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Mindless—but Always Talking Loud

Posted on Nov 13, 2011
Gage Skidmore (CC-BY-SA)

By Joe Conason

At a time when nations that tax, spend, regulate and invest more consistently outstrip the United States in many measures of progress, leading Republicans speak only of smashing government and ending vital programs. In this constantly escalating rhetorical game, it became inevitable that one of them would eventually expose the emptiness of this vainglorious display. And it was unsurprising that the ultimate faker would turn to be Rick Perry.

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The dim demagogue could scarcely contain himself during the CNBC debate last Wednesday night as he turned to Ron Paul, his fellow Texan whose sincere hatred of government verges on anarchism, saying: “I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education and the—what’s the third one there? Let’s see.”

With the world watching, he literally didn’t know what he was talking about. And from there it only got worse.

Grinning and groping for an answer, Perry flailed embarrassingly until Paul helpfully suggested “EPA?” But for some reason that didn’t satisfy Perry, who smirked as if someone was trying to trick him into giving the wrong response. “The third agency of government I would—I would do away with, Education, the … ” For painful moments, he kept digging.

“Commerce and, let’s see,” said Perry at last. “I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.” Later, he identified the Department of Energy as the third agency he would eliminate. (And as Think Progress blogger Matt Yglesias quickly suggested in a tweet, that answer may well mean he also has no idea what the DOE actually does, such as providing subsidies to the nuclear and coal industries and overseeing atomic weapons research and development.)


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“I stepped in it,” he told reporters immediately following the debate, and observers across the ideological landscape agreed. But by morning, the Texas governor was offering the same kind of excuse he must have used when he got D’s in school. There are just too many federal agencies, he explained to NBC’s Ann Curry, who might have retorted that there are only 15 Cabinet departments.

What was revealed by Perry’s inability to regurgitate coherently his little blurt about eliminating whole departments of government—aside from proving one more time that he is unfit for campaigning and public office? Perhaps what it shows is how little he actually thinks before delivering these canned rants.

But of course the Texas governor isn’t alone in his ignorance—or his dissembling.

Mitt Romney, whose sole memorable achievement as governor of Massachusetts was the passage of a health plan he now mostly disowns, said that what America needs is a “market-based” medical system, relying on “health savings accounts” to pay for care. We need that, he said, because as a nation we now spend 18 percent of gross domestic product annually on health care, while our competitors spend 12 percent or less.

Those figures are roughly correct—but to say that such comparisons prove the superiority of the market over the public sector is simply a lie. France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the Scandinavian countries all use different mechanisms to achieve excellent results at reasonable cost, but none of them depend more on the private sector than the United States, and all rely on a combination of public financing, strict regulation and universal mandated coverage to achieve those goals. As Romney surely knows, because while he panders like all the other Republicans, he isn’t stupid.

What is very stupid, as former president Bill Clinton pointedly demonstrates in his new book, “Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy,” is the constant, mindless denigration of government indulged by the Republicans.

The facts are simple enough even for the average tea party voter to understand: The countries that tax more, spend more and regulate more than the United States are mostly doing better than we are, whether measured by educational attainment, social and economic mobility, income equality, employment growth or infrastructure quality. They use market incentives and private sector partnerships more intelligently than we do, too—because they know that a strong, competent government fosters enterprise without allowing corporate domination. And despite their current crisis in the eurozone, they will emerge from the recession with those strengths intact.

But then again, European conservative parties would never nominate the likes of Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann or Ron Paul for public office at any level. No doubt they find the GOP debates bleakly amusing in these dark times. It’s the only attitude that makes watching tolerable.

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of


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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, November 18, 2011 at 9:43 pm Link to this comment

ugg outlet, November 18 7:53 pm you have been reported to the
Truthdig Webmaster for this one also.  What are you?  A vulture?

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By berniem, November 15, 2011 at 3:57 pm Link to this comment

To all of the Paul apologists out there, please realize that the fraud of libertarianism is totally contrary to the existence of organized society in that it assumes the individual existing in a world where all is achieved with no help from others and that said individual thus bears no debt to anyone but himself. That said, the existence of whatever mysterious entity may exist as a government serves solely the purpose of vouchsafing the person and property of that individual. Now, how did this governing entity come into being and why should society tolerate it if its purpose is not the furtherance of the common good? As far as Ron Paul is concerned, he got his so screw you ‘cause no one but him was responsible for his getting it in the first place.

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By buduranus2, November 15, 2011 at 3:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Talkin’ Loud but Sayin’ Nothin’ James Brown for president!

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By John, November 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sorry, but this article became pointless the minute you brought up Bill Clinton. Yes, Bill Clinton, who deserves to be placed right next to puppet presidents like Reagan, both Bush’s and the current Wall Street hack named Obama. All played mayor roles in the growth and rise of the corporate state America has become.

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By Payson, November 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm Link to this comment

It seems to me that all of these candidates are chosen FOR us and then
manipulated up or down in terms of front runner status.  The craziest of the lot
are given the most coverage while a sane contender with actual(important)
foreign policy AND governing experience(John Huntsman) is ignored.  The
various media outlets then put them on stage for a faux-debate and a few
ignorant conservatives craving outrageous rhetoric cheer them on.  I don’t
agree with everything Huntsman or Ron Paul believe, but at least they aren’t
afraid to be honest.  Unlike the others, Perry especially, their statements are
based on conviction rather than worthless rhetoric.  What does it matter?  I
don’t think the president has any real power at all, but serves as a figure head
while the same terrible policies continue.  Obama promised progressive action,
a great many voters were so starved for hope they were willing to believe
anything.  And now there is just as much disillusionment in America as in 2008,
perhaps more, so far too many people are accepting these soulless and proudly
ignorant candidates as possible leaders.  In the end, a candidate will be chosen
to run against Obama and no matter who wins the middle and lower classes will
continue to suffer.

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By Puamana, November 14, 2011 at 3:31 pm Link to this comment

Maybe stopping the financial hemmorrhaging of multiple foreign wars and bringing our troops home would help to reduce the spending the Republicans so decry?  Oh, wait, Haliburton wouldn’t like that ...

What a bunch of suckup hypocrits.

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By diamond, November 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm Link to this comment

‘Ron Paul has a “sincere hatred of government”?  Well, Ron Paul is certainly sincere. Thank you for recognizing that quality in his characacter.’

Ron Paul is linked to the Koch brothers and if you want to know what he stands for look at the Libertarian Party platform - it’s freely available on the internet and if it doesn’t make your hair stand on end, you mustn’t have any hair.

Hitler was sincere and so was Pol Pot. It didn’t make them right, did it? The whole of America’s political culture has been relentlessly driven to the right by the Libertarian madness of people like Ron Paul. The entire Republican Party line up are Libertarian and that means they are essentially so far to the right that they have become tiny dots on the horizon. If all of these people want no government and to live in a log cabin out in the middle of nowhere, why don’t they just do that and leave everyone who wants to live in the 21st century and be part of civil society, not Dodge City, alone? People like Ron Paul have spent a couple of generations destroying democracy in America in pursuit of an inhuman and unjust ideology, namely Libertarianism. To call him ‘sincere’ is to vastly understate the problem he represents.

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By CWB56, November 14, 2011 at 8:59 am Link to this comment

The only progress leading Republicans care about is that of their very rich masters.  In that regard, America is doing better than the rest of the world.  The progress of the masses in this country versus the masses in other countries is irrelevant.

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By Shenonymous, November 14, 2011 at 5:32 am Link to this comment

Cow turds seems to have replaced brains in all of the Republican
primary candidates.

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By polymot, November 13, 2011 at 10:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Does it really matter if one of these ignorant, uninformed, unqualified fools becomes president. They are no better or worse than Bush, the poster boy for plutocratic greed, or Reagan - if an Alzheimers sufferer can run the US why can’t any equally demented individual do just as good a job at being a puppet. Can the American people not see the total disconnect between the intellectual ability of their presidents and the actions that purport to spring from that intellect. Of course Obama is highly intelligent and well educated - and is in place to reassure the populace that once in a while someone with a brain will lead them. We all get tired of watching cartoons and want some real live action shows once in a while. But Obama is just as much a puppet - lust for wealth is a great leveler. Question is…who exactly is pulling the strings? Until candidates can run for office with no funding - just equal time on air and in the press, there is no hope for fair representation in your country.

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By Joe Sava, November 13, 2011 at 9:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Oh, there you go again, Joe. There you go again.

“Ron Paul, his fellow Texan whose sincere hatred of government verges on

You will most likely not be interested in the facts. But let’s try anyway.

Some truths are painful. Actually, resisting the truth is painful. Truth is always

Ron Paul has a “sincere hatred of government”?  Well, Ron Paul is certainly
sincere. Thank you for recognizing that quality in his characacter.

But “hatred of government”?  Now, this is where you err, my dear man. His
passion is for liberty. Hatred is an ignorant, uneducated and unintelligent
attitude. Ron Paul is highly educated, the most knowledgeable congressman in
office who knows the truth of history, the Constitution and what is moral and
immoral. Accusing this man of “hatred” reveals your own lack of truthful

Ron Paul is against anything that violates the Constitution every President takes
an oath of office to uphold. There is no authority in the Constitution for any of
these mandated departments. But perhaps you believe that this silly Constitution
of the US is not worth the paper it is written on. Instead of the rule of law,
perhaps you prefer a society that is governed by the rule of Kings.

Why not? Let’s have a good old dictator just do whatever the hell he wants,
whenever, to whomever, however - and, hey, just let him. Laws? The hell with
them. They just stop him from doing what he wants.  Let the child play.

But, if you want to live in a society that is governed by the rule of law - and that
is what the US Constitution created - and what made the US a great, free and just
nation and a beacon to the world, well, you just have to make sure everyone
obeys the laws. Don’t like those pesky laws - hey, get the Congress to change

Oh well, I’ve said enough. Unchanging minds may have a “hatred” of change. I
wonder why that is. Any idea?

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By Richard Wicks, November 13, 2011 at 9:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“leading Republicans speak only of smashing government and ending vital programs.”

Maybe it’s somehow related to the fact that for every $1 the US spends, it has to borrow 40 cents.

Or it could possibly be related to the fact that for every $1 the US takes in from taxes, it owes $6.25 in debt that it’s already spent.

You know what isn’t a vital government program?  Wasting money and putting us further into debt.  It’s obvious to even the dimmest individual that there is no way the US will ever pay off it’s debt.  It’s the elephant in the room nobody wants to look at besides Paul and any American that wants to see the country no go into insolvency.

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