Hillary has lost it.
First, she signs on with John McCain’s idiotic plan to eliminate gas taxes for a while. This is stupid, because it won’t actually cut prices (the price of a good like gasoline is dominated by how much customers are willing to pay, and fiddling with the tax won’t change demand, just how much money oil companies get and how much goes to the government). It’s also stupid because it will starve the government of funds it uses to maintain roads, and infrastructure maintenance is always good, and is especially important as a form of counter-cyclical spending in a recession. Finally, it creates the impression that gas prices are dominated by onerous taxes, when in fact, the price of gas is driven by market forces, and will only be lowered by changes in behavior.
That was bad, and I ignored it because I basically don’t think it’s surprising that John McCain wants to misinform the public about taxes while giving a lot of money to oil companies, and I don’t want to validate Hillary’s quixotic cry for attention. Then she did something that is beyond vainglory, beyond bad policy, and beyond the pale even for this increasingly venomous primary.
George Stephanopoulos asked her a direct question:
Could she name a single economist who agrees with her support for the gas tax holiday?
Hillary … tried to use the complete dearth of expert support for the idea to her advantage, pointing to it as proof that she’s on the side of ordinary folks against “elite opinion” — a phrase she used twice.
“I think we’ve been for the last seven years seeing a tremendous amount of government power and elite opinion behind policies that haven’t worked well for hard working Americans,” she said.
A bit later she added: “It’s really odd to me that arguing to give relief to a vast majority of Americans creates this incredible pushback…Elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that don’t benefit” the vast majority of the American people.
An ordinary voter begged to differ, however. Stephanopoulos turned the mike over to a woman who said she supported Obama and said she makes less than $25,000 a year.
“I do feel pandered to when you talk about suspending the gas tax,” the woman said, adding: “Call me crazy but I actually listen to economists because I think they know what they’ve studied.”
One of many things that are horrible about the last few years is the war on expertise. In Iraq, weapons inspectors and international affairs experts warned of the dangers which did, indeed materialize. And they were dismissed in just this way. The president and his administration ignored and misrepresented scientific expertise on subjects from stem cells to global warming, and on to evolution, sex education, health threats from air and water pollution (including threats to emergency workers at Ground Zero after 9/11). It’s been aptly called a Republican War On Science, and I hate to see Hillary follow the course of these last few years.
One might even say that, for six and half years under this president, it’s been open season on open inquiry. And by ignoring or manipulating science, the Bush administration is letting our economic competitors get an edge in the global economy. I believe we have to change course – and I know America is ready.
Heck, Hillary did say those exact words last October in a speech decrying that same war on science. “The Bush administration has declared war on science,” she said. “When I am president, scientific integrity will not be the exception it will be the rule.” Unless, apparently, it interferes with her ability to pander, at which point it will be dismissed as “elite opinion.”
When I endorsed Barack Obama back in December, I said:
I won’t have any problem campaigning hard on behalf of whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee. I think every one of them is competent to lead, has good ideas that will improve the nation, and would do vastly better than any Republican in the field could imagine doing. That’s why it’s taken me this long to settle down behind a candidate.
And I meant it. I still thought so even after all the mudslinging of the last few weeks. That’s politics, and the general election will be much muddier. I don’t know how Hillary thought she could win, but if she did, I was happy to pull the lever for her. But I don’t know about this. She won’t win the general election by running in John McCain’s shadow, nor by imitating George W. Bush’s disdain for reality. I don’t know if I can use my vote to help Hillary squander the great chance to repudiate 8 years of Bush silliness.
In the end, the fear of McCain’s itchy trigger-finger, his judicial nominees, and his descent into senility would probably bring me back to Hillary. But I don’t want the lesser of two evils. We deserve better, and for once we can have it. The pressure on Obama to cave to this nonsense has to be intense, but he’s standing up for policy rooted in reality, just as he did when he told auto manufacturers that their industry “is on a path that is unacceptable and unsustainable,” and when he revised his energy plan based on new information about the ineffectiveness of low-carbon coal technologies.
He, Hillary and John Edwards had a thoughtful and serious debate about healthcare mandates earlier this year. The candidates made thoughtful arguments, with all three pointing to serious economists, and no one dismissing them as “elites.” They were making different assumptions about the effects of their policies, and they used the debates to explore those differences. It was remarkable and uplifting. That part of the campaign restored my faith in the democratic process, and in the Democratic party. Let’s hope Hillary can return to the candidate she once was, or can show the good grace to see that her candidacy is over, and bow out before completely destroying her reputation.