Recently, Britt Hume took material form to go on Fox News Sunday and imply that the BP oil spill was not really a big deal. “There’s a good question today if you are standing on the Gulf,” the former anchor said, “and that is, where is the oil?” In addition to baffling Juan Williams in an extremely amusing fashion, Hume seemed to be arguing that media reports of thousands of gallons of crude forming an oil slick larger than Delaware were somehow exaggerated. “The ocean absorbs a lot,” he kept saying, after pointing out that the largest source of oil in the ocean is “natural seepage from the ocean floor.” That’s true, in the same sense that the largest source of cocaine in our daily lives comes from residue on dollar bills. That doesn’t stop the plume from damaging our synapses/making us spend hours talking about what cable television will be like in the future, though.
Yesterday, in our discussion of whether stupidity provides a natural barrier to participation in democratic politics, we linked to an article describing Michele Bachmann’s mildly disastrous appearance on Fox News Sunday. After lamenting that “one hundred percent of the private economy used to be private,” Bachmann alleged that federal interference in private industry is at an all-time high, and that the US government now controls “over 50% of the private economy.” Who knows what’s really going on in the nest of old newspapers and children’s drawings of Jesus that Representative Bachmann calls a head, but it appears that when she says “private economy” she means “domestic economy.” It also appears that when she uses the word “control”—as in, “the US government now has direct ownership or control over the health care industry,”—she means “regulates in some way.” Bachmann says a lot of things that sound terrifying when taken literally, and she backs them up with numbers. Here she is running down the same talking points on Face the Nation:
Scary, right? The federal government controls 51% of the economy, it owns half the mortgages in the country, 30% of doctors intend to leave the practice of medicine now that Obamacare has passed—all of these numbers describe an America in dire straits. Fortunately for us, they’re also made up. Bachmann’s tour of news show appearances to warn us about creeping socialism is built primarily on “facts” she got from chain emails or fabricated entirely, and while that sort of thing might fly on Fox News, CBS don’t play that. It turns out they have a whole staff of people whose job it is to find out whether the stuff people say on their television show is actually true, and Bachmann did not do so hot.
Yesterday we mentioned the warning that Sarah Palin issued, via Twitter, on the eve of the House health care vote: “Shocking new questions re:whether military healthcare plans r protected under Obamacare. How will underpaid troops afford their own purchase?” First of all, never was a medium so suited to an author as Twitter is to Sarah Palin. With its forced mangling of syntax, its elision of subjects and verbs, and the impossibility of backing statements with evidence built into its form, Twitter is to Palin was the aphorism was to Friederich Nietzsche. Second, the “shocking new question” to which Palin was referring was whether the TRICARE health benefits program for members of the military and their dependents would satisfy the insurance mandate that passed as part of Sunday night’s vote. The answer is: yes, obviously. TRICARE is health insurance—really good health care insurance, issued by the federal government as part of a single-payer system that stands as an argument for the public option Palin so vehemently opposes. The House bill specifically states that TRICARE will satisfy the mandate, and the White House issued a statement in August assuring us that TRICARE benefits would not be affected in any way by proposed legislation. The Senate version of the health care bill, however, does not specifically exempt TRICARE recipients from the mandate—just as it does not specifically exempt congressmen—and that’s what Sarah Palin is so terrified about. Won’t you allow her to terrify you?
Those of us from Iowa used to lament that our Republican senator, Charles Grassley, had become the face of opposition to health care reform. Why did the most recognizable Iowan in national politics have to be a wizened elf who accused every bill of providing free abortions to immigrants and kept assuring us that the Death Panels were in there somewhere? I, for one, wished that someone else—anyone else—could serve as Iowa’s delegate to the national imagination. That, boys and girls, is why you must never wish. Representative Steve King (R–IA) has fulfilled our longings in the most ironically disappointing way possible. Sure, Chuck Grassley is an asshole, a stubborn hick whose Twitter feed read “Barb made oatmeal,” on the day his committee abandoned the attempt to reach bipartisan consensus on health care reform. But yesterday Steve King called for the overthrow of the United States government. Apparently Congressman King has forgotten where he works, along with a bunch of other important information that might otherwise have allowed him to make a useful contribution to the operation of America. In speaking to the Huffington Post, he called for a peaceful takeover of Congress similar to Prague’s Velvet Revolution, and likened the state of our country to that of Czechoslovakia under Soviet communism. “It is very, very close,” he said. “It is the nationalization of our liberty and the federal government taking our liberty over.” Which raises a lot questions, not the least of which is whether Representative King knows what that word means.
It’s been a bonanza week for news commentators, with earthquakes, tell-all books, people saying “negro” two years ago—everything that makes a vibrant political discourse thrive. The big news, though, was that a certain someone jumped from national electoral politics to the big show: cable news commentating. When Bill O’Reilly welcomed Sarah Palin to Fox News, he told her that she had acquired a powerful tool, a bigger megaphone that she could at last use to shout back at her critics. The implication was that being a Fox commentator was a position of greater power than being governor of Alaska. And was he wrong? Sarah Palin is more popular now than she was when she had the full might of the Republican Party behind her. Rush Limbaugh has outlasted the Contract With America, three Presidents and presumably dozens of minor coronaries. And Glenn Beck can’t think. Powerful men all, and it’s hard to argue that they wield less influence over the American people than do Pelosi, Boehner and Reid. Perhaps that is as it should be. I, for one, welcome our new and increasingly bloated masters, and urge them to form a new government of Real Americans and questionable analogies to Hitler just as soon as they can. Won’t you join me in considering the beautiful world they’re creating? No? Okay, back to cat videos, then. I’ll see the rest of you after the jump.