I'm not sure if Nancy Pelosi is playing smart politics or she's lost her mind. I'd like to think it's the former.
It's true, the Simpson-Bowles commission report has turned into something larger than a failed effort at deficit reduction. It has attracted a cult following among DC insiders, like Rep. Jim Cooper, who has lionized it as That Thing That Should Have Passed But Didn't, as if they actually agreed on the recommendations.
So Nancy Pelosi does an interview with Charlie Rose, who has apparently joined The Cult of B-S (Bowles-Simpson), and Rose pushes her all over the place on the Grand Bargain during the debt ceiling debacle, before pushing her hard on The Great B-S report, and after endorsing it as having "good bones," she says this:
The Republicans and Democrats -- it was bipartisan -- brought a version of Simpson-Bowles to the floor last week, but it was more of a caricature of Simpson-Bowles and that's why it didn't pass. If it were actually Simpson-Bowles I would have voted for it.
Really? She would have voted for something that touched Social Security even though Social Security isn't even a budget or deficit problem? Why? She would have raised the Medicare age because why?
Here's something I learned from David Corn's new book, Showdown: Senate Democrats were told at an early 2011 strategy session that voters were focused on deficit reduction and they'd better be too.
But the lawmakers had left Washington not to relax but to cogitate on the issues they would confront in the coming year. One session that would stick the most with many of them was not led by a policy expert but by Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who had one major point to impart: you have to be serious about deficit reduction or the voters will not listen to you.
Garin based this warning on polls and focus groups, that showed voters supporting deficit reduction as the major pathway to job creation. We can thank right-wing message muddling for that misunderstanding, but nevertheless, there it is. As Corn put it:
They had imbibed the GOP message: the problem with the economy was governmental red ink.
And that message led to the bottom line:
But Garin measured voter perceptions, not whether voters were correct. And he told the senators that voters would not listen to what the Democrats -- including the president -- had to say about jobs and investments if they did not sense that the Democrats were willing to wrestle the debt monster to the ground.
Clearly the Senators heard this, as did the White House, which is why there was the laser-like focus on the deficit. Not that it made a difference, since in the long run, it just doesn't matter what Democrats do. If they're for it, Republicans will oppose. In everyday life, we call that "oppositional defiant disorder." In politics, it's just standard operating procedure.
So when you hear Nancy Pelosi talking about the Grand Bargain in these terms, think in that context, and then think about her conclusion:
"It was a way to say we are serious about this, we can govern. And they walked away from that."
Charlie Rose is operating on the same false equivalence spectrum as the rest of the Villagers are in this interview. He's aggressive with Pelosi, nearly blaming her for the failure of the Grand Bargain and raising accusatory eyebrows over her failure to bring Bowles-Simpson to the floor despite the fact that it never had the votes to even escape the committee. He does this without acknowledging at any time, in any way, that Republicans have made this country ungovernable, and they've done so simply as a cynical effort to raise their own political capital.
They are hoping at the end of this term people will be fed up with the constant conflict, the inability to get anything through this congress and the obstructionism, that they will throw their hands up in the air and blame...Democrats, including this President. This is what they have staked their electoral futures on.
If Rose and his cohorts had a clue on this, they'd start asking those questions of the Paul Ryans and Mitt Romneys out there crowing over their willingness to not just cut Medicare, but gut it. Yet, what we get is Charlie Rose scolding Pelosi for not being more full-throated about the B-S commission.
With all of this in mind, I think digby is absolutely right:
The only good news here is that if Nancy Pelosi says that Simpson-Bowles is a terrific plan, you can bet that the Republicans will double their efforts to oppose it. Hopefully, Pelosi was being more clever than we think.
Yes. Because that's a part of making the country ungovernable. If Pelosi loves it, it's evil. If it's evil, Republicans oppose it. If they oppose it, they count on passing the blame off to their opponents, the Democrats.
The only question left in my mind is whether or not the electorate has been so dumbed down by the idiocy of false equivalence journalism that they will believe what's being shoved down their throats by a group of evil, ugly, cynical, self-serving politicians.
In his speech to the AP Editors yesterday, President Obama reminded them about life in DC:
I guess another way of thinking about this is -- and this bears on your reporting. I think that there is oftentimes the impulse to suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing, then they're equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and an equivalence is presented -- which reinforces I think people's cynicism about Washington generally. This is not one of those situations where there's an equivalence. I've got some of the most liberal Democrats in Congress who were prepared to make significant changes to entitlements that go against their political interests, and who said they were willing to do it. And we couldn't get a Republican to stand up and say, we'll raise some revenue, or even to suggest that we won't give more tax cuts to people who don't need them.
And so I think it's important to put the current debate in some historical context. It's not just true, by the way, of the budget. It's true of a lot of the debates that we're having out here.
Take heed, Charlie Rose. And let's please try to shift this discussion of deficit hawkery to something more realistic and reasonable. Imagine what might happen if your questions concerned what might happen to the country if taxes were raised to pay off the national debt. Imagine what might happen if even one of you -- JUST ONE -- actually mentioned the fact that the deficit is higher under this President because he honestly accounted for the costs of destroying Iraq and Afghanistan for the past ten years. Imagine what might happen if journalists stopped being slaves to false equivalence and actually started searching for the truth.
Why, we might actually be able to have an honest conversation about a way forward. How about that?