Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 23, 2009

HSR LIE JUST WON'T GO AWAY.... Once a claim makes its way onto the approved list of Official Republican Talking Points, it's there to stay. Even after a claim has been exposed as completely false -- sometimes, especially after it's been proven false -- GOP figures will just keep repeating it.

When it comes to the stimulus package, we have a few too many examples to choose from. The marsh-mouse preservation spending is obviously a good one, but the notion of Harry Reid securing an $8 billion earmark for high-speed rail between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is a genuine Republican classic.

Here's reality: as negotiations on the package wrapped up, Rahm Emanuel secured an extra $8 billion for high-speed rail. The Maine and Pennsylvania Republican "centrists" approved, and the bill progressed. The $8 billion is not directed at any specific state or project.

Regardless, conservatives quickly began arguing that the $8 billion was Reid's idea, and would go exclusively to connect Los Angeles and Las Vegas with HSR. "Tell me how spending $8 billion," House Minority Leader John Boehner asked, "in this bill to have a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is going to help the construction worker in my district." The argument doesn't really make any sense -- not every infrastructure bill is going to benefit every worker in every district -- but more importantly, the $8 billion earmark doesn't exist in reality.

And yet Boehner and his cohorts kept repeating the lie, and now it won't go away. Here's John McCain today:

"So, we will be seeking fair and transparent use of the money. I believe that Arizona can compete with any other state or locality to get the much-needed money. Already we're seeing a good example. There was $2 billion in the Senate bill of the stimulus package for light rail; there was zero in the House. It came out of conference -- only Democrats, no Republicans in the room - with $8 billion for light rail. And guess where it's going to go? A light rail between Las Vegas and L.A. Everybody knows that.

"Could we have competed for that money? Maybe so. So it's business as usual in Washington, and I think that Americans are generally very disappointed. Sorry for the long answer."

He should be "sorry," but the problem isn't the length of the answer, it's the blatant dishonesty of his answer.

It's certainly possible that McCain just doesn't know what he's talking about. Maybe he saw someone repeat the lie on Fox News, and assumed it was true. McCain has never been especially detail-oriented, which is why he manages to make patently false claims with some regularity.

But this one is especially egregious, and not just because there is no $8 billion for light rail between L.A. and Vegas. As Matt Yglesias explained, "The thing that John McCain wants where different states can compete for the high-speed rail money is what the bill already says. Except McCain has piled ignorance onto dishonesty by confusing high-speed rail (advanced passenger trains that run between cities) with light-rail (relatively low-capacity trains used for intra-city mass transit)."

So, in this case, McCain is not only lying, he's confused about the subject on which he's lying. He then insists, "Everybody knows that," as if those who accept reality are somehow ignorant.

It's a helpful reminder of why policy debates with congressional Republicans don't usually go well.

Steve Benen 3:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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And everybody -- in McCain's world, at any rate -- knows that there's not an ounce of difference between the Shi'a and the Sunni. Also, everybody knows, that all the vodka he's drunk in competition with Hillary has fried his brain.

Posted by: exlibra on February 23, 2009 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

So McCain's "Double Talk Express" is now on a fast track with this high speed lie? Color me surprised -- not.

Posted by: Gregory on February 23, 2009 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

And to think that that senile old goat was a few million votes from the Whitehouse. This country would have begun a death spiral with the witch of Wasilla riding the wave. Every day I thank (insert diety of choice) that the adults are in charge.

Posted by: John R on February 23, 2009 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Once a claim makes its way onto the approved list of Official Republican Talking Points, it's there to stay."

A new GOP fiction book titled "Of Mice and Rail". Coming soon to bookstores near you.

Posted by: palinoscopy on February 23, 2009 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

"It's a helpful reminder of why policy debates with congressional Republicans don't usually go well."

Hate to quibble, but the big thing missing from this post is. . . ALL THE DEMOCRATS EXPOSING THE LIE. Dems know the Repub playbook (it hasn't changed since CB was posting on the 2000 election. . .), but for some reason, I don't see the quote from Nancy P. or Harry R. saying "this is hogwash."

Why not?

I don't care how misleading Repubs are, frankly. Talking about it to ourselves doesn't change it. It's a bit like talking about how devastating the other team's running game is on the side lines, but always covering the pass. . . you get what you deserve on that one.

Posted by: eadie on February 23, 2009 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

As I understand it, one remarkable feature of the stimulus package is that it contained literally no earmarks. If this is correct, then it would behoove Obama and the Democrats to make this point at every opportunity.

Not only is it remarkable that a bill this size wasn't loaded up with earmarks, and not only does it respond to one of McCain and other Republicans' major (if rather pointless) talking points during the election about the evils of earmarks --- but it underscores just how stupid talk about the marsh-mouse and the LA/LV HSR is.

If the bill has no earmarks, then by definition those who passed it can't know with any great specificity what the money will be used for. If this idea were drilled into the heads of the media, then perhaps when McCain or Boehner or Graham start talking crap, the interviewer might point out that they're talking crap.

But probably I'm just dreaming.

Posted by: David Bailey on February 23, 2009 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

McCain's version of the lie is even more nonsensical. High-speed rail between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, while it isn't in the bill, makes some kind of sense—its a superficially credible lie.

Light rail, though, as McCain claims, between Las Vegas and Los Angeles isn't even superficially credible.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 23, 2009 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

How is it that the Senator can have lived so very long and never have learned that when you dismissively say "Everybody knows that", it's virtually guaranteed that "that" is wrong?

Posted by: Bernard HP Gilroy on February 23, 2009 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

I'm still waiting for someone to explain why the idea of building a train between two cities that thousands of people travel between every day is stupid. The two biggest tourist destinations in the Southwestern US and it's a bad idea to connect them so people can travel between them more easily? Huh?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on February 23, 2009 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Rahm Emanuel, I have a hard time finding your intelligence.

Posted by: MattYoung on February 23, 2009 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

I can't get that image of him pacing the floor and walking in front of the cue card Brokaw was trying to read...Can we just play that over and over?

Cause the wheels on McCain's 'Straight Talk Express' all fell off a long time ago.

Posted by: Staight Talk Express needs a new name on February 23, 2009 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK


Did John calculate how much per mile 8 billion dollars would be from LA to LV?

I haven't, but it looks like fuzzy math to me.

The problem is the lack of REAL numbers.

The 8 billion will go towards a plethora of projects, not just the light rail line in the desert!

Sounds like John's railing agin!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on February 23, 2009 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Midwestern HSR is the most "shovel-ready" and therefore stands the best chance of getting the federal funding. Everybody knows that.

Posted by: 1st Paradox on February 23, 2009 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Continuing my rant ...

Southwest Airlines alone has 24 daily flights from LAX to Las Vegas. That's not including the half-dozen or so other airlines who run the same route, and also not including the other regional airports that people use to fly to Vegas, like Burbank and Orange County.

Why do they keep telling us there's no market for this train?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on February 23, 2009 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Up is Down, Tax cuts will save the self-correcting free market, Conservatism means small government, marriage is between one man and one woman, love the sin – hate the sinner, the earth is flat and six thousand years old, you can catch AIDS from tears and sweat . I’m sorry, Republicans are just full of shit. I wish they'd all go to Heaven, today.

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on February 23, 2009 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

From the Unabridged Dictionary of Republican-Speak:

Everyone knows that - Preface to a rethug making a lie.

i.e. Why let the truth get in the way of a great talking point!

Posted by: SadOldVet on February 23, 2009 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

The $8 billion fund is supposed to be given to me. Everybody knows that.

Posted by: Quicksand on February 23, 2009 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

I've wondered for many years why the first three words I hear from many Republicans are "why should I?"
I think that sentiment pretty much encapsulates the philosophy of the party at this point. If there's no direct benefit to them personally then it can't have any merit. That kind of thinking is exactly why we're in this mess.

Posted by: kswan on February 23, 2009 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

kswan above is dead one .. which is why they snivel and yell about the evils of 'socialism'..meaning social systems that are equitable and fair to all ..gee the common good versus personal greed and the self interest that has caused all the zarathustra's on wall street to destroy this country ...

Posted by: stormskies on February 23, 2009 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with eadie: Every Dem who gets a mic in front of her/his face needs to very specifically state the truth, whatever it is. Any lie that can be debunked, with specific facts, read directly from the legislation, needs to be identified. Whenever a politician makes a statement that can be refuted with direct evidence, it must be refuted. If the "journalist/interviewer" fails to follow-up with contrary evidence, they need to be called on it with emails and counter-interviews and letters to the editor. I trust that Obama will take these people to task, as he did the Governors this morning. He is diplomatic in calling out the lies, so as not to embarrass the liars. Anyone paying attention knows what is being said, if they choose to listen. If not, they cannot make an informed argument for their position.

I feel that we are moving forward with measured progress. It is still a collaborative effort and requires our cooperation and input to work.

I am committed to Oneness through Justice and Transformation
st john

Posted by: st john on February 23, 2009 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

haven't you been paying attention? republicans haven't read the bill. they've said so many times -- senator shelby told a group of his constituents on saturday he still hadn't read the stimulus bill.

from the cullman times:

Shelby said he opposed the bill mainly because it requires the country to borrow billions for what he considers to be wasteful spending. In addition, he said he opposed the bill because nobody really knows yet where all the money will be going.

“Nobody’s read it yet,” Shelby said.


that's the excuse these maroons use when told they're incorrect -- "well, i don't know that because i haven't read it" -- and then return blithely to repeating "what someone told me."

and the entire charade is enabled by maroons like bill adair who went on "morning joe" and explained that, well, there's no specific funding but, yes, stimulus money might be spent on field mice.

jesus christ on a cracker. the answer is there's no funding for mice.

can someone send out the memo about the hazards of extraneous nuance again?

Posted by: karen marie on February 23, 2009 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "It's a helpful reminder of why policy debates with congressional Republicans don't usually go well."

Unfortunately, pointing out the fact that congressional Republicans in general and John McCain in particular are blatant, conscienceless liars doesn't really address "why" they are so.

It's not because they are "crazy" or "confused". It isn't really a mystery, though "sensible liberal" bloggers seem to have a hard time coming right out with it.

It's because the Republicans are bought-and-paid-for tools of America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc. -- a.k.a. the "top one percent", a.k.a. "Bush's base" -- and as such they are paid to engage in ruthless, relentless, rapacious class warfare on behalf of their ultra-rich corporate-feudalist owners against everyone else.

That's why they lie.

And of course "debates" don't go well when one side has an agenda that is destructive and inimical to the interests of the overwhelming majority of the American people, that serves the interests of a tiny, increasingly hereditary, ultra-rich minority -- an agenda that for obvious reasons they can only advance with lies.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 23, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Another lie?

Square this: "The Maine and Pennsylvania Republican "centrists" approved, and the bill progressed."

With this: "It came out of conference -- only Democrats, no Republicans in the room ..."

And why would anyone who voted against the original bills be invited into a conference to iron out the differences? Want to have a say in the final compromise, vote for the bill in the first place.

Posted by: Vondo on February 23, 2009 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

What's wrong with high speed rail between two huge population centers? This is exactly the type of thing we need all over the country.

I can't wait for Obama to throw this one back in their faces "They're criticizing us for funding high speed green transportation that will create thousands of jobs!"

Posted by: grinning cat on February 23, 2009 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see the quote from Nancy P. or Harry R. saying "this is hogwash."

Why not? -- eadie, @15:58

Because, at least that's how it seems to me, the Dems have designated Obama as their Little Red Hen, bless their shrivelled little hearts (and spines and balls).

This is the pattern which seems to have developed over the past 4 weeks:

The Repubs pile up their BS and keep pushing it even when it's been debunked and the Dems just mewl weakly in response. Eventually, the BS reaches a certain critical mass and Obama goes on camera and shoots it down (vide today's response to the governors). Rinse, repeat.

True, he does it *very* skillfully. All the same... He shouldn't have to be the only one doing it. Contrary to the Repub claims, he is only human.

Posted by: exlibra on February 23, 2009 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Here's another right-wing lie that they keep repeating and nobody calls them on it:

>> It came out of conference -- only Democrats, no Republicans in the room -

A flat lie, started by Limbaugh and repeated endlessly. In fact, the conference committee had ten members, of whom four were Republicans, namely Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif), and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich).


Posted by: Melanie on February 23, 2009 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

My understanding is that only designated High Speed Rail corridors are eligible for the money. Las Vegas to LA is not a designated corridor. So LA-Vegas is not even eligible for the money.

Posted by: VOR on February 23, 2009 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, congressional Republicans do not *believe* in conducting or participating in "policy debates"; they believe in attacking Democrats, period. They have no other principles, standards, or practices, because they understand that politics is about pursuing and obtaining power, either as an affirmative act or, failing that, as a denial of power to one's opponents.

Unfortunately, this has several side effects: 1) it feeds the media's "Oooh, fight!" mentality, 2) it reinforces Democrats' Stockholm Syndrome ("They're attacking us again; what'd we do wrong this time?"), 3) it portrays Republicans as standing for something even if it's merely being absolute assholes to everyone from Democrats to their constituents to people on their own side, and 4) sometimes it convinces people to vote for them (like '94, '00, '02, and '04).

Posted by: Chris on February 24, 2009 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

And I would bet it's the first time he ever supported light rail.

Posted by: steveb on February 24, 2009 at 3:02 AM | PERMALINK



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