Once again Taibbi has it: Biden was right to laugh, roll his eyes, and generally ridicule Ryan and the dishonesty of the Romney/Ryan platform.
He was absolutely right to be doing it. We all should be doing it. That includes all of us in the media, and not just paid obnoxious-opinion-merchants like me, but so-called “objective” news reporters as well. We should all be rolling our eyes, and scoffing and saying, “Come back when you’re serious.”
The load of balls that both Romney and Ryan have been pushing out there for this whole election season is simply not intellectually serious. Most of their platform isn’t even a real platform, it’s a fourth-rate parlor trick designed to paper over the real agenda — cutting taxes even more for super-rich dickheads like Mitt Romney, and getting everyone else to pay the bill.
Everything was crystallized in the exchanges over Romney’s proposal to cut taxes by 20% across the board. This was one of the points where having a decent moderator made a big difference, because Martha Raddatz refused to let Ryan slither out of answering the question. Her question was clearly and unambiguously phrased:
You have refused yet again to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you actually have the specifics, or are you still working on it, and that’s why you won’t tell voters?
And Ryan clearly and unambiguously avoided the question:
Different than this administration, we actually want to have big bipartisan agreements.
At which point Biden quite appropriately laughed and said, “That’d be a first for a Republican Congress.” Which is both true and good politics; polls show that most Americans blame the Republicans more than the Democrats for Congress’s inability to do anything useful over the last four years.
In this debate, as opposed to the previous one for example, there was a moderator, one who treated both candidates with respect but not veneration. When she heard the risible line about Republicans wanting bipartisan agreements, she couldn’t let it pass.
Then Raddatz did exactly what any self-respecting journalist should do in that situation: she objected to being lied to, and yanked on the leash, forcing Ryan back to the question.
I’m convinced Raddatz wouldn’t have pounced on Ryan if he hadn’t trotted out this preposterous line about bipartisanism. Where does Ryan think we’ve all been living, Mars? It’s one thing to pull that on some crowd of unsuspecting voters that hasn’t followed politics that much and doesn’t know the history. But any professional political journalist knows enough to know the abject comedy of that line. Still, Ryan was banking on the moderator not getting in the way and just letting him dump his trash on audiences. Instead, she aggressively grabbed Ryan by his puppy-scruff and pushed him back into the mess of his own proposal:
MS. RADDATZ: Do you have the specifics? Do you have the math? Do you know exactly what you’re doing?
So now the ball is in Ryan’s court. The answer he gives is astounding:
REP. RYAN: Look — look at what Mitt — look at what Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill did. They worked together out of a framework to lower tax rates and broaden the base, and they worked together to fix that. What we’re saying is here’s our framework: Lower tax rates 20 percent — we raise about $1.2 trillion through income taxes. We forgo about 1.1 trillion [dollars] in loopholes and deductions. And so what we’re saying is deny those loopholes and deductions to higher-income taxpayers so that more of their income is taxed, which has a broader base of taxation —
After a bit more of this boilerplate blather, Raddatz says, quite accurately, “No specifics, yeah.” The truth, from a news reporter, who’da thunk it. Kudos to Martha! She doesn’t let Ryan dump his trash on this audience. As Taibbi says, Romney and Ryan have cynically decided to promise a huge tax break and avoid talking about how to pay for it until after the election, when the truth will come out. They’re expecting the American press to let them slide on that.
If you’re going to offer an across-the-board 20 percent tax cut without explaining how it’s getting paid for, hell, why stop there? Why not just offer everyone over 18 a 1965 Mustang? Why not promise every child a Zagnut and an Xbox, or compatible mates for every lonely single person?
Sometimes in journalism I think we take the objectivity thing too far. We think being fair means giving equal weight to both sides of every argument. But sometimes in the zeal to be objective, reporters get confused. You can’t report the Obama tax plan and the Romney tax plan in the same way, because only one of them is really a plan, while the other is actually not a plan at all, but an electoral gambit.
If we praised reporters like Martha Raddatz and gave them the best jobs while people like Jim Lehrer were relegated to human interest stories, our democracy would not be failing. If Bob Woodward were speaking at Florida retirement communities while Carl Bernstein was rich, famous, and widely read… But the forces that are currently lined up behind the Romney/Ryan farce are precisely those that promote the fawners and gossip mongers over the reporters, not just at Fox News but at the New York Times and the Washington Post and so on.
We need a realignment here, folks, and it ain’t comin’ from either of the major parties.