Spinsanity: Countering rhetoric with reason
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Posts - May 28-May 31

5/31 - Brendan: Democrats go inflammatory on energy (permanent link)
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California Democrats are going off the rhetoric charts to avoid being blamed for the state's energy problems. After Governor Gray Davis vacillated for months, he has now shifted to railing against the energy companies, in part due to focus groups and polls showing that most Californians blame the utilities. But it is Davis's associates who have really crossed the line.

First, Davis hired former Clinton/Gore spinners Chris Lehane and Mark Fabiani. Fabiani promptly declared that "we are literally in a war with these out-of-state generators." As Howard Kurtz said in the Washington Post, literally?

Then, California's Democratic Attorney General Bill Lockyer offered this choice quote about the chairman of an energy company: "I would love to personally escort (Enron Chairman Kenneth) Lay to an 8-by-10 cell that he could share with a tattooed dude who says, 'Hi, my name is Spike, honey.'" And Lockyer has subsequently elaborated on this quote, which essentially condones the rape of Lay.

Related items on Spinsanity:
-Bryan Keefer, "Powering Up the Rhetoric", 5/21 column
-Bryan Keefer, "Faking an energy crisis?", 5/11 post
-Brendan Nyhan, "Nuclear nonsense", 5/22 post

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5/30 - Bryan: Daschle-bashing 102 - Armchair psychology and the "energy crisis" (permanent link)
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Normally, criticizing the National Review Online for its rabid use of nasty rhetoric is like shooting fish in a barrel. Yet occasionally from its place at the vanguard of conservative vitriol, the magazine will help highlight emerging techniques of spin from the right. So it is today with a piece on today's edition by William Hawkins which links pseudo-psychological Daschle-bashing with "energy crisis" fluff.

Hawkins attacks Daschle's positions on energy by repeatedly referring to what he alleges are the Senator's psychological problems, claiming broadly that"Sen. Daschle's fears prevent him from learning the lessons of experience." He also refers to Daschle's "phobias," says Democratic leaders are "deathly afraid of politics," calls the new Majority Leader "terrified" of nuclear power, and asserts that "Daschle would rather lead his party back to the 19th century (or perhaps the 18th) where everything seems more cozy and safe."

Meanwhile, Hawkins stumps for the Bush energy plan in a completely disingenuous way:

What seemed lost on the senator is the reason Americans have such a high share of the world's energy demand: We produce a high standard of living. Does Daschle think this is "wrong?" We are also quite capable of meeting that demand for energy. In contrast, low energy demand is associated with underdevelopment and poverty in most of the rest of the world. Is that what wants here?

He also informs us that Democratic leaders have been "captured by the Luddite philosophy of the environmental extremists [and] they have lost faith in American ingenuity and now fear further economic development."

Note the cute slight of hand here with regards to energy policy: Bush's plan is assumed to be rational, and therefore any opposition to it is irrational. At one stroke, Hawkins can discredit any argument opposing the adminstration's plan and claim anyone making such arguments is mentally ill.

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5/29 - Brendan: Hillary II and civics lessons for pundits (permanent link)
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A case for the sorry state of American political discourse this weekend:

Exhibit A - Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal brings back the old campaign against Hillary Clinton, comparing her to the monster in "Alien" and calling her - unbelievably - "a threat to the Republic". Noonan also calls Clinton's dissenting votes against two Justice Department nominees "aggression" despite the fact that she was the only senator to vote against either nominee.

You lock the door and [Clinton] comes in the window, you lock the window and she comes up the floor boards. This is like "Alien"--she lives in Tom Daschle's stomach. Just as the music gets soft and the scene winds down you hear the wild "Eeek! Eeek!" and she bursts out of Tom and darts through the room.
Mrs. Clinton signaled her new aggression within hours of Mr. Jeffords's announcement. When the Senate, on Thursday, overwhelmingly confirmed Viet Dinh and Michael Chertoff as assistant attorneys general, Mrs. Clinton cast the only vote against either man. Were her reasons serious, or spiteful? You decide. Both men were lawyers with the Senate Whitewater Committee.
All this is a threat to the Republic. But in a narrow sense it is also a gift to the GOP base, to the party's hackocracy, to those Republicans on the street who've never really been comfortable sitting back and just hoping Mr. Bush will do well. They can now jolt awake with the super charge of adrenaline that only Hillary--Eeek! Eeek!--can give them.

Exhibit B - Steve Dunleavy in the New York Post attacking "Jim 'Judas' Jeffords" for "sabotaging last year's Electoral College result".

In the coming months, as Californians eat their tofu by candlelight and the energy police tell Barbra Streisand to turn out lights in her castle, I pray for one thing.
And that is that Jim "Judas" Jeffords goes to the wilderness of Alaska, camps out, freezes his rear end off, hugs a tree and plays catch with a polar bear.
Jeffords, as reward for sabotaging last year's Electoral College result, has been gifted by the Democrats to head the Senate committee on the environment.

Let's unravel this for a second. Dunleavy is obliquely making a claim that Bush's Electoral College victory entitles him to a Senate majority and that Jeffords is therefore sabotaging that majority by leaving the Republican Party. Think about how absurd this is. Bush lost the popular vote so any claim of a mandate for a Congressional majority is questionable. And, leaving that aside, the Electoral College doesn't elect the Senate. Time to send Dunleavy back to high school civics.

The prosecution rests (for today).

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