Political Animal


July 26, 2011 3:45 PM Focus groups must have loved ‘blank check’

By Steve Benen

The Republican National Committee sent out a new fundraising pitch this morning via email, and the subject line read, “Stop Obama’s Blank Check.” The message tells prospective suckers donors (thanks to reader C.R. for the tip):

“[I]f you believe in the Republican plan of forcing the Democrats to cut spending and taking away Obama’s blank check, we need your help.”

And last night, here was House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) message to the nation:

“The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today.”

And early yesterday, here’s what a House GOP leadership aide told Mike Allen about President Obama’s approach to the debt-reduction negotiations.

“Republicans will not give him a $2.4 trillion blank check he can use throughout his re-election campaign.”

To be sure, GOP officials have been experimenting with a lot of talking points lately. The more polls show the American mainstream turning against Republicans, the more party leaders assume it’s time to experiment with new rhetoric.

And most of the time, I can at least understand what the words means. When Republicans talking about “job creators,” for example, I know they’re trying to protect the very rich from having to pay a little more in taxes. When they talk “reforming” entitlements, I know they want to cut Social Security and Medicare.

But “blank check”? What on earth does that even mean?

I’m sure the focus groups loved it. “Blank checks” sound bad (except when Republican Congresses are giving Bush/Cheney blank checks to fight wars).

But even in this mind-numbing, soul-crushing debate, the “blank check” talking point is ludicrous. President Obama isn’t asking for a “blank check.” The nation needs a debt-ceiling increase to pay for the things we’ve already bought, so the White House is simply urging Congress to do its duty, as it’s always done in the past.

It’s not as if Obama is asking Congress to give up its power of the purse; lawmakers will still have to pass appropriations bills. There will be plenty of checks, but none of them will be blank.

Adam Serwer described the claim as “a straight-up lie. Not the everyday, casual fudging that politicians do, but a straight up lie.”

Adam’s right, but I’d just add that it’s the worst kind of lie: it’s incoherent dishonesty.

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.


Post a comment
  • Live Free or Die on July 26, 2011 3:47 PM:

    Water is wet. Republicans lie. The media say "both sides".

  • vickijean on July 26, 2011 3:50 PM:

    Republican low information voters will LOVE this line. Expect it to be repeated ad nauseum on every conservative/libertarian/Republican/tea party portal. It is achingly irrelevant that it is gibberish. They will consider it to be brilliant.

  • jdog on July 26, 2011 3:52 PM:

    I wonder if Boehner, in the public eye, went too far. Virtually everything in his speech was a lie. Some voices in the media have begun to call him on it (obviously, not the right-wingers--they have a different problem). But in the main stream media, a few are noting the lack of truth in his statement.

    Republicans have been living in a make believe world for so long, I wonder if they can separate rhetoric from reality; and I also wonder if Republican leaders can do so either.

    But what I hope is that the larger narrative, when this is all said and done, is to emphasize what a bunch of liars the Republicans are. This will take work.

  • Anonymous on July 26, 2011 3:55 PM:

  • Ronald on July 26, 2011 3:56 PM:

    Republicans hate Americans and have no conscious when it comes to lying to the American people-their constituents included.

    Captcha is broken.

  • Mr. Serf Man on July 26, 2011 3:59 PM:

    Its a LUNTZ-O-GRAM Direct from the Goebbels infected soul of that blot on western civilization.

    I guess when you sell your soul you don't have trouble sleeping at night.

  • Danp on July 26, 2011 4:00 PM:

    Sir, the electric bill is due tomorrow and there's no money in the checking account.

    What, you want me to give you a blank check?

    No sir, that wouldn't really help, since, like I told you, there is no money in the account.

    Then you'll have to stop using the copier, I guess.

    Yes sir, that'll solve the problem.

  • BrklynLibrul on July 26, 2011 4:00 PM:

    Incoherent dishonesty, yes -- and it just may work to push the low-information American public back toward the GOP. "Blank check" is all any one is talking about today. Certainly not "shared responsibility" or "fairness."

  • Anonymous on July 26, 2011 4:02 PM:

    . . . the "blank check talking point is ludicrous. President Obama isn't asking for a "blank check."

    The phrase plays into the worst fears of the Republican's base -- that Obama, the terrorist-loving, marxist, Muslim Kenyan, intends to take tax money away from hard-working, flag-loving, REAL Americans and give it to his lazy, dark-skinned, entitled voting base.

    Once the phrase "blank check" takes hold with the Tea-liban, the corporate-controlled media will pick it up and repeat it as part of their inside-the-Beltway Conventional Wisdom.

  • DAY on July 26, 2011 4:02 PM:

    I wonder, during "Freshman Orientation Week" are they shown that cartoon about how a Bill becomes Law?

  • Redshift on July 26, 2011 4:03 PM:

    "Blank check" means "the debt limit is stopping those tax&spend Democrats, so when we campaigned on never voting to increase it, we were right!" In other words, not just an everyday lie, but the Big Lie.

    What's interesting to me is Boehner's attempt to sell a previous version of his plan (one or two back; I've lost track) to his caucus by telling them it would "stop Obama" (of course, it did nothing of the sort.) It was a definite tell; normally McConnell is the one openly saying that opposing Obama is their only concern, the country be damned.

    I wish the House GOP had been stupid enough to buy it. Unfortunately, it seems they're only stupid in very specific ways.

  • zeitgeist on July 26, 2011 4:05 PM:

    in Iowa (i.e. early caucus state) Crossroads GPS has been on TV with a No Blank Checks tv spot and website for literally months now.

    i doubt the GOP has done focus groups. they just took Rove at his word and adopted the Rovian frame from the GPS ads. its easier - and more consistent with their authoritarian framework.

  • PTate in MN on July 26, 2011 4:07 PM:

    I suspect "blank check" is a dog whistle for "tax-and-spend liberal."

  • Ron Byers on July 26, 2011 4:09 PM:

    What do you bet "blank check" doesn't get "pants on fire" from anybody.

  • whichwitch on July 26, 2011 4:10 PM:

    I've had it! Although I'm a political junkie, all of this back & forth, tit for tat rhetoric and talking points have worn out their welcome in my head. I've sent my letter to my congress critters so I've at least done that much.
    There is not one darn thing I can do to control the outcome of this fiasco so just wake me up after August 2 when it's over (in more ones than one I suppose).

  • rab on July 26, 2011 4:15 PM:

    I just finished smoking my fourth pipe of crack and I am now drinking the last of a liter of Tequila. I'm guessing that by 5pm (EDT) that all of these GOP talking points will start making sense. Will follow up with my drug and alcohol induced interpretation soon.

  • RSA on July 26, 2011 4:20 PM:

    “Republicans will not give him a $2.4 trillion blank check he can use throughout his re-election campaign.”

    Note to Republicans: A $2.4 trillion blank check is, by definition, not a blank check.

  • SecularAnimist on July 26, 2011 4:20 PM:

    Steve Benen wrote: "But 'blank check'? What on earth does that even mean?"

    It means nothing. But it sounds really bad. That's the whole point.

    Also, it's short enough to fit on a bumper sticker, and easy for stupid people to remember and repeat.

    Steve Benen wrote: "I’d just add that it’s the worst kind of lie: it’s incoherent dishonesty."

    No, silly. An incoherent lie is the best kind of dishonesty -- the kind that lets the liar "get over" while the other guy is still wasting his time trying to figure out what the hell the liar is even talking about.

  • international mikey on July 26, 2011 4:23 PM:

    f#ck Frank Luntz - fat bastard will take this country down just to fatten his already fat wallet. His wordsmithing is transparent every time something new, like "blank check" invades the echo chamber. The man is a piece of dung, pure and simple....

  • SadOldVet on July 26, 2011 4:27 PM:

    The blank check smells like Frank Luntz.

    Just remember, it is not what you say, but what people hear.

    Any resemblence of truth to anything a repuke says is purely accidental.

  • NCSteve on July 26, 2011 4:29 PM:

    Don't forget "Obama's spending spree." Because that's what he wants a blank check for, apparently. His "Obama spending spree."

    Damn. If only Congress had some say, some minimal level of input of any kind, in the matter of how much the government spends and what it spends it on under the Constitution. Then it wouldn't be necessary to take the global economy to the brink of collapse in order to halt the executive's untrammeled power to embark on spending sprees. Why isn't that one of the amendments the tea party wants?

  • Anonymous on July 26, 2011 4:34 PM:

    Speaking of blank checks, we should be demanding that Obama write him self one.

    I mean, why are there no 14th Amendemnt rallies planned on the mall next week? People complain about the right but at least they are getting people out now and then.

  • Quaker in a Basement on July 26, 2011 4:40 PM:

    OK, so raising the debt limit isn't giving Obama a blank check, but it's safe to assume Obama wants one! I mean, who doesn't! I do. I want a blank check. And the Republicans promise not to give him one!

    This promise has fkall to do with anything, but there you have it. Technically accurate!

  • Peter C on July 26, 2011 4:41 PM:

    It is time to scream and shout that their whole premise is a LIE! They should all hit hard on it - Pelosi, Reid, Obama, Schumer, Byden, Dean, Franken, Frank, Hoyer - all of them! They should go on every real network. They should talk to every real reporter. The Republicans have left themselves wide open on this - WE SHOULD ATTACK!

    We need to summon our (underused) outrage. The Republicans are going to crash the economy and justify it with a bald, easily disproven LIE. Americans HATE being lied to. It is time to pin the lie on them.

  • LL on July 26, 2011 5:13 PM:

    What?! Republicans lie? I am shocked. Shocked to see that lying is going on here.

    Every professional republican in this country should be in prison. For betraying the People to our Malefactor-of-great-wealth predators.

  • ohhenery on July 26, 2011 5:19 PM:

    Republicans have been given a blank check to lie and they are cashing it in. (Accuse the other feller of doing what you are doing -- they've refined the modus operandi.)

    tolerant rounte??????

  • Jimo on July 26, 2011 5:24 PM:

    "Blank Check" = General Electric's 2010 tax payment.

  • little ole jim on July 26, 2011 5:44 PM:

    Steve, here's the way I look at it. Boehner, as a Republican leader in Congress, voted for George Bush's budgets, thus, he signed the purchase orders, he signed the credit card slips. Now he is refusing to pay his debts, says his debts are Obama's problem.

    Boehner himself needs to sign the checks to pay for the stuff he bought.

  • Insomniac on July 26, 2011 5:53 PM:

    This from Mike Allen struck me as little odd: "Republicans will not give him a $2.4 trillion blank check he can use throughout his re-election campaign." What...the President is going to use the money for his re-election campaign? Isn't this money that's already been spent and we just need to be able to pay the bill now?

  • Greenjeans on July 26, 2011 6:24 PM:

    I think I'd frame it like this:

    "The Debt Ceiling must be raised to permit us to pay for spending the Congress already appropriated.

    It does nothing to affect future spending."

    But that's just me.

  • Kathryn on July 26, 2011 6:40 PM:

    Can't stand that Mike Allen, he is so obviously a GOP plant. The phrasing of that sentence mentioned by insomniac is insidious as is Mike Allen, Fredricksburg, Va. native.

    Mr. Serf Man love your sentence about luntz-o-gram.

  • DKF on July 26, 2011 7:11 PM:

    a $2.4 trillion blank check

    Really? How can a check be for a specified sum and be "blank" at the same time?

  • Werewolf on July 26, 2011 9:22 PM:

    "Blank check" is dog whistle for "n***er on welfare wants to buy a Cadillac".

  • Atlas on July 26, 2011 10:54 PM:

    I saw a "tell Sherrod Brown" ad on my TV tonight with the "blank check" nonsense in it, so I assume the Crossrove Gps folks gave it to Boehner. That man doesn't come up with much on his own. The lights are on, but no one's home.


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