Why Are Michele Bachmann’s Lies Any Different than John Boehner’s?

Jodi Jacobson

John Boehner is no George Washington.  Yet a New York Times editorial this weekend makes it seem as if Boehner has his hands full with Michele Bachmann's lies. Why are hers worse than his?

An editorial in Saturday’s New York Times described a dilemma for House Republican leadership, which, to sum it up, is the question of how to take care of their crazies.

Noting that “triumphant Tea Party politicians are seeking ranking posts within the incoming House Republican majority,” the editorial pointed out that Michele Bachmann, “the doyenne of conservative insurgents,” had announced her intention to run for the number 4 leadership post as Republican party conference chair in the House. And, no sooner had she done so, stated the Times, than “she was on cable television feeding another of the right-wing myths that have become her signature rhetoric.”

Her latest whopper claims — incorrectly — that President Obama’s trip to India will tie up an aircraft carrier and 33 other warships, cost taxpayers $200 million a day for 3,000 staffers booked into more than 870 rooms at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, and so forth.

This, the Times points out, worries likely Speaker of the House, John Boehener, sources close to whom told the Times that Bachmann’s chances to be conference chair are a “long shot,” even if she’s forming a Tea Party caucus and demanding a big place at the table.

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The cause for concern about Bachmann?  She is a perennial wing-nut, one that apparently even makes other far right-wingers squirm.  “Taxpayers must dearly hope [she does not get a leadership position],” states the editorial. “They are expecting substantive progress from the new Congress, not fringe inanities.”

Bachmann’s outright lies and conspiracy theories are well known.  She was among those who fueled the myth about death panels during the health reform debate, and claimed, falsely, that passage of health reform would lead to a 30 percent increase in government-funded abortions (the law does not allow any funding of abortion care and prohibits the exchanges from providing coverage even with private premiums…how’s that for government intrusion).  She perpetuated falsehoods about the stimulus package and the TARP bailout, and when others have tried to correct her in public, she just shouts them down. 

She either created or helped further spread a lie that Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent $100,000 of tax-payer money on liquor during flights back to her home district (Pelosi does not drink; the claim has been determined to be completely untrue), and is credited with spreading the lie noted above by the Times that President Obama’s trip to India would cost $200 million/day, a claim discredited by the Pentagon.  When questioned about these statements by Chris Matthews on Hardball, Bachmann so continuously deflected the questions with non-sequitur responses and a blank stare that Matthews asked if she was in a trance.  

It’s not difficult to see why the leadership of a party soon-to-be in charge of the House of Representatives might be nervous about adding such a loose and unaccountable cannon to its roster of leaders.  The underlying assumption of the Times editorial appears to be that in seeking to establish leadership with integrity, the House Republicans will have a tough road ahead with members like Bachmann.

There is just one problem with this assumption: John Boehner is no George Washington.

The leadership of the Republican Party (let’s just include the extended family of country cousins in the Tea Party here) itself constantly traffics in falsehoods, and creates and repeats lies about policies and programs to create political disarray.  And a leadership that does so both in its general discourse and in campaign ads has little interest in governing with integrity.  The interest instead is in grabbing power on behalf of the wealthy and using lies and misleading statements to do so.

For example, in July 2009, Boehner appeared on Fox News and claimed that not a single job had been created by the stimulus package in his home state of Ohio. He was off by a mere $84 million dollars and 52 road and bridge projects approved by the Ohio Department of Transportation at the time.

According to Media Matters, Boehner gave a speech in September this year at the American Enterprise Institute in which he “didn’t even flinch” while lying about the effects of health reform on Medicare and literally inventing a brand new entitlement program that did not and does not exist:

While addressing The American Enterprise Institute, House Minority Leader John Boehner didn’t even flinch as he claimed that the health care reform bill cuts from Medicare $550 billion “that it doesn’t have” and “start[s] a brand new entitlement program.” In fact, the only place new entitlement programs are being created is in Rep. Boehner’s imagination: The Affordable Care Act leaves in place the private health care system. Furthermore, “cuts” to Medicare are actually savings created by eliminating excess in what the federal government will pay to private Medicare Advantage administrators, and the bill results in additional benefits for seniors.

Boehner has spread false claims about the effects of the Obama Administration’s economic program on small business, made another series of false claims in a speech to the City Club of Cleveland about why businesses weren’t hiring, has claimed that the Obama Administration plans a series of “job-killing tax hikes” on families and small businesses (blatantly untrue), and has claimed that Social Security is unsustainable (fact: it is solvent through 2037 with a small shortfall thereafter).

In November 2009, Boehner’s office sent out an email and also posted an article online that “grossly misinform[ed] and flat out lie[d] about the abortion language in the new Senate health care bill.” 

These are but a few of the examples that could be included here but for space limitations, even on the web.  Lies are routinely told by Chris Smith (R-NJ), who claimed, for example that the PEPFAR Reauthorization program included $50 billion for abortion, (except that both contraceptives for HIV positive mothers and abortion care were banned from the services covered).  Smith, Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Mike Pence (R-IN) are practiced liars about the effectiveness of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs; so many lies and falsehoods are spread about climate science by a wide range of Republican leaders it is difficult to keep track.

Just this past Sunday, an entire cast of Republican lawmakers managed to perpetuate several lies in one day.  According to Media Matters, on November 7th:

The Sunday shows were crowded with naked falsehoods yesterday. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) claimed on Fox News that President Obama “has killed jobs” despite the fact that a resurgent private sector has added 1.1 million jobs so far this year. On CBS, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed that 750,000 small businesses pay income taxes in the top two brackets, but that number only works if you include massive corporations like Bechtel and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which play accounting games to avoid corporate tax rates, in your definition of “small businesses.” Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) absurdly claimed on NBC that Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) entitlement-slashing debt reduction plan requires more sacrifice from bureaucrats than from average Americans. Worst of all, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) claimed on ABC that tax cuts for the wealthy are good for the economy and don’t increase the deficit. In the real world, of course, Pence is wrong on both counts.

To make an obvious (?) statement, I don’t believe lying is ok and certainly not in politics where elected officials are ostensibly representing other people (here I exempt corporations from the definition of “people”) and where politicians without question hold the lives and well-being of others in their hands.

But it is clear beyond question that the Republican leadership lies both directly and through innuendo.  It is clear that a large number of campaigns this year were run based on false advertisements that include “untruths,” to be very kind.  It is clear that these men get on television and radio programs every day of the week, 24-7-364, and tell lies.  it is also clear that they are supported by others, such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck who start, spread, and/or amplify those lies.

Are Boehner’s lies somehow better than Bachmann’s?  I think she is crazy, but his behavior is different perhaps only by lack of a wild-eyed glint in his eyes.  His lies are no less insidious, no less damaging, and no less destructive to our country. 

Bottom line? “Fringe inanities” are the modus apparandi of the Republican Party, male, female, Darjeeling or English Breakfast.

Why does the media continue to assume good intentions on the part of men who clearly can’t make a fact-based case for any one of their policies?  Is it a sexist approach to calling out liars? A different take on he said (must be right) she said (must be wrong)?  Is it the fact that the men appear in suits and ties and exude “authority?”  Is it that the Republican leadership, again all male, are just so much better at convincing everyone the Emperor has new clothes that the media is more deferential to them than they are to women politicians? Do corporate entities now have such a stronghold on the media that the NYT will not speak truth to power?  What?

And why didn’t the New York Times call them all out on their “facts?”  By failing to underscore that “fringe inanities” are the centerpiece of the Republican Party’s grab for power, the Times becomes complicit in perpetuating the false authority and false mantle of leadership that so many in the Republican party who lie with abandon use to maintain their hold on that power.

Topics and Tags:

Bachmann, Boehner, health reform, lies

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