Friday, August 12, 2011

Off The Charts

During the GOP presidential debate last night in Ames, Iowa, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum squared off on Iran. It's worth watching (video immediately below). These guys actually believe what they say, in a debate in which every deficit-hating candidate pledged to oppose a hypothetical deal with ten times as much in spending cuts as tax increases.

Among their other disadvantages, Paul and Santorum never have learned to fake sincerity and thus are not exalted by the mainstream media as "genuine." And they seem to have a clear idea of the issues involved. Not so, however, in the case of another Repub presidential contender, as demonstrated by the following exchange (debate transcript, here):

BACHMANN: That’s right. I was very vocal against that tax. And I fought against that tax. The problem is, when the deal was put together, Governor Pawlenty cut a deal with the special interest groups and he put in the same bill, a vote to increase the cigarette tax as well as the vote that would take away protections from the unborn.

And I made a decision, I believe in the sanctity of human life. And I believe you can get money wrong, but you can’t get life wrong. And that’s why I came down on that decision that I made.


YORK: Governor Pawlenty, do you have a response — 30 seconds — to that?

PAWLENTY: Yeah, what is wrong in the answer is the answer.
Congresswoman Bachmann didn’t vote for that bill because of a stripping away of pro-life protection, she voted for it and is now creating that as the excuse.

But nonetheless, she speaks of leading these efforts in Washington and Minnesota, leading and failing is not the objective. Leading and getting results is the objective. I’ve got the best record of results as any candidate in this race.

YORK: All right. Thank you. We’re going to go to Senator Santorum.

OK, yes you can.

BACHMANN: In the — this is exactly what I’m trying to illustrate. We need to have a president of the United States who stands firm on their convictions. This is what I have demonstrated for everyday that I have been in congress. I have a consistent record of standing on my convictions. I didn’t cut deals with special interests where you put the pro-life issues together with tax increase issues. That’s a fundamental. It’s a nonnegotiable.

And when we come to a nonnegotiable, we must stand. And I stand.


YORK: Governor we’re going to come back around.

PAWLENTY: Just very quickly.

Her answer is illogical. Her answer is illogical. If there were two bad things in the bill — a tax increase and we’re hypothetically stripping away pro-life protections, which we weren’t, then it is a double reason to vote against it. She voted for it.

BACHMANN: I need to respond to that.

YORK: OK. We have other people here.

BACHMANN: I need to respond to that, because — I need to respond to that.

YORK: I understand.

I understand. You have the next question. (addresses Senator Santorum) You have the next question, senator. I promise.


(UNKNOWN): Congresswoman Bachmann, 15 seconds, OK?

BACHMANN: This is what I want to say. If a person — if a member casts a vote one way, they would be increasing the cigarette tax. If they cast a vote another way, they would not be voting for the pro-life protection. It was a choice. The governor put us in that box and I chose to protect human life.

This is thoroughly incoherent. Initially, Bachmann characterizes Pawlenty's bill as one "to increase the cigarette tax as well as the vote that would take away protections from the unborn"- and so, oddly, she voted for it. By the end of the exchange, she characterizes her vote ("the governor put us in that box and I chose to protect human life"), legitimately, as one opposing abortion. But the bill never "(took) away protections from the unborn"- an anti-abortion provision was added at the behest of those "special interest groups" which Bachmann supports.

The bill was proposed to end (as it did) the shutdown of Minnesota's state government. The provision intimidating pregnant women discouraging abortion was added. Combining two, completely unrelated, issues, even during a crisis, is how Washington (and St. Paul, apparently) works, but Bachmann apparently had no problem with that.

Bachmann wasn't content to misrepresent a critical piece of legislation in Minnesota to give her an opportunity to attack her chief rival in the Iowa straw poll. Pawlenty accused her of merely an "illogical answer" about her vote in the state capital. Asked about the debt ceiling, however, she claimed

It — it was very important that we not raise the debt ceiling, because — consider what happened. The Congress gave Barack Obama a blank check for $2.4 trillion.

That is the first "blank check" in history with the amount specified. But Bachmann made it worse, responding to the next question by imagining

I think the — I think the analysts — I think we just heard from Standard & Poor’s. When they dropped — when they dropped our credit rating, what they said is, we don’t have an ability to repay our debt. That’s what the final word was from them.

But Standard and Poor's said nothing- nothing- about the nation being unable to repay its debt and there is no dispute that the U.S.A. can repay its debt. The problem clearly, is willingness, not ability. Greg Sargent notes

the news emerges that S & P has confirmed that it was precisely this opposition to raising the debt ceiling, and the cavalier attitude towards default exhibited by the likes of Bachmann, that led to our downgrade.

The question of what led S & P to downgrade our credit rating is a matter of verifiable fact. And S & P has now confirmed that one of the central rationales of her candidacy is a key reason for their downgrade. What will she say when confronted with this fact? How will she explain it away? Will anyone even ask her to try to explain it?

In a rational universe, this would be devastating to her candidacy. Of course, the world of GOP primary politics is anything but a rational universe.

Michele Bachmann's world, however, goes beyond irrationality. At some point, the mainstream media may decide that the standards applied to male candidates for national audience should be applied also to female candidates. Even in GOP primary politics, the candidacy of the Minnesota congresswoman would not be able to withstand that scrutiny, or even a portion of it.

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