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Saturday, March 20, 2010

How the Republicans Do It.
Posted by Jill | 8:42 AM
Here in New Jersey, we're facing a fiscal crisis on the scale of California. The state is reeling from lost jobs, foreclosures, a dramatic decline in the retail sector. And in strides Generalissimo Chris Christie, bound and determined to undo in the next few months decades of fiscal mismanagement, which was started by his own party under the "leadership" of Christine Todd Whitman, who can still be seen on the op-ed page of the Hackensack, NJ Record telling him to "lead" the same way that she did.

We can argue how wise it is to institute draconian spending cuts in the middle of a recession, but the reality is that Chris Christie has decided that everyone in this state is going to feel the pain. Badly. Well, everyone, that is, except the wealthy. You see, right now there is a state tax surcharge for families with incomes over $400,000/year. This surcharge expired at the end of 2009 and is not being extended. Christie is cutting $800 million in state aid to public schools. My town's school district alone, which encompasses two towns, is losing 83% of its state aid. My town has been run for nearly thirty years by a Republican hackocracy that doles out no-bid contracts to friends of the council, spends like drunken sailors on projects that enrich said friends, and harasses and intimidates people who dare ask questions.

I live in a Republican town in a Republican county. Jon Corzine squeaked by in Bergen County by only 6000 votes, largely because of the "Gold Coast" Democratic stronghold in the eastern part of the county. Here in Outer Whitelandia, it's dominated by Republicans. Given that my town has almost no services -- no trash collection (we pay private haulers) and no fire department or ambulance (it's all-volunteer), there isn't much to cut, other than crony contracts and nepotism hires, which is highly unlikely, given this bunch. So I wonder how all these good Christie voters with their John 3:16 signs on their lawns are going to react to over a million dollars in cuts in school aid.

But this post is not about Bergen County, nor is it about the town in which I live. It's about who represents us in Washington. The aforementioned eastern part of the county is represented by Steve Rothman. But out here, in the Fifth District, which is like a toup&eeacute; covering the top of the state, with sideburns extending down into Warren County, we are represented by E. Scott Garrett -- one of the worst wingnut ideologues in Congress. How, you might ask, did this troglodyte get elected, and how has he kept his seat since 2002? Well, I can't speak for Warren and Sussex Counties, but here in Bergen, I'd say it's name recognition, because he had run two unsuccessful campaigns against moderate Republican Marge Roukema before finally driving her out of seeking another term in 2002. Back then he ran on "I'm just like Marge", and since then he's been using his franking privileges to send regular carefully-worded mailings designed to hide what he really is from the busy soccer moms and softball dads who populate the county.

But even in the annals of Scott Garrett Wingnuttia, this is a new low. Yesterday, on the House floor, Ernie Scott Garrett read from the infamous "memo", purporting to instruct "Democratic health and communications staff" to avoid discussing the details of the cost of health care reform.

Surely this was the smoking gun showing the devious Democrats actively engaged in a cover-up of this budget-busting health care reform, right?

Well, actually not, as reported at TPM:

TPMDC dug deeper into the kerfuffle after Democrats accused Republicans of an elaborate plot to try and derail health care reform in the final hours before the expected vote Sunday in the House.

A Republican aide on Capitol Hill told me today in an interview they first learned about the memo at about 12:30, getting an email with the PDF attached. The aide's office decided not to do anything with the memo "without knowing where it came from or its origin," the aide said.

A Politico story describing and reprinting the memo was published soon after with a 12:46 p.m. time stamp and caught fire on the Internet, at one point being the lead item at the top of the Drudge Report.

Once the Politico story broke, it was a green light for Republican operatives. Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, sent reporters an email just before 1 p.m. quoting from the memo. He also attached a copy of the memo, which appears to be the same PDF document that Politico posted.

A Senate Democratic aide said today their office started getting calls around 12:30 from reporters asking if the memo's claims were true. The Democratic aide's office was sent the PDF by reporters, who said they had obtained it from Republican lobbyists on K Street, the aide told me in an interview.

That aide and several Democratic staffers told us that reporters who posted the memo did not call them to check its authenticity. It appears to have been posted in the noon hour at The Washington Times and on Andrew Breitbart's Big Government Website (time stamp is Pacific time), but the Politico item received the most play on the heavily trafficked Drudge site.

Soon after we posted our initial story, in which Democrats cried foul on the memo at 2:39 p.m., Politico removed the item and memo with this disclaimer:

An earlier post in this spot detailed what was purported by Republicans to be an internal Democratic memo regarding the upcoming health reform vote Sunday. Democratic leadership has challenged the authenticity of the memo. POLITICO has removed the memo and the details about it until we can absolutely verify the document's origin.

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder posted a mea culpa about the memo this afternoon, saying he should have checked its authenticity before publishing. A reporter for The Hill tweeted the publication opted against posting the memo.

But that didn't stop Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who claimed on Twitter and his Web site that he'd "intercepted" the memo.

By 3:40 p.m. when House Republican leaders held a press conference on the Hill, reporters were ready with questions about the memo. The leaders dismissed its importance and accused the Democrats of attempting to pull a hoax on the American people.

"The appropriate question there really is ask the reporter who wrote the article alleging that it was a hoax. I know nothing more than what I read in Politico," Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) said. Watch that moment here.

Late Update: Politico addressed the memo in a piece filed tonight, saying that it had been sent to them by "multiple Republican sources" who could not verify that it was written by Democrats.

But being the good modern-day Republican wingnut that he is, why should Ernie Scott Garrett let something as trivial as FACTS (which as Stephen Colbert has noted, have a strong liberal bias), get in the way of his ideology? So with no further ado, let's have a look at Scott Garrett, reading from an already-discredited memo, on the House Floor -- and then watch him get pwned by the great Anthony Weiner:

As great as Weiner is, however, the fact of the matter, and wingnuts from Fox News to teabaggers to the Republican ranks of Congress know that voters don't pay attention to follow-up. All they have to do is get a story "out there", where the giant gapinb maw of the 24/7 cable news cycle gets hold of it, and that's all that matters. No one will pay attention when the story is debunked, because paragraphs of debunking timetables are not effective on the reptilian brain. Original claims are: "cover-up". "budget-busting". "Democrats". Americans are too busy to filter and verify information. All you have to do is get their ear the first time and you can spout whatever horsepuckey you want. People like Scott Garrett know this. Kudos to Anthony Weiner for calling Garrett on it, but you can bet that what gets coverage in the mainstream media, and on the Sunday gasbag shows this week, will be not the debunking of the memo, but the original claim about it.
Rachel explains how it works:

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Anonymous ted said...
So I wonder how all these good Christie voters with their John 3:16 signs on their lawns are going to react to over a million dollars in cuts in school aid.

Unless the schools in NJ teach a lot more religion than they do here in Connecticut, I suspect the good Christie voters will think reducing -- eliminating!? -- the public school budgets is a "good thing" [apologies to Martha!].
What is the state mandated MINIMUM school funding that a NJ town/state can offer? Wouldn't their attitude be, "If those "liberal" towns want their kids educated, let them pay for it"?