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.

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  1. 1
    gracie says:

    The Clintons have always claimed that it is a right wing smear whenever they are caught lieing.

    When asked about Monica Lewinsky…Hillary said it was a vast right wing conspiracy.

    Are we honestly going to go back to the 90s with this familiar bickering and partisanship and this framing of the issues of right vs. left?

    It is the job of the press to denounce this. Every journalist and media pundit must assert that the President and Hillary are lying or we will have them back in the WH and worst of all.

    They will be far worse in their ‘strong and wrong’ philospohy.

    David Geffen told us at the very beginning of Hillary’s campaign when he did the fundraiser for Barack, that all politicians lie but the problem with the Clintons is that they do so with ease.

    America, our moment is now….it is time for all citizens to rise up otherwise the corporate owned media will not expose the Clintons.

    Obama cannot do this alone, he needs help from his political allies and colleagues in Congress…senators and representatives.

    Citizens must write their elected officials and demand that they denounce this blatant lying or we are doomed.

    If they are this ugly on the campaign trail, lord knows once inaugurataed they will be power mad and drunk with the stench of their own ambition and power to deceive.

  2. 2
    Albert says:

    Great post, Ron! And thanks, Gracie, for reminding me of that time. I think a lot of liberal bloggers are caught up in this us vs them mentality that is so poisonous.

    There’s also a huge irony here. After years and years in which they ridiculed right-wingers for strictly enforcing ideological dogma, they turn around and do the same when Obama uses rhetoric that isn’t party-approved. I’ve become increasingly disappointed in Krugman and Digby for just this reason. They appear to still have a knee-jerk desire to protect the Clintons at all cost, and their instinctive tarring of all things Republican as evil is just not helpful. I’m pretty sure this is something Obama surely realized during his community organizing days.

    And I keep thinking: there are plenty of Reagan Democrats. Why aren’t there any Clinton Republicans?

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