Ouch. Ouch. And Double-Ouch


Ouch. Ouch. And Double-Ouch! It seems the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is finally getting nailed for its endlessly mendacious memo about Social Security privatization. You’ll remember that this is the memo in which the NRCC instructed GOP House candidates to bully reporters out of using the term ‘privatization’ to describe Republican policy on Social Security reform, claiming the label was a misleading slur concocted by Democrats, when in fact it was the term all Republicans used until a few months ago.

Today Paul Krugman called them on it in the Times. This afternoon Tim Noah called them on it in Slate.

But perhaps most damning was a piece published on Wednesday by Ramesh Ponnuru in National Review Online

The Republican memo is a piece of brazen historical revisionism. It pretends that the word “privatization” was invented by Democratic spinners and then accepted by a gullible media. It makes no mention of the incontrovertible fact that “privatization” was the term used by many Republican (and other) advocates of personal accounts until it turned out that the word didn’t poll well.

Now Ponnuru does argue that ‘privatization’ isn’t really the best label to describe what Republicans want to do. It wouldn’t be so bad, he says, if the NRCC flaks had “written a memo saying that a lot of people, including themselves, had carelessly used the word ‘privatization’ in the past but that it should henceforth be avoided by all participants in the Social Security debate.”

So Ponnuru thinks ‘privatization’ isn’t the best label. But he frankly identifies the rank dishonesty of the NRCC’s memo.

Now, there area a few other points I’ve learned since writing about this earlier this week. This isn’t the first time the NRCC has tried this scam. They tried it less energetically in May with a similar (or perhaps identical) memo. And The New Republic called them on it then. What’s more, NRCC Chairman Tom Davis went on Meet the Press last Sunday, following up on the August 26th memo. And it seems that once you really get your ‘lying about Social Security‘ groove on, it just comes really easy. Davis said, among other things, that “President Clinton embraced [private accounts] at one point as you recall.” In this universe at least, that never happened. (A nice breakdown of Davis’ Meet the Press appearance can be found here if you scroll down a bit.)

I don’t like the frivolous use of the word ‘lie’ for what are merely misstatements or exaggerations. It’s a cutting and harsh word. But these are lies. They are multiple and repeated and intentional. And they all come from NRCC Chairman Tom Davis — who might fairly be called the Vin Diesel of public policy mendacity, or the first practitioner of Extreme spin — or his subordinates.

Now, these recent zinging mentions by columnists are like so many banderillas, those innocuous but enraging beribboned darts that a matador ceremoniously slips into the bull’s neck before he really lets him have it.

So the question is, which daily reporter with access to Davis will ask him what credibility he can possibly have on Social Security — or anything else, for that matter — when he has presided over a campaign of what liberals and conservatives both agree are lies.