No one expects political speeches to directly reflect objective fact. But I’ve always thought there were limits: that a politician who wants to be thought of as a serious player can’t afford to wander off into Palin-land too far, or too often. Policing the boundaries is part of the job of the mass media, and I keep expecting that journalists are going to start calling out the Republicans for the sheer audacity of their mendacity.
So far, I’ve been disappointed.
But Mitch McConnell’s charge that financial-services reform is about bailing out the banks is so absurd, so opposite to the fact of the matter, that it may finally be the “bridge too far.” As Steve Benen says, “When even Mark Halperin is calling you out for lying, the conventional wisdom is turning against you.” Halperin’s usual reaction to political chicanery is admiration. But he can’t find a way of defending this one. Of the Republican leadership he says, “They are willfully misreading the bill or they are engaged in a cynical attempt to keep the president from achieving something.”
Arguably, McConnell’s lie about financial services reform is no more blatant than many of his lies about health care reform. But there’s a big difference: the banks are unpopular, and therefore a bill to rein them in is popular. Lots of people who wanted to believe that the health care bill was socialism or that it included death panels or that it would increase the deficits – because they thought, correctly, that it was going to mean a big flow of money down the income scale – don’t want to believe nonsense about financial reform, because they don’t like the banks or the bankers. Not wanting to believe it, they have no problem seeing that it’s a lie. With any luck, once they’ve seen that, they’ll remember that McConnell and his friends are a pack of liars.