A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

How To Politely Call Paul Ryan A Liar

by evanmcmurry

Here’s Yahoo! News’ headline: “Ryan takes factual shortcuts in speech.”

That doesn’t even need comment. Just note that Yahoo had to fire its Washington Bureau Chief yesterday because he was caught on a hot mic saying something rude about Republicans, so the website is probably treading lightly. And that’s how we get to the point at which a journalist is fired for saying what he thinks, but a politician is protected for baldly lying.

More: Glenn Kessler says Ryan “misleads.” Just call the dude a liar.

UPDATE: This is more like it!

Behold The Most American Sentence Ever

by evanmcmurry

So not only did Mitt Romney’s campaign hold a fundraiser on a yacht—an unseemly stunt for a candidate battling a rich-guy image problem, but hey, gotta pay the bills—but this yacht flew the Cayman Islands flag. If the boat turns out to be called the USS Deduction, we should just all go home.

Leave aside for a moment what would happen if a member of the campaign of Hussein Obama, Caliph of Otherstan, appeared within a mile of a non-US flag; at this point, even if Obama daily hoisted the stars and stripes himself, Fox News would devote an hour to complaining that he didn’t use a big enough flag or raise it as high as other presidents, and Crazy B. Internet would be arguing that the fact that he was flying it was proof he was lulling us into somnolence so we didn’t see the UN troops approaching. Yet Romney’s rich pals can pledge allegiance to the flag of Not Paying Taxes, during a surreptitious fundraiser that ABC News only discovered by following a cryptic entry on Romney’s schedule, and that’s all good.

Nope, the best part is the women ABC News interviewed for local opinion about the incident:

“I think it’s ironic they do this aboard a yacht that doesn’t even pay its taxes,” said a woman who lives aboard a much smaller boat moored at the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina.

If F. Scott were alive today, he’d write a novel called A Much Smaller Boat.* For all the words wasted over the specter of class warfare last fall, here is the true tectonic plate of American economic division: not class warfare, but class envy. The GOP succeeds because people with smaller boats will always vote on the chance that they could one day have a bigger boat, and those without boats at all that they could one day get one. And so voters keep electing the party that lowers their wages, demolishes their collective bargaining rights, redistributes wealth to the wealthy via austerity programs, etc., in other words ossifies class divides, making any upward mobility impossible—all on the chance that they could be the lucky one to escape that common fate and wind up on a yacht, at which point I seriously doubt they will care what flag flies above them. A Flea In The Fur’s annual budget says that the women who waahed about that boat votes for Romney. She’d rather be him than beat him. (via Erik Loomis)

* Or possibly John O’Hara.

The Ghost Of Richard Nixon Is Everywhere And It Can See You Sleep

by evanmcmurry

Hell has frozen over, officially, at least as measured in Nixons (1 Nixon = 5 sweat drops).

Remember about a month ago, when Mitch McConnell called the Obama administration “Nixonian“? Neverminding, of course, that McConnell is the exact brand of twerp who would have been assistant to Nixon’s counsel, or would have defended him with snide editorials, or questioned the patriotism of those who prosecuted him; or that McConnell was scoring points by comparing the current Democratic administration to a former Republican one, as if he knew his party would one day have to accuse President Hillary Clinton of being too Bush-like and he needed to seed the ground.

Now comes Charles Pierce faulting Paul Ryan for coming up short against the megalomaniac precedent that is Dick Nixon:

There’s a lot of old Dick Nixon in young Paul Ryan…There was the crass connection to “the working men and women,” like [Paul Ryan]. The way his voice drops and his eyes glow when he starts talking about the America in which he grew up, where he flipped burgers and washed floors and dreamed very big dreams. There is the obvious effort to… connect, a gift for a simulacrum of empathy that is just inches away from actual sincerity, but which sells on the screen like someone who truly cares about you, his fellow struggling Americans. But it wasn’t until he started tearing up that it all came together for me.

The difference, of course, is that Nixon was deeply, authentically marked by deep and authentic poverty and deprivation. He came by his ultimately self-destructive neuroses honestly. He earned every wound that he imagined the smart people of the world — the Jews, those damn Kennedys — had inflicted on him. He actually worked a job outside of government, and outside the Washington universe of government-dependent think tanks. He once actually had to earn a living. Paul Ryan hasn’t lacked for a job since he left college as the golden child of Wisconsin Republican politics, riding his family connections into a job with then-Senator Bob Kasten.

There’s little to argue with there. Hunter S. Thompson once called Nixon democracy’s greatest mutant; certainly no such Phantom-of-the-Opera level appellation applies to Paul Ryan the Glorified Actuary. But we truly are in a strange time when Charles Pierce is invoking the ghost of Richard Nixon while Mitch McConnell is using him as a scarecrow.

So Apparently William Saletan WAS High When He Endorsed Paul Ryan

by evanmcmurry

Coupla weeks ago, I posited that William Saletan may have taken a wrong turn down Lude Lane when penning his Poe’s-Law endorsement of Paul Ryan. Saletan is rightly renowned as a counterintuitive thinker, but this piece was so far around the bend it read as if it were tapping its own shoulder out of concern.

I still can’t speculate on Saletan’s sobriety, but yesterday, in a rare case of journalistic honesty and awareness, Saletan published a full retraction, recanting almost every single point he made two weeks ago. The last time a public thinker ate this much crow, it was 2006 and everybody and their mom was apologizing for their support of the Iraq War.

If you’re still on the fence about Ryan—hey, a full third of poll respondents are, though they’re not likely readers of this blog—then Saletan’s change of heart is a must read:

I knew you weren’t perfect. I didn’t like your vote against the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction plan. I worried that your weakness for tax cuts would squander the savings from your budget cuts. But I should have studied your record more carefully. I didn’t understand how pivotal you were in sinking the budget deal between President Obama and Speaker Boehner. I paid too much attention to what you said about cutting the defense budget and not enough attention to what you did. You accused the military of requesting too little money—a concern that makes no sense to anyone familiar with the acquisitive habits of government agencies. You also objected to setting financial savings targets and forcing the Pentagon to meet them, even though that’s how you proposed to control domestic spending.

As is clear from that paragraph, Saletan should have done some more (any) homework before proclaiming Galt-For-Halloween some sort of  fiscal savior. But in Saletan’s defense, Ryan’s arguments since becoming the Vice Presidential pick have been sloppy and at times arbitrary, like he’s gotten ahold of a gun he control:

Since Mitt Romney tapped you as his running mate, you haven’t stood for fiscal restraint. You’ve attacked it. You warned voters in North Carolina and Virginia that cuts in the defense budget would take away their tax-supported jobs. And I cringe when I recall what I said about you and Medicare. “Ryan destroys Romney’s ability to continue making the dishonest, anti-conservative argument that Obamacare is evil because it cuts Medicare,” I wrote. “Now Romney will have to defend the honest conservative argument, which is that Medicare spending should be controlled.”

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Four days after Romney put you on the ticket, you began parroting his Medicare shtick. You protested that Obama’s $700 billion savings in the future growth of Medicare payments to providers—a spending reduction that any sensible conservative president would have sought, and that you had previously included in your budget plan—would “lead to fewer services for seniors.” You depicted a horror scenario: “a $3,600 cut in benefits for current seniors. Nearly one out of six hospitals and nursing homes are going to go out of business.” You assured seniors that the Romney-Ryan agenda for Medicare “does not affect your benefits.” And you promised future retirees “guaranteed affordability” of health care.

[…] You even embraced the delusion that government is a threat to Medicare, when in fact government is the funder of Medicare. This misconception used to be a joke, an illustration of popular ignorance. But now you’re peddling it. “Mitt Romney and I are going to stop that raid on Medicare,” you told voters in New Hampshire a week ago. “We’re going to restore this program, and we’ll get these bureaucrats out of the way of standing between our senior citizens and their Medicare.”

Saletan was, by my count, the only respectable voice out there on Ryan’s side, certainly the sole public intellectual not on the payroll of NRO or the Weekly Standard; it took Ryan two weeks to burn him good. Remember, this is the Republican’s “serious” candidate.