No More Right Wing Talking Points, Memes, or Frames


There’s been an annoying tendency in this campaign among some liberal writers and bloggers to dismiss arguments as right wing talking points without further consideration. While it might sometimes be valid to dismiss some of the irrationality we sometimes hear from the right, this argument is being tremendously over utilized to declare an argument invalid without bothering to consider its merits. This trend has now come to an absurd level as the Clinton campaign is responding to charges of dishonesty by dismissing this charge as a right wing talking point.

We’ve seen this logic in the debate over mandates for health insurance. There are arguments for and against mandates, but I found it to be intellectually dishonest when Paul Krugman wrote off Obama’s arguments in favor of choice as being a right wing talking point. It is rather hypocritical for liberals such as Krugman to support freedom of choice in matters they support, but label a defense of choice a right wing talking point where they personally oppose allowing individuals to choose.

Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been accused of using right wing talking points on social security. Obama has been accused of using right wing frames for merely raising the question of whether anything needs to be fixed with Social Security. I think that he is right for looking at the long term demographic trends, and those who disagree should make the case that there is no problem rather than writing this off as a right wing talking point. Clinton has been accused of using right wing talking points for criticizing Obama’s idea of increasing the cap as a tax increase. Clinton is dishonest in her attacks as she has considered the same increase in the cap, and as she ignores Obama’s plan to exempt many of those here mailings were directed to. However arguing against a tax increase is not in itself something which liberals must forever be banned from doing. The problem with many conservatives is not that they want low taxes, which most sane would people actually prefer, but that they sometimes cut taxes regardless of fiscal needs, and possibly cut taxes to primarily benefit those who least need the cuts.

Dismissing ideas as virtual thought crimes because they are associated with conservatism is a foolish mistake of liberals who have allowed Republicans to win elections by declaring themselves the party of freedom and low taxes. The absurdity of this thought process has been notable in the past week with the attacks on Barack Obama for the mere mention of Ronald Reagan in an accurate historical perspective. In such an atmosphere it should come as no surprise that the Clinton campaign is now using this blind spot of the left in an attempt to excuse lying.

As I’ve discussed in multiple posts, after Hillary Clinton’s campaign found itself challenged by Obama, they resorted to a campaign based upon distorting Obama’s statements and his record. Obama defended himself from some of the smears on Good Morning America today (video above). Greg Sargent interviewed a Clinton adviser and received a remarkable response:

This is getting interesting. In an interview with me a couple of minutes ago, senior Hillary adviser Howard Wolfson claimed that Obama’s assertion this morning that Bill Clinton is fibbing about his campaign is a “right wing talking point.”

Wolfson was responding to my questions about Obama’s Good Morning America appearance this morning, in which Obama claimed that Bill has been dissembling badly about Obama campaign tactics. Obama also charged that Bill has been dissembling regularly about the Illinois Senator’s consistent opposition to the Iraq war and about Obama’s claim that the GOP has been the “party of ideas.”

If Bill Clinton lies, and Obama or anyone else demonstrates that Clinton has lied, this is not merely a right wing talking point. The logic here is that Bill Clinton now has a pass for telling any lie because the right wing has a habit of calling him a liar. Matthew Yglesias accuses Clinton of seeking a License to Fib:

This is pretty neat. According to Howard Wolfson, pointing out that Bill Clinton is lying is a “right-wing talking point” and thus all good liberals have a duty to grant Clinton a blanket license to fib. So when Clinton said he opposed the Iraq War, that must have been true, because I’m a liberal. And when Clinton said Barack Obama didn’t oppose the Iraq War, that must have been true too, because I’m a liberal.

Even if the right wing was incorrectly calling Clinton a liar, this logic hardly hold up or excuse Clinton’s lies about Obama. Making this even more embarrassing for Clinton, while true that the right wing over reacted with impeachment, the fact of the matter is that Bill Clinton did lie when he said he did not have sex with that woman.

The ease with which Bill Clinton is able to lie, and the manner in which the Hillary Clinton campaign so easily excuses the lies, raises further questions with regards to the standards of honesty of the Clintons and the type of government they might co-run should Hillary Clinton be elected.

I hope that taking this to an absurd degree finally demonstrates that liberals cannot win an argument simply by accusing the opponent of using a right wing talking point, meme, or frame. The specifics of the statement must be evaluated.

Sargent also raised the issue of whether Clinton’s behavior might become a liability to the campaign:

Pressed on whether there were any point at which Bill’s conduct would come to be seen by the campaign as a liability, and asked if there was any campaign discussion of this possibility, Wolfson replied.

“A few more liabilities like New Hampshire and Nevada, and we’ll win the nomination,” he said.

The first problem is that this answer demonstrates their win at any cost philosophy, where principles are easily abandoned. Again, I fear that the same philosophy will be seen in a Clinton government. The irony of this answer is that Obama and Clinton tied for delegates in New Hampshire and Obama won the delegate battle in Nevada. With enough wins like New Hampshire and Nevada for Clinton the actual result will be Barack Obama winning the nomination.

Reagan Made Martin Luther King Day an Official Holiday

In the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, it is worth recalling that the legislation creating Martin Luther King Day was signed by Reagan on November 2, 1983 (after being passed by Congress with a veto-proof majority).

(Via The Swamp)

Posted in Republicans. Tags: . 3 Comments »

Reagan Democrats and Obamacans

The distortions over Barack Obama’s mention of Ronald Reagan in a recent interview is absurd on so many levels. Not only have Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and John Edwards distorted what he said in their attacks, both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards have been exposed as saying or writing something more favorable about Reagan than what Obama actually said. Bill Clinton sure has been friendly with Reagan’s VP.

The reason for mentioning Reagan, especially in an interview in a red state, should be rather obvious. Ronald Reagan built a majority by getting many Democrats to vote for him. A tremendous number of people vote for reasons independent of ideology, and many people, including potential Democratic voters, liked Reagan. Obama understands the need to get the Reagan Democrats to vote for the Democratic candidate as opposed to any of the Republicans who are trying to convince voters they are the next Ronald Reagan. Obama suggested this motivation, as well as doing what Reagan did in getting people to cross party lines, while campaigning in South Carolina:

“What I said was Ronald Reagan, back in the 1980s, was able to tap into the discontent of the American people,” Obama said. “There were Reagan Democrats. So what I said is we need to tap into the discontent of Republicans. I want some Obama Republicans. I want ‘Obamacans.’”

Obamacans? Right idea, but I’m not sure that the actual word will catch on beyond receiving attention the first time it was used.

An Excellent Propagandist

You just have to give Jonah Goldberg credit for his skills as a propagandist with this op-ed. He starts out with an example which many will agree with:

Remember this? “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical….”

Younger readers may not remember the opening to “The Outer Limits,” a pretty good sci-fi rip-off of “The Twilight Zone” (and they may have only a fuzzy understanding that TVs used to have knobs to control the horizontal and vertical). But as they read the news these days, maybe they can find a new appreciation for the creepy feeling of powerlessness that opening once gave viewers.

For instance, California is proposing revisions to its housing code that would require all new or remodeled homes to have a “programmable communicating thermostat.” Equipped with special “nonremovable” FM radio receivers, these devices would allow state power authorities to set the temperature in your home as they see fit. Ostensibly to manage demand during “price events” and other “emergencies,” you would basically cede control of your home’s heating and air conditioning to the state (when and if state officials wanted to exercise it).

Assuming he is correct on the facts, Goldberg will have people agreeing with him, right or left. However should you go along with his logic there is a slippery slope of irrationality. He moves on to criticize various “nanny state” proposals and still sounds sane. I can’t even object to him knocking a few politicians, especially as he goes after ones from each party.

Somehow all of this leads to comparisons to Nazi Germany. Now, while I do have qualms about banning tobacco, I also understand the hazards of second hand smoke. We might agree or disagree with advocates of “nanny state” policies but their supporters are hardly the same as Nazis. Such name calling is ridiculous when those on the left call George Bush a fascist, and it is now ridiculous when Jonah Goldberg makes the same claims about liberals in his recent book. This is clearly his goal as he even tries to hide the fact that Hitler came from the extreme right in referring to his “socialist economy.” Personally I object about equally to both socialist and fascist economies, but to those who follow Goldberg’s train of thought there’s little distinction between a Democrat and a socialist (or a fascist).

On second look, Goldberg’s attacks are not aimed equally at Democrats and Republicans. He only mentions Republicans like Huckabee and McCain who have strayed from the orthodoxy of the conservative movement. He has no criticism of the conservatives who defend preemptive war, illegal wiretaps, ignoring habeas corpus, torture, and the Patriot Act. Now these are positions which are truly similar to fascism. Even Dick Cheney’s energy task force carries a strong resemblance to fascist economic policies with government and business managing the economic and writing the rules together.

In moving from some rational arguments to the absurd, Goldberg certainly does prove himself to be a master propagandist. Such skills are high in demand among fascist movements.