Roger’s Rules

Feeling Sorry for Maureen Dowd

I wonder whether the New York Times provides psychiatric coverage for its employees. I wonder this because it seems clear that poor Maureen Dowd has finally lost it.  I say “finally,” but I should acknowledge that I am not a regular reader of her column. I long ago concluded that Dowd was one of those writers whose hectoring hysteria was bad for my digestion. You open the paper to the page where her column appears and it seems as if someone is screaming at you. The fact that she appears to think she is being cute adds a slightly macabre and pathetic element to the effect, as if an aging Miss Havisham decided to go into business as an editorialist.

As regular readers of “Roger’s Rules” know, about the only time I encounter the Times in all its physical wood-pulp glory is when visiting friends in Northwest Connecticut. That may soon come to end, too, since they have given up on the weekday edition in exasperation. They still get the Sunday paper, though, and while visiting yesterday I was presented with the Sunday Review section, which contained Dowd’s column. “Have you seen this?” my friend asked in tones of wonder, pointing to “Cruel Conservatives Throw a Masquerade Ball,” Dowd’s report on the Republican National Convention that convened in Tampa, Florida, last week.

The column is so weird, and so at odds with reality, that innocent readers, unacquainted with the rhetorical eructations of Maureen Dowd, might wonder if she had been drinking or smoking something contraband while composing it. The combination of snarling bitterness and juvenile name-calling certainly suggests a mind distracted from itself. The convention, she said, was “a colossal hoax.” Paul Ryan’s speech was “a shimmering mirage, a beckoning pool of big, juicy lies.” Mitt Romney was “a native alien” who is “unlike the vast majority of Americans in every respect.”

Now, accusing Paul Ryan of “lying” has become a meme of the moment. Anyone interested in teasing out the truth — that is to say, the utter lack of truth — behind the charges might want to ponder “Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers,” a summary of the tendentious misrepresentations circulating about Ryan’s speech and legislative record. For her part, Maureen Dowd doesn’t actually name any “big, juicy lies,” contenting herself instead with the assertion that that “Ryan’s lies and Romney’s shape-shifting are so easy to refute,” that the wily Republicans resorted to “mythmaking” and “artifice” in order to conceal “their authentic ruthless worldview.” (“Ryan’s harsh stances toward women, the old and the poor,” she said darkly, but without elaboration, “are on record.”)

What can one say?  Does anyone outside the orbit of The New York Times  actually believe Dowd’s repulsive caricatures? Republicans, according to Dowd, are “harsh” and heartless, greedy and grasping. They don’t like women, the poor, blacks, Hispanics, the elderly, or “the environment.” At the convention she saw people in “cowboy hats and cheeseheads,” “economically wounded capitalists in shades from eggshell to ecru,” and “blindingly white older male delegates.” She somehow missed the many blacks, women, Asians, Hispanics, etc. who filled the conventional hall and spoke from the podium.  Well, she didn’t miss them, exactly, it’s just that her twisted perspective requires that she regard them as part of that “colossal hoax” and “masquerade” Republicans supposedly are perpetrating on an unwary country.

Dowd’s problem — it’s Obama’s problem, too — is that reality tells a very different story. Leftists are all about promoting big government solutions to social problems. Unfortunately for Leftists, big-governments policies are usually disastrous. They tend to have an effect more or less opposite to what they were designed to accomplish. Welfare, for example, has not alleviated poverty, it has institutionalized it. (It has also institutionalized the bureaucratic apparatus which administers the welfare, which gives politicians a vested interest in its perpetuation.) Obama’s spread-the-wealth-around economic policies have also been disastrous.  Median household income has dropped nearly 5 percent since he took office. The federal debt has exploded by more than 50 percent, to $16 trillion. Unemployment, which Obama predicted would by at 5.6 percent by now, is 8.3 percent: that’s 23 million people out of work. And on and on.

The truth is that Democrats are great at the rhetoric of compassion, but their policies produce bureaucratic entanglement and economic immiseration. To hear Maureen Dowd tell it, Mitt Romney is heartless plutocrat.  Yet he contributed some 16 percent of his not-inconsiderable income to charity (Obama gave 1 percent of his) and the convention was full of accounts of his personal generosity and kindness.  The effort to demonize Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan must confront one insuperable obstacle. Both are kind, generous, loving men who have devoted themselves to their families and their communities.  According to Maureen Down, “even when [Mitt Romney] looks genuine, he still seems false.” Except that he doesn’t. What he seems like is a straight-shooting business man, not a utopian who thinks that because he has promised something he has therefore performed it. The Democrats have spent a lot of time and money attempting to tarnish the reputation Bain Capital, the company Mitt Romney founded.  The trouble is, the record shows that Bain has been a tremendous force for good. It helped many worthy companies, from Staples to Bright Horizons to Steel Dynamics, one of the most successful steel companies in America.

Maureen Dowd pretends that the Republican platform is “harsh” because it favors individual and local initiatives over the centralizing “solutions” of big government. She never pauses to ask which approach actually helps people more. For her, the pretense of benevolence trumps the reality.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama, stung by Clint Eastwood’s brilliant “empty chair” routine, has complained “There was a lot of talk about hard truths and bold choices [at the Republican Convention], but no one actually told you what they were.” I can help him out with that. All he needs to do is fire up his Blackberry and head over to the Romney-Ryan web site. There he will find a plethora of specific hard truths, bold choices, not to mention common-sense policy proposals. On the issue of taxes, for example, among the proposals are:

  • Make permanent, across-the-board 20 percent cut in marginal rates
  • Maintain current tax rates on interest, dividends, and capital gains
  • Eliminate taxes for taxpayers with AGI below $200,000 on interest, dividends, and capital gains
  • Eliminate the Death Tax
  • Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
  • Cut the corporate rate to 25 percent
  • Strengthen and make permanent the R&D tax credit

On the issue of health care, Romney has promised that on his first day in office he will “issue an executive order that paves the way for the federal government to issue Obamacare waivers to all fifty states. He will then work with Congress to repeal the full legislation as quickly as possible.” His goal is to “give each state the power to craft a health care reform plan that is best for its own citizens.” Take a look at the web site to appreciate the thoughtful alternative to ObamaCare he has proposed.

One of the themes of the Republican Convention was that President Obama had promised much but delivered little. It would be difficult for any candid  observer to disagree. Even many Democrats understand this. They don’t dispute that Obama has failed (though they do not, of course, put it that way). Instead, they blame someone else for the failure. Stock in George Bush as a scapegoat is showing signs of weakness but there is still “the Republican Congress” and “Europe.”  The problem for team Obama is that their leader is making the same promises now that he did four years.  Do you think I exaggerate?  Take a look at this eerie collage comparing Obama in 2008 with Obama in 2012:

The video bears the title “We’ve Heard it All Before.”  It might have been called “Toast.”