Hillary Clinton's Hornswoggling
Submitted by pmcarpenter on Sat, 05/03/2008 - 7:40am. P.M. Carpenter
THE FIFTH COLUMNIST by P.M. Carpenter
Now come 150 prominent economists from the nation's finest universities to tell John McCain and Hillary Clinton that they are idiots.
In an "open statement" of response to the racketeering swill of a "gas tax holiday" now being foisted on this vast Republic, economists find themselves in uncommon agreement, but only because the proposal is so uncommonly stupid. The academics, in their statement, had a technical term for it: "a bad idea," which, also quite uncommonly, they dispatched with brevity:
First, research shows that waiving the gas tax would generate major profits for oil companies rather than significantly lowering prices for consumers. Second, it would encourage people to keep buying costly imported oil and do nothing to encourage conservation. Third, a tax holiday would provide very little relief to families feeling squeezed. Fourth, the gas tax suspension would threaten to increase the already record deficit in the coming year and reduce the amount of money going into the highway trust fund that maintains our infrastructure.
Signers of this letter are Democrats, Republicans and Independents. This is not a partisan issue. It is a matter of good public policy.
But of course it is a partisan issue -- more notably for Sen. Clinton. McCain's coronation is all but official; he didn't really need to pull this ugliest of demagogic rabbits out of a hat at this time. Plus, this is the sort of fiscal insanity that comes naturally to Republicans, especially leading ones.
The economists know that. Had Sen. McCain been the only presidential candidate to propose the "holiday," they would have merely shaken their heads and said, "It's just John talking." There would have no forthcoming statement of socially scientific disgust.
For Sen. Clinton, however, these are the most desperate of hours. Every couple weeks or so she gets yet another chance to prove to superdelegates that she is indeed willing to do or say absolutely anything in the course of clawing her way to the top, if, indeed, doing or saying absolutely anything is what it takes.
"Toughness" has been redefined by the New York senator: it now means (which is to say, she hopes you believe it means) demagogic groveling of the worst sort -- be it promises to "obliterate" an entire people overseas or simply bamboozle the homefolks. The word isn't so much "shameless" as it is "shameful," and God bless these 150 economists for poking their usually cloistered noses into her shameful business.
I will admit that the assignment of higher blame is a difficult task. Hillary, it could be argued, it is only doing what representative democracy quite naturally leads to and the founders most feared: the hornswoggling by the few of the great many ignoramuses, whom professionals who study this stuff rather delicately call "low-information voters." The founders just called them "the mob," and they are indeed a frightening bunch.
Roughly 62 million of them marched to the polls in the last presidential election with the singular intent to reinstall the demagogue in chief who had been humbugging them for four years already. It is the Indiana and North Carolina residents among these 62 million whom Hillary now beckons. They are her only hope; but lucky for her, they often come in swarms.
There's no doubt that Hillary has studied the demagogic playbook of the White House's current occupant. For nearly eight years he has defied the better insights and advice of military professionals, scientific professionals, legal professionals, foreign policy professionals and economic professionals. He has been "tough" -- he knows his own unschooled mind and he has rebuffed them all. And, until the last year or two, the mob swooned in admiration.
Why? Because Mr. Bush simply dismissed the knowing insights of the professional crowd and instead played on the worst fears and cheesiest of aspirations of these "low-information voters," who, if they can just be whipped into a sufficient frenzy, constitute a majority. They are always willing to believe whatever taxes their minds the least.
Or their pocketbooks.
Even I can understand that. What I cannot understand, however, is that they're also willing to believe that the pol who is so brazenly duping them is only doing so in their best interests -- that he, or she, in this case, is just one of them who deeply feels their pain and is willing to risk professional judgment just to pull their uninformed butts out of the fire.
Tuesday's two-state results won't change the ultimate Democratic outcome, but it will give us some indication of the democratic state of things -- whether, that is, most voters have learned anything at all from the last eight years.
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THE FIFTH COLUMNIST by P.M. Carpenter