PART 1—SCRIPTED NOCERA: Now Paul Ryan belongs to the ages—and to the boys and girls of the American press corps.
In effect, these scripted boys and girls are Ryan’s sons and daughters.
How will the press corps report on Ryan? Before we review Paul Krugman’s warning, consider Joe Nocera’s scripted column in today’s New York Times.
Just when you think you’ve seen it all from the Times, you get to see something else! In this passage, Nocera repeats Standard Approved Press Corps Claims about Ryan—even as he links to a column which calls those claims a “con:”
NOCERA (8/14/12): Ryan is, in many ways, the perfect Tea Party standard-bearer. He is likable, engaging, wonkish and smart. Although the Tea Party is fueled largely by anger, Ryan comes across as a firebrand without the heat. His personal story—with the death of his father forcing him to become self-reliant early in life—is inspiring. He is willing to sit down and talk to anyone, friend or foe, about his ideas. He has the ability to make his radical ideas sound reasonable.Nocera repeats the “inspiring” family story which is already Standard Issue wherever the press corps’ line is sold (see next post). He repeats the Standard Claim that Ryan is “likable, wonkish and smart.”
On the one hand, talk about limiting the federal government and shrinking the deficit has been central to Republican rhetoric for years. On the other hand, historically, most Republicans haven’t really meant it. George W. Bush, for instance, pushed for a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients that added an estimated $300 billion to the federal deficit—not to mention two budget-busting wars.
Ryan, however, means it. What sets him apart is that he is the rare politician who has been willing to put meat on the bones so that everybody can see what he has in mind. Ryan’s budget plan would reduce the size of government from the current 24 percent of gross domestic product to around 20 percent of G.D.P. The ax would fall most heavily on programs for the poor. As the opinion writer Matt Miller put it recently in The Washington Post, “Over time, Ryan’s ‘vision’ would decimate most federal activities beyond Social Security, Medicare and defense.”
He also tells us that Ryan really means the things he says.
Please understand: Nocera doesn’t agree with Ryan’s views; in fact, he opposes Ryan. But he seems to feel he must repeat these Mandated Standard Assertions.
Ryan is likable, wonkish and smart; he really means the things he says. Those are Standard Mandated Claims. Quite routinely, pundits will repeat these lines when they write about Ryan this week.
Many scribes will repeat those Standard Claims. The lunacy in Nocera’s column comes in his link to Matt Miller.
Given that link, let’s marvel at the things Nocera has said:
According to Nocera, Ryan—who is likable, wonkish and smart—really means the things he says about the federal budget. More specifically, Ryan really means it when he talks about “shrinking the deficit,” even though George Bush didn’t.
How does Nocera know that Bush wasn’t sincere about shrinking the deficit? Because he “pushed for a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients that added an estimated $300 billion to the federal deficit.”
But uh-oh! Congressman Ryan voted for Bush's prescription drug program! He voted for Bush’s approach to those wars—for his plan to fund those “budget-busting wars” through deficit spending.
(Candidate Kerry voted the other way; he voted to raise taxes to pay for the war in Iraq. When he did, he was falsely and endlessly called a flip-flopper by the scripted boys and girls of the so-called mainstream press.)
Nocera’s logic is already failing. But just consider his puzzling link to Matt Miller.
Miller’s column appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post. From start to finish, Miller made a punishing point—Ryan’s claim to be a deficit hawk is a “con,” a “fraud.” (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/13/12.)
Ryan’s isn’t a fiscal conservative, Miller aggressively said. He isn’t “intent on erasing deficits;” those claims constitute a fraud. According to Miller, “the con has worked in part because budgets make journalists’ eyes glaze over, and once the phony Ryan meme took hold two years ago it became hard to dislodge.”
One day later, along comes Nocera! Even as he links to Miller, he repeats “the phony Ryan meme,” thereby advancing the fraud!
Nocera is the Times’ newest columnist. He is also one of their worst. But once again, please note a key fact:
Nocera opposes Ryan’s proposals for the federal budget. But even as he opposes Ryan, he seems to feel that he must repeat the themes which define Ryan's coverage:
Although the evidence is hard to spot, he has to say that Ryan is smart. He has to say that Ryan’s sincere—that he means the things he says.
Yesterday, before this column appeared, Paul Krugman authored a worried blog post. In it, he described the way the press corps covers Candidate Ryan.
Krugman linked to this post by Jonathan Chait. In his post, Chait makes a truly astonishing claim, a claim he can’t possibly believe.
Warning: You’ll be misled in various ways as Ryan’s sons and daughters proceed. Some of the lying from your own tribe will undermine progressive interests.
Tomorrow: Krugman’s warning