WHO LOST AMERICA: Flight from the truth!


Part 2—Ruth Marcus, deep in the bag: When Joe Biden’s smiles of an autumn night became the press corps’ Official Group Focus, we had to make an admission:

We had been wrong! For some time!

In the age of Obama; in the age of MSNBC; in the age which started after Iraq, we didn’t think we’d see it again! We didn’t think we’d see the mainstream pundit corps align with the right on so stupid a focus—on a stupid, simple-minded focus designed to defeat Obama.

The fact that this alliance occurred last week sends us back to the drawing board (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/15/12). To what extent is the mainstream press deeply tied to the dreams of the right—to the dreams of the wealthy and powerful?

On Sunday, Ruth Marcus wrote a column about the Biden-Ryan debate. Her column made us think that those ties run extremely deep.

A bit of background on Marcus:

Marcus is going to vote for Obama. Her personal politics are moderate to center left, as such things are measured in Washington.

But as an insider pundit in good standing, Marcus has always been one of the Serious People who focus on issues of fiscal discipline. You’d think she'd want to write at some length about Romney’s extremely peculiar, extremely large proposal concerning cuts in income tax rates.

If you thought that, you would be wrong.

Consider her column in Sunday’s Washington Post. Marcus' column left us wondering: What institutional forces act to restrain this high-ranking insider columnist? Why does this column exist?

How odd! When the analysts first glanced at Marcus’ column, they sent up a lusty cheer!

Incredible! Marcus was focusing on the part of last week’s debate where Martha Raddatz pushed Paul Ryan to explain how Romney’s tax proposal would work. Romney says he will cut all tax rates twenty percent—but he says these rate cuts would be revenue neutral, because he would eliminate a balancing set of loopholes and deductions.

Could Congressman Ryan please give specifics? Which loopholes would Romney eliminate to offset the tons of revenue he would lose from his cut in tax rates?

Could Congressman Ryan please give specifics? Again and again, Raddatz asked.

Again and again, Ryan refused to answer.

In her column, Marcus fashioned a brief, peculiar opening, in which she cited something called “Cupcake Wars” along with the “choppy dialogue” crafted by David Mamet.

(Translation: High culture to tell us Post readers we’re smart—low culture because we aren’t. For the record, “Cupcake Wars” is a Food Network show. Marcus assumed we would know that.)

After this peculiar opening, Marcus quoted the transcript at length. Her lengthy transcript chunk featured Biden, Ryan and Raddatz.

We'd never seen a major columnist quoting so much text! The analysts cheered, thinking Marcus would proceed to explain a basic point about Ryan’s repeated evasions.

With apologies for its length, this is the chunk of the transcript Marcus included in her column. Remarkably, this lengthy transcript chunk burned roughly half of her column. The bracketed note about deletion was part of Marcus’ piece:
MARCUS (10/14/12): Moderator Martha Raddatz: Well, let's talk about this 20 percent. You have refused—and, again—to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you actually have the specifics? Or are you still working on it, and that's why you won't tell voters?

Paul Ryan: Different than this administration, we actually want to have big, bipartisan agreements. You see, I understand the–

Raddatz: Do you have the specifics? Do you have the–


Joe Biden: That would—that would be a first for the Republican Congress.

Raddatz: Do you know exactly what you're doing?

Ryan: Look—look at what Mitt Romney—look at what Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill did. They worked together out of a framework to lower tax rates and broaden the base, and they worked together to fix that . . . . [paragraph deleted for space]

Biden: Can I translate?

Ryan: —so we can lower tax rates across the board. Now, here's why I'm saying this. What we're saying is, here's the framework.

Biden: I hope I'm going to get time to respond to this.

Raddatz: You'll get time.

Ryan: We want to work with Congress—we want to work with the Congress on how best to achieve this. That means successful. Look–

Raddatz: No specifics, again.

Ryan: Mitt—what we're saying is, lower tax rates 20 percent, start with the wealthy, work with Congress to do it–

Raddatz: And you guarantee this math will add up?

Ryan: Absolutely. Six studies have guaranteed—six studies have verified that this math adds up. But here's–

Raddatz: Vice President Biden–


Biden: Look–


Biden: Let me translate. Let me have a chance to translate.
Again and again, Raddatz is shown asking Ryan for specifics. Again and again, he evades.

How could Romney offset the revenue lost by his large cuts in tax rates? He has promised that he would do so. But a major study has said this is “not mathematically possible.”

How could Romney do it? Ryan kept refusing to say—and Marcus presented a very large chunk of his exchange with Raddatz. Her transcript ended with Biden offering to “translate” Ryan’s remarks.

The analysts cheered when they glanced at this column! They assumed that Marcus would go on to explain the nuts and bolts of this groaning problem—especially since Marcus is such a fervent budget hawk.

They assumed that Marcus would explain why Ryan couldn’t answer Raddatz. But as it turned out, they were wrong!

Below, you see where that lengthy chunk of transcript took Marcus. Is Ruth Marcus really an honest broker?

Everything’s possible, of course. But at this point, only a fool would believe that:
MARCUS (continuing directly): The only thing missing was stage directions: As Ryan speaks, Biden smirks and chortles. Also, there was no cursing. "Malarkey," I'm pretty sure, is not part of the Mamet vocabulary.

The Mamet comparison isn't simple snarkiness. It underscores the fundamental frustration of this campaign season in general and the debates in particular: The candidates talk past one another. They fail to engage; they evade direct answers. The audience is left unsettled and confused.

Except in this case the audience is voters, not theater-goers. What study to believe? Whose guarantee to trust?
Poor Marcus! Boo-hooing openly, she worries about the poor mistreated voters!

“The candidates talk past one another,” she says. “They evade direct answers,” she complains—having shown only one candidate engaging in that conduct.

“The audience is left unsettled and confused,” Marcus says. They don’t know what to believe!

Marcus is certainly right on that score—as far as she goes. Trust us: On this very morning, the vast majority of American voters couldn’t explain the issue Raddatz and Ryan discussed in that transcript.

They couldn’t describe the “studies” Ryan cited. They couldn’t even tell you what kind of “specifics” Raddatz was seeking. (Look again. Raddatz doesn't explain.)

They couldn’t explain what Romney has said about the way he would balance that revenue loss. They couldn't explain the first freaking thing about this sbsurd tax proposal.

That said, read through that long chunk of transcript! No one, including Raddatz, ever really explains what is being discussed. What kind of “specifics” does Raddatz seek? It isn’t explained in that chunk—and it wasn’t explained in the fuller discussion, even after Biden translated.

Alas! When Biden got his chance to speak, he wandered about the countryside before reaching the point which was under discussion. He offered several other facts, then made a glancing attempt to explain the groaning problem with Romney’s absurd proposal.

Most voters didn’t understand this issue coming in. Trust us—theose voters didn’t understand it going out! All three players contributed to the confusion: Ryan more than anyone else, but Raddatz and Biden as well.

Well guess what? By Sunday morning, another person had failed to clear up the confusion! That person was Citizen Marcus, who seemed to have some little birdie telling her to keep her trap shut.

The analysts cheered when they glanced at this column! Seeing Marcus quoting that transcript, they assumed that she would explain why Ryan did all that evading!

But Marcus did no such thing, as you can see if you read her full column. She turned and ran from the scene of the crime. Covering for Romney again, she became the latest insider to leave those voters “confused,” uninformed, in the dark.

Don’t worry! Marcus did manage to snark about Biden’s smiles, as Hard Pundit Law required. She snarked at the fact that he said “malarkey”—though she carefully avoided explaining why he chose that word.

When Democrats oppose cuts in services to regular people, Marcus is a reliable budget hawk. But here was Ryan, evading and writhing. The budget hawk made no attempt to explain why Ryan can’t explain Romney’s plan.

Has Marcus explained this point in the past? Actually, no—she hasn’t! It was August 1 when the Tax Policy Center explained that Romney’s plan was “not mathematically possible.” In the eleven weeks which have passed, Marcus has made a few glancing references to this problem. But her cites have been quite brief.

In those columns, budget hawk Marcus has never explained the scam behind Romney’s pseudo-proposal—a scam which dates to last February. In one somewhat comical effort, she evaded thusly, in her fullest discussion to date:
MARCUS (9/12/12): In my dream presidential debate, the moderator would ask Mitt Romney which tax breaks, exactly, he'd eliminate to pay for his rate cut. The Republican nominee, if history serves, would dodge and demur. The moderator would try again—Employer-sponsored health insurance? Mortgage interest? Charitable contributions? State and local taxes?—and then, in this fantasy scenario, announce that he would wait the allotted 90 minutes for Romney's answer.

This won't happen, though it might make for riveting television. In its place, here are some proposed questions, concentrating on the budget, taxes and entitlements, for next month's debates:
That’s the most detailed treatment Marcus has ever given of this ridiculous tax rate scam. In our view, Marcus has worked extremely hard to avoid explaining this scam.

What mystic chords of corporate influence keep Marcus from explaining? Did the same chords lead the pundit corps to stampede after Biden’s smiles? Just as they did with Gore's (tiny number of) sighs?

We can’t answer that question, but we can tell you this: In their news reporting, the Washington Post and the New York Times have made no serious effort to examine or explain Romney’s ludicrous tax proposal.

The proposal is an obvious scam. In their alleged “news reporting,” the big papers have left it alone.

Who lost America? Our intellectual culture lies in ruins, as we’ll continue to show you all week. That obvious fact has been quite clear as the nation’s largest news orgs have clowned and evaded their way all through this vacuous pseudo-campaign.

And make no mistake: Every step of the way, the liberal world has accepted this conduct. On cable, the children have clowned and gamboled and played, reading their White House talking points—the inept talking points from Axelrod which may well get Romney elected.

Rather plainly, Citizen Marcus has avoided the truth. Why has Marcus done this thing? Why hasn’t Lawrence noticed? Why all the silence from Rachel?

Tomorrow: An abject refusal to report

Thursday: The bullshit we liberals keep churning


  1. Here is how Marcus closed her deeply offending column:

    "But I worry that the current recipe [i.e., "debates"] fails to give voters adequate nourishment, and the judging we do in the media, emphasizing style over substance, makes matters worse. With candidates, as with cupcakes, fancy presentation is nice. What’s underneath the icing matters most."

    I take it you disagree with that, Somerby?

    1. The problem is Marcus helps hide the nourishment, judges based on style, makes matters worse. Marcus doesn't get at what's underneath the icing.

      So, how she closed her column is with a does a pablum.

      I take it that goes down well with you?

    2. Oh yeah, especially the syntax and spelling.

    3. No different than the pablum (or dare I call it "sweet hay"?) that Somerby serves on a daily basis.

    4. Yeah, pointing out Marcus is full of shit is lame.

      I hate that Somerby did that. And I hate more that someone showed my reply at 9:34 was stupid.

      If you agreed with Somerby that Marcus is full of shit and that my reply didn't prove a thing, you're a dumb cow, have some hay!

  2. Bob faults Romney on the issue of fiscal discipline. IMHO fiscal discipline is actually a reason to vote for Romney.

    I pay more attention to what politicians do than what they say. Romney has successfully practiced fiscal disipline when running Bain, when helping troubled companies to survive and prosper, fixing a troubled Olympic Games and as Governor of Mass. OTOH Mr. Obama has run the biggest deficits in history.

    1. You should start an internet rage, David in Cal. You can call it "BIG Government Supporters for Romney".

    2. Or, "How Living in the Echo Chamber Beats a Lobotomy."

    3. Right, David. The guy who is going to blow a huge hole in revenues with vague promises of "I'll fill it in later" while at the same time promising to "restore" alleged "cuts" in Medicare, while increasing defense spending $2 trillion over 10 years is the model of fiscal discipline.

      And, no, Obama hasn't run the "biggest deficits in history." That was done by Dubya on his way out of office and Obama has REDUCED that whopper of a deficit since.

    4. AnonymousOctober 16, 2012 10:58 AM --

      You are correct that the 2009 deficit was the highest ever, although 2010 was barely any better. Bush deserves part of the blame for the 2009 result. However, for 8+ months of FY 2009 Obama was President and the Dems controlled both houses of Congress, so they must share the blame.

      Looked at over the entire term, there's no comparison between Bush and Obama. In the 8 years 2001-2009, the total deficit was $2.46 trillion. That's an average of $310 billion per year. In the 4 years 2009 - 2012, the total deficit was $5.28 trillion. That's an average of $1,320 billion per year. See http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/10/federal-spending-by-the-numbers-2012

    5. Exactly right, David in Cal. This election comes down to the question, "Is Obama, who failed to deliver the results he promised based on his own 2008 PLAN, likely to produce better results in the next 4 years than Romney, whose plan is vague but whose record is success?" The debate was important not because Obama lost on style but because witnessing the difference between these two in terms of Romney arguing substantive circles around a lost Obama went a long way to answer this question in voters' minds. Voters don't care if the tax rate cut is not 20%, this is a big picture, "direction" election.

    6. Exactly:

      Bush broke it (the country). Obama hasn't been able to fix it yet. (Despite all the help the Republicans have refused to give!) So let's put the team that broke it back in.

      The voters get that.

    7. "...running Bain, when helping troubled companies to survive and prosper..."

      And then "harvesting them reaping mega-profits for himself and his investors"

    8. OK, David. Time to put up or shut up.

      What exactly is Romney's plan to restore fiscal responsibility? Please don't be vague. I want specifics.

      You seem to know it. Spill it. Because all I can see is a $5 trillion hole in revenues and another $2 trillion in spending on defense.

    9. Obama is much more similar to Carter than Romney is to Bush.

    10. Am correct in thinking that the phrase "helping troubled companies to survive and prosper" comes from the same lexicon as "Arbeit Macht Frei"?

  3. And here I was walking around in the last decade saying it would take decades to get out of the economic mess Team Bush/ Cheney were putting us in.
    Liberals: Taking shit for being correct since before you were born.

  4. Read the two Republican chucklenuts who post here today, as the Daily Howler says "Go Ahead and Read Them!" Safe to say they render all of TDH's years of pious hand wringing about liberal journos dotting their Is, along with our terrible lack of civility, into wan and empty farce.

  5. IMHO Obama didn't inherit such a bad economic situation. The war in Iraq was winding down, with unexpectedly favorable results. The war in Afghanistan was hopeless, so troops could and should have been withdrawn right away. Low interest rates allowed the US to run outrageous debt without outrageous interest payments. New developments in oil allowed domestic oil production to increase despite the Obama Administration standing in the way.

    1. You must be joking. "Unexpectedly favorable results" must surely rank with "Peace in our time" for sheer Orwellian absurdity.

    2. The economy was in free fall... oh nevermind...it's D in C

  6. AnonymousOctober 16, 2012 3:01 PM wants specifics on Romney's economic plans. How about some specifics on Mr. Obama's? All we know is that Mr. Obama would raise income tax rates on the highest earners. That step comes nowhere near to balancing the budget. What are his remaining plans?

    I think Mr. Obama has been even less specific than Romney.

    1. Romney is the one proposing the 20% tax cut.

      A 20% cut in rates minus the mortgage interest deduction would be, for, a tax increase. Simpson-Bowles proposed doing away with the mortgage interest deduction. If Romney is going there, he should tell us. Otherwise he's asking us to buy a pig in a poke.

  7. @David in Cal You "think" ?! You ?!

  8. President Obama said in the first debate and again tonight, when he rode roughshod over the rattled Mitt Romney, that we should "return to the Clinton rates," during which we created "23 million jobs," and then starting with those as a baseline, cut taxes for the middle class.

    So that's a plan. The Clinton rates by themselves nearly eliminate the deficit, AND have the added benefit of flooding the country with needed revenues and reducing the wealth gap. Then we can talk about tax cuts, for the middle class.

    Obama's plan sounds pretty clear to me. And it's 1,000 times more sound that Romney's or the horrible Simpson-Bowles plan that that plan's committee couldn't even agree on (in part because of Paul Ryan, R-WI).

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