Through a combination of fear and fervor, Republican leaders in Congress and in the presidential campaign have lined up behind a radical new strategy in which all major decisions are made under threat – to shut the government in April, to implode the economy in July, to cut off money for the Federal Aviation Administration in August .
The Tea Party did not come up with this strategy. Although several of its elected members said they would never vote to raise the debt ceiling, it was John Boehner, the House speaker, who in May devised the fatal formula that President Obama would have to agree to cut more from the spending than the amount of the debt-limit increase. This nonsense finally won the day .
You see, in the cloistered world of the New York Times editorial board, pushing “to cut more from the spending than the amount of debt-limit increase” is “nonsense.” Plainly, the Times is not interested in reasoned debate. Indeed, for some time, its leading columnists have taken the name-calling approach.
This, for example, is what Joe Nocera had to say in an August 1 piece titled “Tea Party’s War on America”:
You know what they say: Never negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them.
These last few months, much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people. Their intransigent demands for deep spending cuts, coupled with their almost gleeful willingness to destroy one of America’s most invaluable assets, its full faith and credit, were incredibly irresponsible. But they didn’t care. Their goal, they believed, was worth blowing up the country for, if that’s what it took . For now, the Tea Party Republicans can put aside their suicide vests. But rest assured: They’ll have them on again soon enough. After all, they’ve gotten so much encouragement.
And no one beats Paul Krugman when it comes to demonizing anyone benighted enough not to recognize the superior wisdom possessed by Mr. Krugman and his colleagues. “Republicans,” he wrote in a July 28 column, “have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy” and Democrats should have rejected this “extortion.” He went on to say,
Some of us have long complained about the cult of “balance,” the insistence on portraying both parties as equally wrong and equally at fault on any issue, never mind the facts. I joked long ago that if one party declared the earth was flat, the headlines would read “Views Differ on Shape of the Planet.”
…[W]hen reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault.
Instead of empty invective and censorship, why don’t Messrs Kerry, Nocera and Krugman mount a truth squad and put the tough questions to those who believe spending should be cut, taxes should not be raised and that there must be a balanced budget?
Then again, maybe they have good reason to avoid reasoned debate.