how come republicans don’t talk so good?

So what I'm gonna do is blast my lats, man, which my base TOTALLY hates!
So what I’m gonna do is blast my lats, man, which my base TOTALLY hates!

Paul Ryan, on Morning Joe, the three-hour block of center-right DC conventional wisdom broadcast daily by the “liberal cable network,” was asked what Republicans are willing to put on the table as a concession, to match President Obama’s concession to starve old people to death raise taxes on the destitute enact chained CPI. Here’s how that went:

MYERS: You mentioned CPI. It’s something President Obama put on the table that the base doesn’t like. It’s the White House telling the people it’s a sign they’re willing to put something forth to compromise. What are you willing to put on the table that your base won’t like?

RYAN: We put up budget that balances. We’ve said here how you fundamentally restructure Medicaid, Medicare. Lots of these things. The base, we represent seniors as well. We think Medicare reform is the best way to go to save this program. There are a lot of things we’ve done. The fiscal cliff was not real popular, I would add. So we, Republicans, have already done things to move to the middle to get to common ground that have not been entirely popular. But we have not seen reciprocal moves.

First of all, as Steve Benen notes, the one-word distillation of all that is “nothing.” But second of all, it’s gibberish. There’s not a coherent thought anywhere in there that actually responds to the question in a direct way. I get that politicians dodge questions all the time. What I don’t get is why so many Republicans are so often inept at it.

Nobody makes Republican Word Salad like Sarah Palin, of course:

When asked by the editor of India Today what she would do about nuclear weapons and terrorism if she were the president, Sarah Palin responded with her trademark clarity, and even managed to invoke Ronald Reagan again:

quoteThere are a lot of economic steps that can be taken, military would be last step of course, but sanctions that are not being taken…we would not stand for harm they would desire to invoke on innocent people….being bold enough to tell them that what is still on the table is military options. I am a believer of, like Ronald Reagan was, of peace through strength.

OK, so that’s Palin, and you’ll say I’m cheating by nutpicking the Queen of Word Salad. There are plenty of other examples of this phenomenon that would be considered equally unfair: former VP Dan Quayle*, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, alleged former President George W. Bush (“And we’re going to address that by starting with redefining the mission, or clarifying the mission of the United States military. And that’s this — to be trained and prepared to fight and win war, and therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.”), etc.

So, fine: here’s a presumably less-embarrassing Republican, former presidential candidate and alleged former governor Mitt “Mitt” Romney, talking to David Gregory on Meet the Press, 9/9/12:

GREGORY: As a candidate now when was the last time you really got to spend some– some quality time with somebody who is out of work and what did you get from them?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, actually, just last night it was I was with a person who is facing some challenge. We spent some time together and shared our personal experiences in an effort on my part to point out that we can make it through tough times. Look, that’s part of everyday life for mo– most people. You have friends and you have acquaintances that have challenges and you talk about them.

What the fu–? You can practically hear his CPU grinding away on this response.

But Romney is the past, and the children are our future. Children like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who said this when a reporter from GQ asked him how old he thought the Earth was:

I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

So, 7? Is 7 your answer?

Is there a pattern here? Stupidity is too obvious, and anyway I don’t think Romney, Rubio, or Ryan are stupid (although I don’t think any of them is the savant that their media fans believe them to be). I would suggest it’s cognitive dissonance. These guys are trying to hold together the rapidly crumbling façade of a discredited and unpopular political movement without angering the core of that movement. They’re trying to appeal to a public that would recoil in horror if any of them clearly articulated Republican Party doctrine, while also narrowly playing to an electorate that would come after them with pitchforks if they didn’t adhere to the Party line. Ryan knows he has to look like he’s a reasonable negotiator to the wide audience while not being seen to move an inch toward the Kenyan Marxist Usurper’s offer. Romney is desperately trying to appear like he’s in touch with the average American and not entirely ensconced within the Republican Plutocrat Bubble. Rubio knows how old the Earth is but wouldn’t dare articulate it clearly lest he be tried for witchcraft. Much of the time these guys are savvy enough to pull off these contradictory aims, but sometimes it just gets so exhausting that they spew out a stream of nonsense words and then get the hell out of there.

The one high-profile Republican I would definitely exclude from this list is Chris Christie, who I don’t like but who at least speaks coherently. Given Christie’s sycophantic media reputation for “speaking his mind,” could the fact that he doesn’t speak gibberish have to do with the idea that he’s not constantly trying to balance multiple conflicting thoughts in his head?


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