Political Animal


July 29, 2011 11:15 AM ‘A self-inflicted wound of monumental stupidity’

By Steve Benen

There are, regrettably, plenty of prominent media voices who insist on characterizing the Republicans’ debt-ceiling crisis as a disaster brought on by “both sides.” Yes, David Gergen, I’m looking in your direction.

But for all the complaining I do about this, it’s only fair to also note those who get it right, and resist the Village’s agreed upon narrative. Here’s Time’s Joe Klein yesterday, before last night’s breakdown in the House.

[S]o, here we are. Our nation’s economy and international reputation as the world’s presiding grownup has already been badly damaged. It is a self-inflicted wound of monumental stupidity. I am usually willing to acknowledge that Democrats can be as silly, and hidebound, as Republicans-but not this time. There is zero equivalence here. The vast majority of Democrats have been more than reasonable, more than willing to accept cuts in some of their most valued programs. […]

The Republicans have been willing to concede nothing. Their stand means higher interest rates, fewer jobs created and more destroyed, a general weakening of this country’s standing in the world. Osama bin Laden, if he were still alive, could not have come up with a more clever strategy for strangling our nation.

That last line was of particular interest, because it echoes a recent point from Nick Kristof. Indeed, the NYT columnist recently argued that Republicans represent a kind of domestic threat, possibly undermining the nation’s interests from within: “[L]et’s remember not only the national security risks posed by Iran and Al Qaeda. Let’s also focus on the risks, however unintentional, from domestic zealots.”

Are Klein and Kristof suggesting Republican extremism has become dangerous? It certainly sounds like it.

This is pretty bold stuff from media establishment figures. It also suggests the “both sides” nonsense hasn’t exactly achieved universal acceptance.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • T2 on July 29, 2011 11:23 AM:

    the revised Boner Bill : a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution must be passed before the next Debt Ceiling raise.

    This is the act of a desperate man and a group of insane people. That the Lord for Harry Reid and the Senate.
    This House action should, for once and all, signal the end of any useful government in the United States until such time the voters throw the criminals out of office.

  • bleh on July 29, 2011 11:24 AM:

    Oh please. This is like the much-cited One Time In The History Of The Universe that David Brooks said something realistic, or the latest senile rant of John McCain that, like the proverbial millionth monkey at a typewriter, made sense.

    These guys owe their jobs and their status to parroting the both-sides-do-it line, and they'll return to that as surely as the sun rises in the east. I'm quite sure at least one of them is already writing a why-is-Obama-so-intransigent column.

    The Washington media are just a parasitic extension of the political system, and they're as sick as it is.

  • ManOutOfTime on July 29, 2011 11:25 AM:

    The physics of Village punditry however dictate that each columnist will, as David Brooks did before he left on vacation, write a column which dilutes everything they just said by positing a one hand / other hand narrative on the next stage of the debt ceiling fiasco.

  • walt on July 29, 2011 11:27 AM:

    Joe Klein is the same Villager who helped pave this road for right-wing extremists. His chief complaint concerned the DFHs who were wrong about everything and ruining the Democratic Party. While not as obnoxious as Mickey Kaus, Klein seemed perfectly happy to validate the equivalency meme to show how a few ragtag lefties were as ominous a threat to domestic bliss as a radicalized Republican Party.

    The problem is that it's too late. Along with Paul Krugman, I'd like to hear an apology from Klein, Gergen, John Dickinson, Clive Crook, Gwen Ifill, David Brooks, Richard Cohen, and the sundry other insiders who couldn't be bothered to express some alarm at what was happening. A republic isn't dealt a death blow in a single blow. It comes from multiple elisions and failures of nerve. It's the instinct to condone bullshit in the name of civility. It's a disease that is killing us.

  • kevo on July 29, 2011 11:27 AM:

    Any "media" pundit who hasn't realized the Republican brand has become anathema to our shared way of life here in the good ol'USA (e pluribus unum) is in desperate need of a Cronkite moment!

    If unwilling to have such an epiphany, members of our "journalist" class will be seen as the ideologues they are.

    Though, such info may be redundant by now - I don't see that Doucey guy realizing anything! -Kevo

  • j on July 29, 2011 11:28 AM:

    I always get a little perplexed about my understanding of the tea baggers, I watched the rallies on TV where they held up signs saying 'don't touch my medicare or social security' now they are rooting for the crowd that is determined to destroy both of those programs.

  • Tim on July 29, 2011 11:33 AM:

    If one side says the sky is blue, and the other insists that it's yellow, that doesn't mean the sky is green.

    I'm just saying...

    CAPTCHA: misheiv geometry (is that like matharchy?)

  • r on July 29, 2011 11:33 AM:

    Don't go down the Joke Line, Steve. It is like saying the old McCain is back. JK is a truly loathsome human being, and will be back to lying about Dems next week.

  • zandru on July 29, 2011 11:33 AM:

    See Krugman today (nytimes.com) on the damage that's been inflicted by the "balanced" approach to news and commentary.

  • Michael on July 29, 2011 11:37 AM:

    And if Osama bin Laden were still alive (thank you, Mr. Obama, for seeing to his demise) he would be the Tea Party's biggest fan. They are completing his attempt to bring economic ruin to the United State of America. The only question for me is, why do they hate America so much?

  • TomO on July 29, 2011 11:39 AM:

    We already have a term for the situation when a small, committed group of people decides to use force to impose their politics on a nation. The term is terrorism.

    Tea Party Activists have openly and clearly stated that chaos (their word) is their goal, in the hope that out of chaos they may be able to force radical changes in line with their beliefs. The question for the left and center has really come down to whether or not as an opposing political force we are willing to negotiate with financial terrorists.

    What is even worse going forward is that if we allow the Tea Party hostage takers any form of victory, we are legitimizing financial terrorism as a toll to apply in all subsequent political disputes. This applies to both sides, because the left will not (and should not) let economic policy be set by the blackmail terms of the far right.

  • berttheclock on July 29, 2011 11:43 AM:

    @bleh, you mentioned the latest senile rant by McCain, where, he made sense. You mean his scathing put down of TPers, including the wicked witch of the West, Angle, and her twin in Rhode Island? The one where he referred to them as Hobbitts? Did you happen to catch Lawrence O'Donnell, last evening, where he played that clip, and, then, showed the Flip Flop when McCain was confronted by a livid Sean Hannity. This happened just after Hannity led in with the lie that this mess has been caused by Obama and his massive spending. LO even spoke about Hannity being a Chicken Hawk of the worst sort and gave McCain his due for fighing for his country. But, McCain caved, immediately, to Colonel Hannity and begged forgiveness and said, he had only been reading a column and he wasn't criticizing any TP member. It was a pure Gutless moment for Double Talk.

  • Archon on July 29, 2011 11:46 AM:

    Conservatives are the new Marxists of the day in the sense they can only give a vision of what they want the world to look like but it's not drawn from ANY facts on the ground. It's a world where christian charity will make up for government assistance, where tax cuts for the rich make average people's lives better and a world where defaulting on our debt somehow improves our credit rating.

    Conservatives are knee deep in that "it works in practice but how does it work in theory" idiom.

  • gus on July 29, 2011 11:46 AM:

    So, Joe Klein and a few other common taters are now worried about reputations being sullied?

    I'm just gonna state this: For all those who say Obama has been ineffectual at affecting change, there still remains this DickCheney inner circle mentality among a lot of republicans. There are still those undermining any respectful attempts at being progressive, smart and improving matters. So, it isn't suddenly surprising that those people are just extreme republicans or that they complain the most about the Change Obama and people who voted for him want.

    The thing about the Beltway Media, the polical reporters, the Villagers--as they are called-- is they are all on a boat and experience things as a group. So when the waters are choppy, they see it as so. They talk with each other and the best explanation for why the waters are rough is what they go with. In those cases they are almost always REACTING. In a way that is correct, they are supposedly journalists. But, they have to mouth off about it in their quest to earn extra money talking about what they also write. They loves the TV, those print journalists!

    The thing is if the waters are calm, they have no compunction to not rock the boat and lie about the weather conditions either.

    Maybe it is time to retire the "Villagers" as a term and introduce a new one.

  • tamiasmin on July 29, 2011 11:58 AM:

    So to please the likes of Louie Gohmert and Michele Bachmann, John Boehner is retooling his already doomed bill to make it more radical by sticking in a proposal for a balanced budget amendment that is worse than the one rejected last week.

    But rejection is the only point of these shenanigans now. Republicans must serve up something obnoxious enough to guarantee its being voted down in the Senate, so they can blame Democrats for the disaster they themselves are causing.

  • siameesecities on July 29, 2011 12:07 PM:

    it's so distressing and aggravating, simply because the teaparty is stupid, and seems to pride itself on it's ignorant ways.

    It feels like five years ago even, you could talk to someone who disagrees with you politically and give them facts, talk about reality, and they wouldn't deny it.
    like: "what about the WMD lies?" "yea, that's messed up, but Bush HAD to do it, and we're safer without Saddam!"
    or they couldn't deny the mistakes made during Katrina, or ignoring the "Bin Laden determined to attack...". Even if they tried to defend it with, "Why didn't the democratic mayor do something?" or "Clinton didn't get him either"

    Sure their position was still wrong, but they could wrap their brains around the truth, AND THEN bend it to their conclusion.

    But now, they just plug their ears. I want to be involved with democratic campaigns here, but I live in a very tea party state/district/city and I can just imagine it now; wasting my breath on small minded people who won't listen to anything, no matter how verifiable it is.

    it damn near hurts my feelings where this country is and the politicians in charge of running it.

  • siameesecities on July 29, 2011 12:19 PM:

    The LO piece was nice, but McCain didn't totally back down to Hannity, I caught the second half of the interview and McCain stuck to his point that this type of politics was stupid and wasteful. He continued to say he wasn't insulting the TP (which he technically is correct in saying he wasn't, the insult WAS from the article) and his overall point was this was a silly way to act. Hannity was annoyingly shaken, in almost a whiny voice, asking McCain, "why do you think we'd be blamed? Obama did it!" (seriously, like a whiny child) and then at the end when Hannity said "as long as you agree with me that the Dems and Obama's spending did this." and he shut up, McCain then said "yea, ...and some spending before that too." as he was getting cut off the screen.

    While I'm not trying to defend McCain and I'm not under the illusion that the maverick is back, he didn't completely fold to Hannity, he just sort of bent.

  • wheresthebeef on July 29, 2011 12:29 PM:

    berttheclock: "the wicked witch of the West, Angle, and her twin in Rhode Island?" I belive that you're thinking of the 2nd place finisher in the nation's "Smallest State" contest. That, of course, would be Deleware.

  • Rick B on July 29, 2011 12:29 PM:

    The Republican followers are guilty of monumental stupidity,ignorance and fear leading to conservative nostrums that are unworkable. Their leaders are treasonous greedheads who should be tried for treason,fined the total amount of their wealth, and imprisoned longer than the Israeli spy Pollard.

  • JM917 on July 29, 2011 12:30 PM:

    @ siamesecities:

    I totally agree with you, and feel for you.

    As to getting involved in political campaigns to get this country out of this hole: Good for you! I know what you mean about having to live deep in Tea Party country surrounded by close-minded idiots and fanatics. In your case, I'd recommend volunteering to call out-of-state voters in areas where you CAN make a difference. Right now people are calling Wisconsin voters over the recall. Next year there are going to be huge opportunities to phonebank from whereever you live. If your particular district can't be moved to reason, there are plenty of others where you CAN make a difference.

  • rrk1 on July 29, 2011 12:39 PM:

    Steve, your tepid nonsense about the mainstream media daring to raise the obvious issue of the Rethugs being a threat to the country is really tiring.

    We are living with a full-fledged insurgency that wants to bring the country down so it can be reinvented as a Khristian dictatorship. The 90 or more insane fools in the house want to destroy our current form of government. Period. End of discussion. The sooner we accept that that is there agenda the sooner effective counter forces can be organized.

    Let's not pretend we have a House majority that's interested in governing, or in what's right for the country. This is war. It has to be fought as one.

  • Conservative1 on July 29, 2011 12:43 PM:

    The Tealiban and its fatwas are being steered from abroad as our new collective Manchurian candidate.

  • Ohioan on July 29, 2011 12:49 PM:

    Kristof is a Rhodes Scholar who brings to light hidden human stories of injustice from the 150 countries he has visited.

    Klein is a shape shifting McCain-esque pundit who is fighting for relevance.

    Steve, Kristof and Klein do not belong in the same blog post, unless you want to compare and contrast their journalistic ethic.

  • ohhenery on July 29, 2011 1:56 PM:

    The punditeers with plastic swords,
    Provided a stage to stab the gourds,
    It is, me thinks, a wonderful play,
    Enacted on us day by day...
    Where doth hide the mighty spite?
    It is, alas, in view, in sight.
    (Oh shit! Say goodnight, Gracie)

    ermiti especially

  • DubyaT on July 29, 2011 3:36 PM:

    Thanks for an article about nothing.

  • President Lindsay on July 29, 2011 4:01 PM:

    "...Letís also focus on the risks, however unintentional, from domestic zealots.Ē

    Could Kristof really believe this is unintentional? Sorry, this kind of sabotage doesn't happen by accident.

  • TJ Parker on July 30, 2011 1:24 AM:

    Waterboard them and find out who is financing their un-American activities, these GOP terrorists.