Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 22, 2008
POLITICS: "Is that socialist? Are you a Muslim?"

Via Ed Morrissey, watch as Obama economic advisor Austan Goolsbee* tries to defend "refundable" tax credits to people who pay no taxes as not being welfare because it's limited to non-taxpayers who meet a "work requirement"** - and then inexplicably snap at McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin that the McCain health care plan also includes refundable health care credits***, concluding "Is that socialist? Are you a Muslim?"

So update your "red is the new black" racism-decoder rings, because the Obama campaign now intends to argue that refundability=socialist=Muslim. Or you can just cut to the core of their argument: everything is off limits.

What is funny is the sheer desperation of this attack - it's the sort of thing frustrated campaigns say when they are on the ropes. Which leads to one of two possible conclusions:

(1) The Obama camp, despite good polls and outward confidence, thinks it's losing and is scared.

(2) The Obama camp is confident of victory but will nonetheless resort to cheap accusations of racism even when challenged on the most technical points, just out of habit and because it's easier than arguing in good faith. A conclusion that does not bode well for the next four years.

Pick one, you can't pick neither.

* - Goolsbee is a living reminder that Obama never really gets rid of people who embarrass him, he just hides them a while until the coast is clear.

** - Mickey Kaus has explained how bogus, toothless 'work requirements' were an old dodge by opponents of welfare reform...hey, guess who was one of those in 1996? Barack Obama!

*** - Which are intended to replace the current tax subsidy for employer-provided health care. Funny how the Obama camp will attack removal of the tax subsidy as a tax hike and attack the refundable credit as a giveaway rather than admit that the two are linked - the point of the proposal is to shift people into the individual market and make health care more portable and less tied to your job.


While, I give you that I don't know what the hell he is talking about there at the end (perhaps another 30 seconds of the clip would give some sort of a clue?) I don't think you have this pegged very well. But then again, you're way off on the whole Obama thing anyway so why would this be any different?

Posted by: jim at October 22, 2008 6:46 PM

Goolsbee schools him there. I thought it was very funny, juxtaposing two inane McCain talking points.

Posted by: Magrooder at October 22, 2008 9:04 PM

I'll go ahead and pick #2, Crank.

And it was laugh-out-loud funny, too. That guy has an excellent sense of comedic timing.

Cheap accusations? Easier than arguing in good faith? PUH-leez. That's a page right out of the Karl Rove playbook. Face it, when Liberals are articulate and play fair, we're wussies. When we grab the cojones and tell our opponents off, we are shocking - SHOCKING - and disturbingly irreverent. We can't win either way, so why keep playing it safe? May as well have some fun for your trouble.

Posted by: macsonix at October 22, 2008 9:19 PM

I guess the first two picked neither despite your directions. I'll go with number two.

Posted by: largebill at October 22, 2008 9:22 PM

So tax rebates now equal handouts. Hmm. Perhaps I'll attend church Sunday and give a rebate when the collection plate comes around. But would that be too socialist--or Muslim?

I'd tend to go with #1, because the frenzy of the attacks on--among others--Sarah and Joe the Plumber indicate either fear or madness, and fear seems a less paranoid choice.

Posted by: Dai Alanye at October 23, 2008 6:21 AM

Magrooder, macsonix - So, you actually think a person watching this who is unpersuaded as between the two tax plans would be persuaded rather than baffled or offended by thatn Muslim line? Really?

Hard-hitting or even snarky is one thing, but that's ridiculous.

Posted by: The Crank at October 23, 2008 8:18 AM

as I've said before in present company, when in Rome...

Snarky, baffling, offensive. Who cares anymore? Stand up and take a counterpunch. Even if it is sarcastic and belittling, it plays well to the peanut gallery, which you have to address if your opponent wants to run a lowest-common-denominator campaign.

Posted by: macsonix at October 23, 2008 9:27 AM

macsonix, that's one of the big differences between Right and Left - you just won't find pundits and bloggers on the Right advocating arguments premised on contempt for the voters. We may recognize that you need to keep things simple and punchy, but the idea of hitting solely for the sake of hitting, without regard to content, is alien to the Right. (Lord knows in Obama's case our problem has been too many different legitimate ways he needs to be hit and too little time to use them all).

And accusing somebody of racism in an argument between economists about tax policy ... we leave it to your side to do that.

Posted by: Crank at October 23, 2008 9:47 AM

"So tax rebates now equal handouts."

It's not a rebate when the "rebate" exceeds the tax you pay. Imagine checking out at a retail store, handing over 10 bucks for the product you just picked out, and then on the way out, they give you 12 bucks (plus you keep the product). That is what Obama's proposing for as many as 44% of American taxpayers (that number is accord. to the WSJ).

Posted by: per14 at October 23, 2008 9:57 AM

On the 2 points; it's a false choice. I prefer the idiot theory. Simply put, everyone has a certain amount of idiot potential. Sometimes it shows itself at inopportune moments.

Crank, were you really offended by this?

I can't think of anyone I know who is offended by this at all. Many people think this dude is an idiot, by no one is offended.

As far as the right not showing contempt for the voters; absolutes make you sound like you've found the Messiah in a dark suit. Folks on the right make as many dumb statements as those on the left. They're all just people.

Posted by: Zufall at October 23, 2008 10:13 AM

Folks on the right make as many dumb statements as those on the left.

I'm not denying that at all. I see plenty of stuff I don't like on the Right, people making idiotic arguments...what I never see, which I see too frequently on the Left, is arguments that basically say we should "play[] well to the peanut gallery" with arguments we don't believe in or can't defend. I know liberals often have difficulty grasping the idea that conservatives are completely sincere - that's one of the most familiar tropes in the left-o-sphere and liberal commentariat - but really, when you have a bunch of right-wingers sitting around talking behind the scenes, you get basically the same thing you hear in public. We may get frustrated with the electorate at times but you never get people taking the kind of attitude macsonix is taking here.

Was I offended? This particular toss-off comment irritated me. I'm offended by the broader pattern of accusing Obama's critics of racism when pretty much any criticism is aimed at him that is at all effective.

Posted by: Crank at October 23, 2008 10:24 AM

Erth to Crank,

". . . the idea of hitting solely for the sake of hitting, without regard to content, is alien to the Right."

C'mon. You can't serious. Obama is a Muslim. Obama is anti-american (can you say "buh-bye" Michele Bachmann?). Obama is a socialist. Michelle Obama reerred to "whitey" in a speech.

All false. All hitting solely for the sake of hitting without regard to content.

Posted by: Magrooder at October 23, 2008 11:21 AM

The whitey tape was a rumor and reported as such; most everybody dropped it once it was clear there was no tape forthcoming. The Muslim thing is whack-job territory beyond the obvious observation that he passed through some Muslim schools and the like...I don't see anybody arguing that that's a defensible argument, or anybody remotely at Goolsbee's level tossing it around, whereas the accusations that McCain is being racist have come from as high in the Obama campaign as Obama himself.

Bachmann said what she thinks. She's not alone.

As for socialism, Obama's spent a lot of his career hanging out with avowed Socialists (heck, without Bernie Sanders the Dems would not have controlled the Senate the last two years) and the argument about socialism is principally about the nature of his platform. And believe me, the things conservatives say in private about Obama and socialism are a lot tougher than what gets said in public.

Posted by: Crank at October 23, 2008 12:05 PM

"So, you actually think a person watching this who is unpersuaded as between the two tax plans would be persuaded rather than baffled or offended by thatn Muslim line?"

It certainly wasn't persuasive to me. Crank is right - Obama's refundable tax credits are not equivalent to McCain's refundable health care proposal.

Posted by: MVH at October 23, 2008 1:15 PM

Actually, she didn't say that Obama was anti-American, she said the people he associates with are.

When denying the penchant to hit for the sake of hitting, it would be prudent to cease the participation thereof during the defense. If Bachman screwed up so badly, why lie about what she said?

Posted by: RW at October 23, 2008 1:29 PM

Wait a minute Crank, first you said that what we get from the Right on air with the cameras rolling is the same that's uttered candidly in private. Then you tell us that "the things conservatives say...are a lot public". Also, if there is a veritable drought of nutty and indefensible views on the right, then how is it that I've seen you place those labels on the Limbaughs and Coulters and even O'Reilly's? What gives?

Like I said, dude made a little joke and now all you rough and tough mavericks have your knickers in a twist. SPARE ME. Your post here has about the same legs as a recently decapitated chicken.

Posted by: macsonix at October 23, 2008 2:36 PM

Then you tell us that "the things conservatives say...are a lot public".

Actual quote: And believe me, the things conservatives say in private about Obama and socialism are a lot tougher than what gets said in public.

Please, no need to dishonestly Dowdify. Ergo,

"dude...SPARE ME...a recently decapitated chicken"

See how easy it is?

Posted by: RW at October 23, 2008 2:57 PM

macsonix, this is an exercise in point-missing point is, simply, that your argument is one I have heard too many times from the left before, and it goes something like this

(1) GOP engages in "Rovian" tactics that cynically fool voters with things Republicans don't actually believe

(2) Hey, we should do that too!

I'm not saying anything here about who does and does not say things they shouldn't. I'm saying that line of reasoning is prevalent on the Left, but one I just don't encounter on the Right.

Posted by: Crank at October 23, 2008 2:58 PM


Try reading your own links befroe using them as support. On the very link you cite, Bachmann says that Obama "absolutely" has "anti-american views." Please explain how when that dope says someone who "absolutely" has anti-american views she is not calling him anti-american.

Crank, you don't encounter "that line of reasoning" on the right because, in private, conservatives want to go back to the days of the John Birch Society and all you can think in response "of course."

Posted by: Magrooder at October 23, 2008 4:06 PM

prevalent on the left and not the right, eh?

seems it was McCain's campaign staff with the comments only a couple of weeks ago about how it's not about the issues anymore. seems it's the righties (indeed, your very audience, Crank) every time I hear about "redistribution of wealth" and this ridiculous cry of socialism, or perhaps referring to one of the candidates ironically as some sort of god or savior or anointed one, even some of the old "don't let the charming black fella seduce your vulnerable citizens...and wives and daughters." Where IS Dai when you need him?

You don't hear the Right whining about all this BS? Or you just think it's all legitimate, fact-based, logical argument, since it's coming from your team? Pick one, you can't pick neither.

this site is the biggest disappointment over the last several months, Crank. I gotta tell ya, like the economy, it hasn't been looking so good recently.

Posted by: macsonix at October 23, 2008 7:21 PM
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