The Washington Post succumbs to fear!


Won’t tell the truth about Ryan: The New York Times did the right thing this morning, even though its execution was flawed.

Quite correctly, the Times did a stand-alone news report about the string of groaners in Paul Ryan’s convention address. In our hard-copy Times, the stand-alone report bore this perfectly accurate headline:

“Facts Took a Beating In Ryan’s Speech”

The Times deserves a lot of credit for taking this approach—and for writing that accurate headline. By way of contrast, consider what the Washington Post did in this morning’s paper.

The paper includes a Gene Robinson column, “Paul Ryan, Whopper King.” It includes Melinda Henneberger’s opinion column, “We are all fact checkers now, of necessity.”

(Henneberger offers this assessment of Ryan’s address: “As I listened to Paul Ryan, tweeting as I went, I couldn't remember ever hearing an acceptance speech so rich in untrue un-facts.” Our reaction exactly.)

The paper includes a Fact-Checker column on Ryan's address, although that’s a fairly standard presentation in the Washington Post.

If you bought today’s Washington Post, you would have seen two columns about Ryan’s misstatements, along with the Fact-Checker feature. You would not have seen a news report telling you that, as a matter of fact, Ryan said a bunch of things which just weren’t especially true.

The New York Times correctly judged that the degree of dissembling in Ryan’s speech rated a stand-alone report. We agree with that judgment.

The Washington Post reached a different judgment. In place of a news report about Ryan’s misstatements, the Post presented a front-page news report about the fact-checking of Ryan’s speech.

Are you following us here? The Post didn’t do a report about Ryan’s misstatements. Instead, the Post did a report about the people reporting Ryan’s misstatements!

The Post decided to cover the coverage instead of the whoppers themselves.

The Post might be right in its judgment, of course. Or the Washington Post may have succumbed to wet palms and cold clammy fear.

They found it so easy to lie about Gore! And they find it so hard to tell the truth about bold honest truthful Paul Ryan.

LANDMARK: The good, the bad and the ugly!


We’re talking about Michael Cooper: Michael Cooper’s report in today’s New York Times is a bit of a landmark event.

It includes the good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s take a quick overview:

The good: In this report, the New York Times extends a welcome new practice. It simply asserts, as a matter of fact, that Paul Ryan said various things Wednesday night which pretty much aren’t really true.

In our hard-copy Times, the headline says this: “Facts Took a Beating In Ryan’s Speech.” That is a perfectly accurate statement. It’s good that the New York Times came out and said it. (For an updated version of Cooper's report, click here.)

Warning: Newspapers can be wrong on claims of this type, as with all other types of claims.

The bad: Oof. This report is supposed to be about Ryan’s misstatements. At several points, the report gets blown off course.

One example:

This really isn’t the place to evaluate Romney’s Medicare plan, if such a creature really exists. The Times should be exploring that topic, of course, even though it’s very boring. But this is not the place.

But so what? Midway through his report, Cooper wanders onto that topic, doing a short and sloppy job. This introduces a lot of confusion and distracts attention from his supposed focus—the striking number of misleading or inaccurate claims Ryan made Wednesday night.

The ugly: Good God. Yesterday, we explained the powerful master narrative which has long controlled the discussion of bold honest truthful Paul Ryan. Click here, then also click this.

The skinny is this:

For the past twenty years, the press corps has typed a serial novel in which the big liars have all been Democrats and the truth-tellers have all been alleged “budget hawks.”

This has been a very stupid serial novel. But it still exerts a powerful gravitational pull on the press corps’ work.

On Wednesday night, Ryan’s speech was so dishonest that the mainstream press corps is struggling to say so, even though this flies in the face of that serial novel. But they can’t quite abandon that master narrative! This is what Cooper types early in his report:
COOPER (8/31/12); The growing number of misrepresentations appear to reflect a calculation in both parties that shame is overrated, and that no independent arbiters command the stature or the platform to hold the campaigns to account in the increasingly polarized and balkanized media firmament. Any unmasking of the lies or distortions, the thinking goes, rarely seeps into the public consciousness.

But an interesting question unfolding is whether there is a tipping point at which a candidate becomes so associated with falsehoods that it becomes part of his public persona—which hampered Vice President Al Gore during his run for president in 2000, when his misstatements on the campaign trail were used to stoke the perception that he could not be trusted in general.

In the case of Mr. Ryan’s speech, the jury is still out.
You can bet your sweet bippy “the jury is out” in the case of Ryan’s speech. Within the press corps, players are nervously looking around to see how much truth can be told about Ryan—especially since the obvious truth about his conduct flies in the face of that novel.

Indeed! Even as Cooper tells the world about Ryan’s many misstatements, he can’t—or won’t—escape the pull of that old master narrative. Surely, Michael Cooper knows that Candidate Gore didn’t utter a string of misstatements on the campaign trail.

By now, Cooper and his editor surely know that that claim was a press corps scam. But it still constitutes official history within the journalistic guild. And not only that: Politically, repeating that story helps the Times soften the blow of pointing the finger at Ryan.

That claim about Gore is a long-standing scam. Joan Walsh has kissed the ass of power, allowing that ugly tale to live. And Walsh is only one of many! If you’re a liberal or a progressive, your interests have been sold out by multitudes down through these many years!

We expect to do more with Cooper’s report next week. But even as it represents a major emergence from an old force, it includes the most disgraceful claim which lies at the heart of the press corps' serial novel.

That master narrative makes it hard for journos to tell the truth about Ryan. So sad:

It was easy for them to lie about Gore during Campaign 2000! It’s very hard for them to be truthful about Candidate Ryan today.

Where have they taken Paul Krugman: Everyone understands how this works—everyone except Paul Krugman!

Until yesterday, he did understand.

MEDICARE MUDDLE: Ezra Klein doesn’t know how to talk!


Continuation—Young star is no Shirley Temple: Bold courageous honest Paul Ryan made some very serious charges in his convention address.

What did the straight-talking truth-teller say? Concerning Obama's raid on the Medicare program, the wonkish straight-shooter said this:
RYAN (8/29/12): You know what? The president has declared that the debate over government controlled health care is over. That will come as news to the millions of American who will elect Mitt Romney so we can repeal Obamacare.


And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly. You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with the new law and new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn't have enough money. They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more. So they just took it all away from Medicare, $716 billion funneled out of Medicare by President Obama.


An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed, all to pay for a new entitlement we didn't even ask for.


The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare and we're going to stop it.


In Congress, when they take out the heavy books and the wall charts about Medicare, my thoughts go back to a house on Garfield Street in Janesville. My wonderful grandma, Janet, had Alzheimer's and she moved in with mom and me. Though she felt lost at times, we did all the little things that made her feel loved. We had help from Medicare and it was there, just like it's there for my mom today. Medicare is a promise and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare for my mom's generation, for my generation and for my kids and yours.


So our opponents can consider themselves on notice. In this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the left isn't going to work. Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program and raiding it.
In that passage, Ryan made a series of extremely serious charges. He voiced the Romney campaign’s basic charges about the Medicare program.

As we summarize his claims, we’ll use his actual language:

Obama funneled $716 billion out of Medicare! He did this to pay for a new entitlement!

This was a cold power play by the planners in Washington—a raid on the Medicare program! As Obama takes this money away from Medicare, our parents and grandparents are being sacrificed!

The coldest power-play in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly!

These are very serious charges; the language is very harsh. As Ryan made these inflammatory charges, the TV cameras lingered on the smiling face of Ryan’s mother, who loves her Medicare.

Just like the candidate's wonderful grandma did!

It’s hard to show sufficient contempt for these charges, although Lawrence O’Donnell managed. And yet, the liberal world has shown little skill at rebutting these inflammatory charges.

The liberal world has shown little skill at telling the public why these charges are bogus. Lacking that skill, we can’t demand that the mainstream press corps offer clear explanations.

Are Ryan’s inflammatory charges accurate? Did Obama “raid” Medicare? Did he really take $716 billion away from the program? Are the nation’s wonderful grandmas being sacrificed in the process?

Is Obamacare being funded at the expense of the elderly?

Ed Schultz and Newt Gingrich have both suggested that these charges are gaining purchase. On Wednesday, Rachel Maddow asked Ezra Klein to clear up all the confusion.

The bright smart young TV star failed.

Long ago, a 3-year-old child emerged on the scene, becoming a major film star. Later in life, she became a skilled spokesperson for the United States, even serving as our representative to the UN!

Ezra Klein is no Shirley Temple. On Wednesday evening, the young TV star’s efforts at clarity utterly failed.

What follows will show you how Democrats lose. Even our millionaire TV stars can’t seem to explain jack shit.

Step one—Excerpting Candidate Ryan: Not long after Ryan’s address, Chris Matthews made an announcement: Help was on the way!

Ryan had made some very strange claims, But the cavalry had been spotted:
MATTHEWS (8/29/12): Ezra Klein has been checking into the veracity of some of what we heard tonight, and we will get to that soon. But that’s when we return. You’re watching MSNBC’s live coverage of the Republican Convention.
Help was on the way! But the children on The One True Channel did a very poor job debunking those Medicare claims.

In the beginning was the end! The breakdown began right at the start, when the children returned from commercial to play tape of Ryan’s remarks:
RYAN (videotape): You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with the new law and new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn`t have enough money. They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more. So they just took it all away from Medicare, $716 billion funneled out of Medicare by President Obama.
That’s the videotape that was shown. It omitted Ryan’s most serious charges, some of his most striking language. It omitted the claim that Obama “raided” the Medicare program. It omitted the claim that “an obligation to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed” in the process.

It omitted the claim that the money was funneled from Medicare “to pay for a new entitlement.”

The children had edited Ryan’s remarks. In the process, they greatly reduced the outrageousness, and the dishonesty, of the various things he had said.

Step two—Rachel’s attempt at a question: Right there in their edited excerpt, the children had cleaned up Paul Ryan.

Maddow was about to ask Klein to fact-check Ryan’s remarks. But the channel had already removed most of his most flagrant bullshit.

Whatever! The second problem with this fact-check came from Maddow herself. After the tape of Ryan played, she offered this rambling reaction and a non-question question:
MADDOW (continuing directly): And also by Paul Ryan in his proposals. But that doesn’t make him nearly as angry, or make him pause as meaningfully.

The whole ball of wax might come down to one issue ultimately in November. May come down to one policy. The November election might hinge on Medicare.

Part of why the choice of Paul Ryan for vice president was seen in the most favorable light as a bold choice was Paul Ryan’s politically unpopular plan to end the Medicare program the country has known and loved for roughly 50 years.
Because of his plan to end Medicare, the Democrats took the Paul Ryan choice as really good news when it was announced. But tonight Mr. Ryan said again he wants the debate on Medicare because he’s the man who will protect Medicare from the dreaded Democrats, who are really the ones trying to kill it.

For the actual skinny on this much-spun fact, luckily we have Ezra Klein. Ezra!
That was Maddow’s introduction to Klein’s veracity-check. But uh-oh! After making a very dire warning, Maddow asked no actual question. She simply threw to Klein, asking him to provide “the actual skinny on this much-spun fact.”

To which “much-spun fact” did Maddow refer? Her summary and introduction were extremely unclear. In effect, she simply asked Klein to talk for a while. She had provided no focus for his discussion.

Step three—Ezra goes on a ramble: In fairness to bright polite smart Ezra Klein, he wasn’t getting much help here.

Ryan’s most aggressive and inaccurate claims had been edited out of that tape. In her introduction and throw, Maddow provided no focus whatever.

Let’s face it—Maddow didn’t know what to ask about Ryan’s charges. So she simply threw to Ezra.

Ezra started to ramble.

Below, you see the oration which formed Klein's response to Maddow’s non-question. Unless you already understood this topic, his rambling remarks were largely incoherent.

But uh-oh! Like his blog-mate Sarah Kliff, Klein largely repeated Romney’s Medicare charges—restated those charges in his own voice!

We apologize for all the gorilla dust. But this was Klein’s full response:
KLEIN (continuing directly): Hi, Rachel. Right—the Medicare fact. I kind of can’t believe we are actually now running this campaign on Republicans telling Democrats they want to cut Medicare too much, after what Republicans have voted for in recent years.

What those Medicare cuts are, it’s basically two major things. One is that we pay private insurers in the Medicare program about 114 percent what we pay traditional Medicare to cover the exact same group of people. And the other is that hospitals as part of the Affordable Care Act deal agreed to take lower reimbursements.

So, when Romney/Ryan say they want to repeal those cuts, what they are saying very simply put is this: Instead of moving that money from hospitals that have said you can have it, and private insurers that are getting paid more than Medicare, and putting it either towards health care for poor people, as Barack Obama does, or towards deficit reduction, as the House Republican budget does, they should give it back to hospitals and private insurers.

This is a bad enough idea, as I mentioned that House Republicans, including Paul Ryan, who wrote the thing, put it in their budget. The broad sort of overarching narrative of that critique, though, the thing that always strikes me about it, is that when Paul Ryan and George W. Bush did a major Medicare prescription drug benefit expansion in the 2000s, they paid for it by putting it all on the deficit.

They didn’t pay for a dime or a dollar of it. Then Democrats came in, they said we’re not going to do that any more, we’re going to be fiscally responsible, and so they said we`re going to pay for all of it. The initial House Democrat proposal would have been a tax on rich people which would have been a lot more politically popular.

But a lot of Republicans said, “That is irresponsible. If you’re going to do health care reform, you pay for it out of the health care system.” Democrats tried to do that, and so they did this cutting of Medicare which they thought was going to help them get Republican support. Instead Republicans then ran against them for cutting Medicare, while simultaneously saying they don’t have a plan to do anything about Medicare spending, and also saying the Affordable Care Act is a fiscally irresponsible plan, which just goes to show that you can't really—the Democrats did not find it very easy to win for compromising or trying to compromise with what Republicans said they wanted on this particular one.
That is a horrible “answer.”

If you already understand the Medicare topic, you may know what Klein is talking about as he wanders the countryside, stringing his reactions together in stream-of-consciousness fashion. But for viewers who lacked that pre-cognition, those remarks were largely incoherent.

Klein toured the countryside, failing to explain the point of his various comments. If you already understood Medicare, you might have guessed what his comments meant.

Others were shit out of luck.

Go ahead—ask yourself this: At any point, does Klein make a clear, concise statement about what Ryan said that was wrong? No such statement ever occurs in this wandering ballad. Instead, Klein throws a bewildering array of figures and claims into a very thick stew.

One example: What exactly does that “114 percent” figure mean in Klein’s second paragraph? We can guess, but even we aren’t entirely clear where it leads.

Was the extra 14 percent taken away as part of the spending reductions? People without prior knowledge were almost surely baffled by now, out in some very deep weeds.

Klein’s oration was very unclear—and that’s the good news about it. Even worse, he kept repeating Romney’s charges about the Medicare program!

Good God! Instantly, Klein was talking about “Medicare cuts,” a dangerous piece of locution. He maintained this language all the way through—and by the second half of his speech, he rather clearly seemed to be saying that the Democrats were using those “Medicare cuts” to “pay for” the expansion of health coverage in Obama’s health law.

Klein seemed to say that Democrats took money from Medicare and “put it towards health care for poor people.” That is precisely what Romney says when he levels his punishing charges!

Let’s be fair: Since nothing Klein says is clear or concise, he doesn’t quite say what the Democrats are “paying for” through their “Medicare cuts.” But it seems it must be that “health care for poor people”—and whatever the Dems are paying for, it’s clear that they aren’t shirking!

When the Democrats came in (whatever that means), “they said we're...going to be fiscally responsible, and so they said we`re going to pay for all of it,” Klein announced to the world. In context, it’s fairly clear what he meant:

According to Klein, the Democrats “pay for” Obamacare through their “Medicare cuts!” More specifically, they cut money from Medicare and put it toward health care for poor people. But that’s exactly what Romney’s ad says—the ad Ed Schultz has been calling a lie! Like his blog-mate Kliff before him, Klein was repeating the basic charges which constitute Romney’s attack:
Current Republican ad: Obama has cut $716 billion from pay for Obamacare.
Sarah Kliff, WonkBlog: McDonough looked at all the various Medicare cuts Democrats made to pay for the Affordable Care Act.
Ezra Klein, MSNBC: The Democrats “pay for” health care for poor people through “the cutting of Medicare”—through their “Medicare cuts.”
Ezra Klein is a nice young man. He’s always polite to Rachel.

But to all appearances, he doesn’t know how to talk about Medicare! It’s hard to call that ad a “lie” when our leading liberal heroes seem to be cutting-and-pasting their own remarks straight from Romney's language.

Simple story: Ezra Klein doesn't seem to understand the nature of these transactions. And he doesn't seem to understand the language of Medicare "cuts."

In fact, Ryan’s presentation was full of misstatements and deceptions. A more capable cable climber might have started by saying this in response to Maddow’s flailing attempt at a question:
MADDOW: For the actual skinny on this much-spun fact, luckily we have Ezra Klein. Ezra!

EZRA KLEIN REWRITTEN: We really need to start with one fact: Within the Obama health law, no money is being removed from the Medicare program.

Annual Medicare spending has been reduced, although no health services are affected. The system will simply eliminate overpayments to some health care providers. That's what we should be doing.

That adds up to $716 billion less spending in Medicare over the next ten years. But that money stays in the Medicare system, extending the life of the Medicare trust fund by a full eight years. The money isn’t being siphoned, stolen, raided, robbed or taken away from Medicare. The money isn’t being used to pay for someone else’s health care.

Rachel, if you have time for one more point—Ryan surely understands these points. For crying out loud! He included almost all those spending reductions in his own budget plans! Tonight, he said those spending reductions represent an attack on our parents and our grandparents. I’d have to say that’s very dishonest: As Ryan knows, those spending reductions don’t produce reductions in medical services. And Ryan had those same spending reductions in his own budget plans!
That's well less than half of Ezra's ramble. At this point, Rachel would have had to dream up a question. There’s little chance she could have done so. Despite “earning” millions of dollars per year, Maddow doesn’t seem to know how to talk about Medicare either!

Sorry, Charlie! All across the liberal world, you can see liberal “intellectual leaders” repeating Romney’s basic charges (links below). Ezra Klein is very polite, and he’s making himself rich and famous.

But Ezra Klein is no Shirley Temple. As in the mid-90s Medicare fight, so too in the current battle: Your interests lie in the hands of incompetents. When you watch the TV machine thingy, you’ll often find yourself looking at children who don’t know how to talk!

All together now, let's recite Romney's charges: All over the liberal world, you can see your fiery leaders repeating Romney’s basic charges: Obama took money from Medicare and used it to “pay for” Obamacare!

Ed Schultz calls those charges a lie. But our fiery liberal leaders just keep repeating those charges!

To see Joan Walsh accept Romney’s charges, click here. Also, check out Alex Seitz-Wald, also at Salon:
SEITZ-WALD (8/14/12): The $700 billion figure comes from cost savings created in Medicare to help pay for the Affordable Care Act. Romney is correct in the figure and correct in asserting that the money is being diverted from Medicare to help pay for Obamacare, but he misleads on the mechanism and its effects. First of all, the change affects reimbursements to hospitals, insurance companies and other providers, not benefits for average enrollees. As the Boston Globe’s health policy expert Health Stew noted, “Except for insurers, all the affected groups publicly supported the reductions to help finance the ACA’s expansion in health insurance to about 32 million uninsured Americans.”

Politifact called a similar claim “false” when Romney made it back in December, noting that there “are not actual cuts,” as the savings come from projected future growth in the program, no on-paper budgeting. The Washington Post’s fact checker also rated the claim poorly. ”The Affordable Care Act improves the benefits in Medicare, in terms of prevention, in terms of filling in the donut hole in Medicare Part D for prescription drugs,” explained Jonathan Oberlander, a health policy professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Seitz-Wald fumbles around, mixing apples with many oranges and making some accurate statements. But let’s return to our chart:
Current Republican ad: Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare…to pay for Obamacare.
Seitz-Wald: $716 billion is being diverted from Medicare to help pay for Obamacare.
Ed Schultz calls that ad a lie. In the meantime, major liberals are standing in line to repeat the ad’s basic charge: Obama took money from Medicare “to pay for” Obamacare!

That is Romney’s basic charge. Liberals keep repeating it for him! None of them answer an obvious question: If Obama took a big sack of money from Medicare, how did he manage to extend the life of the Medicare trust fund eight years?

Your fiery leaders don’t know how to talk! Ain’t life in the liberal world grand?

Where in the world have they taken Paul Krugman?


Will some honest broker find out: Good God, this is just awful.

Where have they taken the real Paul Krugman? Could someone please find out?
KRUGMAN (8/30/12): I spent a large part of the Bush years contending, at first almost alone, against the conventional wisdom that, even if you didn’t like his policies, Bush was a bluff, honest guy. In truth he was deeply dishonest—and all it took to see that was a look at his economic proposals and how he sold them. It was partly because I had reached a judgment on economics that I was able to see the very similar pattern in the selling of the Iraq war, and conclude—really really almost alone, at least in the pages of major newspapers—that we were being misled into invading another country.

Why did Bush have this reputation for honesty? Because he seemed like a nice, gregarious guy, and because most pundits don’t do actual policy analysis. And boy, did I get savagely and personally attacked for pointing out the obvious. It really wasn’t until Katrina that the obvious went mainstream.
Good God.

George Bush didn't have a reputation for honesty “because he seemed like a nice, gregarious guy, and because most pundits don’t do actual policy analysis.” He had a reputation for honesty because that aligned with the prevailing script, which was already firmly in place.

In the press corps’ prevailing script, Clinton, Clinton and Gore were the world’s biggest liars. Anyone who ran against them had to be typecast as honest.

In short, the ideological fix was already in. Bush was presented the way he was because he wasn’t Bill Clinton.

(Everyone who ran against Clinton and Gore was presented as strikingly honest. In 1996, Candidate Dole was presented as the high character candidate, even when he was running remarkably dishonest ads against Steve Forbes in New Hampshire. Reason: He wasn't Bill Clinton! In the novel which drove that campaign, Bill Clinton had character problems! Dole was out of touch!)

There’s no way on earth the real Paul Krugman typed the passage we have highlighted. Where in the world have they taken Paul Krugman?

Will some honest broker find out?

The real Paul Krugman knows about script: For evidence, just click here.

The greatest narrative of all!


Why Paul Ryan can’t be a liar: In our view, Alex Pareene is slightly wrong concerning Paul Ryan’s speech.

The Kid wants people to say the word “lie.” We think that’s a fairly dumb thing to do—and a good way to lose a debate.

That said, Pareene is almost surely right concerning the press corps’ reticence. Will the corps be willing to say that Ryan’s speech was grossly dishonest?

So far, Pareene thinks he sees the press corps holding back:
PAREENE (8/30/12): [Ryan’s dishonesty] was an attempt to break the mainstream political press. CNN is constitutionally unable to say “that was a load of tendentious bullshit.”...

Every actual non-idiot reporter present made note of how shameless the entire thing was, but only some feel comfortable saying so. Jim Rutenberg’s New York Times write-up of the speech is the driest and straightest report possible. The AP, which is a bit more tenacious than it used to be, went with “factual shortcuts.”

Ryan’s GM plant story was the most blatant outright lie. The Simpson-Bowles bit—where Ryan blamed Obama for not acting on the debt reduction plan Ryan himself torpedoed—was more a lie of omission, but it was perhaps the one that led the Beltway press to finally note how much this asshole lies. In politics, you can lie about a lot of things with the implicit permission of the political press. You can go around the nation repeating racial dog-whistles about welfare and barely raise an eyebrow. But you do not lie about Simpson-Bowles. Simpson-Bowles is sacred to these people.

That’s why the Washington Post editorial board found themselves sadly forced to sorta call Ryan a liar.
According to the AP, Ryan took “factual shortcuts!”

For ourselves, we’d say the Washington Post was fairly tough, especially since they worked on short notice. But the press corps will have a very hard time telling the truth about Ryan’s speech, thanks to a hard master narrative.

To what narrative do we refer? For at least the last twenty years, every Big Liar has been a Democrat—and almost all the big straight-talkers have been major Republicans. This constitutes a deeply engrained press corps master narrative.

Career pundits have refused to challenge this deeply stupid narrative. This includes our “liberal” pundits, who have broken their backs to avoid challenging this proclivity among their mainstream colleagues.

Dearest darlings! Careers are at stake!

Go ahead! Tote it up! Starting with Bill Clinton, all the Big Liars have been Democrats—within the press corps’ novel.

Clinton was novelized as the world’s biggest liar. They even invented a term, “Clintonesque,” to show us how slippery he was.

In 1999, the press handed the title of world’s biggest liar to Clinton’s successor, Vile Gore. When Candidate Gore wouldn’t tell any lies, the press corps invented lies for him.

Kerry was a feckless flip-flopper, even when he wasn't flip-flopping. Hillary was slippery too.

Obama has never been slimed with the Big Liar novel. But who have the truth-tellers been in this era? From which party have the straight-talkers hailed?

John McCain was the world’s most honest man. But so was Colin Powell! He has received a total pass for that bullshit at the UN.

George W. Bush was a plain-spoken fellow who said what he thought. And oh by the way: In recent years, Paul Ryan has emerged as one of the heirs to the truth-teller fortune.

Within the press corps’ disordered brains, has there been a Republican liar since Nixon? If so, we’re not sure who it was.

(Democrats are allowed to be truth-tellers, as long as they challenge their party from the right concerning budget matters. The Democratic truth-tellers have been at least four: Tsongas, Bradley, Kerrey, Moynihan. No matter what these giants said, these giants were telling the truth.)

This stupid narrative is deeply engrained—and liberal intellectual leaders have enabled it every step of the way. A personal note:

Here at THE HOWLER, we have spent many years developing and presenting information about the way Candidate Gore got scammed as the world’s biggest liar. It's an amazing story. Plainly, the press corps' misconduct changed world history.

But so what? With the recent exception of Kevin Drum (more later), you can’t get liberals to talk about that, right to the present day.

People, it simply isn’t done! Do not tell the truth to the public!

For ourselves, we would never have dreamed that any group would behave in the way “career liberals” have done. We would never have thought that you could develop so much information about some subject and have it be so widely ignored—by the very people whose political interests would gain if the information gained currency!

It has been astounding to see the way these very bad people have kept the truth under wraps. And as they’ve kept the truth under wraps, the press corps’ master narrative has hardened.

Slowly but surely, Ryan emerged in recent years as the latest most honest person in the press corps’ serial novel. Ezra was kissing Ryan’s ass just one year ago!

(So smart! So focused on policy!)

Paul Ryan has been the press corps’ most recent Most Honest Person. And uh-oh! When Most Honest People conduct major scams, the press corps has a very hard time saying so. (See Bradley's absurd misconduct during Campaign 2000, including the Willie Horton scam.)

A master narrative is locked in place. The character roles are assigned.

Journalists haven’t been challenged about this ridiculous novel. The public hasn’t been warned about it. It will be hard to paint Ryan as he is. Decades of preconception stand in the way of the truth.

So far, Pareene sees the press corps withholding the truth. They’re caught in the grip of a very bad novel. They’ve been typing their tale a long time.

Paul Ryan's watershed event!


How will the press corps react: Paul Ryan’s speech last night was a watershed event.

Every four years, the four major-party nominees give similar convention addresses. Has any nominee ever misled and deceived the public in anything like the way Ryan did?

His performance was simply astounding.

Just a guess: People who use the word “lie” may be throwing Ryan a life-line. For several reasons, it’s hard to show that something’s a “lie.” Use of that term often gives the accused a way to shift the discussion and wriggle off the hook.

That said, Ryan’s performance was astoundingly dishonest, on a succession of points:

His comments about the Janesville GM plant were grossly misleading, insultingly so. (Warning: He made no flat misstatement.)

He scolded Obama for failing to heed the Bowles-Simpson commission—while failing to say that he himself voted against the commission’s proposal. (Warning: No flat misstatement.)

How about this disgraceful presentation about Medicare? For various reasons, these must be the most repellent statements any nominee has ever made in such an address:
RYAN (8/29/12): You know what? The president has declared that the debate over government-controlled health care is over. That will come as news to the millions of American who will elect Mitt Romney so we can repeal Obamacare.


And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly. You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with the new law and new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn't have enough money. They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more. So they just took it all away from Medicare, $716 billion funneled out of Medicare by President Obama.


An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed, all to pay for a new entitlement we didn't even ask for.


The greatest threat to Medicare is Obama Care and we're going to stop it.


In Congress, when they take out the heavy books and the wall charts about Medicare, my thoughts go back to a house on Garfield Street in Janesville. My wonderful grandma, Janet, had Alzheimer's and she moved in with mom and me. Though she felt lost at times, we did all the little things that made her feel loved. We had help from Medicare and it was there, just like it's there for my mom today. Medicare is a promise and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare for my mom's generation, for my generation and for my kids and yours.


So our opponents can consider themselves on notice. In this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the left isn't going to work. Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program and raiding it. Ladies and gentlemen, our nation needs this debate, we want this debate, we will win in this debate.
There you see the Romney campaign’s basic charges about the Medicare program:

Obama “funneled” $716 billion out of Medicare “to pay for a new entitlement!” Our parents and grandparents are being sacrificed!

The Medicare program is being raided! Medicare is a promise and we will honor it!

It’s hard to show sufficient contempt for these remarks, though Lawrence O’Donnell managed. What was wrong with those statements?

For starters, Ryan included the $716 billion in future Medicare spending reductions in his own House budgets! If an obligation to our parents and grandparents was being sacrificed, Ryan was sacrificing our parents and grandparents too!

If that $716 billion represents a “raid on the program,” Ryan wanted to be one of the raiders!

How disgraceful was Ryan's conduct? The camera played on the face of Ryan’s mother as he used her smiling presence to mislead the nation’s voters. He used the memory of his “wonderful grandmother, Janet” in the same way.

There were other problems with Ryan’s Medicare presentation. But good God, that use of his mother and grandmother was truly disgraceful. And by the way, here’s his remarkable language about the Bowles-Simpson commission:
RYAN: Back in 2008, Candidate Obama called a $10 trillion national debt unpatriotic. Serious talk from what looked like a serious reformer. By his own decisions, President Obama has added more debt than any other president before him. And more than all the troubled governments of Europe combined. One president, one term, $5 trillion in new debt.

He created a new bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanks them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.

“They came back with an urgent report?” How many of those booing people knew that Ryan himself voted against that urgent report?

Warning! There is no flat misstatement there, unless you count the vage assertion that Obama "did exactly nothing." But the slippery, eager dishonesty there seems to be without precedent.

For today, we'll stop with these three topics, although there are several others. Let's move to this key idea:

This speech represents a watershed. Ryan and Romney seem to feel that we’ve moved past the need for anything resembling traditional honesty. They seem to feel we’re in a totally tribal world.

In that world, the two tribes make any claims they want, no matter how deceptive, misleading or bogus. We the rubes then make our choice.

Will the press corps know how to respond to this conduct? During Campaign 2000, they spent twenty months pretending to be outraged by the lies of one candidate—lies they themselves had invented.

They feigned great concern about honesty then. What will they do about this?

Ryan told no “lies” last night. But the dishonesty was vast, without any precedent. No candidate has ever deceived the public so baldly in a convention address.

Will the terrible people of the press know how to react to this conduct? If they know what they should do, will they be willing to do it?

By this deeply degraded point, does anyone care what they say?

MEDICARE MUDDLE: Gingrich advances that poisonous charge!


Matthews rolls over and dies: Last evening, on MSNBC, Newt Gingrich was echoing Big Ed Schultz.

On Monday night, Big Ed noted a troubling fact. According to a new Washington Post/ABC poll, voters trust Romney more than Obama on the handling of Medicare.

For obvious reasons, Schultz was troubled by that result. A bit of background:

All over MSNBC, the hapless collection of children and hacks chortled when Romney selected Paul Ryan. The selection doomed Romney, we liberals were told, due to Ryan’s Medicare policies.

All the children laughed and partied, helping us liberals get even dumber. But uh-oh!

Last night, responding to Chris Matthews, Gingrich cited that same poll:
GINGRICH (8/29/12): I thought it was fascinating today that a new poll came out, and by 45 to 42, the country now trusts Governor Romney more than President Obama on Medicare. Now, Romney has had a huge advantage on the economy. This is the first time I have seen him start to pull away on Medicare.
In fact, the poll came out a few days ago. But Newt had the numbers right.

Does that poll signal an actual trend? If so, will the trend last? At this point, there’s no way to know. But if you wonder why the public might be buying the Romney line, you need look no farther than last night’s session with Gingrich.

Darling Rachel and Race Hero Chris conducted the discussion with Newt. To see the way our heroes fail, let’s review the pitiful first exchange between Matthews and Gingrich.

The session started with a doomed question from Maddow. Effortlessly, Gingrich batted her question away.

He then cited Barack Obama’s now-famous Medicare theft:
MADDOW (8/29/12): I wonder how you’re thinking about Paul Ryan tonight, because you were interesting in the past. You said he was engaging in “right-wing social engineering” with regard to his budget policy. Have you adjusted your own thinking on that sense?

GINGRICH: No, what happened was Paul Ryan reached out, worked with Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, created I think a much better version of his Medicare reform, which does allow people under 55 to stay in traditional Medicare if they want to.

It’s the only bipartisan program for Medicare reform that we have seen. I think it’s a very defensible proposal. I think it met every single concern I had. And it creates an environment where—

Remember, first of all, if you’re over 55, nothing is done except they return the $716 billion that Barack Obama has taken out of Medicare. If you’re under 55, you have a series of choices that are really pretty close to the kind of health benefit plan that the Congress gives itself. And you can take a range of choices there that enable you to stay in the traditional system or to go to a variety of other choices.

I think it’s a very responsible system that puts power back in the hands of the individual and doesn’t center power in Washington.
Maddow’s question was easy to answer. Anybody would have known what Gingrich was going to say.

Gingrich gave the predictable answer, praising the Ryan-Wyden proposal. And sure enough: After batting Maddow’s question away, he cited the big sack of money Obama has stolen from Medicare.

That talking-point lies at the heart of the Romney Medicare message. Obama has stolen $716 billion from the Medicare trust fund! He’s using the money to pay for Obamacare! He’s stealing the money from seniors to pay for other people’s coverage!

Romney will return the money Obama has stolen from seniors!

Those charges are the heart and soul of Romney’s Medicare message. If voters are swinging Romney’s way, those charges are likely responsible.

Obama stole $716 billion from the Medicare trust fund! Gingrich recited the Romney campaign’s central charge.

Here’s how Matthews responded:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): I’ll let that go, that claim about the president basically skimming 700 billion out. But here’s a weird problem, you know, in politics or in war: I think it’s what starts wars, when both sides think they can win on a front. Every Democrat I know, starting with like Steve Israel, head of the Democratic Campaign Committee, who has to get Democrats elected to the House, they’re thrilled that Ryan’s out there as the leader of your party on the issue of the budget and cutting spending and Medicare/Medicaid, all that stuff.

Yet the other side, your side seems to be ready to make the fight as well. How can both sides be right?
Good God. “I’ll let that go, that claim about the president basically skimming 700 billion!”

Exactly! Why would you challenge that?

So spoke the dumbest known human. In his response to Matthews’ question, Gingrich cited that new poll about the Medicare issue. He said the Democrats aren’t right about the politics of this fight.

He cited Ryan and Ryan’s mother, the mom who loves Medicare.

Matthews simply “let that go,” the claim about the sack of money Obama is stealing from Medicare! He never returned to that poisonous claim; neither did Maddow, whose doomed question started this mess. But before the interview session was done, Gingrich made an interesting statement:
GINGRICH: I helped lead Medicare reform in 1996. We trained our members for a year. We went back home. We knew how to explain it.

The result was Medicare wasn’t a big problem for us. It was solved.
Was Medicare a big problem for Republicans in the 1996 elections? We have no idea. But Gingrich was recalling the way the GOP fought, for two solid years, to shape the Medicare discussion during that earlier era.

“We trained our members for a year,” Gingrich said. “We knew how to explain it,” In fact, the GOP’s “explanation” during that era was grossly misleading, as is Romney's charge about that stolen money.

But Republicans did know how to advance their claims in 1996. And not only that! As Maraniss and Weisskopf reported, they hounded and harried the mainstream press corps about the correct and proper way to frame the Medicare discourse.

The GOP fought the press corps hard—and they massively won! In 1996, the press corps didn’t know how to respond to the party’s blatant deceptions about Medicare. Rather plainly, neither did Race Hero Matthews as he performed last night.

Did Obams steal $716 billion from the Medicare trust fund? Last night, Matthews and Maddow seemed to have no idea how to address this poisonous charge. Gingrich ate Maddow’s question for lunch. Matthews became his dessert.

Nothing will turn on last night’s discussion, a fleeting exchange on liberal TV. But especially in that comment by Matthews, you see the deep incompetence of the corporate-picked multimillionaires who pretend to advance your interests.

“I’ll let that go, that claim about the president basically skimming 700 billion out!” The truth is, this big bag of fail doesn’t know how to address that charge. There’s no sign that Maddow does either.

A few hours later, Maddow asked Ezra Klein to give us “the actual skinny on this much-spun fact.” Did Obama steal $716 billion? Did he spend the seniors’ money on all those other people?

Is Romney’s central charge accurate? Haplessly, Matthews rolled over and died. In our next post, we we’ll show you what Ezra Klein said.

The Dumb and the Crazy are on the come hard!


Right behind them is The Hate: We’ve noticed something at national conventions:

When wives of nominees make their speeches, they almost always say good things about their nominee-husbands. Ann Romney played it that way last night, in a speech which also seemed to be shaped in response to Todd Akin.

How did Ann Romney come across? Such matters are highly subjective. At Salon, Willa Paskin seems to say that she came across fine.

As a general matter, we would tend to agree:
PASKIN (8/29/12): Ann Romney took to the stage in a drop-dead red ensemble, accentuated by red nail polish, red lipstick, gold earrings and some dagger-like eyelashes, in front of a sea of “I love Ann” and the hopelessly lackluster “Mitt!” signs. She looked smashing, and opened warm and welcoming. “Tonight I want to talk to you,” she started, all well-meaning intimacy—pull over your chair and snuggle up. Romney’s nervousness doesn’t scan as such, instead manifesting itself as a sort of giggly energy, a tendency to drag out her last syllable and put it over big—like Oprah taught her to—and follow it up with a cute double laugh. “This is going to be so excitttting!” she began. “I love you womeeeennn!” she followed. “I have been all across this country and I know a lot of you guuuuys!” she said. “Michigaaann!” she got carried away.

Romney seemed to be enjoying herself, her arms freely swinging, her fingers pointing (none of the dreaded thumb-over-fist-no-point for her), smiling often and big, modulating her voice to express sympathy and concern. She played both to the crowd—“Those are my favorite fans down there,” she ad-libbed during some particularly raucous applause, though it’s probably best not to call them fans—and to the camera, looking directly at it every time she put over one of her more serious lines. “You can trust Mitt,” she said, with as much sincere, direct eye contact as it’s possible for human eyeballs to muster.

It’s gross that a potential first lady, and not even a Republican female politician, was made to carry the water on the GOP’s ongoing, all too real trouble with women—but you use what you have. (South Carolina Gov. Nikki Hayley, speaking before prime time, got to talk about union busting and voter ID.) Todd Akin is probably largely to blame for the fact that even Mitt Romney’s wife got halfway through her speech without talking much about him, but the Republicans pretty much needed someone to say “I love you womeeeennn”—like, really, just to get it on the record, even if it’s not true—and Ann at least had the virtue of being able to say it and seem semi-plausible while doing so.
How did Ann Romney come across to the nation’s voters? We have no idea. Some parts of the “Up with Women” stuff seemed pretty hokey to us—but the public tends to be a bit hokey. Plainly, she looked sensational. To us she seemed largely sincere.

That isn’t how she seemed on MSNBC, where Joy-Ann Reid really staged a show during the midnight hour. Speaking with Chris Matthews, Reid invented several new facts about Ann Romney. She also gave us a trip inside the movie theater of her own mind, a wide-screen theater which was stuffed with free associations last night.

Perhaps it was the late hour.

The Dumb and The Crazy are on the prowl; as our politics falls apart, they aren’t restricting themselves to the people in just one party. And after The Dumb and The Crazy show up, we’re one step away from The Hate.

Tomorrow, we’ll run through Reid’s string of associations and factual errors. The Dumb is eager to join our tribe.

In our view, progressive interests can’t be served by The Dumb or The Hate. Not even by The Foolish.

Parker and Barbaro clean up Sununu!


Who raised these horrible children: By now, we thought the children had done it all.

Today, the children get worse. Right in the hard-copy New York Times, Parker and Barbaro kiss major ass, cleaning up John Sununu.

It’s hard to believe that even this pair could get as awful as this:
PAKER/BARABARO (8/29/12): “Where’d Sununu go?” asked Ryan Williams, a hint of anxiety creeping into his voice as he searched for the man he had been tasked with keeping in line for the past year. “Where’d he go? I lost him.”

Mr. Sununu, the self-described “crazy uncle of the campaign,” is notorious for going off script, and Mr. Williams, a dark-humored Romney aide ironically nicknamed “Sunshine,” is one of the few people who can corral him.

Finally, he spotted Mr. Sununu across the way. “Oh, there he is,” Mr. Williams said. “He’s talking to Jon Voight.”

Controlling Mr. Sununu, the short, cackling id of the Romney campaign, is no easy task, especially this week, when he is being mobbed, movie-star-style, by high-fiving delegates and distant Romney relatives who want to pose for pictures with him.
The children were helping the Romney campaign pimp a ridiculous line.

Within the Romney campaign, Sununu has been the hardest, ugliest player in the effort to slime Obama. This morning, the children are helping the Romney campaign pretend that Sununu’s repeated remarks have all occurred when this crazy uncle, with his cackling id, suddenly went “off script.”

The children are helping the campaign pretend that they’re trying to “control” Sununu. The children are happy to help them pretend that this is “no easy task.”

Ryan Williams is one of the few who can "corral" crazy Sununu! These horribple children typed it up, pretending they know this is true.

Even for broken-souled children like these, this morning’s piece is remarkable. But these horrible children know how good climber kids should behave.

As they close, they continue to serve. They type a bit of silly business designed to soften their subject:
PAKER/BARABARO: He spent most of the last two decades largely out of sight, but the ascension of Mr. Romney, his New Hampshire neighbor, has made him matter once again. On Tuesday, he soaked up attention in the convention hall.

“My man!” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah. “I just love you. Every time I see you on TV, I say, ‘There’s my guy!’ ”

Mr. Williams, meanwhile, trailing behind him on radio row, had more practical worries. “Governor, Governor,” he called, as Mr. Sununu wrapped his arms around two young women, who had giddily requested a photo. “Fix your hair!”
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! “Governor! Fix your hair!”

That's what "Sunshine" said!

Last night, Ann Romney was trying to make Mitt Romney likable. This morning, the children provide the same service to Sununu. It’s hard to avoid the obvious question:

What kind of parents could have raised such horrible children?

For the record, your liberal heroes will tolerate this; not a word will be spoken. You see, they want to get jobs at the New York Times too.

As liberals, we’ll just sit there and take it. Our lizard brain says our liberal heroes are quite plainly On Our Side.

Visit our incomparable archives: On Saturday, Alexandra Petri provided this same service to Mitt Romney himself. Somehow, she knew that his recent remark about his birth certificate had been unplanned—“off the cuff.”

These children know how good children should act. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/27/12.

MEDICARE MUDDLE: How it got this far!


Culmination—What Obama said: “How did it get this far?” as Don Corleone once said.

How did it reach the point where the Republican nominee for president was repeatedly making this bogus statement, with very little pushback from the mainstream press corps or from the liberal world:
ROMNEY (8/14/12): Do you know that if the president is re-elected, he will succeed in raiding $716 billion from Medicare, from the trust fund you have been paying into all your lives—$716 billion to pay for Obamacare? He is taking your money to finance his risky and unproven takeover of the health care system.
Romney said it again and again and again. The mainstream press corps let it go. We liberals stared into air or offered jumbled corrections.

Guess what, dumb-asses? Obama isn’t taking any money out of the Medicare trust fund! For that reason, he plainly can’t be using that money “to pay for Obamacare.”

He isn’t taking seniors’ Medicare money to finance his risky takeover. Sorry—that just isn’t happening.

How did it reach the point where the Republican nominee can make such baldly inaccurate statements, over and over again? More strikingly, how did it reach the point where GOP ads could be taken, almost word for word, from the work of our own top liberals?
Current Republican ad: Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare…to pay for Obamacare.
Sarah Kliff, WonkBlog (8/14/12): McDonough looked at all the various Medicare cuts Democrats made to pay for the Affordable Care Act.
How did it reach the point where well-placed liberals sound so much like Republican disinformation specialists? How did it reach the point where Paul Krugman could link to that WonkBlog post—not to warn us against its dangerous language, but to say we should read it?

We promise—they’re laughing hard about our incompetence inside the Romney camp. How did it reach the point when the GOP can take our own language, almost word-for-word, and use it to broadcast a “lie?”

You’re asking very good questions! The whole thing started with a statement by Barack Obama—with a statement which was perfectly accurate, but perhaps a tiny bit misleading in certain ways.

The Affordable Care Act passed the Congress on March 22, 2010. The next day, Obama signed the bill in the East Room and made a statement.

Under his breath, Joe Biden called it a big freaking deal. In part, Obama said this:
OBAMA (3/23/12): This legislation will also lower costs for families and for businesses and for the federal government, reducing our deficit by over $1 trillion in the next two decades. It is paid for. It is fiscally responsible. And it will help lift a decades-long drag on our economy. That's part of what all of you together worked on and made happen.
The bill was paid for, Obama said; the bill would reduce our deficit. Those statements were perfectly accurate—but they help explain how we got to the place where Romney is making flagrant misstatements about Medicare theft as the band plays on.

Is the health law “paid for?” Within two years, Obama’s statement had been corrupted to the point where Kliff was saying that Obama included “various Medicare pay for” the bill.

In an ad, the Romney campaign was saying the same darn thing—and Ed Schultz called it a “lie.”

How did we reach this remarkable place? Consider what Obama meant when he said the bill was paid for—when he said it would reduce our deficit.

Obama was talking about basic federal book-keeping. Restricting ourselves to a ten-year span, here’s what Obama meant:

The Affordable Care Act includes a wide range of provisions. Some of those provisions will reduce (projected) federal spending over the next ten years. Some of the provisions introduce new federal spending.

Some of the provisions introduce new federal taxes.

As is conventional, budget authorities totaled all these changes in projected spending and revenue over the next ten years. On balance, the new revenue and the reductions in spending slightly outweighed the new spending over that ten-year period.

In that sense, the bill would have a slightly positive effect on federal deficits over that ten-year period.

As Obama said, the bill was projected to “reduce our deficits” over those next ten years. This brings us to the matter of the reduction in future Medicare spending:

In one part of the health care law, Obama made changes in Medicare spending. In the upcoming ten-year period, Medicare would spend less money that had previously been projected—$716 billion less.

That was one of the spending reductions in the health care bill. There was also a lot of new spending in the bill—in particular, the spending which would allow the federal government to help insure thirty million new people.

As a book-keeping matter, the spending reductions in Medicare helped balance out the new spending. But that didn’t mean that Medicare submissions would be used to pay for the new health coverage.

In fact, the Medicare money was all going to stay in the Medicare trust fund. All that money would be spent on Medicare services, just as would have occurred in the absence of the new law. But due to Obama’s spending reductions, the money would now be spent after the ten-year period under review.

The government would be spending less money on Medicare during that ten-year period than had previously been projected. But none of that money would be used to pay for those 30 million new recipients of health coverage.

As an exercise in book-keeping, the reduction in Medicare spending helped balance out the increase in spending found elsewhere in the bill. But this was just a book-keeping measure. None of that $716 billion was being removed from the Medicare program, from the Medicare trust fund.

That wasn't what was changing. This was the actual difference:

Because Medicare spending was being slowed, that money would be spent in the second decade after the bill’s passage, rather than in the first.

Is this hard to explain? In our country, yes—it is! When it comes to matters like these, we are quite a bit like the Walpiri, who don’t have the language, habits or skills which let them count past two.

We’re hopeless incompetents in these areas. So are the Walpiri, when they’re asked to count fingers and toes.

The Walpiri can’t count their fingers and toes. We can’t discuss federal budgets. We don’t even know how to start.

It’s very easy to get us confused about matters like this. For that reason, it’s easy for disinformation machines to lie in our faces—and they’ve been doing so for at least the past four decades. In some cases, all they have to do is repurpose our own misleading constructions.

To some extent, that’s what has occurred in the current case.

We liberals were happy to hear that the health legislation was “paid for.” In all honesty, we sometimes sounded like primitive people; we sometimes made it sound like Obama had found a magical way to extend health coverage to 30 million new people, without any cost. Whatever! As the months turned into years, we liberals got increasingly lazy in our proclamations—in our descriptions of the way the health law is “paid for.” Before long, our brightest liberals were saying things like this:

McDonough looked at all the various Medicare cuts Democrats made to pay for the Affordable Care Act.

Gack! That was a very careless construction. Inevitably, it made it sound like Obama took money from the Medicare program, then used that money to buy health coverage for 30 million new people.

That isn’t what happened. But it’s a very short walk from our own words to that ad’s Medicare “lie.”

Sometimes, presidents do reduce spending within some program, transferring that money to some other use. Sometimes presidents eliminate entire programs, using the money elsewhere.

Sometimes, presidents do such things. That isn’t what happened here.

We know, we know—it’s confusing! Somewhat similarly, the Walpiri find it confusing when they have to keep track of more than two spears.

In matters like these, we modern Americans are very dumb and very unpracticed. We liberals have made ourselves this way through decades of intellectual sloth.

Right-wing think tanks have lied about similar topics for decades. As they’ve done so, the liberal world has peacefully slept in the woods:
Standard disinformation concerning Social Security:
The money isn’t there—we’ve already spent it!
The trust fund is just a pile of worthless IOUs!
It’s like the right hand giving money to the left hand!
The program will soon be “bankrupt!”
For decades, disinformation machines have worked quite hard to confuse the public about such matters. In response, your liberal intellectual leaders have slept in the woods and stared into air—to a man, to a woman.

Go ahead! Name the liberal intellectual leader who has made the slightest attempt to address the reams of disinformation which have been used to confuse an entire nation. Name the individual person. Name the liberal journal.

There are no names you can offer. Our tribe is slothful, intellectually lazy.

Our tribe is very dumb.

Our leaders are feckless, uncaring—useless. Consider what Howard Dean said on the Ed Show this Monday night. To watch the whole segment, click this:
SCHULTZ (8/27/12): Let’s turn to Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and former chairman of the DNC. Governor Dean, good to have you with us tonight.

DEAN: Hi, Ed, how are you?

SCHULTZ: I’m doing fine. Sometimes polls grab people. This one has grabbed me because of the lies that have been put out there about Medicare and it's absolutely hard to believe that we’re so, Americans can be disconnected from this issue.

What has Mitt Romney done to give the American people confidence that he’s going to be a better steward of the program, Medicare, which has served the country’s seniors for generations?

DEAN: My own guess is— These are lies. The 700 and whatever it is million dollars comes out of the insurance companies’ pockets. And in fact, Romney’s plan actually makes Medicare go broke by 2016. So, you know, it is a fat lie.
Ignore the fact that Dean said “million,” not billion. Major pundits and major pols make that slip all the time. (It’s a weakness of our number system that those numbers rhyme.)

Ignore that verbal slip. Are you impressed by the fact that Dean didn’t know how many billions we’re talking about? If you’ve been reading the posts at this site, you know the actual figure, as Schultz plainly did.

The figure is $716 billion. Howard Dean didn’t seem to know that.

Your lizard brain is going to tell you that this tiny point doesn’t matter. Our lizard brain had a different reaction. This is what our lizard says:

Howard Dean spent fifteen seconds preparing for this spot. As he continued, you can see the price we liberals pay for accepting these miserable slackers:
DEAN (continuing directly): There’s two problems. The first is that these enormous corporations, the business community, has funded these lies, to hundreds of millions of dollars go behind this stuff. If you repeat it often enough, people believe it. It’s sort of the old Russian propaganda stuff. It’s exactly the same technique.

The second problem is this age group was not disposed to like Obama in the first place. This is the hardest age group for President Obama. I think a lot of it has to do with their age, to do with the enormous change, the first African-American president, a new generation. And they’re just resistant to change and frightened.

So, I think it is a sleazy tactic by the Romney people, but it’s not surprising. Politics is a tough game, but there’s so much money behind these lies, that’s what’s making them effective, and they’re told to a population that didn’t like Obama much to begin with in the first place.

Dean played the Russian "Big Lie" card, as he did in more detail in his previous visit with Ed. And he told us that seniors believe these “lies” because Obama’s black.

That always makes us liberals feel happy. But ask yourself this: Did this horrible slacker ever explain what these “lies” consist in? If a senior citizen was watching this show, did she hear Dean explain what’s wrong with the “lies” Romney is telling?

To a very tiny extent, yes, she possibly did. Mostly, she heard herself insulted by an upper-class pundit who didn’t even seem to know how much money is involved here.

We’ve relied on slackers like Dean forever. This is where that has led:
Republican ad: Obama has cut $716 billion from pay for Obamacare.
Sarah Kliff: McDonough looked at all the various Medicare cuts Democrats made to pay for the Affordable Care Act.
Your lizard brain is screaming now. It’s insisting that Dean is On Our Side.

Your lizard brain is easy to play. Over in the Romney camp, the disinformation machine is laughing at us very hard.

Tomorrow: Unheard of within our failing culture! Actual Medicare information, courtesy of

Reports of our impending demise may not have been exaggerated!


What Palin/Gore/Twain never said: An unfortunate fact is becoming increasingly clear:

As a people, we just aren’t smart enough to survive. This thought imposed itself on our will when we perused this photo feature on the Washington Post’s web site.

Here’s how the feature is billed: “Famous Misquotes: What Neil Armstrong, Sarah Palin Didn’t Say.”

We were intrigued by the Palin reference. “Could it be?” we worriedly asked.

Yes, it could! Or so we learned when we clicked to the Post’s explanation of what Palin didn’t say. For obvious reasons, the author of this heartbreaking, unintelligent feature has gone unnamed by the Post:
THE WASHINGTON POST: “I can see Russia from my house.”

No, those words were not spoken by Sarah Palin. Tina Fey, the comedian who skewered the former Alaska governor on Saturday Night Live, said them, based on a Palin interview with ABC News. In September 2008, the then-GOP vice presidential candidate said regarding Russia that "they're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska." That, by the way, is true, on a clear day. An uninhabited island, but still...
Good God! In the past few years, we had begun to wonder how many people think Palin actually made that statement. In the Post’s mind, so many people think she said it that it deserves a correction!

The Post could be wrong, of course. It may be that no one thinks that Palin made that statement. But good lord:

The Washington Post is now issuing corrections of things comedians said in spoofs! Truly, we’re so dumb as a people that we won’t likely survive.

That said, things got worse, much worse, as we continued perusing the Post’s photo feature. The Washington Post also wants you to know that Al Gore didn’t say it.

Horrifyingly, this is the statement the Washington Post says Gore never said:
THE WASHINGTON POST: Created the Internet? Never said that, exactly.

Much was made of then-Vice President Gore's March 1999 claim that "during my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to the nation's economic growth and environmental protection.'' Vint Cerf (often referred to as ''the father of the Internet'') has defended Gore's comment and his role in pushing government efforts to develop the Internet. In 2005, Gore was given a Webby Award for online achievement for decades of work on helping build the Internet.
Hopeless. Thirteen years later, the Washington Post wants you to know that Al Gore never said that he "created" the Internet.

As everyone with two brain cells knows, that wasn't the accusation. Thirteen years later, the Washington Post is still struggling hard to catch on.

We are a very dumb, very gullible people. The last several years have really brought home the range of crazy, ridiculous things we the people are prepared to believe.

In the past, we were rarely allowed to believe ridiculous things. Our dialogue was largely controlled by a small elite; crazy people weren’t allowed in that club. As a general matter, we weren’t exposed to crazy beliefs, let alone encouraged to adopt them.

That had changed by (let’s say) 1999, when the mainstream press corps—people who work for the Washington Post!—began inventing things Gore had allegedly said. Among their various inventions, they claimed Candidate Gore had said that he invented the Internet.

Thirteen years later, the Washington Post is so goddamned dumb that its (unnamed) agents don’t seem to know what the Post itself accused Gore of saying. In effect, the Post is fact-checking itself—and is getting its own initial claim wrong.

Mark Twain joins Palin and Gore in our headline; what is his role in this low-IQ mess? The Post also debunks an alleged misstatement by Twain—if you can believe a thing the Post says at this point.

By the way, did Abraham Lincoln ever say that you can't fool all of the people all of the time? The Post debunks that claim today too. As our intellectual culture slides toward the sea, are they trying to tell us something?

Are we smart enough to survive? For a very long time, we were protected from ourselves by the guidance of a small elite. By now, our elites tend to be IQ 40 too—or so the Post would have us believe, based on this pitiful feature.

Genesis: Why did this feature appear today? The hook for this sad attempt at elucidation was Neil Armstrong’s famous statement from the moon.

Armstrong passed away this week. Maybe he just couldn’t take reading features like this any more.

The press corps’ relentless search for Eureka!


Frank Bruni explains how it’s done: This morning, in the New York Times, Frank Bruni explains how it’s done.

He files his column from Tampa. We’re puzzled by the first part of the highlighted statement below.

But after that, Bruni tells all. This is how the press corps works:
BRUNI (8/28/12): Romney’s a strange cake. He has racked up impressive accomplishments in both the private and the public sectors, including his Massachusetts health care reforms. He’s a man of serious abilities. But he seems unable to accept that a presidential campaign demands more than a résumé. It demands an audible heartbeat, a palpable soul.

His are kept firmly under wraps. In the prelude to the convention, talented journalist after talented journalist set off in search of them, looking for the eureka anecdote, the tear-streaked epiphany. It was a quest as pointless and poignant as any I can recall. You can’t add a John Williams score to a corporate balance sheet. You can’t turn venture capital into “Terms of Endearment.”
We’re puzzled by the first part of the highlighted statement. If so many “talented journalists” are down there in Tampa, why can’t some of these people get jobs with our major newspapers?

Whatever! As he continues, Bruni coins a wonderful phrase, letting us see how the press corps works. As our journalists hunt down a candidate, they seek “the eureka anecdote!”

Plainly, that’s true; it’s also sad. The children want some simple-minded tale which will reveal a candidate to us. What happens when children think this way?

We’re happy to show you! Bruni starts his column with what he calls “my favorite Mitt Romney story.” Pitifully enough, here it is:
BRUNI: My favorite Mitt Romney story comes not from his current campaign, though it has certainly yielded a bounty of priceless Mitticisms, but from his 1994 Senate race against Ted Kennedy.

He’s at a convenience store near Boston, pressing the flesh, when he spies a woman about a dozen feet away. She exhibits no evident interest in his advance. He hustles toward her nonetheless, fleet of step and silver of tongue.

“Don’t run away!” is his smooth come-on.

She lifts her left hand, a gesture that could be a tepid, dismissive wave or, maybe, an attempt to cover her face.

“I know,” he says, sympathizing with her standoffishness. “You haven’t got your makeup on yet.”

She corrects him: she does.

“You do! You do!” he chirps, shaking her right hand with an almost manic vigor. “Good to see you!”
That is Bruni’s favorite! It happened eighteen years ago. He wasn’t there to observe Romney's telling conduct.

That said, this is the way the children “cover” our White House campaigns. It doesn’t occur to them that Romney’s ludicrous policy proposals might provide a “eureka moment.”

The children want to tell us a story. That policy shit is dull.

As it happens, one of our favorite Bruni stories comes from 2002. In March of that year, Bruni published Ambling into History, his book about covering the Bush campaign. He started the book with a very strange story about Candidate Bush.

He described a very strange thing the candidate did in September 1999. But how odd! This very strange conduct was never reported in the New York Times, the major newspaper Bruni served as daily Bush reporter.

Bruni thought this story was so revealing that he used it to open his book. In real time, no report of Bush’s strange conduct ever appeared in the Times. (For link, see below.)

Ditto for a second anecdote from Bruni’s book. In this case, Bruni revealed that he thought Bush was blowing the election in the first Bush-Gore debate, he was performing so badly.

How strange! In real time, Bruni’s next-day profile in the Times made Candidate Gore look bad! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/18/02.

People are dead all over the world because of the coverage of Campaign 2000. (Liberals have agreed not to say so, of course.) Bruni wrote a good column a few days ago. But these would be our eureka anecdotes concerning this talented journalist.

A note on the start of that book: We’re surprised to see that we’ve never described the way Bruni opened his book here at THE DAILY HOWLER.

To read about Candidate Bush’s strange conduct, see Chapter 5 of our companion site, How He Got There. Click here, then search on Bruni.

Bruni opened his book with this eureka anecdote. For good or for ill, it never appeared in the Times.

MEDICARE MUDDLE: Take the Medicare Muddle Challenge!


Ed Schultz says the lies may be working: We were planning to wrap up our award-winning “Medicare Muddle” series.

But after last night’s Big Ed Show, our series is being held over—held over by popular demand!

Schultz began last night’s second segment with a fascinating analysis of the ongoing Medicare fight. Referring to two recent polls, he said the Republican “lies” about Medicare may be working.

Are the Medicare “lies” really working? Without doubt, Schultz could be right. But uh-oh!

As he introduced his segment, Schultz never quite explained what those “lies” actually are. To watch the full segment, click here:
SCHULTZ (8/27/12): What a difference a week can make. It looks like Republican lies about Medicare could be working. Keep in mind, this is a program championed by Democrats since it was signed into law back in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. And, of course, with President Harry S Truman, the first beneficiary, the Democrats did this despite all of the Republican cries of socialism.

Here’s the famous actor, some guy named Ronald Reagan, back in 1961.

REAGAN (videotape): Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it.

SCHULTZ: Really? Five decades later, it looks like Republicans are still lying about Medicare. They’ve come up with some brand new lies. Romney’s latest ad repeats the lie about how President Obama is hurting Medicare to the tune of $716 billion.

ROMNEY AD (videotape): Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare. Why? To pay for Obamacare. So now the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you.

SCHULTZ: And the problem is this line of attack appears to be working. On the question of who they trust more to handle Medicare, Romney beats President Obama 45 percent to 42 percent in a Washington Post poll? In another poll, President Obama beats Romney on the Medicare issue but only by one point. And among those 50 years of age and older, President Obama loses on this issue by five points.
According to Schultz, two recent polls suggest that the Medicare lies may be working. As far as we know, that’s entirely possible.

But what are those Medicare lies?

In that segment, Schultz seemed to say the lie is this: “President Obama is hurting Medicare to the tune of $716 billion.” That was his summary of the GOP ad—the ad which more specifically said that “Obama has cut $716 billion from pay for Obamacare.”

Did Obama really do that? Did he pay for Obamacare with a big sack of Medicare money? For ourselves, we’d say the answer is no. But if those Republican “lies” are working—if people believe those GOP claims—should that be a surprise?

In fact, the claims being made in that GOP ad closely resemble the types of claims we liberals have made for the past several years. For one example out of a million, consider Sarah Kliff’s recent post at WonkBlog.

Kliff’s post was quite informative in several ways. As we’ve noted, Paul Krugman specifically recommended it.

But uh-oh! In her headline, Kliff said this: “Romney’s right: Obamacare cuts Medicare by $716 billion.”

That was bad—and matters got worse. Midway through her text, she offered a formulation which very closely resembles the claim in that GOP ad:
KLIFF (8/14/12): As to how the Affordable Care Act actually gets to $716 billion in Medicare savings, that’s a bit more complicated. John McDonough did the best job explaining it in his 2011 book, “Inside National Health Reform.” There, he looked at all the various Medicare cuts Democrats made to pay for the Affordable Care Act.
In Kliff’s own words, Democrats made $716 billion “in Medicare pay for the Affordable Care Act [Obamacare].” That is almost precisely what that GOP ad declares.

But Kliff is (justifiably) a top liberal blogger, and the GOP ad is a lie!

Can we talk? For the past several years, liberals have been offering close approximations of the statement made in that ad. This isn’t something Kliff invented; from the White House on down, we’ve been saying that Obama included various cuts or savings in the health care law “to pay for” the coverage it extends to 30 million new people. For a recent iteration which is less clumsy than Kliff’s, here is the very alert Kevin Drum, correctly pummeling Niall Ferguson for his recent Newsweek nonsense:
DRUM (8/20/12): I'm speechless. How do you even react to something like this? Ferguson is like some clever middle schooler who thinks he's made a terrifically shrewd point by inserting "insurance coverage provisions" into his sentence so that he can later argue that it's technically correct if anyone calls him on it. You can almost hear the adolescent tittering in the background.

For the rest of us, the facts are simple: Covering 30 million people does indeed cost money, and Obamacare includes a number of offsetting savings to pay for that. This is what Obama promised to do: to pay for ACA. And CBO says he did. "Altogether," says their report, the various provisions of PPACA are "estimated to increase direct spending by $604 billion and to increase revenues by $813 billion over the 2012–2021 period." That's a net deficit reduction of $210 billion.
In the passage we have highlighted, Drum used the word “savings,” not the word “cuts.” But from the White House on down, liberals have been saying that Obama “paid for” the health law’s substantial new spending through various “savings” or “cuts.” And plainly, one of the biggest “savings” or “cuts” is that $716 billion in Medicare

If you doubt that, just go back and look at what Kliff wrote.

We’re not trying to single out Kliff or Drum; they happened to do their (informative) posts at a time when we were discussing this point with an e-mailing friend. We’re not trying to single out Schultz, although last night’s segment wasn’t especially helpful. After his rather fuzzy opening, Schultz threw to his guest, Howard Dean, who basically said that older white voters believe the claims in that GOP ad because they don’t like Obama’s race. (Dean also repeated his analogy from a few weeks back, in which he said the GOP is using the Big Lie technique, just like the Soviets did.)

Let’s hope few voters were watching. It doesn’t occur to someone like Dean that older white voters (and others) may believe these GOP claims because they’ve heard very similar claims from the White House itself; or because he and Schultz did a very poor job explaining what is wrong with the claim; or because we’ve all been swamped in disinformation about the federal government’s “trust funds” for the past forty years, with zero attempt at clarification from our liberal leaders.

Zero; nada, none.

For the past forty years, conservative disinformation machines have spread a massive amount of confusion about the Social Security trust fund. The current muddle about Medicare’s trust fund is, in part, one fruit of that larger effort.

For decades, disinformation machines on the right have spread this type of confusion. As they’ve done so, liberal leaders like Dean and Schultz haven’t lifted a finger to address the resulting confusion. “The money isn’t there—we’ve already spent it?” “The Social Security trust fund is just a pile of worthless IOUs?” For decades, liberal intellectual leaders have fiddled and diddled as this type of confusion has spread all through the land.

Today, we’re unable to discuss topics like this—just as the limited Walpiri can’t count past one and two.

Last night, Schultz said that GOP ad is a lie. But he and Dean made little attempt to explain what the lie consists in. Instead, they spread a form of political poison, insisting that people believe this claim because Obama is black.

That was the best our leaders could do. But go ahead! One more time, read the claim in the GOP ad, then read what Kliff wrote:
Republican ad: Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare…to pay for Obamacare.
Sarah Kliff: McDonough looked at all the various Medicare cuts Democrats made to pay for the Affordable Care Act.
The Walpiri can’t count past one and two—and we liberals have a very hard time discussing topics like this. With that in mind, are you willing to take the Medicare Muddle Challenge?

Over the weekend, Drum said that Obama hasn’t taken any money out of the Medicare trust fund. We assume that statement is true.

Here’s what that statement means:

Every dollar of payroll taxes submitted for Medicare is going to be spent on Medicare! Due to Obama’s future spending reductions, those dollars will be spent more slowly. But they will be spent on Medicare; they’ll be spent on nothing else.

If that’s true, it’s obvious that the $716 billion in question will not be used to pay for those 30 million new insurance policies. If so, then who will pay for those new policies?

If you gave them a million years, Dean and Schultz couldn’t tell you. In fairness, they did know what liberal leaders must say—that American voters are racists.

(Good lord, it’s easy to be a leader if that’s all you have to come up with!)

People! Disinformation machines have been pushing these conceptual scams over the past forty years. They pushed these (effective) conceptual scams when Carter and Clinton were in the White House, when Gore went ahead in the polls.

All through those forty years, the liberal world slept in the woods, sometimes rousing itself to call people racists. Today, you can’t pass the Muddle Challenge. And no, it isn’t your fault!

Due to their lack of counting skills, the Walpiri are easy to scam in a deal. So is our extremely lazy and self-impressed liberal world.

Maureen Dowd completes the trick!


These broken-souled losers can’t help it: In fairness to Maureen Dowd, she really couldn’t help it.

Two others had already said what follows. So she had to type it up too:
DOWD (8/26/12): So now comes the Big Reveal?

Not the stripper in Tampa made up to resemble Sarah Palin, but something far more intriguing.

Will Mitt Romney use his Florida convention to finally peel away the layers of opacity and show us who he really is?

People, she just couldn’t help it! First, her own New York Times featured the Palinesque stripper, at the top of a news report. Then, the New Republic followed suit—reporting from bumblefuck, Florida.

How dare they crowd in on Lady Dowd’s turf? Feeling angry and more entitled, she deftly completed the hat trick.

Just so we’ll understand our tribe’s values: Have you seen a single progressive complain about this? Even once?

As we often do at such moments: We thought of Gurov, Chekhov’s aging roué, who “wanted to enjoy life so badly and it all seemed so simple and amusing.”

In a truly beautiful portrait, Gurov moves beyond his contempt for women very late in life. (The Lady with a Lapdog.)

Before we had Rush and the Internet!


We already had Ayn Rand: We never went through an Ayn Rand phase. We’ve never read her novels.

We probably saw her on Carson once or twice. That was likely enough.

Last night, TCM aired the 1949 version of The Fountainhead. We watched about half an hour, having watched a similar chunk a few months ago.

Last night, it struck us that this may be the oddest film we’ve ever watched. Offhand, we can think of no other film where all the characters seem insane, and all the events seem impossible.

Lake Wobegon this is not!

(Did New York ever have a daily newspaper with dueling architectural columnists? Maybe—we have no idea.)

As noted, we’ve never read the books; those Carson spots were likely enough. (Poor Ed tried to ask probing questions.) It did occur to us last night that these books may have been a way to be publicly nuts before talk radio, cable and the Net made the practice so easy.

It used to be hard to hear crazy ideas. For the most part, if you were totally out of your head, you weren’t allowed in major media.

Today, lunacy is almost required for such spots. At one time, it was quite rare.

Before we had Rush and Sean and now Lawrence, it was hard to hear total bull-crap in public. But Ayn Rand’s novels were already there.

So was that crazy movie.

According to the leading authority: According to the leading authority on the film, it was poorly received by the critics:
The Fountainhead was panned by critics in its initial release. The Hollywood Reporter wrote of the film, "Its characters are downright weird and there is no feeling of self-identification." The Los Angeles Times said that the film would not "catch the interest of what is known as the average movie audience—whoever they may be nowadays." The Communist-published Daily Worker deemed The Fountainhead to be "an openly fascist movie." The trade magazine Variety called the film "cold, unemotional, loquacious [and] completely devoted to hammering home the theme that man's personal integrity stands above all law." The New Yorker deemed the film to be "asinine and inept.” Cue described it as "shoddy, bombastic nonsense.” Bosley Crowther, in his review for The New York Times, called the film "wordy, involved and pretentious" and characterized Vidor's work as a "vast succession of turgid scenes."
All those claims may be true, of course. But what about the fact that all the characters seem insane and all the events seem impossible?

“Downright weird” characters in “turgid scenes?” For us, that doesn’t quite catch it.