Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ryan and the latest House Republican crazee crisis

Paul Krugman is perennially amazed at esteem with which pundits refer to scamster Paul Ryan as a brilliant policy, wonk one of what Krugman calls the Very Serious People.

Even Andrew O'Hehir in Salon writes about Ryan as "devious and intelligent" and a "fiscal whiz kid." (The Republican suicide ballad: The party that can’t govern, and the country that hates its guts 10/10/2015)

Krugman emphasizes how fixated the national press and pundits are on their Both Sides Do It model, no matter what the reality:

What you need to understand about political commentary these days — including the de facto commentary that poses as news analysis, or even reporting — is that most of the people doing it have both a professional and an emotional stake in portraying the two parties as symmetric, equally good or bad on policy issues and general behavior. To stray from this pose of even-handedness is to be labeled a partisan — and to admit that the parties aren’t the same, after all, would mean admitting that you’ve been wrong about the most basic features of the situation for years.

Unfortunately for professional centrists, the parties aren’t remotely symmetric. Compare the policy proposals Hillary Clinton has been releasing with those being put out even by establishment Republican candidates like Rubio and Bush. Whether you like Clinton’s proposals or not, there’s some serious wonkery behind them, and they’re the kind of thing you could easily imagine being put into effect. Meanwhile, even the supposedly moderate GOPers are peddling voodoo, puppies, and rainbows. What’s a professional centrist to do?

The answer is that he or she desperately needs to find conservatives they can take seriously, people who produce policy ideas that, even if you don’t support their priorities, add up and generally make sense. And that’s Paul Ryan’s game: he has put himself forward as the serious, honest conservative of centrists’ dreams, someone they can cite approvingly as a way of showing their centrism and open-mindedness. [my emphasis]
Krugman speculates that if Ryan were to become Speaker of the House, it would require him to play ball with the self-style Freedom Caucus in ways that would undermine even the broken press corps' centrist image of him.

O'Hehir takes off on the House Freedom Caucus name:

It’s easy to make fun of the vainglory and self-importance embodied in the group’s name, but it strikes me as accurate enough. They have declared themselves free of all the responsibilities of government, free from the need to discuss or negotiate or pass any legislation that has the slightest chance of being enacted. They represent freedom in precisely the same sense that death represents freedom from being alive. They could just as well be called the Suicide Caucus..."

He continues, "or the Satanic Caucus, in the grandiose spirit of Milton’s fallen angel, who fights on with no hope of victory: “To do ought good never will be our task,/ But ever to do ill our sole delight.”
I suppose that last could be considered literary demonization. I try to avoid the Satan comparisons, because at best they tend to come across as puerile. And I actually do think there's a problem in "demonizing" opponents.

Not that the Republicans have any problem with it!

It would be a good outcome if the Democrats could make a deal with a small number of Republicans to elect a House Speaker in exchange for doing away with the Hastert Rule, in which the Republican majority refuses to allow a bill to come to the floor unless it has majority support within the Republican caucus.

(Michael McAuliff and Jennifer Bendery, Republicans Fear They May Need Dems To Solve Their Speaker Crisis Huffington Post 10/10/2015)

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