No Shortage of Straw Men

Even liberal and mainstream reporters are growing weary of the president’s partisan rhetoric. John Dickerson from Slate complains about the president’s pretense that Republican opponents of his stimulus plan want to “do nothing”:

The attacks are still disingenuous, though. Obama suggests that the bulk of his opponents don’t want to do anything at all. This makes them look absurd. It’s true that some people hold this view. But the bulk of his opponents believe in some stimulus bill, just not the one he proposed. This is a perfectly standard political trick, but it’s hard to pull off if you’re a president promising a new kind of politics.

The Washington Post echoes the same theme:

President Obama likes to portray the battle over the economic stimulus package that passed the Senate on Tuesday as a stark choice between his approach and that of those who would “do nothing.”

Well, the reporters say George W. Bush did the same sort of “my way or the highway” routine. But wait. The new guy was supposed to be better. He ran against the other guy’s effort to “tear down the positions of those phantom opponents as irresponsible, unworkable or downright shameful in comparison to his own.” (Sure, John McCain’s name was on the ballot, but Obama ran against Bush.) Now we hear that dishonest rhetoric is the norm, so we should simply shrug and move on?

In another context, Patrick Moynihan called the downward spiral of societal standards “defining deviancy down.” I suspect we’re about to find out exactly how far down we can go.