Parallel GOP Universes: Hyperbolic and Counter-Intuitive Myths, Claims and Canards, September 27-30 2013

1. There’s a new front-runner for the gold medal in hyperbole surrounding the Financial Meltdown. In a recent Wall Street Journal posting, former AIG CEO Robert Benmosche compared the national outrage about AIG’s bonuses to the lynching of blacks in the South

The uproar over bonuses was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses, and all that-sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.

This is another triple dog-whistle, combining racism, class warfare, and martyrdom memes.

Matt Taiibi, Rolling Stone offers a particularly Twainian spin on this vile callousness.

Benmosche takes over the top spot in clueless hyperbole from Warren Buffet’s partner, Charlie Munger:

the billionaire vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., defended the U.S. financial-company rescues of 2008 and told students that people in economic distress should “suck it in and cope.”

“You should thank God” for bank bailouts, Munger said in a discussion at the University of Michigan on Sept. 14, according to a video posted on the Internet. “Now, if you talk about bailouts for everybody else, there comes a place where if you just start bailing out all the individuals instead of telling them to adapt, the culture dies.”

Bloomberg, 9/20/2010

2. ObamaCare continues to generate alternative rhetorical universes, the latest of which is the stupendous GOP claim that:

This is a President who is eager to negotiate with dubiously elected Iranian mullahs but can’t abide compromise with duly elected leaders of Congress.

Wall Street Journal, 9/30/13

Another Journal editorial repeats the canard that, under the ACA, Americans will no longer be able too specialists, but will have to get wait-listed at dreaded “community hospitals”.

Obamacare Arrives, WSJ, 9/30/13

Yet a third counter-intuitive ACA claim comes from the National Review‘s Mark Steyn

In America, “insuring” against disaster now costs more than you’d pay in most countries for disaster….

followed by a launch into rhetorical hyperspace:

 Obamacare is something new in American life: the creation of a massive bureaucracy charged with downsizing you — to a world of fewer doctors, higher premiums, lousier care, more debt, fewer jobs, smaller houses, smaller cars, smaller, fewer, less; a world where worse is the new normal. Would Americans, hitherto the most buoyant and expansive of people, really consent to live such shrunken lives? If so, mid-20th-century America and its assumptions of generational progress will be as lost to us as the Great Ziggurat of Ur was to 19th-century Mesopotamian date farmers.

“Worse Is the New Normal

A further low point in GOP race-baiting came with the brilliantly -perverse rhetorical  double word score from a Republican state representative, conflating health care and racism:

In what may be the party’s lowest moment throughout this debacle, Republican state Rep. William O’Brien of New Hampshire said Obamacare is every bit as bad as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. President Obama naturally scoffed at the very idea, but O’Brien defended the analogy. “Just as the Fugitive Slave Act was an overreach by the federal government,” he told the Manchester Union Leader, “so too we understand that Obamacare is an assault on the rights of individuals.” That claim explains a lot about right-wing thinking, where callousness toward universal healthcare is exceeded only by ignorance of slavery.

Perhaps the phrase “just as” can be used as an incantation in Tea Party rhetoric, magically tying their own narrow political goals to universal values. But in the real world – the one informed by actual history and human experience – there is no meaningful similarity between slavery and health insurance (apart from the fact that both have been the subject of federal legislation). The very comparison is deeply insulting to human rights. Slavery was an evil system of unspeakable brutality, while national health insurance, at the very worst, involves a little bit of additional bureaucracy.

According to O’Brien, the Fugitive Slave Act violated states’ rights “to determine their policies as to slavery,” as though that was the greatest problem with the law. Completely missing from his tone-deaf analysis was any consideration of the impact on the fugitives themselves. Black people, not states, were the real victims of the Fugitive Slave Act

Salon, “GOP’s Most Shameful Shutdown Moment”

3. Over at Red State, the canard that Obama has “downsized” and diminished America continues in another key, again stigmatizing the poor by saying that they couldn’t even feed themselves without government help:

Current liberal theories say there’s no way America could possibly survive the hellish conditions of relatively modest government and broad economic liberty that existed just a few generations ago.  In fact, they tell us Obama’s America would die under the comparatively small government of Bill Clinton.  We are not the people we once were.  We’re weak and foolish.  We could not be trusted with the hammers and drills out Greatest Generation used to rebuild the world after the defeat of the Axis.  We can only be properly nourished and protected if the government spends far more money than it actually has, on a permanent basis.  A rapidly growing portion of the American population cannot even be trusted to feed itself without government assistance.  The number of important issues we’re even permitted to vote on is dwindling as quickly as the sphere of personal liberty.

If we didn’t buy all that hogwash, we could throw off the weight of Big Government, patch the leaky pipes of corruption, put a stop to absurd government waste, burn off the strangling vines of regulation, and restart the economy in fairly short order.  But we do buy it.  At least, a critical Dependency Class buys it enough to keep the Ruling Class in power.  This didn’t happen spontaneously.  Decline was pushed a few inches at a time, across the span of a century, until American confidence rotted away enough to let them push for feet instead of inches.  We were not willing to sacrifice our pride all at once.  It took a while to make us forget what we were once capable of.

We didn’t really get the government we deserved.  We got what we no longer had the strength to refuse.  We gave up what we no longer valued enough to defend.  And we didn’t pay enough attention to how the process was changing us.  The great remaining question is whether we can re-discover enough trust in one another to be great again. The Ruling Class is skeptical.

“We Get the Government We Submit To”, Red State.

4. Hyperbole alert: In one of his classic end-of-the world jeremiads on the National Review website, Victor Davis Hanson claims that Obama calls his opponents “veritable” terrorists and Romney a “veritable ogre” (“veritable” used as a weasel word to soften the harshly hyperbolic nature of his claim):

In his political style, Obama seems to operate on the medieval concept of exemption. Through lofty spoken abstractions, he excuses low behavior. Praising “civility” allows you to call your opponents veritable terrorists; talk of unity means energizing supporters to get in their opponents’ face; advocacy of a campaign of principles reduces Romney to a veritable ogre. Plenty of presidents have proved vicious, but few so adept in attributing their own base behavior to others.

Not stopping there, Hanson goes on to counter-intuitively claim that that it’s Obama’s fault that America is more racially divided than ever, even though Obama has done everything he can to lower the racial temperature:

The result is that race relations have become more polarized than at any other time in the last 30 years. Under Obama’s leadership, celebrities, political analysts, and politicians traffic more in racial animus than at any other time in our recent history. Obama has had an uncanny ability to energize the Black Caucus to voice unusually inflammatory charges. How did it happen that suddenly Chris Rock and Jamie Foxx sound racially biased? When did the post-election commentary of pundits (e.g., “too old, too white, too male”) become so race-based?

As a cherry on top of this rhetorical sundae, he also uses the canard that buying guns is harder than ever:

There is no new restrictive legislation on firearms; and yet never has the ability to buy reasonably priced ammunition and firearms in quantity been more curtailed. In loudly threatening to enact more gun control after each publicized tragic shooting, the Obama administration has created a climate of fear, which has prompted hoarding, shortages, panic buying, and paranoia, which have accomplished what the federal government could not.

“Obama Transforming America,” Victor Davis Hanson, National Review

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