Today George Will goes after the Democratic congress for failing to avoid his misleading sarcasm. The first charge, earmarks:
Hellbent on driving its approval rating into single digits, Congress adjourned after passing an omnibus spending bill larded with at least 8,993 earmarks costing at least $7.4 billion — the precise number and amount will be unclear until implications of some obscure provisions are deciphered. The gusher of earmarks was a triumph of bipartisanship, which often is a synonym for kleptocracy.
That first clause has a kind of causal ring to it I think, as if the cause of The Congress' low approval ratings were earmarks, lots of them. On that presumption, the approval ratings of Congress ought to be higher than before. Earmarks, under the Democrats, are down:
Democrats in Congress with the encouragement of President Bush vowed this year to seek a 50% reduction in federal budget "earmarks" — projects and programs inserted into spending bills by members of Congress to benefit their states or districts.
As it turns out, they didn't quite get there. How far they got depends on whose accounting method is used.
Democrats say they cut earmarks by 43%, to $9.2 billion, but they don't count water and military construction projects in their calculations. Those are mostly merit-based and less controversial than others.
Watchdog groups such as Taxpayers for Common Sense say the reduction is closer to 25%, once all earmarks are counted. They count 11,144, for $15.3 billion.
The White House puts the reduction at a meager 13%. Its Office of Management and Budget said Tuesday that the final spending bill, which was passed by the House on Monday and won Senate approval Tuesday night, would bring the total spent on earmarks to $16.4 billion. That's 87% of the 2005 peak, according to OMB's figures.
And the rest of this mendacious (that's a word Will would use) piece continues along the same lines: (a) misrepresent (by leaving out crucial facts) some Democratic achievement, (b) make sarcastic remark about how it either (i) fails some kind of consistency test or (ii) fails some kind of test of basic rationality.
Someone said–maybe Digby–that we continue to believe that our political discourse has to be this way, as if this were the logical consequence of our democratic system. I fail to see how it is the case that we need people like Will, who in addition to the habitual abuse of logic, simply misrepresent facts. Can't the Post put a fact-checker between his column and print? The same for everyone. Opinion pieces, as we all know here, are composed of factual assertions. Those have to be correct in order for the opinions to be worth reading. It would be extra special if they had a logic checker–one thing at a time.
One final, unrelated point. With so many silly posts on this website, would anyone mind telling me what their favorite one of the past year was? Jon Swift seems to be having a kind of contest.