Today’s big news (via FiredUp!) is that Ann Wagner is leaving her will-she/won’t-she phase and is coming clean about her plans to run for the House seat from the 2nd district. Her willingness to come out of the closet about her political aspirations intensifies speculation that Rep. Todd Akin, the GOP incumbent representing the 2nd, is finally, after weeks of flirting, ready to commit to a run for the Senate.
Akin is considered by many to have secured his initial term in the House by stealthily down-playing his radical, Christian-nation proclivities – large numbers of his West County constituents, long-time moderate Republicans, still have no idea that he espouses radical religious intolerance of the sort associated with David Barton, whose views he has endorsed. However, he has allowed some potentially damming statements about his social policy positions to go on the record, indicating his opposition to Medicare and Social Security, for instance. In the interest of Rep. Akin’s political future, I am going to suggest that he take a few lessons from the almost always bland and cautious Roy Blunt. (Although even ol’ Roy has had a few unguarded moments when he thinks he’s alone with his homies.)
One need look no further for an example of Blunt weasel-speak than this press release, titled “Senator Roy Blunt: Government is not the answer.” It offers a classic example of the way that Blunt (or the relevant staffers) can manage to pack right-wing, red-meat into mundane-seeming, conservative boilerplate – while still providing wiggle-room should future developments demand that Senator Blunt be able to back away. The topic is the budgetary face-down of early April, and while the rhetoric is seemingly straightforward, note the crafty evasions and vital omissions in the three short paragraphs analyzed below:
A government shutdown is not the answer. Senate Democrats’ unwillingness to come to the table to make real budget cuts is not a responsible solution.
These seemingly straightforward two sentences exemplify one of the most salient characteristics of Blunt-speak, which is to simultaneously seek to occupy both the high and the low ground. The first sentence implies that Blunt, like the GOP, is above low politics. The second sentence, however, lands a very low blow indeed. Asserting that the culprits threatening a government shutdown were Democrats – who had the temerity to insist that the concept of a deal means concessions from both sides – conveniently ignores the rabid GOP Tea Partiers who were at that very time cheering on just such a shutdown. Here we have two simple-seeming sentences packed so full of posturing and characterized by the omission of so many relevant facts that they almost, but don’t quite become bare-faced lies.
Having signaled his strategy, Blunt then escalates and immediately crosses over into blatant dishonesty, albeit, it is important to note, dishonesty sanctioned by prevalent GOP spin – Blunt almost never sets foot on virgin ground, fib-wise:
Make no mistake – we’re in this predicament because Senate Democrats abdicated their duties and failed to pass a budget last year.
It is true that the Senate Democrats failed to pass a budget in 2010, but only because Senate Republicans, wielding their favorite weapon, the filibuster, insured that it could not pass with less than 60 votes. But since everyone in the Republican party seems to have forgotten this tiny fact, Daddy Blunt can get away with pushing the blame onto those darned Democrats.
Congressman Ryan’s plan puts solutions above politics and takes on the crippling debt that threatens America’s jobs creation and future prosperity.
This simple statement exemplifies the true beauty of Blunt-speak. If you don’t listen carefully, it sounds like Blunt, who, in his senatorial campaign, did his best to scare seniors about what he misrepresented as Democratic plans to cut Medicare, is endorsing Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal. And let us be clear, Ryan’s proposal will effectively dismantle Medicare under the guise of addressing the deficit – while, incidentally, adding an estimated five trillion dollars to the deficit over the next decade according to a CBO estimate.
But before you assume that you caught Blunt in an honest moment, look again – he doesn’t talk about what the Ryan budget actually does,nor does he explicitly endorse its proposals, but rather he praises Ryan for the process he has initiated, for “putting solutions over politics,” and “taking on” the burden of “crippling” debt. Plenty of room to weasel out later if the blowback threatens to get too nasty – which judging by the response at Ryan’s recent town halls, just might be the case.
Of course, Akin is on record for having voted for the Ryan Budget. He has, however, also made well-publicized statements to the effect that the poor and elderly should rely on private charity for their health care, and that Medicare and Social Security are part of the apparatus of a “sniveling” entitlement state. If Brother Todd wants to graduate to the Senate, he could certainly do worse than to study the rhetorical modus operandi of our other Missouri GOP Senator, Roy Blunt, and learn to talk out of both sides of his mouth while distorting inconvenient facts – and do it in such a stunningly vapid style that nobody will remember anything he said in the first place.
* Slightly edited in for clarity and style.