Friday, July 10, 2009

Wingnuts: no proper sense of inadequacy Edition

John (at Eschaton) : Plotting Wingnuts
I've sometimes wondered about the best way to plot wingnuts in n-dimensional trait space. It's not trivial, because many characteristics are correlated to varying degrees, and the subjectivity of it all makes it hard. However, I think this simple example isn't far off from reality.

Dishonesty and stupidity are pretty much independent, and I think I plotted these particular wingnuts fairly. Glenn Beck is a deeply stupid person, but comes across as earnestly crazy. Bill O'Reilly, on the other hand, is just very cynical and dishonest, but not really stupid, just ignorant. Sean Hannity, of course, is both stupid and dishonest.

I think if you plotted wingnuts in the 3-dimensions of ignorance, dishonesty, and stupidity, the surface would be roughly a π/2 wedge about the origin.

Greg Sargent
* Marc Ambinder has a juicy bit of campaign history: Turns out the McCain campaign carefully scripted Sarah Palin’s attack on Obama for “palling around with terrorists,” which would seem to give the lie to McCain’s supposed unwillingness to take the low road.
  • Sully: The Architect Of The Latest Meltdown

    Matt Steinglass wants to focus on McCain, not Palin:

    John McCain is unqualified to be Commander-in-Chief. McCain is a guy of rather mediocre intellect, little curiosity, and very poor and impulsive decision-making skills. He’s vain and headstrong, and he easily turns opposition over matters of policy or politics into personal vendettas. He became a political commodity in 1973 because he embodied the right-wing working-class value of patriotism under duress at a moment when patriotism and the white working class felt under attack for their complicity in a disastrous foreign war. And he was seized upon by a desperate Republican Party in political free-fall; in the thick of Watergate, the Nixon administration launched him as a political celebrity. He then parlayed that notoriety into a political career a few years down the road. He certainly has a substantial amount of charm and an instinct for playing the press, and he’s hardly the dumbest guy in the Senate. But he is not a responsible or serious person. And to a great degree, when he met Sarah Palin, he probably felt he was looking at a younger version of himself. Which is to say that the “rot” in the GOP, the eagerness to substitute celebrity and resentful pseudo-patriotic gibberish for real political discussion, goes back a lot longer than 8 years.
Josh Marshall: That Should Go Over Well
The latest GOP angle on attacking Obama's health care reform effort. Say we never should have founded Medicare.
Kurtz: A Classic Case of Overshare
David Brooks describes how an unnamed GOP senator fondled Brooks' well-rounded thigh.
Kurtz (TPM): Reader Deep Thought

TPM Reader BD:

Remember how during the 2008 campaign a lot of people suggested that Obama could prove to be an excellent role model for African-American men who have often been deemed less than responsible as husbands and fathers? Wouldn't it be great if white Evangelical Republican men could come up with a role model like that too?
Josh Marshall: Terra of Sarah

I never fail to be amazed and amused that many right-wingers and Palinatics genuinely believe that everyone who thinks Palin is a grifter or a clown is actually afraid of her. As in when Bill Kristol recently wrote that Palin's critics "tend not only to dislike and disdain Palin, they also want to bury her chances now as a presidential possibility. What are they so scared of?"

We get emails from readers saying in essence, yes, yes, make fun of this august woman. But you know it's only because you know if you don't stop her now she'll be president in four years!

I will admit that for a day or two after her speech to the Republican National Convention last year, I was worried that the press's then-infatuation with this clown might help John McCain claw his way to the presidency. (Remember, our Muckraker reporter Kate Klonick had been on the Sarah scandal beat for a couple months in advance of her elevation. So we knew who we were dealing with.)

Kristol's a smart guy. Is he really so far down his own rabbit hole that he thinks anyone is worried about Palin becoming president? If I were a Republican I could see being very worried that she'd keep going on TV and doing further damage to the Republican brand just by acting like such a freak. But at this point, beside the people who have signed on to the Sarah Cult, I have the sense that the reaction most people have to this doofus's latest shenanigans is not fear but entertainment.

Does anyone disagree?

For those wishing more Palin entertainment, here's a former VA GOP Party Chair,, on Fox this afternoon claiming that the press was out to take Palin down because of her rock solid homespun values.

  • Cole: Nooners Unloads

    The reaction to this will be fun to watch:

    “The elites hate her.” The elites made her. It was the elites of the party, the McCain campaign and the conservative media that picked her and pushed her. The base barely knew who she was. It was the elites, from party operatives to public intellectuals, who advanced her and attacked those who said she lacked heft. She is a complete elite confection. She might as well have been a bonbon.

    “She makes the Republican Party look inclusive.” She makes the party look stupid, a party of the easily manipulated.

    “She shows our ingenuous interest in all classes.” She shows your cynicism.

    “Now she can prepare herself for higher office by studying up, reading in, boning up on the issues.” Mrs. Palin’s supporters have been ordering her to spend the next two years reflecting and pondering. But she is a ponder-free zone. She can memorize the names of the presidents of Pakistan, but she is not going to be able to know how to think about Pakistan. Why do her supporters not see this? Maybe they think “not thoughtful” is a working-class trope!

    “The media did her in.” Her lack of any appropriate modesty did her in. Actually, it’s arguable that membership in the self-esteem generation harmed her. For 30 years the self-esteem movement told the young they’re perfect in every way. It’s yielding something new in history: an entire generation with no proper sense of inadequacy.

    Just walk on by, Peggy. Walk on by.

  • Sully: The Poison Pill, Ctd

    A reader writes:

    It has really hit home for me now just how much the Republican Party has lost its mind. Especially after the latest soap opera.

    During the months that have passed since John McCain “tapped” Sarah Palin to be his running mate, I’ve had more and more trouble reconciling the obsessive adoration of Palin by so many in the GOP, including a lot of my relatives, (some of whom are very smart and successful people) with the obvious dangers of having someone like her as president. The bizarre behavior. The vapid thinking. How do they not recoil at the smug way in which she wears her ignorance like a badge of honor? It’s just amazing to me how every word out of her mouth is taken as gospel, and when she can’t even answer a softball question without struggling to form a semblance of coherent opinion, they set off against the liberal media.

    Never mind the implications of her “word salad” responses. It’s quite sad actually, especially for me to see how my own family has changed. There’s been this kind of de-evolution from a thinking, reasoned, disinterested opinion, into an irrational, crusading, narrow banded thinking process that has really made me step away from the words Republican and Conservative as labels that apply to me.

    Oh well, I'm perfectly cool in the land of Independence.

Marshall: Feel the Hate

Has Krauthammer been driven off the deep by his hatred of Obama. Jacob Heilbrunn peruses the evidence.


Rep. Paul Broun, a right-wing Republican from Georgia, spoke from the House floor this afternoon, to explore his opposition to a public option in health care reform. He concluded that a public plan would kill Americans.

"...and that's exactly what's going on in Canada and Great Britain today. They don't have the appreciation of life, as we do in our society, evidently. And, um. Dr. Roe, a lot of people are gonna die, this program of 'government option' is being touted as being this panacea, the savior of allowing people to have quality health care at an affordable price -- is gonna kill people."

There are bad arguments, there are blisteringly bad arguments, and then there's the nonsense Paul Broun spews.

In addition to the obvious problem of comparing reform efforts in the U.S. to creating a Canadian/UK system -- that's obviously not what's being proposed -- the argument itself is ridiculous. As the Media Matters Action Network explained, "Besides absurdly stating that the public option will 'kill people,' Rep. Broun's ham-handed transition between the health care systems of Canada, the UK, and the US is mind-boggling because those countries' systems are not a model for US health care reform. And in addition to being wrong about their health care delivery systems, Rep. Broun apparently isn't aware that Canada and Great Britain both enjoy a lower infant mortality rate and longer life expectancy that the United States."

If Broun's name sounds familiar, he is perhaps best known for telling reporters late last year that he feared that President Obama might establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship on Americans. He added at the time that Obama, of course, reminds him of Hitler.

Two weeks ago, Broun also insisted that global warming is "hoax," and cited a made-up statistic about the cost of ACES.

Peggy Noonan wrote this morning that we're in an era in which the nation needs "conservative leaders who know how to think" and a Republican Party that is "serious, as serious as the age, because that is what a grown-up, responsible party -- a party that deserves to lead -- would do."

She wasn't talking about Broun specifically, but it'd be great if he took this to heart anyway.

Yglesias: Roy Blunt Wishes There Were No Medicare

It’s often frustrating to argue with conservatives who won’t admit that the logic of their position is that popular, uncontroversial, and long-established government programs never should have been created. So House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) did us all a favor yesterday by going on the radio and opining that we never should have started Medicare and Medicaid:

HOST MIKE FERGUSON: What is the proper role of government, and what are the potential impacts of the direction that we’re going right now?

BLUNT: Well, you could certainly argue that government should have never have gotten in the health care business, and that might have been the best argument of all, to figure out how people could have had more access to a competitive marketplace.

Government did get into the health care business in a big way in 1965 with Medicare, and later with Medicaid, and government already distorts the marketplace.

For the record, Medicare and Medicaid were passed at the exact same, both as part of the Social Security Act of 1965. And it’s crucial to understand that Medicare, in particular, didn’t just come about because of some random bleeding heart impulse. The reason there was political muscle to get Medicare passed even though it wasn’t possible to move to a true universal system is that private health insurers wanted nothing to do with the senior citizen client base. Insurance takes advantage of risk-pooling and risk-aversion to offer people security at a price that’s both profitable and attractive. When the whole pool is bad risks, as senior citizens are, there’s no real business opportunity.

Think Progress: GOP Rep. Introduces Bill To Deny U.S. Funding For Nobel Winning IPCC Because Of Its ‘Junk Science’
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) this week introduced a bill purporting to “save taxpayers $12.5 million this year and millions more in the future by prohibiting the United States from contributing to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is fraught with waste and is engaged in dubious science.” In a press release, Luetkemeyer explained his move:

We all know that the UN is incompetent when it comes to spending money, and that is why American taxpayers should not be forking over millions more to one of its organizations that not only is in need of significant reform but is engaged in dubious scientific quests. Folks in Missouri and across the country are tired of this never ending government spending spree, and my goal is to deliver some of our people’s hard-earned money back into their pocketbooks instead of spending it on international junk science.

Far from “junk science,” the IPCC is generally regarded as the world’s top authority on issues of global warming and climate change. The U.S. National Resource Council has praised the IPCC, calling its conclusions “accurate.” The Royal Meteorological Society referred to the IPCC as “the world’s best climate scientists.” In fact, the Nobel Committee seems to think so too, awarding the panel in 2007 with the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change.”

Stating his case, Luetkemeyer said that “more than 700 international scientists” signed onto a Senate GOP report questioning that global warming is man-made and said that number is more than “the number of UN scientists, 52, who authored a report claiming that human emissions of carbon dioxide are responsible” for climate change. (One of these “700 scientists” has no college degree and another doubt’s Darwin’s theory of evolution.)

Yet, the IPCC’s most recent report, which found that global climate change is “very likely” to have a human cause, was reviewed by more than 2,500 experts and was written by more than 800 contributing authors and 450 lead authors.

To bolster his argument, Luetkemeyer claimed that the EPA (in its entirety apparently) says the world is actually cooling. No, the “EPA” doesn’t say the world is cooling. Luetkemeyer is referring to EPA economist (i.e. not a scientist) Alan Carlin’s assertion in an allegedly “suppressed” document that “global temperatures have declined for 11 years.” In fact, the last decade will likely be the hottest on record. And while annual global temperatures have both fallen and risen in the last 11 years, climate scientists have identified long-term warming trends spanning decades to indicate that the earth is warming, not just the last 11 years.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina raised a few eyebrows this week comparing the United States in 2009 to pre-WWII Germany. Paul Krugman noted today how common this rhetoric really is -- and has been.

Sen. Jim DeMint says that America under Obama is like Germany before World War II. Republican women in Maryland say that Obama is like Hitler. Hitler comparisons are apparently rife at tea parties. What's gotten into the GOP?

Nothing. This has been going on all along. Back in 2002 Sen. Charles Grassley -- reputedly a moderate -- compared the think tank Citizens for Tax Justice to Hitler, because it claimed that 40 percent of the first Bush tax cut would go to the richest 1 percent of the population. (The actual number, according to the authoritative Tax Policy Center: 42 percent.)

The point is that extremist rhetoric on the right -- even the allegedly moderate right -- has been the norm for many years. The only difference now is that news organizations aren't as diffident about reporting it.

Krugman is, of course, correct. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) once compared those who accept the science on global warming to the Third Reich. Assorted right-wing activists have compared Al Gore to Hitler.

At times it seems as if the right has no other historical comparisons from which to draw upon. Grover Norquist has said the estate tax is the moral equivalent of the Nazi Holocaust. Bill O'Reilly has made so many comparisons between his political opponents and Nazis, it's hard to even know where to start. Don't even get me started on Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg.

A few years ago, conservative blogger John Hinderaker wrote, "I, personally, would like to see a moratorium on all references to Hitler, the Third Reich, Nazism and the Holocaust in the context of domestic political debate. Such a rule would have no perceptible effect on conservative discourse, but it would render the left virtually mute."

Regrettably, he had the political dynamic backwards.

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