THE BLOG
08/22/2011 05:45 pm ET Updated Oct 22, 2011

"The Great Flabbergasting": Rachel Maddow's (Surprising) Blind Spot

--"Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public purse"-- Adlai Stevenson.

For the avoidance of doubt, this is not designed as a critique of Rachel Maddow or her show. She and her staff have created a superb program of political and social analysis, and deliver every time I have seen it. Indeed, it is more than likely that, by providing air-time for a number of dedicated military officers and enlisted men and women who happen to be gay to humanize the issue, her program played a consequential role in eliminating the Don't Ask/Don't Tell law.

But, even brilliance has its blindspots. Maddow's seems to be her continued fascination with Republicans who vote against their own proposals. I have seen several (and she has likely done many more) segments over the last two years in which she correctly references quotes, policy statements and specific bills introduced by Republicans, some within the last few years, that the very same people oppose now, linking that opposition to their adoption by President Obama.

Indeed, Maddow is so befuddled by this behavior that she created a new segment of her program called "The Great Flabbergasting," asserting that naming it helps understanding it.

But, Maddow is off track. It is not befuddling at all. With rare exceptions, Republicans never favored the positions they espoused in the first place. Instead, these positions were just ploys to snooker the media, to confuse, delay, and oppose what Democrats were pushing when they held power.'

How can one know this? First, there are the occasional unscripted remarks by Republicans that admit it. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) "strongly supported" the individual mandate in health care when Bill Clinton health care reform was being debated. When asked in 2010 why he favored it in the 1990s, Grassley responded that it was just being used to oppose Clinton who was pushing an employer-based mandate. Newt Gingrich, who has written about individual responsibility and how wrong it is to permit free-loading on the health care system (i.e., the individual mandate), has made similar comments.

Second, there is the objective evidence that Republicans never introduced any of these measures they claim to support when they controlled the Presidency and both Houses of Congress. Despite the Heritage Foundation having scripted a health care reform measure with an individual mandate in 1993, neither the Republican Congress following their ascension in 1994, nor the Republican Congress + Presidency in the 2000s, introduced any health care reform package (except, to avoid public pressure, the prescription drug benefit in Medicare, that was also a boon to their paymasters). They espoused cap-and-trade, and never pushed that while they had power.

The Republican Party, at its core, does not favor the government doing anything about anything unless it is to make life a bit easier for their paymasters. They do not want health care reform by any description, but they cannot say that, otherwise they are easily attacked about not being interested in rising health care costs or the plight of the uninsured. They never wanted Medicare, and have tried on at least two occasions -- Gingrich in the 1990s, and Ryan in 2011 -- to change its fundamental structure. In both cases, their orwellian word guru, Frank Luntz, told them to say they were "strengthening" Medicare.

They do not want immigration reform of any stripe. Maddow's 8/19 program referenced Republican insistence on improved border control as a prerequisite for voting on the 'path-to-citizenship' that is the only solution other than mass deportation of 11 million people to the problem. The Obama administration was snookered as well -- having beefed up border security by 3-fold, and by deporting more undocumented workers than "W," they thought they had 'earned' a vote on comprehensive reform.

Now, it should be said that it is likely that John McCain (R-AZ) truly wanted to push the comprehensive reform in a bill he co-authored, and so his initial position was not disingenuous. That is the rare exception referred to above.

But, the status quo works for them. It enables their paymasters to have cheap labor, maintaining an underclass they can exploit. It provides a constant source of battle-cries to stir their white constituents to political action. Does anyone believe that Republicans, under any circumstances, no matter what criteria have been met, truly want to normalize the lives of 11 million Latinos into American culture, enabling them to take advantage of labor laws, and to vote?

In the meantime they turn Democrats against each other as the administration tries to meet their criteria. If not evil -- and it is evil because of how it plays with others' lives -- it would be brilliant.

And, what about this year, what about 2011? Remember the Republican mantra of the 2010 campaign on the Affordable Health Care Act? It was "repeal and replace." Why? Because as soon as they said "repeal," the obvious questions were whether they would allow insurance companies to deny coverage, set lifetime caps, and so forth. So, they swore on Michele Bachmann's bible that they would replace it with a better bill.

Their first act in 2011 was a vote (in the House) to repeal the law. Once that passed, what did Speaker Boehner say before he was even asked the question: "don't ask us about the replacement, it will not be available for a while." This is only understandable if one realizes that the Republicans have no interest in any health care reform at all. And, the dutiful press, having heard that Boehner lied throughout the 2010 campaign, has not asked him about it since. If they did ask, here is the answer they would get: "we're working on it."

What did they run on in 2010? Jobs. They have no jobs bill. They never will. Other than cutting taxes, and eliminating regulations, they have no jobs programs -- no training, no adjustment assistance, no 'GI-bill,' no education, no infrastructure program, no investment in R&D, no anti-foreclosure plan, nothing. They never will.

What about the 'deficit commission'? The president came into office concerned about long-term deficits (long before Republicans who were telling us during the Bush-era that deficits "didn't matter") and proposed a debt commission whose proposal would get an up-or-down vote in Congress, i.e., bypassing the filibuster. Republicans opposed it despite having proclaimed their support. Why? They were never interested in it in the first place because no commission, unless comprised of people all chosen by Jim DeMint (R-SC), would propose no tax increases. Proclaiming their support for it enabled them to appear as if they really and truly cared about our long-term debt. But, multiple co-sponsors voted against it, because they never favored it.

There is nothing "flabbergasting" or even new about this at all. It is a well-worn technique of the rightwing. It was, as FDR said, imported from European dictatorships.

In 1948 President Truman proved it. He called a special session of Congress after the conventions that summer to get the Republican Congress to pass what they claimed they supported in their party platform. They didn't. That is what enabled Truman to run against the "Do Nothing Republican Congress" and win the 1948 election.

It is not clear whether this White House gets this or not. It may be -- and their recent executive order on immigration suggests that it is -- that they want to demonstrate they have met all the criteria and thus inoculate themselves from criticism when they do by executive order what they cannot pass in Congress because of this genetically-programmed behavior by the rightwing.

So, here is a good rule-of-thumb: If there is a problem that needs resolution, Republicans will propose measures either pre-emptively, or, more likely, in reaction to Democrats' proposals, that they never had any intention of supporting, but do so to derail, delay, dissemble. Never believe them, and you will have 98 percent + accuracy. They are not serious about solving any major social or economic problem that impacts any group other than the top 1-2 percent in income. When they are in power, they will never address these problems. Never.

Of course, there are problems, most often invented, that Republicans are deadly serious about, and their proposals for addressing them should be taken very seriously: e.g., preventing Sharia law from being applied in the U.S., photo ID to "prevent" voter fraud that almost does not exist, tax cuts for heavily taxed corporations, elimination of mine safety rules for burdened mining companies, enforced feeding and assisted respiration of the brain-dead, banning morning-after pill, workers rights in unions, tax cuts for the heavily taxed top 1 percent, preventing the use of embryos that are about to be discarded in the trash, making false statements about your military record (an Orrin Hatch concoction), teaching the earth is 6,000 years old as part of science classes, apologizing to big oil companies for holding them accountable for their pollution, limiting veterans' benefits to further their education, and so forth.

Here is what President Roosevelt said in 1936:

Let me warn you and let me warn the nation against the smooth evasion that says 'of course we believe these things. We believe in Social Security, we believe in work for the unemployed, we believe in saving homes, cross our hearts and hope to die. We believe in all these things but we do not like the way the present administration is doing them. Just turn them over to us, we will do all of them, we will do more of them, we will do them better and most important of all, the doing of them will not cost anybody anything'.

Instead of the "Great Flabbergasting", Rachel, it is more accurately the "Big Lie." [Or, in the modern vernacular of politics when one can call the President a Nazi, but can never say the other person lies, what about "The Great Misspeaking."]