Part 2—A hoary claim spreads through the land: Will Barack Obama win re-election?
At this point, we can’t quite say, though prospects don’t strike us as great.
To our ear, the character attacks on Romney sound like the work of a campaign which can’t sustain larger points. Nor does it seem obvious that these attacks will work.
That new poll from the Washington Post isn’t real encouraging either. It shows Obama and Romney with 47 points each. And that’s a statistical tie!
Oof. By far, Romney is the worst major-party nominee of the modern era. His proposals are by far the worst ever advanced by any such candidate. His effect on the Supreme Court alone could produce generations of disaster.
But we don’t feel certain that Romney will lose. Until we watch Lawrence each night!
Every evening on the Last Word, the children gambol and play. By the time their antics are done, it seems that Obama must be ahead by something like 45 points.
On last night’s program, the opening segment conveyed this feel. Lawrence was joined by Krystal and Richard, the requisite British import:
O’DONNELL (7/10/12): Krystal, the Clinton thing for me is fascinating with Romney. He’s—it seems to me that he thinks he’s taken the Republican thing as far as he can go. In order to get these swing voters, in order to appeal to people in Colorado, independents, he wants to now run as Bill Clinton.To Krystal, Romney seems like Kerry, he's so rich and so fake! (In terms of the public caricaturing.) After which, Lawrence and Richard swapped clever jokes, and everybody laughed.
BALL: It’s an awkward fit, especially—
O’DONNELL: It’s an awkward fit.
BALL: The best comparison to him with recent Democratic candidates is probably John Kerry, just in terms of being the sort of out-of-touch wealthy guy, who’s running against an incumbent president, rather than actually portraying himself, and putting himself—
O’DONNELL: John Kerry, let’s get one fact straight. John Kerry did not grow up anything like Mitt Romney.
O’DONNELL: He came in a family that had some wealth in the past, but no big—he wasn't a rich guy by inheritance.
BALL: But in terms of the public caricaturing. But I think for Romney, he has this problem where he`s gone so far to the right, in the Republican primary, and he's still having his feet held to the fire by his base, he can't actually change where his policy positions are. So instead, he just has to invoke Bill Clinton, so that hopefully people will get some sort of warm, fuzzy, centrist feeling from him, even though his policies are very far away.
O’DONNELL: Richard, I want you to use your X-ray vision. You’ve been out there on the campaign trail many times, and you’ve studied candidates. And when you’re studying candidates, there comes a moment when you stare at them and say, “Is he lying or does he not know what he’s talking about?”
WOLFFE: Or both!
O’DONNELL: You’re a professional. You’ve stared at this. Was that man lying about Bill Clinton raising taxes? I think it’s conceivable he actually has no idea, since his taxes has never gone up. He’s always been paying, you know, 12 percent, 13 percent, so his taxes didn’t go up.
WOLFFE: In a good year or a bad year.
WOLFFE: You know, I almost thought he was going to bust out the phrase, "I'm severely progressive!”
At one point, Lawrence did say that the hopefuls are tied. But by the time the children get through mocking Romney each night, it’s hard to remember such facts.
In the next segment, the big fun continued. “We’ll talk about how old and white Republicans are in the next segment,” Lawrence said, teasing the fun. Joy and Alicia came over the boards as Lawrence changed lines on the fly.
It’s hard to believe that Obama could lose if you watch “Larry’s kids” each night. On Monday night, one small part of this good solid fun involved a famous old howler.
Too funny! Krystal and Steve chuckled about the way the GOP constantly drags out that stupid old claim, the one they first used against Clinton:
KORNACKI (7/9/12): I think right now in this campaign, talking about the Bush tax cuts, talking about doing away with them for the wealthy, I think this is a political winner for Obama right now. But I am reminded of the experience of Bill Clinton in 1992, campaigned on the idea of, “We’re going to ask the top two percent, we’re going to ask the wealthy, to pay a little bit more. The people that got rich under Reagan-Bush, the people that benefitted disproportionately, we’re going to ask them to pay more.” That’s what Clinton ran on in ’92.The largest tax increase in the history of mankind! Everybody offered a quip about the way the GOP keeps selling that stupid old line. “The public attitude on these things is funny,” Steve said, humongously missing the point.
It was popular in ’92. When he turned around and did it in ’93, he only raised taxes on the top 1.8 percent. It got sold by Republicans as the biggest tax increase in the history of the world, and there was revolt in ’94.
So the public attitude on these things is funny. I think Obama’s on solid ground here. But I’m really curious when push comes to shove in December, maybe into January, how it gets perceived by the voters.
BALL: But Steve, they’ve already bought into the Affordable Care Act as the largest tax increase in the history of mankind.
KORNACKI: It will become the second largest!
O’DONNELL: It depends where you are on the calendar when it was the biggest.
BALL: The slot’s already taken.
In fairness, there was nothing especially “wrong” with this exchange by the children. That said, we’re sorry to see the way Kornacki is getting drawn into the Kool Kidz fold.
Kornacki seems to be smart and well-informed. In this case, before the levity started, he had raised a very important and very dangerous point:
The biggest tax increase in history! In 1993 and 1994, Bill Clinton got creamed by this bogus claim. And now, the bogus claim is back! It’s being pimped all over the land. And this time, it’s aimed at Obama!
In a slightly different world, a group of progressive adults might have taken Kornacki’s lead and asked some obvious questions. Their exchange would have been less fun. But it would have been on point:
Some obvious questions:Such adults might ask another key question: Does anyone care when the GOP spreads these bogus claims?
How can such a stupid old claim survive for so many years?
Could this claim help defeat Obama? What makes us so sure?
Why don’t Republicans ever get slammed for making this bogus claim?
Why are voters rarely told that they’re being disinformed?
The health care law is the biggest tax increase in history! Even as the children laughed, Orrin Hatch was over on Fox, peddling a ludicrous claim about the sweep of this massive new tax—and Greta Van Susteren was letting him do it (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/10/12). And sure enough:
In that same interview, Hatch invoked the all-purpose “largest tax increase” mantra three times, although he exported the all-purpose claim for use in a different context:
VAN SUSTEREN (7/9/12): The news of the day, of course, is President Obama wants to extend the Bush tax cuts to those who make under $250,000 a year. Vice President Biden is in Missouri campaigning. He says that the GOP is deliberately hurting the economy. Your response to the vice-president and also to the news about—You can fact-check Hatch’s various claims for yourselves. But now, the biggest tax increase in history was said to be facing us in the fall. Republicans aren’t willing to go with it, Hatch intoned, thus suggesting that Democrats are.
HATCH: You know what's going to hurt the economy? If we actually go to the largest tax increase, what the Washington Post called Taxmaggedon...If we go to that, it’s going to be the highest tax increase in the history of this country and it’s going to hit just about everybody.
VAN SUSTEREN: President Obama said today that he’s done, I think, 18 tax cuts for people or something. He threw out the number of the tax cuts since he's been president. Is he not cutting taxes for some Americans?
HATCH: Well, anybody who believes that just hasn't looked at the record. $500 billion in tax increases alone in the Obamacare bill. Their whole goal is to get more money so they can spend more money and claim that they're doing a lot of good for the American people as they run us right into bankruptcy. I just found out today, and I knew it was so, that we're now—that our national debt is 103 percent of the GDP. Now think about that, 103 percent of the GDP! Spain, which is in real trouble, is like, what, less than 70 percent of GDP. Now that tells you something.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know what I'm sort of curious about. We expect a very busy lame-duck activity here on Capitol Hill after the election. There are issues having to do with the Bush tax cuts, the extension. There's the question about the debt ceiling, whether that's going to be raised because we're pushed up against it. Why not do this now? Why not all the Republicans and Democrats start working on this right now, before the election? We have six months to just sort of get ahead of the game. Instead, everyone is waiting until after the election.
HATCH: Well, the Republicans, I think, are willing to do that. But they're not willing to go with the largest tax increase in history.
The biggest tax increase ever! On Monday night, the children chuckled on the Last Word, even as Hatch sold variants of this potent old line to a much larger audience. But then, this famous old line has been quite active since June 28, when the Supreme Court ruled on the health care law. All across the land, voters have heard it said:
The Court’s ruling means that the health care law is the biggest tax increase in history!
Voters have heard this claim on Fox—but they've heard it on CNN too. They've even heard it on NPR. In that case, it was Michel Martin, not Anderson Cooper, who let the hoary claim stand.
Back in 1993, this lie was told about Clinton’s tax plan. Starting on June 28, the hoary old lie has been widely emitted, this time directed at Obama’s health law.
This Monday night, the children chuckled. As they enjoyed their fun with Lawrence, all seemed right with the world.
This is good for ratings—but bad for outcomes! Tomorrow, we’ll show you how widely that claim has been spread as the kids have enjoyed their big fun.
Tomorrow: Not by Sean and Rush alone