Political Animal


June 12, 2012 5:30 PM Exploding Government?

By Ed Kilgore

I’m pretty much down with Jonathan Bernstein’s evaluation of the “private sector economy is doing fine” remark by the president as being a true gaffe that probably won’t much matter when the votes are counted.

But Jon Chait makes a point about the Republican efforts to prolong scrutiny of the gaffe—especially the companion line about the public sector suffering—that’s worth noting:

[I]t’s a dangerous fact for Republicans to let loose into public circulation. The charge of exploding the government is central to the Republican indictment of Obama. Even if Romney thinks he can win by endorsing the reduction in government employment and charging Obama with trying to reverse it, he is conceding vast ground on the basic terms of debate. The charge of wanting to restore government employment to its 2008 levels is far less potent than the charge that even many swing voters have come to accept. And Obama’s true defense would never have received this level of press attention had Obama not gaffed while trying to explain it.

That’s true. The entire Republican Party has been claiming incessantly since 2009 that Barack Obama is presiding over a vast, European-style, maybe even Soviet-style, expansion of government. If that’s so, why is public sector employment dropping? Sometimes it’s hard to sustain a lie when so much more lying is necessary to keep it up.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • schtick on June 12, 2012 6:09 PM:

    Hrm. Does it rate with Willard's gaffe? Oh, wait a minute, it wasn't a gaffe, was it? You know the one:
    The poor don't need any help, they have a safety net.

  • c u n d gulag on June 12, 2012 6:10 PM:

    This is the new Conservative normal;
    Cognitive dissonance - squared!

    Obama's both a coward - AND he's and a mad-droner!

    Obama's both a crazy spender, increasing the size of governnment - AND he's cutting public sector jobs!

    Obama is a KenyanSocialistFascistCommunistAtheist - AND he's a Muslim!

    Obama is a furniture polish - AND a dessert topping!

    And a he's buffer of white wall tires which blackens them.
    A rust remover who causes rust.
    AND a toilet cleaner who leaves your toilet smelling like Rush took a triple-extra-chili-jalapeno-and-extra-cheese, liver-gravy-and-fries, and prune milkshake, dump in your john.

    Obama is every Conservatives "Rorschach Test."
    Project whatever you want - especially projectile vomit.

  • mellowjohn on June 12, 2012 6:16 PM:

    "If that’s so, why is public sector employment dropping?"

    because public sector workers are more efficient?

  • Joe Friday on June 12, 2012 6:22 PM:

    "Sometimes it's hard to sustain a lie when so much more lying is necessary to keep it up."

    Like it's ever stopped 'em before.

  • Doug on June 12, 2012 7:04 PM:

    "Sometimes it's hard to sustain a lie when so much more lying is necessary to keep it up." Ed Kilgore

    THAT'S what will cost Romney & Co the election...

  • gus on June 12, 2012 7:30 PM:

    How did Kinsley’s definition of a political “gaffe” get reduced back down to sloppily making a statement that allows a political opponent to take advantage????

    When did that happen? I thought “gaffe” had been redefined for several election cycles --over a decade, at least, as a Freudian slip of the tongue.

  • gus on June 12, 2012 7:36 PM:

    As for the lie that Romney is trying to sell.

    Obviously, people believe that it is true. But, it does work to Obama’s advantage that the rest of the world does exist to prove that there is nothing even close to those kinds of allegations coming true. Just look at Russia.

    But, it doesn’t matter...it should not matter...because they are just going to keep over-reaching and, like McCain in his final days as a candidate, they’ll grossly miscalculate and look foolish. They have a huge head start over McCain and there’s many more running around saying and promoting crazy ideas.

    The GOP is gonna make a lot of people uncomfortable with their craziness. The GOP and especially those fringe groups and Super PACs just won’t be able to help themselves. They’ll just go too far.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on June 12, 2012 8:11 PM:

    @gus: You have much more confidence than I that the Republicans will overreach (how could they not have already?) and even more confidence that the Useful Idiot American public will see it as overreaching.

  • Anonymous on June 12, 2012 8:14 PM:

    Sometimes it’s hard to sustain a lie when so much more lying is necessary to keep it up.

    Have you ever seen a Republican? Have ever seen the MSM enablers of said Republicans?

  • gus on June 12, 2012 9:22 PM:


    “how could they not have already?”

    That’s the thing. There is a critical mass that has yet to be reached. While before perhaps on an individual basis, a George Allen can lose a Senate Race by uttering one word. McCain in 2008 can make himself look very out of touch by his actions post-convention. George Bush can really screw the pooch after Katrina and re-shape just how much his administration and the GOP appear (the result that led to the 2006 Democratic congressional victories)

    Now, after 2010’s off year election victories, the GOP truly believes it can forget about 2001-2008 and the debilitating gridlock in legislating since 2011 and scream, yell, throw hissy fits and call every Democrat every name imaginable. As the campaign(s) go, there will be likely many instances of idiocy, of bad politicking on the part of the GOP.

    I keep telling myself that they will mess up; they have a record of screwing up; they can’t run the government effectively or with positive results for the nation. They have been good at campaign politics, really good. But their big tent can’t sustain too many voices; it can’t control all of those voices. Hence, people will screw up on the national stage.

  • EnoughIsEnough on June 13, 2012 1:11 AM:

    gus - Please explain to me how the Republicans keep winning. We have had 3 Democrat Presidents since Nixon. If Americans were really concerned with spending and big government, why do they keep voting for Republicans?

  • Ron Byers on June 13, 2012 7:45 AM:

    EnoughIsEnough on June 13, 2012 1:11 AM

    The short answer to your question is Republicans are very organized and they work at winning every day. They promote nice looking hardworking fundamentalists at the local and state level. They are well funded by their well healed elite.

    Democrats by comparison aren't very organized. They are Washington centric and don't give a rats ass about local politics. Their one issue people are really one issue and don't have any interest in state and local politics. Their counters to the 1%, trial lawyers and unions are having a hard time maintaining what they have so they don't contribute as much as they used to.

    The final big advantage is the media is owned 100% by big corporations controlled by right wingers and all of the high paid news readers are bought and paid for by their owners. They know how to keep them happy.

  • boatboy_srq on June 13, 2012 10:08 AM:

    The only difficulty I see with this approach is that the federal payroll has shrunk only minimally. It's state and local payrolls that are shrinking, and it's state and local efforts to "curb spending" that are driving that shrinkage. It's true that federal support of state coffers could have offset some of the state contractions, but there are some governors/legislatures that have proven committed to renouncing any and all federal dollars (weren't we just discussing Governor Voldemort yesterday, and among his other wingnutty efforts handing back federal funds for high speed rail and health care exchanges?) so there would still be job losses at the state level even with federal intervention.

    Had Perry won the God's Own Party nomination this would have been an exquisitely appropriate message for Obama's campaign: unemployment is going up, the states are leading the public sector downsizing, and Texas is one of the leading states laying off its workers.

    As it is it's a damning critique of the GOP, and one which they're going to have a difficult time combating: either a) their policies are contributing to the terrible unemployment figures and screwing the recovery overall, or b) Obama isn't the great IslamoSocioFascist ogre they've been claiming because the public sector isn't growing after all. In other words, they're wrong, or they're wrong, and they're lying regardless.