If he’s confused, stop inviting him on

IF HE’S CONFUSED, STOP INVITING HIM ON…. House Republican Caucus Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana is one of the leading right-wing critics of health care reform, and he appeared on MSNBC on Wednesday to chat about the issue with Andrea Mitchell. He argued that the Democrats’ “government-run plan” would cost “$1 trillion in new taxes, falling squarely on small businesses.”

That, of course, isn’t even remotely true. Mitchell, in the most roundabout way possible, said there are “plenty of people” who would dispute that claim, adding, “I’m not sure any plan that has $1 trillion in new taxes.” Pence shrugged it off and kept talking.

As a reward, Pence was invited back onto MSNBC the next day, and repeated the exact same bogus claim he’d already been told is false.

[Pence] claimed that the House health care bill recently scored by the Congressional Budget Office “will literally cost nearly a trillion dollars in higher taxes.” Host Carlos Watson immediately jumped in. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa,” Watson interjected, “unless you’re looking at different data than I’m looking at, I don’t remember there being a trillion dollars in new taxes.” Pence said he was “rounding up,” and then later revised his figure to $800 billion. But Watson wouldn’t budge, and neither would Pence:

WATSON: I’m very clear that we are not talking about anywhere close to a trillion or $800 billion in new taxes…so if you’ve got data from the CBO that suggests that some of the proposals on the table…represent that much in new taxes then that’s significant new information. Where are you getting that?

PENCE: Well I don’t think that’s significant new information I think the estimates we’ve all been working with from the CBO are in the — I’m trying to remember — it’s about the $800 billion range in the estimated cost of new taxes.

In the world where grown-ups live, Pence doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The new revenue needed is not in the “$800 billion range,” it’s in the $540 billion range. Pence nearly doubled the figure, just because he felt like it. For that matter, adding $200 billion to a price tag is not “rounding up,” and the notion that the costs will “fall squarely on small businesses” has already been debunked.

Digby asked yesterday, “Has there ever been a slimier, more unctuous piece of work than Mike Pence?” No, probably not.

In fact, every time I see Pence, I’m reminded of something Matt Yglesias wrote earlier this year: “Mike Pence is a moron, and any movement that would hold the guy up as a hero is bankrupt…. I would refer you to this post from September about the earth-shattering ignorance and stupidity of Mike Pence…. [I]t’s really staggering. In my admittedly brief experience talking to him, his inability to grasp the basic contours of policy question was obvious and overwhelming.”

It’s why I’m not sure if Pence’s on-air remarks should be characterized as a “lie” or simply “staggering idiocy.” Maybe Pence can’t tell the difference between $540 billion and $1 trillion. Perhaps he can’t distinguish between spending cuts and tax increases. For all I know, Pence is so far gone, he may believe his own demonstrably false claims are, in fact, true.

Either way, Pence probably shouldn’t be chairman of the House Republican Caucus, and he certainly shouldn’t be invited onto national television regularly to repeat bogus claims to the public.