Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Moderate" Republicans

By Frank Moraes

When it comes to Republican pundits, I'll take an extremist over a moderate any day. At least I know what the extremist believes. The moderate is as likely as not to be a Trojan horse. Read the likes of David Brooks or Michael Gerson. If we went by what they claim to believe, they would be conservative Democrats. Why be "moderate" Republicans? To begin with, there really is no such thing as a moderate Republican. Look in the dictionary for "moderate Republican" and it says, "See Blue Dog Democrat." These supposed moderate Republicans are nothing more than extremists who put a "happy face" on conservatism. They are a kind of political apologist -- making vile policy sound reasonable.

Jonathan Chait deconstructed both of these pundits on Friday. David Brooks spent his column on Thursday asking why we can't all just get along. His answer: all those extremists on the right and left. He notes that for certain conservatives, the answer to every problem is a tax cut. And for certain liberals, the answer to every problem is a tax increase on the rich. Chait notes that this is not true. Democrats have not been pushing for higher taxes other than up to the Clinton era levels while Republicans have not even been happy with the two Bush tax cuts -- they want even more!

Chait didn't discuss a very slippery part of Brooks's comparison. I will admit that I personally (and I would never be elected to government office so it hardly matters) would like to see the top federal income tax rate raised to 50%. And I would like to see the Social Security cap eliminated. So it is true that some liberals would like to raise taxes on the rich a bit. But conservatives don't want to lower taxes in a general sense. Conservatives only care about lowering taxes on the wealthy. They lower other taxes simply to justify this goal. By stating it as Brooks did, he distorts his point from the beginning.

Next up for Chait was Michael Gerson, or as I like to think of him: the bleeding heart neocon. Gerson didn't invent cognitive dissonance, but he sure as hell perfected it. But don't get the wrong the idea; he doesn't need cognitive dissonance; he has such deep wells of untapped denial, he's considering partnering with Exxon. In his column on Thursday, Gerson was disappointed that Paul Ryan has not been clear that his policies wouldn't hurt the poor. Because we (and by this, I mean moderate and not-so-moderate Republicans) don't want to hurt the poor. They care about the poor. When a child goes to bed without dinner, Michael Gerson's feet bleed.

So Gerson wants to know why Paul Ryan didn't just come out and say what Gerson knows in his heart: Paul Ryan would never harm the poor! Luckily, Jonathan Chait had an answer:

He wants a specific assurance that Ryan doesn't plan to roll back government at the expense of the poor and vulnerable? We already have a specific, written assurance that it will come at the expense of the poor and vulnerable. That assurance is called "the Ryan plan." It details absolutely enormous cuts to programs for the poor. And it's not like Ryan was backing away from those cuts in his speech. The Ryan poverty speech was about how throwing poor people off their government-funded nutritional assistance and health care would force them off their lazy butts and make them go get a job, plus private charity something something.

I'm sure now that Chait has explained this, Gerson will see the error of his ways: "Right! Right! Jobs and Salvation Army!" I'm sure his feet will have only bled for a moment!

It is really important to be vigilant against these "moderates." There's no way a Rush Limbaugh or a Todd Akin will take over the country. But a "moderate" who speaks softly and carries an extremist stick? I've got one letter for you: W.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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