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October 05, 2012

Liar, Liar

"You lie!"

The classiest way to respond to anyone you disagree with.

- Urban Dictionary

Remember when, "You Lie!" was an outrageous and disrespectful breach of protocol? Or was it shocking vestige of Jim Crow-era racism? Perhaps the best way to describe it was, "beyond the pale - bad manners" that eventually resulted in a reprimand from the House of Representatives. It took only a few years for "beyond the pale" to become business as usual. For reasons the Editorial Staff can only guess at, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Mitt Romney of lying and not paying his taxes for a decade (never mind statements from his accountants and a former IRS commissioner to the contrary), no apology was offered and there was no censure for Reid's profoundly uncivil and dishonest attack. Perhaps the difference is that Joe Wilson had the courage to challenge Barack Obama to his face, while Reid's "You Lie!" outburst was uttered at a safe remove. Whatever the process, one thing seems clear: accusing one's political opponents of lying is no longer beyond the pale. And if you can utter a few outright falsehoods of your own in the process, so much the better:

President Obama made fun of Mitt Romney's debate call to cut off federal dollars for PBS at a rally in Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday.

"When he was asked what he would do to actually cut spending and reduce the deficit, he said he'd eliminate public television funding," Obama said. "But I just want to make sure got this straight. He'll get rid of regulations on Wall Street -- but he's going to crack down on Sesame Street."

Two problems with Obama's latest close encounter with the facts:

1. In the very same debate where he promised to cut PBS funding, Romney ardently defended regulation:

MR. LEHRER: All right. So, to finish quickly, briefly, on the economy, what is your view about the level of federal regulation of the economy right now? Is there too much, and in your case, Mr. President, is there — should there be more? Beginning with you — this is not a new two-minute segment — to start, and we'll go for a few minutes and then we're going to go to health care. OK?

MR. ROMNEY: Regulation is essential. You can't have a free market work if you don't have regulation. As a business person, I had to have — I needed to know the regulations. I needed them there. You couldn't have people opening up banks in their — in their garage and making loans. I mean, you have to have regulations so that you can have an economy work. Every free economy has good regulation..

2. According to the Executive VP for Sesame Workshop, neither Sesame Street nor Big Bird are dependent upon public funding:

Sherrie Westin, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Sesame Workshop, told CNN on Thursday morning that regardless of who is in the White House, the show will remain.

”Sesame Workshop receives very, very little funding from PBS,” she said. “So, we are able to raise our funding through philanthropic, through our licensed product, which goes back into the educational programming, through corporate underwriting and sponsorship. So quite frankly, you can debate whether or not there should be funding of public broadcasting. But when they always try to tout out Big Bird, and say we’re going to kill Big Bird — that is actually misleading, because Sesame Street will be here.”

But never mind those pesky facts. Never let it be said that this President isn't willing to fight for anything :p

Posted by Cassandra at October 5, 2012 11:52 AM

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You probably saw Maureen Dowd's column suggesting that the main thing Obama needed to memorize for the next debate was the phrase, "Governor, you're lying."

That'll be interesting to deploy following the Joe Wilson debacle that you cite. It would be remarkable if the President should attempt to stand on an accusation of lying, having allowed his defenders to assert that it was utterly wrong, indefensible and racist for such an accusation to be pointed at him.

Not that Wilson was wrong, at the time, either factually or morally. He was only giving the President back what he was already freely distributing.

Posted by: Grim at October 8, 2012 10:42 AM

Something tells me Romney will be prepared for that approach, after reading the approximately 4 billion OpEds shrieking about it.

I expect to hear more Presidential rhetoric along the lines of "Well, if you want a society where heart attack victims are left lying in the street, just vote for Romney." If Obama were more pragmatic, he'd work harder on understanding what his opponent actually was proposing and why it's attractive to a lot of voters, but I doubt we'll see that happen.

Posted by: Texan99 at October 8, 2012 02:50 PM

I think Romney is prepared for the 47% attack; he immunized himself from it late last week by repudiating it while he was on a high. Now, if he's hit on it, he can say, "I have to agree: I misspoke. Those remarks were wrong, and I have been persuaded by the counterarguments of Senator Jim Webb and others that I needed to rethink my position."

Posted by: Grim at October 8, 2012 03:08 PM

I think that Romney missed the target a bit with the remark that a "free market" needs regulation. That is a bit contradictory.

What he could say in the future is that a totally "free market" is not possible these days, to conform to our ideas about fairness and the rule of law.
That regulation, to some degree, has to make the markets conform to our ideas about what is fair for all and is consistenc with Constitutional Law.

From there, he could launch into what was wrong about the government interferring with the bankruptcy mess of GM and Chrysler as they did, and the cram down on the Senior Bond holders, which was an "illegal" taking. Because that surely was not in the interests and consistent with Constitutional law and contract law, which is derived from Constitutional law.

Honest businesses need the law to be fair, consistent and transparent to all to let markets function fairly. When the government puts its big greasy thumb on the scales in favor of certain companies and outcomes, we have neither a fair or in any ways a free and lawful market place.

And again, this is the underlying principle behind "ObamaCare", or the ACA. There is no pretense to creating anything like a fair and lawful well regulated market. It is meant to ultimately wreck the insurance companies and in a generation force everyone into a government single payer system.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at October 9, 2012 09:22 AM

One of the things that annoy me about dogmatic conservatism is the notion that "free" markets should be free of regulation.

I thought Romney nailed it - free markets should be free of excessive regulation that picks winners and losers, but markets need some regulation to protect property rights.

Law is a natural response to the conflicts that arise from competing interests. To think that an immensely complex global market system needs no regulation doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me (I know you're not arguing this, Don). A proper use of government regulation is to protect property rights and punish or discourage criminal behavior. An improper use of government market regulation is to pick winners and losers or direct profits to one's political supporters.

And then there are regulations that are in the mushy middle: regulations that shore up the banking infrastructure that makes global markets possible. Reserve requirements and the like. The truth is that we don't understand complex markets all that well, which is why we should be slow to regulate them. But I don't think a total hands-off policy makes much sense either.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 9, 2012 09:42 AM

The problem is that the debate here is unmoored from reality. We're talking as if the options were "no regulation" or "regulation."

In fact, there is no possibility of "no regulation." Since 1995, the Federal government alone has averaged 3,500 new regulations a year. That means that nearly seventy thousand new regulations have come to be in that time. These new regulations run to around 81,000 pages a year.

So we're not really in a position to debate an unregulated market. We're not even in a debate about whether we should have "more regulation" or "no additional regulation." The best we can hope for, unless a gargantuan change comes to Washington, is a slight slowing of the pace by which new regulations governing our lives are issued.

Posted by: Grim at October 9, 2012 02:32 PM

Anyone interested in the realities of Wall Street regulation should read former FDIC chairman Sheila Bair's memoir, titled "Bull by the Horns." She has plenty to say negative about politicians in both parties, but is especially scathing on Timothy Geithner and what she sees as his extremely preferential treatment of Citigroup. (She doesn't think much of Citi CEO Vikram Pandit, either, nor about former Citi chairman and Washington heavy hitter Robert Rubin.)

What we are seeing is sort of reverse Bills of Attainder, in which favored institutions (and even entire industries) are the recipients of vast benefits almost entirely outside the normal operations of law and government.

Posted by: david foster at October 9, 2012 09:57 PM

The problem isn't regulation, it's "Regulation".

The proper role of regulation is exactly what the word says: to make things regular: i.e. consistent, uniform, standard. What we have instead is "Regulation": to be beset with rules and laws.

Most conservatives (and even some libertarians) don't mind (and even support) the former, but abhor the latter. I've never heard anyone complaining about regulations which require all packaged food to list the ingredients in descending order of amount.

But regulation over how much CO2 you produce isn't about providing consumers, investors, taxpayers, etc a consistent and uniform method/metric for evaluating a businesses activities so that they know how to make their own choices, it's about helping somebusinesses and hurting others to produce what the regulators see as the proper outcome. The consumers, investors, and taxpayers choices be damned.

Conservatives rail against regulation and think of the latter. Liberals, however, hear the former.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 10, 2012 10:40 AM