02/26/2013 05:14 pm ET Updated Apr 28, 2013

Straw Men

Republicans have always been better than Democrats at creating straw men. I'm not referring to those floppy figures we see in cornfields from time to time, but rather, those scarecrows that don't scare any crow with half a brain.

In politics, the straw man is a stand-in for one's actual opponents or enemies or even for their ideas. An example of a GOP straw man was the red menace so popular in the 1950s, at least popular with Joe McCarthy. This fake bogeyman was used to great effect to scare Americans away from progressive and/or democratic candidates or even their "scary" ideas.

However, the red menace began to collapse along with the Soviet Union and the GOP's favorite straw man seemed to be a casualty of a thaw in the Cold War. In fact, pretty soon, there was no Soviet Union, which everybody but Mitt Romney eventually recognized (he was still using it as a bogeyman in his last unsuccessful campaign.) For a while, in the last half of the 20th Century, the GOP floundered, forced to rely on thinly-veiled racist attacks on their Democratic opponents, which only seemed effective in the South.

Then, they found a new possibility and grabbed it with both hands. Our federal budget deficit became to their eyes not only a big problem, but our only problem. But what this also was was a way of attacking two enormously popular federal programs: Social Security and Medicare. We had to do something about these programs and quick. And so, we have trouble, my friends, right here in River City. And the only solution was to cut, cut, cut.

Never mind considering closing tax loopholes on that sacred and untouchable 2 percent at the top. Never mind even a trim on the federal defense budget, which was bloated, by most people's estimate. No sir, we had two terrific straw men inside a big straw man: the entire federal deficit. That deficit was going to eat all of us very soon or at the very least, devour our children. The only solution, they kept saying, was to attack those two entitlement programs, and anyone who didn't see that obviously had a head full of straw!

How is the GOP scare campaign doing? Better than it should be but even our intrepid and ever-vigilant press seems to be buying into the language of the deficit and the entitlement programs and the impending doom that they represent. Of course, we can always trust the Americans' vigilant press to see through the fakery of this GOP deficit scam. So perhaps I shouldn't worry. But what is that stuff I seem to see leaking out of journalists' ears? Could that be sawdust??