Politics Is Stupid, Cont'd

Via Matt Yglesias. it's good to remember that when Michael Kinsley is good, he's very good. Kinsley's column is ostensibly about "intellectual honesty, but what stood out to me about it is this part:

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a master spin artist, plays on this social insecurity among journalists. Barbour doesn’t literally wink as he spins, but he manages to send the message: This is all a big game — a big wonderful game — and you have the privilege of playing it with me. [. . .] Far from being a “low bar,” >absolute intellectual honesty is something I’ve never actually seen in anyone inside Washington or out, politician or journalist or diplomat.

Pols are pols and do what they do. And as some readers often remind me, pundits are pundits and do what they do. And guess what, people are people and do what they do. More . . .

It always amazes me that folks can take such umbrage when it is pointed out that, horrors, President Obama was not "intellectually honest" about the public option. They take it so personally. It's bizarre. Any rational honest person knew Obama was not fighting for the public option, was willing to trade it away and likely did just that. Sure, in some hypothetical ideal world, he "supports" a public option. But in the reality of the negotiations over the health bill, Obama did not give a rat's a** about it. Now maybe this was the right call on his part. Maybe the wrong call. But that Obama made that call seemed so apparent to me that it is simply hilarious how much umbrage was raised over folks declaring the obvious.

Pols, like athletes,journalists, lawyers,judges, doctors, plumbers, construction workers, teachers, etc., "spin." It so happens their job requires a lot more "spinning" than most others.

Anyone who wants to discuss politics in an "intellectually honest" way has to accept this. Politics is stupid. If you can't accept, acknowledge and incorporate that fact that, then you should not be writing about politics.

Speaking for me only

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    Oh good lord (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by lilburro on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 10:05:52 AM EST
    Yglesias is the guy who's blog is written the way it is on the basis of "product differentiation."  Forgive me for not taking his concerns particularly seriously.

    Matt accurately points out that 13% of (none / 0) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 10:18:58 AM EST
    the elderly currently receiving Social Security are considered living in poverty.  Therefore it isn't accurate to argue that Social Security is there to prevent the elderly from becoming poor.  And then he will argue for increasing that percentage after the midterms when Social Security MUST BE TWEAKED.

    But...but....but....but (none / 0) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 10:02:51 AM EST
    Save the Ponies!  BTD is trying to kill ponies.  What a b*st*ard :)

    I wouldn't say politics is stupid, it's more like (none / 0) (#3)
    by steviez314 on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 10:11:11 AM EST
    a game.  And every player has a different way of keeping score.

    For politicians, it's getting re-elected (no matter the policies); for journalists, it's having a story to tell.

    But what is it for the voters?  If it was good policy, then Chris Christie would be going ahead with the tunnel since voters wouldn't be fooled by tax ads.  

    I think if you just say that voters are stupid (present company excluded, of course), that explains why the other players play the game the way they do.

    So you're saying (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 10:25:56 AM EST
    I'm notbeing intellectually honest?

    Ok, I'll say it. Voters are stupid for the most part.

    But they understand the pocketbook issue.


    Do they understand the pocketbook issue? (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by steviez314 on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 10:33:40 AM EST
    Then why do they ever vote Republican, when history shows that their median wage under R's goes flat at best?  When those are the guys who keep shipping their jobs overseas and  defending the companies that do so?

    Does "keep your government hands off my Medicare" indicate any understanding whatsoever of anything?

    Look at the performance of the stock market under Ds and Rs--yet supposedly smart investors want Republican policies not Democratic ones.

    As down as you are about Democratic politicians, I'm that down on the citizenry.


    My opinion (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 10:42:25 AM EST
    They are attracted to Republicans right now because enormous amounts of money have left Treasury and the Fed is writing nonrecourse loans for billions, while the nobody people are losing their jobs and are being charged even more for needs.  Wall street will once again pay out huge bonuses too.  So some Republican talks about ending the give aways and they flock there.  Doesn't even matter if the pol means it or is just telling them phat stories to get elected.  Nobody is offering them anything that makes their lives any better and only worse, and CEOs are raping the whole country. All anyone has to do is whisper about accountability of any kind and people will flock.

    With the presidential creation of (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by MO Blue on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 11:03:23 AM EST
    the Cat Food Commission whose purpose is to cut entitlement programs (i.e. Social Security and Medicare), I can fully understand the sentiment behind "keep your government hands off my Medicare."

    I'm down on both. (none / 0) (#9)
    by Dr Molly on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 10:44:12 AM EST
    As down as you are about Democratic politicians, I'm that down on the citizenry.

    It's an ugly vicious circle. Ignorant and easily distracted voters are a given, yes. And then there are the corrupt politicans who are willing to exploit that ignorance with disinformation and other tactics, such as wedge issues, in order to keep the rich-getting-richer, poor-getting-poorer trajectory.


    History (none / 0) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 10:54:25 AM EST
    requires knowledge of the past.

    I'm talking about knowing whether you have a job or money in your pocket NOW.

    That's what politics largely is.


    See...politics IS a game. Voters think each (none / 0) (#12)
    by steviez314 on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 11:44:00 AM EST
    die roll is independent of the prior ones.  That would be true if we were playing dice, however....

    History may require knowledge of the past, but extrapolation or induction requires some brainpower, sorely lacking by many voters.

    And here, I thought we had evolved past the pleasure/pain principle.


    Completely Agree (none / 0) (#16)
    by cal1942 on Thu Oct 07, 2010 at 10:49:13 PM EST
    This election cycle has seen an enormous increase in financial participation by foreign corporations.  The overwhelming bulk of the money is going to Republicans.  When you tell people about that, they're unable to connect the dots.

    It's really amazing.    


    Agree that most voters are stupid. And the (none / 0) (#13)
    by Angel on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 12:28:01 PM EST
    politicians are laughing all the way to the bank.  

    So where does one draw the line? (none / 0) (#7)
    by Faust on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 10:37:22 AM EST
    I don't disagree with the basic pols are pols thesis. But it seems to me that for people who dream of an ideal world the brutal means/ends world of politics presents a difficulty. Namely: where does one draw the line?

    The thesis is this: politicans sometimes lie in pursuit of ends. But the ends (hopefully) justify the means. But the objective is what matters, and one deploys the tools one has, in this case deception/exageration/misdirection to obtain those ends. We say the manipulation and dishonesty was "the right call" when we obtain the ends we favor, and "the wrong call" if not.

    Ostensibly if one is weighing dishonesty against benefit to a large number of people then this is an acceptable sacrifice of ethical conduct. The ends do indeed justify the means. On the other hand, if the goal is just self promotion and reelection then the smallness of the end makes the deception harder to justify.

    It may not be realistic, but I have sympathy for people who keep trying to project ideals onto politicans. People want to believe that honest people speaking truth to power can get in politics and get stuff done. They keep getting disapointed, but hope is stubborn. Or audacious. Or something.

    No better than Cheney (none / 0) (#14)
    by Xclusionary Rule 4ever on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 03:34:17 PM EST
    remember when Cheney used to meet with 'stakeholders' in the oil industry in secret? They would talk about, oh that's right it was secret. Obama is no better.

    I don't know, (none / 0) (#15)
    by NYShooter on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 08:58:36 PM EST
    Where do you draw the line? That politicians obfuscate the English language is a given, but there should be a difference between distorting, evading, spinning and bald-faced lying. If a politician campaigns on a platform of protecting "women's right to choose"  and then, once in office, promotes justices who everyone knows will fight to overturn Roe v Wade, that would be a lie.

    Obama's handling of the public option was just that egregious. The public option was the linchpin to making health care reform meaningful. It was the ballgame, not just some detail to be used as talking points.

    Giving away the public option in Health Care made the outcome a forgone conclusion just like giving the Banks trillions of dollars with "no strings attached" guaranteed the public would be screwed once again.

    Are they really that removed from reality that they don't understand that?