Fools and Scoundrels

Any pundit or politician who helped promote the Benghazi! hoax, and who doesn’t fully retract and apologize now that a Republican-dominated House committee has fully debunked all the accusations against the Administration other than having paid attention to what turned out to be inaccurate initial reports from the intelligence agencies, should from now on be conclusively presumed a fool and a scoundrel. Of course we already knew that about Lindsay Graham, who is sticking to his principles by denying reality. But so far none of the loud Behghazi!-mongers has stepped up to eat his plate of crow. And John Boehner’s handpicked “select committee” can probably be counted on to try to make the zombie lies walk again; the House Republican website still has all the debunked charges, with no mention of the new report debunking them, under the mind-blowingly ironic heading of “accountability.” Will no one hold the Republicans accountable?

Yes. anyone involved in politics sometimes thinks the voters are sort of stupid, because of course the voters often act stupidly. The rational-choice political scientists have actually formulated theories of “rational ignorance” to explain why people vote on evidence that would never persuade them to buy a used car: voters aren’t spending their own money. (And no, the inference that democratic government is a mistake, or alternatively that government is always rotten and ought to be minimized, isn’t justified, unless you’ve examined the consequences of undemocratic government of of unchecked private action and found that they’re not as bad.)

And yes, it was damned silly for Jonathan Gruber to let himself get caught on camera saying what everyone knows to be partially true.

But Jonathan Gruber didn’t just win an election by lying to voters. The Republicans did. I’m happy to give Trey Gowdy credit for telling the truth at last, but of course he knew the truth three weeks ago, when publishing it could have had an impact on the midterm election results. Even a relatively honest Republican preferred to have his party win by lying to taking the risk of telling the American people the truth.

Let’s just recall how ghoulish this whole business has been. Republicans have – with some success – tried to get political gain out of the deaths of four Americans who died for their country at the hands of its enemies, and kept doing so long after the spuriousness of the conspiracy theories was clear.

The extremism, mendacity, and lack of scruple of the Teahadi-dominated GOP have risen to the level of a constitutional crisis. That’s observable fact. It’s time for reporters who pride themselves on “objectivity” to start reporting that fact, rather than groveling to the successful scoundrels and blaming their victims.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.