I often wonder which force is more destructive in American politics: dishonesty or stupidity. To be sure, there is plenty of room for both, and whichever force comes in third (greed, spite, hubris) is likely not far behind. I contemplate this question the same way Zen monks contemplate the sound of one hand clapping — to clear my head of rational thought by focusing on a problem with no solution.
Today, however, I think that stupidity might be winning.
Sue Lowden is the leading Republican candidate running for Harry Reid’s Senate seat. The following is the text from new commercial of hers, and I’m just going to say now that the bolding is mine [Blumenthal via Yglesias]:
As a mom I know one-size-fits-all clothes don’t fit, aren’t comfortable and are seldom a bargain. So why does Harry Reid want to force one-size-fits-all government health care on us? Harry Reid thinks Washington knows best, but I think we the people know best. Harry Reid’s big government health care plan will raise taxes, put a bureaucrat between you and your doctor, weaken Medicare, kill jobs, push us further into debt. I’m Sue Lowden and I approve this message because government run health care is wrong.
So, just to get this straight, because I don’t want to mischaracterize Lowden’s argument, let’s go step by step. “Reid’s big government health care plan will … weaken Medicare,” which is a bad thing, because people love Medicare and Sue Lowden does too. BUT THEN! “Government run health care is wrong,” she says, because she’s committed to worshipping at the rotting corpse of Ronald Reagan. Medicare is, of course, a government-run, single-payer health insurance program, and its popularity serves as one of the most compelling arguments that market-based insurance can and should be phased out.
So the question is: is Lowden a moron or a liar? Hahahaha, she’s probably both, but in this instance it’s hard to say. Initially, I’d be inclined to say “liar,” because, come on, who can be that stupid? But then, here’s some evidence from back in November that in fact she might be that stupid:
Sue Lowden’s campaign to unseat Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in his 2010 re-election bid took a nosedive when she laughed about an assassination attempt against Reid.
What? Go on, won’t you?
[S]he appeared recently on a conservative radio talk show and snickered about the veracity of a 1981 incident in which a bomb was found under the Reid family’s station wagon.
I feel like that’s something you shouldn’t do. It’s, ah, kinda dumb. But that’s political-strategy dumb. Putting your foot in your mouth is different than not understanding how government programs work. Does she actually not understand public policy? Can she be that stupid?
Well, considering that the media elites who are paid to understand how the government works spend their time scratching their heads in confusion, who knows. The most recent example of reporters displaying their ignorance about their beat comes from Jonathon Chait, who sticks it to the reprehensible Politico‘s Mike Allen in his necessarily-clear headline:
Jesus Christ, Mike Allen, Reconciliation Is NOT THAT COMPLICATED
Chait spells out the process of reconciliation via Mike Allen and Bob Schieffer’s seeming inability to comprehend how the Senate works, what the Byrd rule is, etc. It’s a very helpful post, which he concludes by writing:
I understand perfectly well how intelligent people who don’t follow this debate closely might not catch on to the distinction. But this is what Mike Allen does all day — and, as I understand it, much of the night and the wee hours of the morning as well. How can anybody still not understand this? I’m at a loss here.
That concludes my scientific poll that, at least this week, stupidity wins over dishonesty.
Then again, Lowden and Allen may just be cynically pandering to the public because they both know that there are no consequences for that kind of behavior.
Doesn’t your mind feel empty?