Stop Making Sense

Yesterdays’ Wall Street Journal carried an op-ed attacking Barack Obama for a draft executive order which would require businesses contracting with the federal government to disclose their owners’ political contributions over $5,000.

One of the authors is John Yoo, who famously wrote memos authorizing torture for the Bush administration. So, on one hand, Mr. Yoo thinks a president should not have authority to investigate if there’s even the appearance of a quid pro quo in federal contracting. On the other, in 2005, Mr. Yoo said the president should have the authority to crush a child’s testicles in front of the child’s father as a means of torturing the father to gain information.

I have a rule about never engaging in personal invective in this space. John Yoo has always been the toughest test of that rule. He does, however, illustrate the guiding principle of the Republican Party: We want what we want and we don’t care how we get it.

Consider the “deficit reduction” plan House Republicans recently passed. It would abolish Medicare over a ten-year period, give wealthiest Americans more tax cuts and increase the deficit. It doesn’t make sense, but sense is beside the point. It’s not designed to make sense; it’s designed to give the Republicans what they want – more power for the rich and corporate.

Look at the two parties’ positions on almost any issue. Democrats spend their time trying to find the right answer, a win-win or at least something fair, the greatest good for the greatest number. (Inasmuch as their own corporate masters let them. I mean, I haven’t started eating lotus blossoms.)

Trivial matters of logic or intellectual consistency do not bind Republicans. That’s why they scream about the deficit, but were silent in 2005 when Dick Cheney said, “Deficits don’t matter.” That’s why their “deficit reduction” is built on tax breaks for people who don’t need them cutting health care for old people. (Had I mentioned that already? It bears repeating.)

This is why Republicans run around calling themselves “fiscally responsible” while perpetrating scams on the public, why they say they’re “restoring honor to the Oval Office” while setting up secret prisons and torture chambers (not to mention sex-club fundraisers). They say whatever’s needed to get a short-term win. They believe if they string together enough short-term wins, it’s a long-term win. They may be right.

Karl Rove laid it out for journalist Ron Suskind in 2004: “The aide [Rove] said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ … ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’”

This is why Fox News and the rest of the Murdoch media empire exist, to prop up and repeat these fantasies at great volume. They know well-informed, discerning citizen Thomas Jefferson imagined and Ralph Nader dreams of doesn’t exist anymore, if such a creature ever did.

They know people vote for the guy they’d rather have a beer with (George W. Bush) than the guy who’s more likely to have the right answer (Al Gore). Based on the collective seats of our pants, we decide beforehand whom we agree with and then never stop to listen to the facts.

It’s fun to watch Jon Stewart put up clips of politicians and Fox hosts contradicting themselves, sometimes with a span of mere seconds. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “Boy! If the New York Times and the Washington Post and the networks would just hold politicians as accountable as Jon Stewart does! Then we’d be getting someplace!”

Maybe we would. Even in the unlikely universe where an epidemic of truth telling seizes the American media, it would only be a start, a first step. Things are bad. They will not get better unless and until enough people decide to make them better. For the time being, can we at least stop pretending?

© Mark Floegel, 2011

One Comment

  1. Piet Sawvel
    Posted 4/28/2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    “Trivial matters of logic or intellectual consistency do not bind Republicans.” E.g.:

    GOP pivots on ‘birther’ questions, blames Obama for media attention

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