Can our discourse really be this stupid?
[Congressman Mike] Pence argued that tax cuts help the poor by revving the economy. That may eventually prove true, but despite large tax cuts the poverty rate has risen in each of the last four years.
"That's anecdotal," Mr. Pence said in an interview last fall. Then he offered an anecdote — a story President Reagan told about a pipe fitter pleased to see the rich prosper, "because I've never been hired by a poor man."
From Jonathan Chait (in a must-read TNR column):
Also working through his emotions toward the Middle East right now is Chris Matthews. In a recent broadcast, Matthews declared, "[President Bush] didn't have any philosophy when he went in, and they handed it to him--these guys with ... you know, the guys you used to make fun of at school, the pencilnecks, the intellectuals, the guys you never trusted." So now we know the true sinister influence behind the Iraq war: nerds. Nerds have always been, of course, the favorite target of demagogues, and this latest attempt to scapegoat them is steeped in the usual illogic. Far from being nerds, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are gruff former jocks, and distinctly thick of neck. And the more we learn about the bungling of the war, the more we discover that it was precisely Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld's propensity to ignore the geeks in the bureaucracy that has made it such a fiasco. Yet Matthews appears ever more deeply wedded to his blame-the-nerds theory. In another recent broadcast, he asked Pat Buchanan:
When are we going to notice that the neocons don't know what they're talking about? They're not looking at this country's long-term interests. They're bound up in regional and global ideology, and they have had no experience--I'll say it again--in even a schoolyard fight. They don't know what physical fighting is all about. They went to school and were intellectuals, but they want our government to be their big brother. I don't get it. I don't know why we keep falling for it--and the president, you say is he free of these guys yet or not?
A more suspicious mind might detect in this some ugly insinuations, but I prefer to take Matthews's theory at face value. Maybe he truly believes that participating in schoolyard brawls is necessary training for the successful conduct of foreign policy. (Perhaps the young George F. Kennan formed the nascent outlines of his worldview in the elementary school latrine, while administering swirlies to the pencilnecks.) There is, of course, a long-standing belief that only veterans have the moral standing to support wars. Matthews, who never joined the military himself, is simply defining the relevant combat experience more broadly than has been traditionally done. In this novel schema, the heroes are those who braved the horrors of fighting--be it during wartime or recess. They stand across an unshakable psychological divide from mere civilians who remained behind in the safety of, respectively, the home front or the monkey bars. Buchanan, for instance, was a notorious bully as a youth. No doubt this experience accounts for the subtlety of his foreign policy thinking.