The Republican National Convention is over and I for one am exhausted. You see, I’m considered a polished researcher. Facts and figures are my stock and trade and I’ve long prided myself in being able to back up the opinions proffered with at least three independent sources. Public figures and politicians alike have hired me to ghost write speeches and short remarks on their behalf, primarily because I understand the power of words and language and understand the impact they can impose on others and truth is something I prize above all else. One politician in particular hired me to extract him from remarks he had made about the gay community that landed him on the national news. A short statement was prepared and forwarded to his office. Within 5 minutes, my phone rang and an angry United States Congressman was on the other end to ask if I’d lost my mind. He said, “You’ve just reversed what I’ve always said. You’re asking me to stand up and say I was wrong.” To which I replied, “You were, Sir. Dead wrong. And offensive.” His voice bellowed into the phone, “Do you understand that you are addressing a member of the United States House of Representatives?” I replied, “Yes, Sir, I do. And I’ve voted for you five times because I believe in you. I respect you, but on this? On this, you were just wrong. When you’re right, I defend you with everything I have. When you’re wrong, I never hesitate to call your office to tell you so. And Sir? Please understand I’ll continue to poke you with a sharp stick every time you do. It’s how I express my affection for you.” There was a brief silence and when he came back on the line, it was as if all the air had been let out of him. “Good answer, Carol. Good answer.” Within the hour, he had called a press conference, delivered my words verbatim and the controversy was over as quickly as it had begun. And why? Because he had thought about it and realized the intellectual dishonesty of his position and knew that in the end, he had created his own angst based on fear. Once he released the false premise upon which his position had always been based, he was free to move forward. The public, realizing that his fear was more a generational issue and not one based on hatred, were quick to forgive. I ran into that Congressman two weeks ago and we laughed over the whole affair. He thanked me for having the courage of my convictions. The truth really does set one free.
I shared that anecdote with you to help you understand intellectual dishonesty. Simply, when one avoids an honest, deliberate and comprehensive approach to a matter because it may introduce an adverse effect on personally and professionally held views and beliefs, that is intellectual dishonesty and that was the pervasive theme of last weeks’ Republican National Convention. I don’t think the people who spoke were stupid or even malicious, rather, they conveniently disregard fundamental economics, particularly for those at the lowest end of the income scale. These are educated, learned people, many of whom have been better educated than myself. They’ve studied the same economic reports, understand entitlement programs every bit as well as I and yet they completely disregard those realities because they are ‘inconvenient’. Poor people, the unemployed, the homeless, veterans, women and minorities are inconvenient in the America they are trying to build and I will share some examples with you.
Let’s start with Ann Romney. She spoke at
length about her humble beginnings with her husband. She spoke of the many nights eating tuna and pasta on a door laid across two sawhorses while they lived in a basement apartment. But the reality is, he was the son of the Governor of Michigan and she was the daughter of the Mayor of upscale Bloomfield Hills. Both had attended exclusive private schools and both had been raised in privilege. She had previously told how they “had to sell stock” to get by and in her speech, she was sharing how she related to the experience of the average American woman. There was an intellectual dishonesty about that statement, however. Two young people with millionaire parents and some of Daddy’s stock they could sell to get by is hardly the average American experience. I doubt their parents would ever have let their utilities be turned off, let them go hungry or permit them to do without much of anything. I was watching that speech along side a young single mother who works two jobs and still can’t make ends meet. She won’t accept any form of public assistance because she says, “Look at the way these people are talking about anyone who can’t make it alone. I’m not lazy and I’m not looking for a handout. I just want to get by. I want my kids to have decent clothes on their back and have enough to eat.” As she was talking, I looked down at her shoes. They were worn, split and dirty and I’m betting they were the only ones she owns. I wondered how many pairs of shoes Ann Romney had in the closets of her numerous homes, as she stood there talking about how much she related to the American experience of motherhood in her couture dress. Yes, the RNC was a beauty pageant as one politician after another got up and told America how hard their parents or grandparents had it. Not how hard they had it, but how hard their ancestors had it. Listening to them, you’d think every last one of their parents were coal miners and housekeepers scrubbing other people’s toilets. Does Ann Romney sincerely believe she knows what it’s like to be genuinely hungry and under the threat of being homeless? Hardly. But listening to her was a lesson in intellectual dishonesty.
One after another, Republicans stood before America and bemoaned the deficit, blaming it squarely on the shoulders of President Obama, conveniently leaving out the policies of their own party that got us into this mess. Willard Mitt Romney smiled into the camera claiming he wished the President had been successful, conveniently failing to share the story of how, even as President Obama was being sworn in, his own party had met in private to conspire to crash his presidency and if need be, the country right along with it. They like to talk about how the President has “gutted” Medicare to pay for his ‘failed’ Obamacare socialized medicine. They conveniently fail to tell you that $716 billion dollars in cuts is wasteful spending within the program – and it’s the very same cuts Paul Ryan proposed. They also left out the part about it not being socialized medicine. Never before have the previously serving President and Vice-President of their own party been so conspicuously absent. President Bush was treated as a persona non grata at the convention. That’s probably a good thing, given that the hurricane that significantly shortened their convention was headed toward New Orleans on the seventh anniversary of Katrina devastating that city. When we think of Katrina, we all see President Bush with his arms around the FEMA director telling him he was doing a ‘heckuva job, Brownie.” Of course, we knew immediately, that the entire Gulf Coast had pretty much been left to their own devices and we all witnessed how that turned out. We also got to hear all about how our 236 year-old Democracy was in danger of toppling in a mere three and a half years at the hands of our President – while conveniently leaving out the salient details of the Congressional conspiracy to make sure he failed at all cost – even if it meant toppling our Democracy. That’s intellectually dishonest.
Paul Ryan’s speech was a little tougher. That wasn’t so much intellectual dishonesty as it was perhaps a record-breaking string of misinformation and out and out lies all put together in a single speech. This is what a bald-faced liar looks like.
What I’ve learned about intellectual dishonesty is that it’s contagious. When presenting the average Fox-News gobbling sheep with actual facts, they just resort to the alternate universe where they begin making things up on the fly. I’ve long referred to these people as the American Taliban. In the HBO series “Newsroom”, my newest addiction to the best writing on television today, the Tea Party best summed up by anchorman Will McAvoy in the following way:
During the endless GOP debates, I listened in horror as the audience booed a gay serviceman, cheered the idea of leaving the uninsured to die, killing as many people on death row as quickly as possible, child labor, torture of political prisoners and the idea that, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself. When Willard Romney mentioned compassion for the poor and afflicted the other night, that portion of his speech was met with the resounding sound of… crickets. It makes me wonder when basic compassion died in America.
I’d also like to address the intellectual dishonesty of those who label themselves “independent voters”. Often, they love to regale me with their intellectual superiority for not supporting either party because, in their words, “they’re all the same”. That sort of lazy thinking is disturbing to me because one needs eyes, ears and a pulse to understand that is patently untrue. Being so gutless because you love having both sides pander to you for a vote isn’t an informed position at all. If there are any ‘independent voters’ left out there, I’d be fascinated to learn why you’re still sitting on the fence, especially women who self-identify as Independents, since the GOP platform says you’re so stupid, you need to have government make laws about every facet of your sexuality.
But while the GOP had made an out of context comment of the President the centerpiece of their convention, claiming they built everything on their own, the persistent theme of their speeches was about how, if you just work harder, you can make it in America. You too can get your little piece of the American dream. You and I both know the dream of upward social mobility is slipping away. 43% of those born into the poorest households will remain in the poorest households, while only 4% will make it to the richest. Conversely, 40% of those born into the richest households will stay there. Only 8% of them will ever know poverty the way the bottom 43% will. The lesson: those born rich stay rich and those born poor stay poor. That fact has never been truer than it is today. Republicans will have you believe this is not the cause of the excesses of capitalism or the irresponsibility of American finance or even the way big business has rigged the system in their favor. They want you to believe that Barack Obama has turned this country into a nation of people with their hands out, palm extended heavenward, waiting for a gub’ment check. The President has done everything in his power to put forth a jobs plan, repair our crumbling infrastructure and promote green energy and green jobs – all things the GOP have previously proposed. But because he was the one to ask for it, Congress said no. They claim President Obama has attempted to make each of us ‘less American’, less desirous of earning our way in the world. And while they slap him around for invoking he name of George W. Bush and his disastrous presidency, they never fail to interject the name of Ronald Reagan, the architect of trickle down economics. When you have to invoke the name of someone who was president 30 years ago, your ideas suck. They’re convincing the Fox News crowd that their American dream is being robbed by lazy minorities who don’t want to work. Conveniently leaving out that 2.6 million more Americans are living in poverty since last year while less than 8,000 more are on welfare is intellectually dishonest.
I watched Melissa Harris-Perry on Saturday morning. She lost it when a Conservative economist insisted that wealthy people deserve everything they get because they “take risks”. “Poor people turn into Dairy Queen, while job creators take risks.” The fun begins at about the 8-minute mark. She blasted her guest and talked about what real risk looks like. While she was visibly shaken after the blow-up, her point was spot on.
I’d like for the GOP to walk a mile in the shoes of my friend.
Carol Baker is a political writer, satirist, and co-host with Vicki Childs of our Here Women Talk weekly internet talk radio show called BROADSIDED. You can hear their show every Thursday at 11 am Eastern/10 Central/8 Pacific
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