Why do politicians tell stupid lies?

Because reporters like Mike Allen are stupid enough to believe them.

For example, the stupid lie (told by Orrin Hatch, among others) that the Democrats plan to use the reconciliation process to pass a health care reform bill by a simple majority?

Because reporters like Mike Allen are stupid enough to believe them, or lazy enough not to care.

What’s most obnoxious is when someone like Mike Allen dismisses a correction to an error he made as “spin.” These people seem to live in a truth-free universe.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

16 thoughts on “Why do politicians tell stupid lies?”

  1. I suppose for the same reason Democrats claim the problems with the Senate bill are actually going to be fixed in reconciliation, after it has passed the House, instead of their just taking the passed bill, and going on to something else: Because they figure, "Of course the public are gullible morons; They elected me, didn't they?

  2. Because the normal way to work out bill differences is in a conference committee … which can be filibustered. If only there was a way to make these fixes in a way that would be blessed by the constitution….

    Like the Senate making rules that allow certain bills to pass by 50%+1 vote.

  3. They tell stupid lies when they can't make an argument on the substance so they try to get an argument going about a bogus or irrelevant topic. They of course are encouraged by the comlicit press that rarely calls the lie a lie but paints it as a different side of an honest debate.

    Kudos to E.J.Dionne Jr. for having the honesty and guts to call it for what it is. And thanks are due to Jonathan Chait for his efforts to clarify the issue.

    Why is it so surprising when a jounalist has the guts and honesty to do his job?

  4. This reminds me of the 2004 Presidential election. I'll never forget John Kerry's words on his "flip-flop":

    "I've had one position, one consistent position, that Saddam Hussein was a threat. There was a right way to disarm him and a wrong way. And the president chose the wrong way." – John Kerry, first presidential debate, 2004

    Those three sentences were way too complex for the media to ever understand.

  5. Mobius,

    It isn't the Constitution that is the problem, it's the Senate's own rules of procedure. The Constitution says only (Article 1, Section 5, Clause 2): "Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member."

    The Senate has determined (well, really the GOP 40% super majority in the Senate has determined) that passing anything through the ordinary Senate rules will require a 60 vote super majority. The Senate's Rules of Order place a lot of reliance on unanimous consent: Senator Bunning showed us what happens when a single Senator decides to decline his consent. The desperate need for the Senate to amend its Rules of Order has become painfully obvious. Whether they do so before you and I shuffle off this mortal coil is an open question.

  6. Dennis, I don't really disagree with you except when you repeat the convenient fiction that Bunning's obstruction was the work of 1 senator – he was backed by, and needed, the complicity of his party.

  7. Dennis,

    Yes I know the Constitution is not at issue –

    and the Senate rules at the moment provide a 100% legit way to pass the reconciliation patch to the Senate version of HCR, while only requiring a normal majority.

    I was bemoaning that the normal mode of patching up house / senate versions is precluded by pointless obstruction.

  8. What? It's not pointless. People who don't like the bill are obstructing it. That's about as far from "pointless" as you get in a legislature.

  9. Pointless, as in refusing to appoint conference committee to get bill done.

    It's just nihilism. If the Senate was functioning like it has for the past 200 years, the Senate and House bills would have had their difference ironed out, voted on, and done by now. I'll call it pointless, like smashing a Ming Vase is pointless – even if you meant to smash it on purpose.

    The R's are in the process of destroying the ability of the Senate to work. Might come up with a new way to work some day…

  10. Google Mike Allen like this: "Mike Allen +Fox news"

    All the media matters links that appear will tell you everything you need to know about him…

    He isn't a reporter.

    He is a Republican plant.

  11. The health care bill is neither precious, nor irreplaceable, and it's normal politics for an opposition party to go all out opposing a bill that they really hate, and which isn't particularly popular with the public. If there's anything odd about this episode, it's the Democrats' determination to pass an unpopular bill regardless of the electoral consequences.

    If the bill weren't such an unpopular monstrosity, the Republicans, being a smallish minority, would never have succeeded this well in opposing it. They've only succeeded thus far because there are so many Democratic members who are antsy about pissing off the voters as an election gets closer and closer.

  12. Mark, Politico is a paper which focuses on federal politics, and mostly in an inside-DC view. Mike Allen understands reconciliation, and if he didn't he's got a zillion sources and drinking buddies to fill him in.

    Mike Allen is lying, for partisan political purposes, full stop

    Verdict guilty, sentence death. Drop the trap, and make his wife watch him dance.

  13. The bill is not unpopular; it is the GOP's dishonest representation of the bill that is unpopular. Let's be clear.


    " . . . a smallish minority, would never have succeeded this well in opposing it."

    A proposition contradicted by over 200 years of congressional history.

  14. "The bill is not unpopular; it is the GOP’s dishonest representation of the bill that is unpopular. Let’s be clear."

    Let's be clear about this: "The bill would be popular if the public agreed with me." and "The bill is popular." are not the same thing. You might even be right about the latter, and it wouldn't same one marginal seat.

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