Monday, June 13, 2011

Why the Economic Sabotage Attack Won't Work

Washington Monthly has another post suggesting that Republicans might be intentionally sabotaging the economy in order to hurt Obama politically, which is why they oppose any stimulus spending.  I definitely disagree, as modern Republicans have been consistently against government spending of this sort for two decades; and they've made it a cornerstone of their party.  They've staked their political fortunes on tax cuts and deregulation; and it's one of the very few things they're consistent about.

After all, they didn't support stimulus spending during Bush's second term, yet the economy was in freefall and certainly needed a boast.  Unless we're trying to suggest that Republicans were sabotaging Bush too, it's more likely that they're just morons who don't know what they're doing.  Sure, they'll hype government projects in their own districts, but they remain steadfast in their general opposition to stimulus spending.

But of course, the majority of the comments there reflect the idea that Democrats are wimps and/or fools for not accusing Republicans of sabotage, as if this is some easy way for us to put Republicans on the defensive.

As one commenter wrote:
If the Republicans are put on the defensive and have to explain why they aren't sabotaging the economy for electoral gain, along the way they have to amplify the message that in fact they might be sabotaging the economy for electoral gain.
But knowing what we know about how Washington works, why should we assume that Republicans would be on the defensive at all.  In fact, I'm often ashamed to see the sorts of questions that some liberals imagine would put Republicans on the defensive, unaware that Republicans are fully capable of responding to such questions in the same manner they always do.

I suppose that's why they imagine Obama never supports liberal policies or derides conservative ones, as they somehow imagine we'd always win if we did these things.  As if getting what you want is as simple as talking about it.

Beat the Press

To highlight this, I'll write two hypothetical interviews of Mitch McConnell on Meet the Press, and you tell me which of these two seem more realistic.  And remember, these are fake, so don't go looking for the transcripts.

MTP: What do you say to Democrats who claim Republicans are trying to sabotage the economy in order to hurt President Obama's electoral prospects in 2012?

McConnell: What?  Sabotage?  We're not trying to sabotage the president.  We just want to cut taxes for the rich and services for the poor.

MTP: But won't it, in fact, hurt the economy if we remove billions of dollars from it while firing workers, as you're proposing?

McConnell: But...but...but...

MTP: And what about in October 2010 when you said "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

McConnell: That was taken out of context!   I wasn't talking about sabotage!

MTP: Yet you DID say making Obama a one-term president was your most important goal.

McConnell: That's it!  This interview is over!
But of course, as stirring of an interview as that would be, there's a reason you've never seen anything like it: Because Republicans aren't so stupid that they couldn't evade factless accusations like this.  It'd be one thing if we had a quote of Republicans saying they're intentionally sabotaging the economy, but we don't.

And no, McConnell's "one-term president" line isn't any more damning than liberals who said the same thing about Bush.  Or were we trying to sabotage the economy, too?

Here's the interview you're more likely to see:

MTP: What do you say to Democrats who claim Republicans are trying to sabotage the economy in order to hurt President Obama's electoral prospects in 2012?

McConnell: I say that the only thing sabotaging our economy is Obama and his failed economic policies. Rather than growing the government to unprecedented size, he needs to be helping small businesses by cutting taxes and burdensome regulations. We need to be helping the ECONOMY grow, not the government.

MTP: So you're saying that Obama is to blame for the sluggish economy.

McConnell: Absolutely. No doubt about it. The sooner we can get government out of the way, the sooner we can get our country back on the right track. Yada, yada, yada. Ronald Reagan.
Doesn't that look a little more like what you've seen, and why you probably don't watch Sunday morning talkshows?

Like Attacking a Fish with Water

I mean, hell, the only way a guy like McConnell could get put on the defensive about this is if he suffered a major head trauma.  Not that he's the brightest bulb, but experienced politicians can deflect these sort of attacks in their sleep; especially if they're Republican and have a fawning media trying to impress them.

If you want to watch them suffer, get them on record supporting Paul Ryan's plan to destroy America, or Tim Pawlenty's Unicorn in Every Garage plan.  Those are doozies that will throw any Republican for a loop, as they're either stuck supporting craziness or opposing it and getting attacked by the crazies.  It's all about getting Republicans to hang themselves with their own agenda.  Similarly, a Republican attacking Obama isn't nearly as damning as a Democrat doing so.  Like it or not, that's just how it works.

By comparison, I'm sure they'd LOVE to field an attack about sabotage, as it'd give them another chance to highlight fiscal conservativism and cast Obama as a Big Government Liberal.  And Fox News would have a field day with it, as they'd trot out every conservative Democrat they can find to backpedal and denounce liberals for suggesting that Republicans are trying to hurt the economy.  The idea that Republicans would be put on the defensive by this is ludicrous.

And overall, this all fits in with the error Obama's leftwing critics make, as they really do imagine that all we have to do is attack Republicans and defend liberalism and we'd win.  They're so confident that there are easy answers to our problems that they completely gloss over those problems all together, and we're to imagine that it's Obama's fault that the media likes conservatives more than liberals.

Of course, we still have liberals insisting that Obama doesn't make liberal speeches, all evidence to the contrary.  So I suppose this isn't the only area that they're unclear about.

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