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Comment of the Day: Republican Lies, Media Response, and Popularity

2015-11-02

Here, from an editorial by Charles Blow about “gotcha” questions from the moderators at the GOP Presidential candidate debates:

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Roxbury, Massachusetts 11/1/2015   7AM EST

The demonization of the media as the acid in political discourse can be traced to 1969. Richard Nixon, newly installed as president, sent his vice president, Spiro Agnew, to Des Moines for a major policy speech. Agnew, who would be exposed as a liar and a thief a few years later and forced to resign his office as Watergate engulfed the second Nixon administration, went ballistic with his famous “nattering nabobs of negativism.” The vice president was simply following his boss’s orders. Nixon hated the news business, in particular television news, because of his poor performance in his debates with John F. Kennedy at WBBM-TV in Chicago in 1960. Nixon never forgave television for either his five o’clock shadow or his wandering responses to moderator Howard K. Smith of ABC News. So Dr. Ben Carson’s reaching into the sewer for slime when backed into a corner has very handsome Republican precedent. It’s called a “non-denial denial,” a dodge designed to confuse voters into blaming Democrats and “liberals,” turning a quite legitimate question about a candidate’s history or views back upon the interrogator as unfair, inappropriate, offensive, or mean-spirited, all designed to elicit sympathy for the “victim.” The phrase was part of the verbal sandbank employed by the defensive Nixon White House as the truth about the Watergate break-in and cover-up ate away at his last defenses. Blame the messenger, then kill him. It’s a ploy perfected by the Right for generations.  And it works.

[240 Recommended]

In the debate, Ben Carson was asked about his relationship to a nutritional products company, Mannatech; he denied having any doings with that company.  In reality, he endorsed the products and gave paid speeches, and even appeared in promotional videos.  Politifact rated his answer as “False” but should have said “Pants on Fire” as this man did everything but accept a paid position in the company.  This liar wants to be President.  What’s worse, he is currently leading the Republican candidates with 26 percent to Trump’s 22 percent.

After the debate, Carson claimed that the questions had degenerated into “gotcha” provocations, as if his lies when confronted with a compensated relationship to a “nutritional product” (placebo) company were somehow justified because the question was unfair.  I don’t think it’s unfair to point out a medical man’s relationship to a company that exploits the ignorance of American consumers by selling useless pills.  It seems odd that a neurosurgeon (who would normally make half a million dollars a year in his work) would stoop to paid endorsing work, especially for a company that peddles fraudulent health remedies.  Not illegal, but certainly not the kind of behavior you would expect from a future President.

That was not, by any means, the least disturbing of the things Ben Carson has said.  Many of these things have boosted his popularity with the Republicans who seem to favor him and Donald Trump, people who have an attitude which is appalling to normal Americans.  The most enlightening aspect of these exchanges, both with Carson and Trump, is the popularity that these statements seem to have gained from what they have said.  There appears to be a large group of self-identified Republicans whose attitudes are repellent to normal people: they agree that tighter gun control is worse than mass shootings, that health care insurance for all is worse than slavery, and that “a lot of people go into prison straight, but when they come out, they’re gay.”  And, “We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.”   There’s so much more.  “56 percent of the US-Mexico border is not under our control.”  “Margaret Sanger (the birth-control pioneer) believed that people like me [blacks] should be eliminated.”  “There are a multitude of vaccines that do not prevent deadly and crippling diseases” (there are no vaccines for trivial diseases.)  “Pediatricians have cut down on the number and proximity of vaccines because they recognize there have been too many in too short a period of time.” (the vast majority of pediatricians support the current vaccine schedule.)  “We spend twice a much on health care per person as the next closest nation.”  (Actually, we spend a lot more on health care but only twice as much as the European average, not the next closest nation.   We spend $8,508 and Norway spends $5,669… Mexico spends $962.)  Those last three statements are from a supposedly qualified medical man, which makes them even more outrageous.

I’m leaving out Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush, among others, but they just don’t have the impressive mendacity of Ben Carson and Donald Trump.  The entire field of Republican Presidential hopefuls are liars, cheats, and misanthropists.  The fact that they have any chance of becoming President is simply horrifying.  The thought of a Republican Senate, House, Supreme Court, and Presidency sends chills down my spine.  The epic mismanagement of this country that we have witnessed in the last thirty five years could become even worse.  In a way, I’m glad that I’m old and drawing Social Security; these horrors will fall mostly on the young, the poor, and people of color.

Even a Democratic President will only slightly mitigate the awfulness of our government.  That is the most likely outcome, but it is not really cause for optimism.  Only a complete change in the minds of our elected representatives will save this country from otherwise inevitable decline and degradation.

[The “facts” referenced above were sourced from Wikipedia and Politifact.]

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