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Friday
Aug052011

John Kerry Deconstructed: Tea Party "Literally Ready to Cut the Baby in Half," So Media Should Censor It

Senator John Kerry supports budget cuts and he supports censoring those who advocate them -- he said so on an uncensored broadcast.

This clip of Senator John Kerry on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on August 5 begins with Kerry saying that the debt deal's spending cuts are "barely a scratch on the surface of what we need to do." He then goes on to sound like a budget-cutter, before, predictably, launching into a promo for the creation of a new government program.

Then the Washington Post's Ezra Klein asks Kerry if a partial payroll tax holiday could get through Congress. Rather than reply directly, Kerry goes on an impassioned rant against the news media giving coverage to the Tea Party point of view. He accuses the Tea Party of not caring if the nation were to go into default, which he phrases as an accusation that limited-government Members of Congress were "literally willing to cut the baby in half."

(A default, of course, was not going to happen, even if a rise in the debt ceiling had not taken place, since tax receipts presently exceed debt obligations by many orders of magnitude.)

On the media coverage complaint, Kerry says, in part (5:13 on this video excerpt):

And I have to tell you, I say this to you politely, the media in America has a bigger responsibility than it's exercising today. The media has got to begin to not give equal time or equal balance to an absolutely absurd notion just because somebody asserts it or simply because somebody says something which everybody knows is not factual. It doesn't deserve the same credit as a legitimate idea about what you do. And the problem is everything is put into this tit-for-tat equal battle and America is losing any sense of what's real, of who's accountable, of who is not accountable, of who's real, who isn't, who's serious, who isn't?
My deconstruction:
1) Kerry would have the media, not the voters or the general public, deciding what constitutes credible policy. He sees the media not as reporters but as gatekeepers whose job it is to control the public. He clearly is frustrated, even angry, that the news media is not more aggressively liberal than it is.

2) Kerry doesn't appear to notice that the Tea Party is asking for the same thing he is in this interview: spending cuts and structural reforms in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. My theory to explain why he is complaining about people asking for the same thing he claims to want is that he doesn't really want these cuts and reforms and has been mouthing the words about them so long he no longer perceives their meaning. Either that or he's lost his mind.

3) Note that Kerry calls for the news media to reduce its coverage of Tea Party advocates, not to ask them tough questions. The latter would expose weaknesses in Tea Party arguments, but Kerry doesn't seek that. Is this because Kerry secretly believes the Tea Partiers are correct? Combined with what I noted in #2, it seems he might, though whether he has admitted this to himself is a separate question.

4) Kerry himself, when he has the opportunity to ask a Tea Party advocate a tough question, ducks the chance. Maybe not always (any examples out there? feel free to email them to me if they exist), but take, for example, the video of Senator Marco Rubio discussing the need for budget cuts just last week. Kerry interrupts Rubio twice with questions (7:43 and 9:44 in the Rubio video), but avoids discussing the deficit and debt in favor of discussing debt limit votes of past years.

5) Kerry says (at 5:11 in the Kerry video) "You have to change the minds of those people in the House of Representatives who have appropriately focused on the deficit, and debt, but completely inappropriately have left out any kind of plans whatsoever for how you grow jobs and grow America... Yes, the Congress was taken hostage, the country, the economy was taken hostage. You had people there who were literally ready to cut the baby in half." The politics is pretty adept here. He knows the public supports the budget cutting, so he pretends to be a budget cutter but, verbally at least, immediately pivots to jobs. The limited government Tea Party conservatives do in fact have job creation plans, but Kerry doesn't mean for what he says here to be literally true -- as shown by the fact that he claims Tea Partiers "literally" want to cut the baby in half. He doesn't actually mean that literally. Nor did Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz when she claimed in June "...now you have the Republicans, who want to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws...." Politicians use the word literally in ways alien to the rest of the population.

6) For all that it's alarming to have a senior Senator of long-standing support censoring the opposition, this is not a meme unique to Senator Kerry. For years now, believers in the man-made apocalyptic global warming theory have blamed the news media for covering the good points made by skeptics, rather than reply to skeptics on substance. Skeptics believe this is an acknowledgement of the merits of the skeptics' criticisms. As Kerry argues for (but does not in practice support) budget cuts and entitlement reforms himself, the same dynamic appears to be at work in this instance.

Kerry, amusingly, once again plays to the stereotype of himself ("the haughty, French-looking Kerry, who by the way served in Vietnam") made popular by James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal and others. In this interview, Kerry defined the job creation problem as largely stemming from Europe and calls upon the President to convene a meeting with European leaders in order to solve it. That would give the President and any Senators who dropped by the meeting a nice photo op, but it wouldn't get the job done.

The entire MSNBC interview of Kerry, excerpted for discussion purposes in the video at the top of this post, is on the MSNBC website here.

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