WE do not do Shorters, alas:
Best of all for those of us who admire the political craft was the speech’s seductive nature and careful ambiguity. Obama threw out enough rhetorical chum to keep the liberals happy, yet he subtly staked out ground in the center on nearly every substantive issue in order to win over the moderates needed to get anything passed.
First, Obama rested the credibility of his presidency on what you might call the Dime Standard. He was flexible about many things, but not this: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future. Period.”
This sound bite kills the House health care bill. That bill would add $220 billion (that’s 2.2 trillion dimes) to the deficit over the first 10 years and another $1 trillion (10 trillion dimes) to the deficit over the next 10 years.
There is no way to get from the House bill to deficit neutrality. The president’s speech guarantees that the more moderate Senate Finance Committee bill will be the basis for the negotiations to come.
The Dime Standard also sets off a political cascade. Since the Congressional Budget Office is the universally accepted arbiter in such matters, the Democrats have to produce a bill that the C.B.O. says is deficit-neutral, now and forever. That means there will be a seller’s market for any member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, who has a credible amendment to cut costs. It also means the Democrats will have to scale back coverage and subsidy levels to reach the fiscal targets.
[emphasis mine] Y'know, I like to imagine that if this blog had a point, that point would be "The English language, in printed form (not exclusively, but as examined here) does not notably serve as an instrument for bashing in your opponents' brains, unless it be printed on a mallet. And despite the regular violation of that self-evident truth, which would lead you to expect some degree of statistical variation, we find almost without exception that the delusional cudgel-wielder is, in fact, smacking his own conk without realizing." This is why I find David Brooks so difficult to ignore.
Brooks seems genuinely to imagine that he routinely Puts One Over on the rest of us. As though, at some point in the 2012 campaign, having written the obligatory two columns, one praising the immense oratorial and political skills of the President, the other decrying a Republican field which is insufficiently identical to himself, Brooks will not decide the time has come to spring his "but healthcare reform DID add a dime to the deficit!" possibly adding "as Megan McArdle pointed out last night on ABC's 20/20", and the suddenly flummoxed reader will say, "Wait! He's right! Y'know, back in Aught Nine, when he wrote that column, I thought it was just Brooks' analysis of the President's speech. But now I see it was a carefully-constructed, air-tight argument proving that this is how Obama intended his entire Presidency to be evaluated, as a referendum on whether he lived up to one line in a speech he gave. I'm mean, Brooks already proved it was the single greatest speech of his Presidency, right? So this fall I'll be pulling the lever for whatever microcephalic gun nut the Republican party comes up with!
And the following Friday, the corpse of Jim Lehrer turns to the shade of Mark Shields, and says, "What about David's point here, Mark?"
You wanna call the President a liar? Fine by me, but at least have the decency to blurt it out and then blame your Wide Stance or Prescription Medication like a normal Republican. How many goddam campaign pledges, position papers, and nicotine-related resolutions has he violated so far? How many did the last President? Or the one before him? Where's a balanced budget the Reagan administration sent to Congress? Sheesh. You're an Op-Ed columnist for the goddam New York Times; act like it's something other than your first day out of convent school. How many ways are there, roughly, to interpret that statement? How many ways to fudge data, when you're the Fudgemaker-in-Chief? Ketchup is a vegetable. Arsenic is a flavoring agent. I don't give a fuck if you come back and beat Barack Obama over the noggin with this from now to 2016. I just wish that you, and the Times, would begin to act like the rest of us have enough intelligence to insult.