The nut in question is Lt. Col. Terry Lakin, who was foolish enough to get arrested for failing to obey his superiors orders. As Dowd tells it, Lakin vowed to disobey what he called illegal orders to deploy to Afghanistan because he did not regard Obama as a legitimate commander in chief.
Sadly, Lakin is such a nut that even Dowd was able to spot it. Lakins court-martial started at Fort Meade this week, with Dowd on hand to observe.
The birther movement has helped us see how foolish we the people can be. In our view, the lessons we can learn from this episode should be more widely discussed. Unfortunately, some of our biggest national pundits have had their own problems with the logic of this matter. Relentlessly, Chris Matthews has bungled the logic of this situation, suggesting that the president wouldnt be a citizen at all if hed been born in a foreign country. We thought of that repeated bungling when we read this unfortunate passage from Dowds new column:
DOWD (12/15/10): [T]he Birthers, who had come from all over the country to the trial, stood by their man.
Literally, in the case of Kate Vandemoer, a 55-year-old blogger and hydrologist from North Dakota, who rose with Lakin when he offered his plea.
Some argued that whether Obama was born in Hawaii is not really the point; the point is, hes not a natural-born citizen. You must be born in the U.S. with two parents who are U.S. citizens, they explained. Obama, they argued, has a dual allegiance that makes Americans sitting ducks.
His father was a British Subject, said a pamphlet passed out by Vandemoer. He believes he is a Citizen of the world.
Is that contention accurate? To qualify as a natural-born citizen, must a person be born in the U.S. with two parents who are U.S. citizens? Presumably, that isnt accurate; after all, no one contends that Obamas parents were both American citizens. But you know Dowd! She repeated the claim, then let it stand. Especially in a matter as fraught as this, that is extremely bad practice.
Doesnt every journalist know that you shouldnt simply repeat bogus claims? Trust us: Given the way our discourse works, Dowds recitation of this claim will only drive the claim onward.
Maureen Dowd spotted a nut this week. Then, she repeated his dogma.
WELL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS (HILTON) (permalink): Foolish fawning has been widespread as congressional votes on the tax deal draw near. In this mornings New York Times, Michele Bachmann takes a familiar type of tack as she fawns to conservative voters, explaining why she plans to vote no on the pending measure.
Jennifer Steinhauer offers the news report. In this passage, Bachmann says shell vote no on the proposed deal. Reason? She can imagine voting on a measure that is different and better:
STEINHAUER (12/15/10): Aides to House Republican leaders said they still expected a sizable majority of their members to vote for the legislation. But each defecting Republican represents another Democrat who must be swayed to vote for the billwhich has already been decried by many in that caucusand adds to the public relations problem for the legislation, which neither party has promoted as a thing of beauty.
Representative Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, is against the package, said her spokesman, Sergio Gor. She would like to see an up-or-down vote solely on extending tax cuts without other conditions, Mr. Gor said. Also, weve heard there are earmarks in there. It is turning into a Christmas tree with a bunch of ornaments.
Bachmann would like to see an up-or-down vote solely on extending the tax cuts! In one way, we can sympathize. Here at THE HOWLER, wed like to see President Obama find a big sack of money in the woods; with that money, wed like to see him pay off the national debt. But in fact, Obamas isnt going to find that sack of cashand there isnt going to be an up-or-down vote on extending the tax cuts. But so what? Because she can imagine something better than the choice with which shes confronted, Bachmann slips off the hook with conservatives. Conservatives purchase the con.
Darrel Issa offers a similar type of dodge as this report continues:
STEINHAUER (continuing directly): Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, the departing chairman of the House Republican Conference, told a conservative radio show host Tuesday that I will not vote for this tax deal when it comes to the floor of the House of Representatives."
Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, fiercely criticized the bill in a news release as an incomplete effort that fails to create a permanent tax structure, and he hinted that he might not vote for it.
In this passage, Issa is fiercely upset because the bill fails to create a permanent tax structure. Of course, the bill fails to do many other things; to cite one leading example, it fails to reveal a cure for cancer. Presumably, Issa has voted for many bills which fail to create a permanent tax structure. Today, this failure is cited as a reason to vote against this bill.
Should people be voting for this bill? That is a matter of judgment. But time is running out on this congress. There is little time to craft a new deal; most likely, solons have a choice between the provisions of this bill and the status quo, under which all tax rates will rise on January 1. If this measure is voted down, its possible that some other measure will arise before adjournment. But that new measure wont create a permanent tax structureand it wont provide an up-or-down vote solely on the tax rates.
Are Bachmann and Issa making sense? The solons can always argue as follows: Rather than accept this deal, theyll take their chances with whatever deal might emerge in the new Congress. But weve been struck by the bogus arguments which have emerged on the liberal side as the vote on this proposed deal draws near.
Consider a bit of nonsense from last Tuesdays Maddow show, with economist Simon Johnson as guest. Instantly, Johnson denounced the deal; he said that, because it expands the deficit, the deal is completely irresponsible. This presentation flew in the face of the long-standing liberal contention that the economy needs more short-term deficit spending. But Maddow largely skipped that point. Instead, she confronted Johnson with a remarkably pointless question:
MADDOW (12/7/10): If you could be economic dictator for a day, if you had $900 billion to devote to trying to make the economy better, trying to bring down unemployment in particular, what would you spend that $900 billion on?
JOHNSON: Well, I would pay teachers. We got states and local governments laying off employees, particularly teachers. That really hurts us immediately and over the long run across the country. Thats devastating.
I would expand community colleges. Thats where the unemployed go to get retrained, go to get the new skills they need in the modern economy, skills they dont have.
And, of course, I would properly extend unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits, by the way, are going to remain at this 99-week limit. So in Nevada, for example, theres 96,000 people who are about to run out of benefits. The agreement today does nothing for those people. Theyre still out of benefits.
If Johnson were installed as dictator, he could imagine a better way to spend that $900 billion. But so what? There is no chance that hell be so installedand theres no chance that a program like the one he envisioned could possibly pass into law at this point. This was a nice theoretical discussion; this discussion would have made perfect sense at various points in the past several years. But it evaded the actual questions bearing down on the congress at present: Is the proposed deal better than no deal at all? What are the odds that a better deal will emerge if it gets voted down?
Its easy for liberals to chuckle and laugh at the fawning of Bachmann and Issa. But alas! We now have major liberal entities devoted to providing that same sort of entertainment to us liberal rubes. In the past week, various liberals have inveighed against the proposed budget deal because they can imagine something better, just as Bachmann and Issa can; for one example, read this post by Robert Reich at Salon. Reich seems to be against the deal because he can imagine a better use of the money. But: Assuming that his ideas are brilliant, is there any chance that his preferences could pass into law?
Should the proposed budget deal pass? That is a matter of judgment. That said, the fawning has been rather general in the days since the deal was proposed. Our favorite nonsense came from someone we always want to likeRepresentative Jan Schakowsky, holding forth against the deal on the December 10 Maddow show (transcript not yet posted). Schakowsky prefers a (slightly) higher tax on estates, which is perfectly fine with us. But uh-oh! Apparently, well always have Paris when our solons fawn:
SCHAKOWSKY (12/10/10): What we need to do is for the House Democrats to come up with a proposal that the Republicans are going to be able to buy, because they have to, because the American people are simply not going to tolerate the notion that were going to give awaythe estate tax. Think of thisif someone leaves an estate of $1 billion, under their proposal, they would gain $100 million over what the Democrats are proposing for the estate tax. ImagineParis Hilton will be able to get an extra $100 million under their plan!
Its obscene. Its absolutely an offense to us and to most Americans.
For the record, Schakowskys math wasnt quite correct. But she found it obscene to think that Paris Hilton could gain an extra $100 million under the proposed deal, which applies a 35 percent rate to estates, as opposed to the 45 percent rate House Democrats had been proposing. Of course, very few people leave billion-dollar estatesand their heirs would gain an extra $100 million under the House Democrats plan, as opposed to what would be left under the rate which obtained under President Clinton (55 percent). Does that make Schakowskys proposal obscene? By the way: Theres little evidence in the polling that most Americans hold the views Schakowsky attributed to them. (More on the estate tax tomorrow.)
Alas! When people step forward to fawn, we will always have fiery language. It now seems that well always have Paris (Hilton) as well.
Its easy for liberals to see the fawning conducted on the other side. The larger problem is the silly bad faith widely displayed on our own. For decades, conservative voters have been treated like rubes by very famous talk radio stars. In the last few years, our side has been rapidly catching upand the silly, fawning nonsense has become much more general.