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Tilting at Windmills

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March 4, 2009

THEY BELIEVE THEIR OWN PROPAGANDA?.... It's the subject of perennial debate: when Republican officials repeat obvious falsehoods, are they deliberately trying to deceive, or are they just woefully confused?

While there are compelling cases to be made for each side, once in a while we get strong evidence for the latter. For example, Dick Spotswood, a California-based columnist, visited Washington, D.C., last week, and spent some time on Capitol Hill. He shared this tidbit (via Kos) from his notebook:

Met with Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack from Riverside County's Coachella Valley. While a social moderate, Sonny Bono's widow is a solid conservative. Talked to her about Obama's $780 billion stimulus legislation. She's outraged that the plan has "$1 billion wasted on a magnetic-levitation train from L.A. to Sin City" -- all at Nevada Sen. Harry Reid's doing.

After expressing my doubt that the Las Vegas line was actually in the bill's language, Bono Mack directs her staff to "get him the bill, it's right there, show him." A few minutes later, a staffer emerges with a copy and quietly says "it's not in the bill."

Now, I'm sure that was embarrassing for the congresswoman, but it's nevertheless an illustrative moment. Rep. Bono Mack probably heard somewhere -- cloakroom, Fox News, Limbaugh -- that this HSR project is real, and she assumed she'd been told the truth. If Spotswood's anecdote is accurate, she was certain it was true. Bono Mack wasn't lying to the columnist; she just didn't know what she was talking about.

It's hard to say if Bono Mack is typical of her caucus, but if she is, imagine how much better the political system would function if Republicans simply stopped believing their own misguided propaganda?

Steve Benen 9:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (53)

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It's hard to say if Bono Mack is typical of her caucus, but if she is, imagine how much better the political system would function if Republicans simply stopped believing their own misguided propaganda?

Could be she is just carrying on the tradition of her late husband, who was once named the stupidest member of congress.

Posted by: martin on March 4, 2009 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

A few minutes later, a staffer emerges with a copy and quietly says "it's not in the bill."

Did Spotwood then say, "I got you babe"?

Posted by: Danp on March 4, 2009 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Confused, or purposeful propagation of lies? How about a label such as insular for these folks on the far right? -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 4, 2009 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

My mind is made up:
don't confuse me
with the facts. . .

Posted by: DAY on March 4, 2009 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans are spending so much time in an alternative universe I am expecting them to sort of slip completely into it and suddenly disappear. Some will mistakenly think the rapture has happened.

Posted by: the seal on March 4, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

People tend to be credulous when the message fits nicely with their biases.

Posted by: Tony Greco on March 4, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

imagine how much better the political system would function if Republicans simply stopped believing their own misguided propaganda?

And do WHAT instead?

Read the bills?
Check resources that offer contrasting views? (Sarah Palin reads "all of 'em".)
Far too time consuming. We have fund raisers to attend.


As a side note.
Even if it were true.... what makes Vegas or LA so unworthy of high speed rail that I'm expected to be upset about this?

Is it the high speed rail or the cities involved? That might help me get to the point of "irked" if someone would be so kind as to explain.

There may well be far more productive targets but why do Republicans hate Nevada so much?

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on March 4, 2009 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

A few minutes later, a staffer emerges with a copy and quietly says "it's not in the bill."

The answer to the initial inquiry---are they deliberately trying to deceive, or are they just woefully confused---can be answered by a simple look at the outcome: Does Bono Mack now acknowledge her inadequate knowledge regarding the bill, of did she punish the staffer for not finding a non-existent piece of legislation?

Posted by: Steve W. on March 4, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

For all the hero-worship the GOP drips over Reagan's corpse, why do they never follow his simplest advice?
"Trust...BUT VERIFY."

Of course, the ones who know what they're talking about...usually say nothing. Which makes them invisible. Re-election odds are better if they get in the public eye & say something stupid, rather than say nothing at all.

Posted by: slappy magoo on March 4, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

>>"Rep. Bono Mack probably heard somewhere -- cloakroom, Fox News, Limbaugh -- that this HSR project is real, and she assumed she'd been told the truth."

Can anyone say "bubble"?

Posted by: Hokuto on March 4, 2009 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

I have a feeling the Colbert Report will be on the air for a long, long time to come.

Posted by: Chris S. on March 4, 2009 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Even if it's in the bill, it doesn't follow that high speed rail from LA to Vegas is "wasted."

As I said the other day, I suspect the GOP is embiggening its lie on this one because voters may think the idea of a high speed rail link from LA to Vegas makes a lot of sense.

As to believing their own propaganda, movement conservatism is a cult -- it requires a lot of faith and rejection of empirical evidence. Of course they believe their own propaganda; otherwise the cognitive dissonance is too strong.

Posted by: Gregory on March 4, 2009 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Short Answer:

Authoritarians don't ask why, they just follow orders, and the one giving the orders is Rush Limbaugh.

Posted by: bdop4 on March 4, 2009 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

But it was reported by Fox News. That means it is fair and balanced reporting, not propaganda, right?

Posted by: (((Billy))) The Atheist on March 4, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

when Republican officials repeat obvious falsehoods, are they deliberately trying to deceive, or are they just woefully confused?

Here's the thing. It doesn't really matter. What it comes down to is that the people you are talking about have such a disregard for truth and the facts that it is indistinguishable from lying in its results. The main result is that you can't trust anything they say. They have no credibility. Why would it be anything other than a waste of time to try to suss out their motives?

Posted by: brent on March 4, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Rep. Bono Mack probably heard somewhere -- cloakroom, Fox News, Limbaugh -- that this HSR project is real

Or maybe from Bobby Jindal on national television in his rebuttal to the Obama speech.

Posted by: Steve M. on March 4, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Where's the rest? I'd love to know what Bono Mack said after being exposed as an ignorant hack. Will she deny it happened and pull a "Palin," blaming the liberal media? Will she apologize to Harry Reid?

Posted by: WInkandanod on March 4, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

She's outraged that the plan has "$1 billion wasted on a magnetic-levitation train from L.A. to Sin City" -- all at Nevada Sen. Harry Reid's doing.

Left unexamined is why a train connecting the two largest population centers and tourist destinations in Southern California and Nevada would even be a "waste." People do go back and forth between LA and Las Vegas, don't they? And building such a rail-line would create construction jobs and ongoing jobs in running the railroad, wouldn't it?

Posted by: Stefan on March 4, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans are spending so much time in an alternative universe I am expecting them to sort of slip completely into it and suddenly disappear. Some will mistakenly think the rapture has happened.

More of an anti-Rapture. The happy ones will be the ones left behind. :)

Posted by: Matt on March 4, 2009 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Glad to oblige, weary. You see, the HSR runs directly from the Spinning Teacup ride at Disneyland to a whorehouse in Vegas, or Carson City, or somewhere, and it was all arranged by Harry Reid because he's evil, educated by whores and made leader of the Senate to recruit for them. So they're trying to take our three-year-olds and turn them into... no I can't say it, it's too much, those damn Communist Socialists will stop at nothing. Get it now?

Posted by: ericfree on March 4, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

This reminds me of Reagan and the welfare queen in a Cadillac. There's something about the conservative mind that finds these anecdotes irresistible.

Posted by: davidp on March 4, 2009 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

yessiree, hard work bein' a republican.
all the time havin yuh say stuff like "get him the bill..." and then havin' tuh eat shit.

Posted by: neill on March 4, 2009 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

A guy I used to work with (now a retired govt. employee) stated that Mary Bono was one of the stupidest Congressional representatives that he'd ever dealt with.

Posted by: peej on March 4, 2009 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

It really is a perfect mess of their own making.

1) Spend 30 years building up gop/rightwing infastructure in DC- Heritage, AEI, etc.

2) Build up news media propaganda machine- radio, tv news, internet.

3) Tell all followers that they cannot trust anyone except gop/rightwing sources.

4) Stop listening to everyone who doesn't identify as a member of your group. Identify "soft" members of your group as traitors, RINOs, etc.

What does this eventually lead to? Alienation and an insular echo chamber that neither light nor truth can penetrate.

Most importantly, when faced with evidence that you represent a shrinking minority don't pause for a second about how that came to be.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on March 4, 2009 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Does Bono Mack now acknowledge her inadequate knowledge regarding the bill?
================

Magic 8 Ball says "Doubtful"

And why should finding out she was wrong change anything anyhow?

Posted by: After All, She's A Republican on March 4, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Why would you want to denigrate this story about the rail line?

After all, it was printed in the Washingon Times & then it was said by Rushbo & then it was linked to by Drudge. Next week it will be repeated by David Broeder and become 'conventional knowledge'.

I still prefer the version where the rail line is between Disneyland & the whore house by Carson City. Dad can dump mom & the kids at Disney and take a side trip for the day!

Posted by: SadOldVet on March 4, 2009 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, you wrote:

It's hard to say if Bono Mack is typical of her caucus, but if she is, imagine how much better the political system would function if Republicans simply stopped believing their own misguided propaganda?

I think the congresswoman is typical not only of her caucus, but of the entire conserative movement. Getting them to stop believing their own propaganda is next to impossible because propaganda constitutes their entire message.

If you take away the paranoid fantasies of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and CPAC, what is left?

Posted by: UncommonSense on March 4, 2009 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

What others have said - by pushing back against this silly Republican meme, we seem to be implicitly conceding that a high speed rail link between LA and Vegas would be a bad thing. I do not think we should concede this.

Posted by: John on March 4, 2009 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

How much do you want to bet she will still make that claim even after having her nose rubbed in the truth in a very embarrassing manner?

Posted by: Saint Zak on March 4, 2009 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Our very own nut Rep Bachmann was complaining that she didnt get a high speed rail line in her district. This is rich on so many levels, The "other" train does not exist, she rather dramatically said the stim bill was a ploy for democrats to take everything from republicans, and she was a very vocal opponent of the one commuter rail line we do have.
I guess victimhood has its advantages.

Posted by: the seal on March 4, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

I with brent. I used to worry a lot about the stupid/lying dichotomy, but I have come to the conclusion that, as a practical matter, all you need to know is that you can't trust a word they say.

How long until George Will repeats this in his column and the Post opts to stand behind him?

Posted by: Jon on March 4, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Why should this train present a problem? Why is it wrong?

Don't y'all know that the only good spending is done in red districts in red states? Ask Jindal. He is against the HSR project in CA/NV (which doesn't exist yet - and may never exist) but he is all for a train running from NOLA to Baton Rouge.

Right project, wrong state, wrong color. Plain and simple.

Posted by: MsJoanne on March 4, 2009 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

I'll point out again that Chris Matthews thinks there is a high speed rail line between LA and Las Vegas, he just thinks it isn't going to Disneyland.

Oh, he also thinks that the stimulus bill was filibustered.

For some reason, people never investigate what they think is the truth.

Posted by: tomj on March 4, 2009 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Here's what I don't understand. Take away the shows and golf and other stuff to do, and Vegas is basically a big gambling mecca, right? Do conservative congresspersons really think their constituents are really anti-gambling? Hell, there's all sorts of Indian Casinos in and around Bono's district. There are casinos all over the South. There are shuttles that run from freaking Salt Lake to Wendover, Nevada, right on the border, so that people can gamble. Mr. Freaking Virtue himself is big time gambler.

There's a reason that tens of millions of people visit Disneyland and Vegas every year: Because they're fun places to go. And I'm guessing a sizable chunk of those visitors are Republican. They're treating this as if it's a high speed rail line from Moscow to Tehran. I'm still scratching my head as to why they think that will work.

Posted by: Seitz on March 4, 2009 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK
Do conservative congresspersons really think their constituents are really anti-gambling?

No.

Hell, there's all sorts of Indian Casinos in and around Bono's district. There are casinos all over the South.

Maybe you should think about why that would make Bono (and other members of Congress), believing that there was HSR to LV in the bill, oppose the bill.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 4, 2009 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

It's become clear that the remaining public faces of the Republican party do not have the character and morality to operate outside of their own narrow minds and self-interest. These are not people who can lead themselves, never mind the country. This is exactly how we got W, Cheney and their friends, and look where they are now:
A 14 year old getting national TV and conference face time as a legitimate pundit???
A radio personality with no elected office or business experience as 'dear leader'?
A morally bankrupt, repudiated at the polls, recycled Newt as savior?
I truly hope that the national Republican party gets their act together and provides a reasonable alternative voice. Here in Massachusetts we have one party rule and that is not good for any state or country.

Posted by: GVC on March 4, 2009 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe you should think about why that would make Bono (and other members of Congress), believing that there was HSR to LV in the bill, oppose the bill.

Why she opposes it and how they try to sell it are two different things. I know why she opposes it. I just don't think any of her constituents probably care about how she's selling it.

If she wants to argue that it would be a boondoggle with cost overruns and that gambling revenues are better off if they're kept in California, that's one thing. But trying to scare people with visions of "sin city" simply doesn't make any sense.

Sometimes there are no principled reasons to oppose a program (reasons that exist, despite my personal disapproval of them), so a politician needs to demagogue the issue. Sometimes there ARE principled reasons to oppose a program, but those reasons won't resonate with the public, so a politician needs to demagogue. But when there are principled reasons to oppose a program, and those reasons will resonate with the public FAR BETTER than demagoguery, it seems really stupid to demagogue the issue.

Posted by: Seitz on March 4, 2009 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

I work with people that spout outrage immediately after reading some viral e-mail slamming "liberals" or Democrats for an alleged illegal or misguided act. I'll question the substance of what they're upset over and invariably it all comes full circle to the mere fact they saw it "in black and white" on their computer screen so it must be true. That and since they're conservative anything negative written about someone on the left is believable. I'll google the thrust of their e-mail, usually dimissing it rather quickly and proving it to be chock full of outright lies, baseless innuendeo and half-truths woven to paint the worst picture possible. Confronted with the ridiculous nature of the missive the coworker gets defensive, internally pissed they've yet again been taken. However, there is never an admission of such, instead an insistence no one would just fabricate such an e-mail and randomly spread it around. It must be true and all the facts and proof I present to the contrary is simply one liberal coming to the defense of another. So, we have Obama murdering infants as they lay in incubators in Illinois. Obama is secretly a Kenyan Muslim laying the groundwork for America's destruction at the hands of al Qaida. Rush Limbaugh has 20 million listeners that trade these e-mails back and forth between each other, earnestly believeing every scrap of lunacy. 20 million quite insane adults walking among us. Working in the next cubicle. All valid candidates for being institutionalized.

Posted by: steve duncan on March 4, 2009 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK
Here in Massachusetts we have one party rule and that is not good for any state or country.
Eh? Maybe today, but for the last 16 years, the Republicans have held the governor-ship. And through most of that time, Bill Bulger was speaker of the house - maybe that's the one party rule you're referring to. I had some issues with Bill Weld, but he was at least a competent executive. Mitt? Most of his previous experience was slash and burn capitalism. Cellucci and Swift? Well, let's just say that the decline in competence from Weld to Swift was fairly linear. Mitt simply turned it into a low plateau. Although the poison pill universal health coverage he pushed was in interesting tack. The unfortunate fact is that Republican leadership is what led to a Democrat in the Governor's mansion. Posted by: kenga on March 4, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

They're a bunch of Deadheads, except that there's no band onstage.

Posted by: pbg on March 4, 2009 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

In Mass, the Democratic party rules the legislature and many towns and cities. As you noted, the Republican party won the governorship several times, but the quality of those governors, as noted, was pretty awful, so here we are. In most of the past years, the House speaker in particular has been dictatorial at best, again largely because of the lack of legitimate opposition. Usually they resign in some sort of disgrace because of their abuse of power.
When either party is so weak that it cannot block the excesses of the group in power we all suffer, and this illustrates the problem.

Posted by: GVC on March 4, 2009 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

toowearyforoutrage: Is it the high speed rail or the cities involved?

It's the fact that it is said to go between sodom and gomorrah.

Posted by: anandine on March 4, 2009 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

So, we have Obama murdering infants as they lay in incubators in Illinois.

That one's true, actually. My cousin's husband's sister works as a nurse at a hospital in Illinois and her coworker told her she'd seen it with her own eyes.....

Posted by: Stefan on March 4, 2009 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

The idea of HSR to Vegas has been talked about for the last 40 years. Wasn't 45 million allocated in 2005, under Bush, to study MAGLEV projects in both San Bernardino and Riverside Counties? This goes through the district of Rep Jerry Lewis (R), who cares not a twit about protecting any species in the Mojave desert. So, is Bono concerned that Reid might take the credit and not Lewis?

Posted by: berttheclock on March 4, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Conservatives, Republicans, and members of the CATO institute all operate from 2 or 3 positions. 1) Create a cult of personality; i.e. Reagan, Bush, Palin, Limbaugh and support the focus, no matter what
2) Deflect all criticism with ad hominum attacks or non-sensical pronouncements. i.e. McCain insisting on knowing more about a relationship (Ayers/Obama) that does not exist.
3) Blame everybody else for your eff-ups. i.e. The ships crew put up that (Mission Accomplished) banner.

Bono Mack doesn't have to read the bill, she doesn't have to know the law, she just has to stay connected to the Collective, be nasty, and repeat whatever Cantor and Boehner cram into her skull.

Posted by: bcinaz on March 4, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

No, it's not just the Republicans' own "misguided" (I'd say, carefully guided!) propaganda - there are the "news" outlets like Fox that spin it around and around. Steve, you just had a story about Megyn Kelly talking with Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), in which she shamelessly repeated and embellished that lie! I suppose it's naive ReRushlickin's that see Faux reports and think it's something real, I don't know ...

Posted by: Neil B ☻ on March 4, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Not to go OT here but its not because we have "one party rule" that there is corruption here in MA. We have multi party rule if you grasp that our Democrats run from left to far right and that the "rule" of the Democrats, below the level of the governorship, has generally been in the hands of guys who would ahve been republicans if *the voters had been able to stomach that party* in the first place. Bulger? Finneran? they were all very, very, conservative both socially and in terms of their corporate whoring. Their corruption was perfectly in line with conservative ethics, as well. Republicans in MA don't stand for fiscal conservativism and social liberalism. At this point they are practically being re-imported into the state from down south, like christianity back into Vermont and up north, and what we get are social conservative god botherers who run out of state campaigns on culture war issues while any state legislator worth his salt knows to avoid these like the plague.

aimai

Posted by: aimai on March 4, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Mary Bono Mack needs to take a break and go on a skiing trip.

Posted by: maya on March 4, 2009 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Left unexamined is why a train connecting the two largest population centers and tourist destinations in Southern California and Nevada would even be a "waste."

"A transcontinental railway you say? Why suh, that sounds like so much madness! There is nothing but ruinous space between California and back East, and only one small settlement, that being the town of Salt Lake. What possible good could a railway do through this god-forsaken region? Good day to you suh!"

Posted by: trex on March 4, 2009 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

You've got a false dilemma going, Steve. They don't have to be either telling the truth or lying. They could be bullshitting:

"When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up,to suit his purpose."

Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on March 4, 2009 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Mack is just nervous that such train would keep the sun monkeys away from Palm Springs.

Posted by: MissMudd on March 4, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Republican politician = Mindless robot so drunk on their own sense of infallibility they don't even bother to check on or even question what comes off the party fax machine.

Useless clowns, all of them.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on March 4, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

These guys need to read more history of their founders. I am reasonably sure that it was Goebbels who said that a propagandist should never believe his own lies, or words to that effect.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on March 4, 2009 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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