A Classic Case of Lazy Mendacity
Hey, lazy mendacity is back!
I first spotted lazy mendacity during the 2012 campaign, and thought it was an excellent example of what's wrong with the current incarnation of the Republican Party. It's not that Republicans were unique in stretching the truth; every political party does that. Nor was it even that Republican lies were especially dishonest. Yes, they produced some whoppers, but this is politics -- who doesn't?
No, it was the sheer brazenness -- and their indifference to how easy it was to disprove the statements. Some of this showed up in the Romney campaign's eagerness to use out-of-context quotes; some in their persistence sticking with rhetoric even after it had endured thorough and high-visibility debunking in the news media. It included everything from the mythical Obama "apology tour" to a frequent Republican habit of dating the recession (and resulting job losses) to January 2009, when Obama took office, and much more.
How about Paul Ryan blaming Barack Obama for derailing debt commission recommendations that in reality never existed because Ryan, as a member of the commission, spiked them? The one that really got to me was an op-ed by Scott Walker that linked to an analysis undermining the very points the column asserted. Why link to it? Apparently because they just didn't care if anyone noticed flat-out lies.
Which brings me to "Bette in Spokane."
Bette appeared as a rhetorical Skutnik in Republican Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers's SOTU response: "Bette in Spokane, who hoped the President's health care law would save her money -- but found out instead that her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month." As it turns out, the story fell apart (via Krugman). Yes, her (catastrophic-only) plan had been canceled, but Bette Grenier of Spokane then signed up for one of the most expensive plans that her insurance company offered her, 1 and, even more to the point, had refused (as an Affordable Care Act opponent) to look on the insurance exchange for a better deal.
Now, the ACA has both winners and losers; I'm sure with some research Republican operatives could have found a perfectly solid story of losing because of reform. For all I know, Bette Grenier really is one of those losers (or, that is, she might be if she had actually tried her options). But Rodgers, stepping onto the big national stage with her response, apparently didn't care whether or not the story would hold up to scrutiny. Nor, apparently, did the Republican House leadership who presumably worked with her in preparing the response.
I had hoped that lazy mendacity would disappear after the Romney/Ryan campaign folded up its tent. Guess not. Too bad.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.
An earlier version of this post said she selected the most expensive plan. But the Spokane Spokesman-Review has corrected that claim in its article.
(Jonathan Bernstein covers U.S. politics for Bloomberg View. He is co-editor of "The Making of the Presidential Candidates 2012." Follow him on Twitter at @JBPlainblog.)
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