When nonsense gets in the way

It seemed like a simple little idea. The Christmas tree industry, which has been struggling in recent years, wanted to fund a promotional program, encouraging consumers to buy real, rather than artificial, trees over the holiday season. The idea was for Christmas trees to follow in the footsteps of milk, beef, and cotton, all of which benefited from successful promotional campaigns.

To pay for the effort, the industry launched the Christmas Tree Promotion, Research and Information Order, asking the Agriculture Department to approve a 15-cent fee, per tree, on domestic producers and importers. It was requested by the industry, to benefit the industry, and to be paid for by the industry.

The Agriculture Department solicited public feedback, and most supported the proposal. This week, officials gave the industry the green light to proceed.

And that’s when Republican hacks decided to intervene.

Some loons decided the Obama administration wants to impose a new “tax” on Christmas trees because the president “hates Christians.” National Christmas Tree Association spokesman Rick Dungey tried to explain this “has absolutely nothing to do with Obama,” and “it’s not a tax,” but it was too late — the right-wing message machine had already kicked into gear.

The well-trafficked Drudge Report is leading with the story, linking to a blog by David Addington, a former top aide to then-Vice President David Addington Dick Cheney, at the conservative Heritage Foundation assailing the president thus: “The economy is barely growing and nine percent of the American people have no jobs. Is a new tax on Christmas trees the best President Obama can do? And, by the way, the American Christmas tree has a great image that doesn’t need any help from the government.”

Addington is many things, but he’s not an idiot. The former Cheney aide surely knows what he published is pure garbage, but Addington did it anyway — the right has a political war to win and when truth gets in the way, it needs soldiers willing to push honesty aside.

And because the White House doesn’t want to spend the next two months arguing about a “Christmas Tree tax” that doesn’t exist, the administration decided to delay implementation of the industry fee, which, again, was requested by the industry for the industry.

This is why we can’t have nice things — our political discourse is dominated by fools and charlatans.