’s a reason why so few Southern Republican politicians find themselves on national tickets. And before you start yelling “GEORGE W. BUSH WHAT DID YOU FORGET OR SOMETHING YOU IDIOT!?!?” I think Dubya hardly qualifies as a typical Southern politician. Texas ain’t Alabama, and despite his many, many flaws you can’t really argue that Bush was an old-school racial bigot–on immigration alone, he was to the left of pretty much his entire party (George H.W. Bush is even less of a good example, as a full-on transplant to the region). Back when the South was a Democratic region, it wasn’t terribly unusual for Southerners to find themselves on national Democratic tickets, what with Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton winning the presidency, and Al Gore, Estes Kefauver and John Sparkman finding themselves in the VP slot (though only Gore and Johnson won in this spot). Really, of all the post-Truman Democrats on national tickets, it’s notable that only Sparkman (way back in 1952!) could have been considered conservative on race. It’s just a reminder of the danger of stereotypes: there are multiple political traditions in the South, and the same party that produced the generally progressive views of a Kefauver or a Johnson could also produce a George Wallace or an Orval Faubus. But with the onset of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the Wallacite tradition became ascendant in the region, and after the Democratic Party became hostile to that tradition, it moved over to the Republican Party. To my knowledge, those other traditions didn’t really follow it there. Back in the day, Democrats were able to generate national politicians out of the South who could play on the national stage by picking politicians more out of the Kefauver-Johnson tradition, but I don’t see much evidence of a similar tradition in the Republican Party in the South these days. Dubya was, in my opinion, sort of a sui generis figure who was able to take advantage of a lot of political machinery due to the family name. He didn’t have to climb to the heights himself, in other words. Someone like Barbour had to, and what you have here is someone who is trying to find his way to the other side of the high wire without a net. I strongly suspect he’s unelectable–2010 mostly showed that I know the electorate less well than I thought I did, but Barbour’s racial gaffes are going to stick to him like flypaper, and I have to believe that a lot of people are simply going to dismiss the guy outright if he has that stench to him.
When asked earlier this month about the job loss that would occur if the continuing resolution passed by House Republicans were actually implemented, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) replied “so be it.” “We’re broke. It’s time for us to get serious about how we’re spending the nation’s money,” he said. And Boehner is evidently not the only one who feels that budget cuts should be imposed with complete disregard for their effect on employment. In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep today, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) was asked if budget cuts should still go forward, even if they would result in widespread job loss, and replied “yes”:INSKEEP: I want to ask something that a lot of people are confronting right now, as they deal with the federal deficit as well as state and local deficits that need to be closed. Are budget cuts — government budget cuts — worth it, even if they end up seriously costing a lot of jobs right now? DANIELS: The answer is yes.Last week, economists at Goldman Sachs estimated that the House Republicans’ continuing resolution would cause GDP to drop by 1.5 to 2 percent, which CAP economist Adam Hersh explained would translate into a one percentage point jump in the unemployment rate. Before that, the Economic Policy Institute found that the Republican plan would cause a loss of nearly one million jobs. As if we needed more evidence of the effect GOP spending policy could have on employment, Moody’s Analytics predicted today that the House Republican plan would cause the loss of 700,000 jobs:A Republican plan to sharply cut federal spending this year would destroy 700,000 jobs through 2012, according to an independent economic analysis set for release Monday…[Moody's Chief Economist Mark] Zandi, an architect of the 2009 stimulus package who has advised both political parties, predicts that the GOP package would reduce economic growth by 0.5 percentage points this year, and by 0.2 percentage points in 2012, resulting in 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of next year.Republicans rode into the House majority chanting “where are the jobs?” but multiple independent analyses have now found that the vision they have for the federal budget would make unemployment substantially worse.
I see that James Van Der Beek is going to star as himself in a new, non-reality show. This gives me the opportunity to do two things (other than post that picture):
- Post this clip of Van Der Beek from Varsity Blues, sporting an objectively ridiculous Southern accent:
- As easy as it is to make fun of him, I believe in awarding credit where it is due. Van Der Beek is objectively great in The Rules Of Attraction. Yes, it’s a Bret Easton Ellis adaptation, and he’s naturally polarizing. But the film, despite some flaws, is a damn fine piece of work. The knock on Ellis’s work is that he tries to have it both ways, by reveling in depravity while simultaneously denouncing it. But the film adaptation of The Rules Of Attraction sidesteps these problems and pulls off the complicated task of showing the appeal of a certain sort of druggy, predatory promiscuity while never really making it appealing. It’s darkly comic satire of privilege with some nice surreal touches, and Van Der Beek is well-cast as a clean-cut, good-looking guy whose lifetime of getting everything he wants makes him literally unable to understand, say, why cheating on a girlfriend should end a relationship. I have to say that the movie is a personal favorite of mine. I think this clip gets the main point across nicely, though with some NSFW language:
Not too much on my mind today, so I’ll approve Sully on the DOMA decision here:
The genius of the Holder decision is that it forces the GOP to decide very quickly whether to double-down on this issue.
It’s the last thing Boehner wants to be thinking or talking about. And Obama has wisely restricted his shift to the federal government’s recognition of what states have already done. In other words, Obama’s decision can be viewed as a federalist one. Why, after all, should some states not have all their marriage licenses recognized by the federal government, rather than, say, 98 percent of them? Since the DOMA provision protecting every state’s right to decide how to define civil marriage remains, this becomes an issue of the states versus the federal government. Which again intensifies the Republican internal conflict.
Meanwhile, the gays are ecstatic – a little too ecstatic in my view. Not to say I am not extremely gratified by the DOJ’s decision. Just that I recognize its limits. As Obama used to say: no sudden moves. But his legacy on gay rights is beginning to build into a historic one. Yes, I have complained loudly in the past. My loyalty is to the issue, not the president. But he is coming through – more cunningly than most of us grasped.
Which is not the first time one can say that on many issues, where Obama’s caution and incrementalism have begun to create a legacy that is deeply unsatisfying in the present but looks rather substantive from the rear-view mirror.
Let me add this: I keep hearing people wondering if the 2012 campaign will largely ignore social issues in favor of economic ones. Let me tell you why this won’t work. Maybe some Republican candidates would prefer to run this campaign. But the prevalence of social conservatives within the GOP means that someone will attempt to cater to them. Even if Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich all decide to sit out the race, someone else will because it’s a very large group. And that will force all the candidates to talk enough about those issues so that they don’t get flanked on them. Which, to be honest, is as it should be. Reading media coverage, one can get the sense that the Republican Party is made up largely of economic libertarians and that social conservatives are just an ornery but small interest group. Something close to the opposite is true.
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