Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Adam Nagourney in today's New York Times (emphasis added):

Passage of the health care legislation challenges the heart of the Republicans' strategy this year: To present a unified opposition to big Democratic ideas, in this case expressed in a stream of bristling anger and occasional mischaracterizations of what the bill would do.

Yeah, "occasional." I'd say the mischaracterizations of the bill have been "occasional" the way property damage from Katrina was "sporadic." But then, I'm not Adam Nagourney, so what do I know?

Posted under the link for the Nagourney article at Memeorandum right now is a story from the New York Daily News, which quotes Bruce Blakeman, a Republican who wants to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand for her Senate seat:

"This legislation is nothing more than a socialistic power grab of an estimated sixteen percent of our total gross domestic product and comes on the heels of federal intervention in the banking and automobile industries," Blakeman continued. "Where will it end?"

I don't even know why I'm quoting this. Some Republican or other says precisely this every few hours, and that's been true ever since health care legislation started to go through Congress last year. It would take less time to compile a list of Republicans who haven't mischaracterized the legislation this way than a list of who have.

But to Nagourney, the mischaracterizations are "occasional."

He has to say that. He needs to believe it. He couldn't live with himself if he didn't. He has to persuade himself, as do the vast majority of reporters and pundits in the mainstream press, that there's no real difference between the two parties in terms of honesty of rhetoric and willingness to demagogue, even though it seems impossible to imagine that he's unaware of the tsunami of lies we've heard for the past year about health care and other aspects of the Democrats' "socialist," "fascist" agenda.

Much easier to live in denial than to feel he might be under some vague obligation to report the plain truth.


Nagourney does give us this quote from David Frum, a skeptic with regard to his party's scorched-earth strategy:

"Politically, I get the 'let's trip up the other side, make them fail' strategy," he said. "But what's more important, to win extra seats or to shape the most important piece of social legislation since the 1960s? It was a go-for-all-the-marbles approach. Unless they produced an absolute failure for Mr. Obama, there wasn't going to be any political benefit."

I've been thinking that the Republicans' filibuster-everything strategy doesn't, in their eyes, represent nihilism, because they don't believe government does any good (apart from blowing up or locking up brown people), so they don't think they're doing much harm to the country by throwing sand in the government's gears. They believe in less government, and filibusters mean we get less government, so, while you and I don't agree with them, they're not doing intentional harm, at least by their lights.

But Frum reminds me that they refused the chance to help shape this legislation in a way that would have made it somewhat more right-wing -- a chance Democrats would have been happy to give them all through the process, and did give them for much of the process. This means they're not being refuseniks just to keep the government small -- they don't really give a crap what comes out of Washington as long as it leaves them in what they believe is a strong position going into the next election cycle.

With regard to health care, they could have stepped in at the eleventh hour and said, "Look, you're going to win, so do thus-and-such and you'll get a dozen Republican votes." And thus-and-such would have made the bill more Republican. And Democrats would have said yes. But Republicans care more about their electoral chances than about their political philosophy. You wonder if they care about their political philosophy at all, except as a useful posture.

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