Thanks to Labor Day, and its celebration of money-grubbing union goons, it has been a month since I last was able to write Plain Hokum.
In looking back on the last month, I thought now might be a good time to finally reflect on the name of my column. “Plain Hokum” comes from a Harry Truman quote that I am particularly fond of.
I am sure most of my readers are familiar with a large swath of President Truman’s most famous quotes, but for those few of you who are largely unacquainted with our 33rd President, I will provide the full context: “It's plain hokum. If you can’t convince ’em, confuse ’em. It’s an old political trick. But this time it won’t work.”
For those of you not conversant in the vernacular of the day, “hokum” pretty much means “garbage” or “bull excrement.”
Over the past month there has been an almost absurd amount of hokum being thrown around, and the GOP candidate, as well as his running mate, are doing their absolute best to make Harry’s quote as relevant as possible. The past month proves that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are actually attempting to “confuse ’em” all the way to the White House.
I will start at the GOP convention, specifically Congressman Ryan’s speech. In the speech, Ryan argued that the stimulus was a complete waste of government funds, the greatest threat to Medicare is a second Obama administration, the President was solely responsible for the failure of the Bowles-Simpson proposed budget plan and the President failed to keep open a GM plant he promised to save four years ago.
The truth, in order:
Ryan is the architect of a plan to end Medicare as we know it and turn it into a voucher program — where seniors are given money to buy private insurance on a private market.
Ryan also sat on the Bowles-Simpson committee … and voted against the eventual proposal.
The GM plant Ryan admonished the President for failing to save closed while President Bush was in office. In response to the announcement that the plant would close, Ryan showed his free-market, small-government conservative principles by quickly voting for a federal bailout of the auto industry in response to the plant closing.
It was a marathon of misdirection by the Vice Presidential nominee, a performance almost as impressive as the marathon time Congressman Ryan lied about posting during a radio interview a week after the convention.
Following Ryan’s speech was the man himself — Governor Mitt Romney. There was one particular line that struck me in his speech.
Romney looked out over the convention and proclaimed, “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet,” pausing as the room broke out in laughter, then he delivered the punch line, “My promise is to help you and your family.”
I sat back in my chair, looked at my friend Adam, and as if Romney was standing before me said to the T.V. “Come on, Mitt … seriously?”
2012 has been the hottest year on record, each of the past 15 months has seen above-average temperatures — something that has never happened before and nine of the 10 hottest years on record have all happened in the past decade.
In light of all this, the official position of the Republican nominee for President is that dealing with climate change is at odds with “help[ing] you and your family.”
That about takes us up to the last week.
The past week has seen the Muslim world up in arms in protest of a film depicting Muhammad in an incredibly disrespectful way.
In response to the film, radicals stormed the U.S. embassy in Egypt and a consulate in Libya. Before the actual attacks began, and without approval from the Obama administration, an embassy worker tweeted a statement condemning the film. As an angry crowd gathered outside the embassy, one can hardly blame the worker for attempting to placate the crowd, but even in doing so the worker paid homage to the “universal right to free speech” of Americans — condemning the film but not the right of the filmmaker to produce it.
As the dust settled and word came back that four Americans had lost their lives in the attack in Libya, Mitt Romney and the GOP establishment shamelessly pounced.
Romney released a statement condemning the Obama Administration’s “sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks.”
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter ordered a secret military operation in an attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis. The mission failed, and resulted in the deaths of eight Americans. When faced with the opportunity to attack Carter, the Republican candidate for President at the time, Ronald Reagan, issued the following statement:
“This is the time for us as a nation and a people to stand united.”
The difference in the two candidate’s statements highlights the frighteningly radical nature of the Romney campaign. It used to be there were no politics to be had when Americans were under attack abroad. But given Romney’s behavior over the past few weeks, what else could we have expected?
Governor Mitt Romney used to be considered a sometimes overly-careful, technocratic, moderate Republican.
Over the past few weeks, we have been given the opportunity to see who candidate Mitt Romney is. He’s a man who will say anything to get elected, regardless of how true or appropriate it is.
Perhaps Romney’s pollster Neil Newhouse summed up his campaign’s ethos best when he remarked that they are “not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”
Sadly enough, that might be the most honest assertion the GOP nominee’s campaign has made so far.
Noah Karr-Kaitin is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be reached at email@example.com. Plain Hokum appears alternate Mondays this semester.