Objection! Republican Talking Points & Prior Inconsistent Statements

objection_zoomMore and more, we’re hearing conservatives on the internet complaining about practices that, if true, they either cheered or excused under Bush. This is what we law-types call a “prior inconsistent statement” — it’s admissible nonhearsay! — and it’s the holy grail of trial lawyering. What better way to make your opponent look like a complete fool, than with his own words? To the best of my knowledge, then, a complete list of policies & practices that the right wing is all of a sudden outraged by, but conveniently forgot for eight long years —

“Astroturfing” — Using “Plants” to Make a Movement Look Like a Grassroots Effort, When It’s Not

  • The Accusation: Democrats are falsely accusing Republican “tea party patriots” of building a fake movement when, in fact, it’s the Democrats that’re building their own fake movement! Why, that whole town hall thing yesterday was FAKE.
  • The Truth: Republican activists are building a top-down movement, both in strategy and substance. Obama appears to have hired organizers, but not actual supporters.
  • The Inconsistency: the Bush administration raised “astroturfing” to an art form (remember Monday’s “Daily Show”?). Apart from hilariously adoring plants, not just Cheney, but the RNC in general, screened visitors to RNC events, and forced them to sign “loyalty oaths” before being admitted. Even soldiers.


  • The Accusation: Obama is creating too many ministers-with-portfolios/czars, overly concentrating power in the executive branch. Thanks, Glenn Beck!
  • The Truth: that’s true, to a point. Obama has appointed a number of senior policy specialists, but their actual power varies from position to position. In most cases, they’re Senate-confirmed, or purely advisory. Either way, not too worrisome.
  • The Inconsistency: setting to one side the question of its necessity and efficacy, Bush’s Department of Homeland Security is one of the biggest bureaucracies ever created. Ever. If Republicans have serious concerns about executive mega-agencies, their lateness in raising the concern makes it reek of partisanship, rather than legitimate criticism.

The “Enemies List”

Deficit Spending

  • The Accusation: President Obama is wildly expanding the bureaucracy, with plans of more to come, and spending us desperately into oblivion.
  • The Truth: well, that’s kind of fair. He is doing both. The only difference between him and Bush on this front, so far, appears to be that his spending is part of a Keynesian recovery plan like the New Deal, while Bush’s was more reckless, spur of the moment, and heedless of the danger it was creating.
  • The Inconsistency: that’s basically it — if Republicans really care about stopping deficit spending, they’re about 20 years late to the party. It was President Reagan who first plumbed new depths of deficit spending, and it took a tax hike under Bush I, and controlled spending under Clinton, to stabilize the budget again. Of course, Bush II ruined that overnight, as even conservatives will tell you. Deficit spending is definitely something to worry about, sure, but the only President to take it seriously in the past quarter-decade is Bill Clinton, Democrat and, we hope once the crisis is over, Barack Obama, Democrat. Liberals may be “tax & spend,” but conservatives, at least in practice, are “___ & spend,” which is arguably much, much worse.

Fry suicide booth“Death Panels”

  • The Accusation: President Obama’s health care plan will mandate euthanasia for the elderly, or un-productive members of society, thus clearing the way for his socialist utopia (I think?).
  • The Truth: again — just no. Nothing like that is anywhere near the bill, it’s hard to imagine anyone, ever proposing it, and it’s beyond dishonest to suggest that the Democrats have.
  • The Inconsistency: guess what? The “death panel” provision was added to the bill by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and he, obviously, thinks the the tempest that’s grown up around the run-of-the-mill provision is junk. Senator Isakson, you see, is one of a vanishing breed — the type of politician we used to be known as a respectable, intelligent Republican. Sadly, today, the habitats of respectable, intelligent Republicans are increasingly threatened by carnivorous monsters like Governor Unemployed Facebook-Poster Sarah Palin.

Inflammatory Rhetoric, Then

  • The Accusation: all the Democrats did for eight years was call Bush a “Nazi,” a “tyrant,” etc.! Talk about mob violence!! It was okay for them, but now it’s not okay for us?!
  • The Truth: some did, and it was never okay for them. Most didn’t. The “Bush=Nazi” line was never mainstream.
  • The Inconsistency: on the contrary, the “Obama=Nazi” line is quite mainstream among Republicans and Republican allies, and, yes, among some deranged leftists, too. The “liberal fascism” line has come from Bill O’Reilly, Karl Rove, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, and Jonah Goldberg/National Review — all of whom, incidentally, are mainline conservative spokespersons, with aggregated viewership in the tens of millions.

Inflammatory Rhetoric, Now

  • The Accusation: Nancy Pelosi and Democrats in general are “censoring” dissent by calling opponents of health care reform unpatriotic, or un-American!!
  • The Truth: false; see this earlier post.
  • The Inconsistency: check the same post for a complete list of links about Republicans who’ve traded on the “liberals hate America/aren’t patriotic” line, or, just search your recent memory. Synopsis — Republicans are experts at delegitimizing or containing dissent. The same instinct is foreign to Democrats. True fact.

I don’t mean to say that Republicans are somehow estopped* from fighting against principles or policies that they once erroneously advocated. Rather, I welcome them to the fight, when and if it comes. But in almost all of these cases, the Republican outrage is both manufactured and selective. Logically speaking, that’s just not a winning combination.

* = “Estopped” is a real word, I promise.


  1. The main reason I am doing my best to avoid all of this nonsense is because of silliness like this. Democrats are behaving like the GOP did under Bush and Republicans are outraged. Republicans are acting like Democrats did for 8 years and Democrats are calling them crazy. It’s just one big retarded circle jerk.

    I know you mean well Ames but when you have to so heavily nuance your defense of Obama, it loses a lot of steam. And the GOP is doing the same thing when trying to justify opposition tactics they criticized under Bush.

    It’s really just a symptom of the insane partisanship that has infected politics in this country. I can barely stomach it anymore.

  2. I don’t see myself making a nuanced defense, and I don’t see how the DNC is acting like the Republican Party did, unless you accept as true a billion scurrilous rumors, manufactured outrages, and baseless whining. That’s why I took pains to point out that the rumors about the DNC are wrong AND inconsistent. Indeed the problem has been, and remains, the demons on your side of the aisle (though I don’t deny my own side’s demons, they’ve been blissfully silent since February). When’s the last time you heard a mainline Republican — any one of them — make an intelligent argument against health care? In all the noise about spying, death panels, and all the rest, I don’t see a chance for honest argument to triumph, which is, I can only imagine, their plan from the start.

  3. The administration asked for people to forward troublesome emails to the Whitehouse. Democrats are calling healthcare opponents traitors. Both sides are slinging ‘Hitler’ around. The administration has taken the Bush detention policy and actually put it on steroids. I could go on. And Republicans are turning into whiny babies which is exactly how the DNC sounded circa 2001.

    Most of your defenses of Obama sound like, “Yeah, sorta, but…” There’s at least a kernel of truth in almost everyone of the points the opposition has made about the administration and that’s worth criticizing, not defending.

    I fear that for your generation (and I’m about a generation ahead of you) Obama is going to be like Kennedy. You all invested so much effort into him and put so many hopes and dreams on him and a lot of you actually helped campaign…and so you are going to always mount these defenses that ignore reality.

  4. In all of the cases you cite, the “kernel” of truth is enough to trick the paranoid into freaking out — nothing more. Admittedly Obama & his administration could do a better job of not handing the conservative, uh, “movement” incidents that can be built up into contrived “issues,” but that’s their only fault, and I don’t consider the fault of respecting your opponent enough to trust them to be mature to be much of a fault at all. A politician should be able to trust his political opponents to contribute to, rather than deliberately sidetrack debate, but the GOP keeps failing to meet even this meager expectation. This is the problem with a party based on fearmongering — after a while, they don’t know how to do anything else. The truly sad part, though, is that that’s enough for some Americans.

    1. If we’re talking about ‘fear-mongering’ let’s just look at a little bit of the rhetoric from the Bush years:

      The government is going to wiretap everyone.

      Bush is going to engineer a crisis so he can stay in office.

      The Iraq war was about oil, not WMDs.

      To hear liberals talk during the Bush years I was expecting stormtroopers to come through my door any day. And that’s what i am talking about…it’s the over-exaggeration, alarmism that has taken over our politics today on BOTH sides of the aisle.

    2. Hahahhahahaha. Great!

      1. The Bush administration DID wiretap everyone, over the express objection of his own Department of Justice. Except Bush didn’t do anything to bring it about; it was all Cheney. Count TWO rumors proved right.

      2. No-one serious, popular, or mainstream actually said that. On the contrary, the GOP’s worst fearmongers are the entire team of Fox News, whose ratings continue to increase rather than decrease.

      3. It was not about WMDs. We were right about that. What it was about, I guess we don’t really know, except maybe war for the sheer joy of it, and to prove the neoconservative theory of nationbuilding correct. I’ll count that rumor as half-proven.

      I don’t deny that the left had its loons. We did! Code Pink, etc., were an embarrassment to the left and indeed to America. But they, the periphery, never dominated or subsumed the center-left, as is plainly happening to American conservatives right now. You need look no farther than Lou Dobbs, mainstream news anchor, proclaiming loudly his doubts about Obama’s legitimacy as the President.

      1. I think you’re downplaying the size of the loony Left during the Bush years. You’re also downplaying the alarmism that came, not just from the loons, but also from mainstream pundits (chris matthews, olberman, etc). There has been a serious role reversal in this country since January and the only thing it has proven to me is that the roles of majority and minority seem to follow a predictable script.

        1. Olberman’s a new phenomenon, and I agree, he’s as bad as Rush Limbaugh. One Rush Limbaugh. Your side has like eighty just like him, or shades worse.

          1. Conservatives are just better at talk radio/TV. can’t fault us for that. Believe me, if there was a market for liberal talk radio, it would be just as big.

          2. Disagree. Liberals have our talk radio in the Daily Show, etc., and they’ve always been left of center, yes, by a long shot, but no where near as extreme and bat shit insane as Limbaugh.

          3. linusbern · ·

            Not to inject myself into your private chat, but I find this notion of equating Olberman and Limbaugh to be absurd and utterly dishonest. The only similarities are that they express outrage, have egos, and have a definite political slant. Beyond that, Limbaugh will lie and invent and distort and slander and insult with no sense of shame whatsoever. You could not realistically make that statement about Olberman.

            1. I think it’s a fair comparison for the simple fact that they make me equally nauseated.

      2. That was the thing that disapointed me the most during the Bush years. Most of the things I feared, were the things that happened.

        Torture, unchecked wiretapping, suspension of habeas corpus.

        That being said, those things Obama hasn’t done much about.

      3. That’s a big hypothetical Mike.

        I worry that we have so much media that normalizes some of this behavior that’s not really there for the left.

        Say what you want about Olberman, he doesn’t have nearly the clout or ratings that many of the people on Fox have.

        And the style of news that traditionally has been vilified by conservatives as the liberal media, doesn’t have call to action to it’s viewers.

        1. [Like!]

          Oh, this isn’t Facebook…

  5. To better explain what I mean, I’ll give you what I understand to be the course of debate on healthcare:

    OBAMA: Here’s this bill I wrote.
    GOP: That’s socialism!!!!11!111!!111!
    OBAMA: Okay, uh, I guess? Moving on, any substantive concerns about it? I’m trying to make it deficit-neutral, but that’s a hard job t—
    OBAMA: Wow. No. Just no. Have you even read the bill? One of your guys wrote that provision, and proposed it back in 2007, even if he’s not man enough to defend it today. Okay, let’s try something new — hey, audience. If you hear any crazy rumors, can you send them up this way, so I have a chance to correct any misconceptions before they become entrenched into the subconscious? Just like we did during the election — remember the “Fight the Smears” site? Let’s do that again.
    GOP: YOU COMMUNIST NAZI. You’re trying to get us to report on our neighbors when they deviate from your communist Nazi health care agenda!
    OBAMA: Uh, ok… wow. I really expected that to go differently. I’ve got to learn to lower the bar, clearly. Let’s try something different. I’m going to hold a town hall meeting tomorrow. Y’all should come and ask me questions directly so I can respond. That way we bypass the opinion makers who delight in derailing my attempts to engage you all, and we’ll see how that goes.

    Enter crowd. Town hall debate occurs. Crazy questions ensue, but Obama explains himself. Exeunt crowd.

    OBAMA: Okay. How was that? Do you see what I’m getting at now?
    GOP: YOU STACKED THE TOWN HALL WITH YOUR SUPPORTERS. ASTROTURF. Also, check out this gun I brought for no reason!
    OBAMA: Okay. Huh. I’m going to go talk to the grown-ups now.

    Exeunt stage left, Obama and GOP. Lights dim. Screen above stage shows inauguration of President Rick Santorum. Scene ends, screen rolls back into the stage arch. Enter stage right, ghost of George Washington, weeping, ghost of Thomas Jefferson, somber, ghost of Alexander Hamilton, pleased with himself, and ghost of King George III, grinning.

    GHOST OF HAMILTON: You see?? I told you this whole democracy thing was a farce! These people are morons!
    GHOST OF JEFFERSON: (shakes head) You’re right. I owe you an ale.

    Exeunt stage right, all but ghost of Washington. Washington, now alone, weeps silently for approximately twenty seconds. Fade lights.

  6. We could change the names and a couple other details and it would sound like the Social Security debate in 2005.

    1. Eh, I don’t remember enough about that to be sure. But I DO recall, I think, that social security reform was pretty broadly opposed on both lines, and skepticism proved prescient, based on the current state of the capital markets.

      1. And healthcare reform of the kind that Obama is talking about is pretty widely opposed. Did you see how many hands went up when McCaskill asked who in the room was opposed to any federal involvement in healthcare? I would say at least 75%.

      2. Yes, the GOP has done a remarkable job of packing its people in those events. Polls continue tos how skepticism, yes, but nowhere near that high.

        1. So if the answers go against healthcare, it’s because the GOP packed the room. If they are in favor of healthcare, that’s democracy in action?

        2. No. The poll numbers as in an actual representation of the populace were against social security reform. The poll numbers as in an actual representation etc. are for but questioning health care reform. Apples & oranges.

  7. It kinda comes down to this:

    Democrats were saying, “Bush IS doing X and Y, which are unconstitutional/illegal, and he won’t even respond to internal investigations. Maybe impeachment proceedings are necessary.”

    Republicans are saying, “Obama wants health care reform, and that makes him an evil person, unfit to be president. Also, socialism is essentially un-American.”

    And think about it this way: the Republican mob is freaking out about health care – something that yes, might cost them more, but is being done to help people, Americans. They believe the issue is worth becoming unruly and actually threatening people. How does this make sense? The response is absolutely disproportionate. I do not agree with that assessment of Democratic outrage during Bush’s tenure.

  8. Well said Kris. I’ve enjoyed this private little war, to be rejoined at a later date, after I get off a plane :-)

    new contest: most star trek episode titles worked into one comment wins a pony

  9. ACG, maybe we can mesh our scenarios together and make millions in hollywood!! I wrote this on another site where the bloggers are equally bat shit insane:

    maybe, just maybe, gore in cahoots with obama sent those girls(Ling and Lee) over to North Korea, told them to cross the border and get caught by NK.

    then, after a few months of pretend hand wringing, secret talks with lil kim begin, suggesting he request clinton to come to NK. in exchange, we’ll lighten up on the nukes. clinton, in cahoots now with gore and obama and lil kim, enlists the aid of steven bing so as to use his jet. { conveniently picking him, because his dad worked in public health in the LBJ administration (so far removed, who’d ever think that up!!)}

    clinton goes to get the girls, who have secretly been living in the lap of luxury in NK, brings them home and in the end everyone is happy because obama gets his healthcare passed!!!

    the crazies there actually thought i was serious!!!

  10. As someone who actually lived under a communist government, albeit at an early age and a government in death throes, I find this political squabble both amusing and disturbing.Indisputably, both sides have crazies who engage in this kind of counterproductive and hypocritical finger pointing. The difference, as set forth by Kris above, is that much of liberal crazy along with legitimate concerns, stemmed from specific actions by the Bush administration as opposed to the perceived threat. That some of the actions of said administration were twisted in light of surrounding events by some crazy groups (read 911 Truthers) is a different issue.

    I also tend to agree with Ames that the conservative fringe element is much more mainstream, although my evidence for it is purely anecdotal. My social circle inevitably includes people of various political persuasions (which makes for very interesting birthday parties), most of which are highly educated, some Ivy, etc. Fringe views, such as “death panels, socialism, Obamanazi, have been expressed by those highly educated people of conservative persuasion, whereas “Bush/GOP = bad” is the worst I hear from my liberal educated friends.

    I grew out of my libertarian stage sometime ago, and continue to recoil in horror at a thought that maybe libertarians were right all along and Dems/Republicans got it all wrong. Of course, at this point my political views are much more complex to be able to clearly identify with any single party.

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