It was a good week for the message magicians. For example, instead of focusing on Mitch McConnell's trickery, the media emphasized the way we learned about the story in the first place. Similar distractions kept us from looking at the strengths of the President's budget proposal or the ways our tax dollars have to make up for what Wall Street's billionaires aren't paying.
Fortunately, our senior senator in Wisconsin failed at a couple attempts to distract from his political shortcomings. Details below the fold.
It was a good week for the message magicians.
Where the media spotlight was once on Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell’s sleazy campaign plans, it focused instead on how those sleazy plans came to be exposed.
Where there could have been attention on how President Obama’s budget is a workable alternative to Paul Ryan’s smoke and mirrors, there was coverage of liberal opposition to one part of the President’s 244 page proposal.
More coverage of the growing number of breadwinners losing their jobs because of the sequester? No thanks, we need to run that picture of Anthony Wiener and speculate on his mayoral aspirations.
Did you miss the outrage in the run-up to Tax Day about how Wall Street’s top four hedge fund managers each raked in more than a billion dollars but will pay very little in taxes due to loopholes that Congress has left open? That’s because it’s much easier to play the Beatles’ “Tax Man” as bumper music and spray video of Tea Party protesters who want to eliminate the IRS and what little loophole enforcement they can still muster.
The best magicians are able to distract the audience with the illusion that nothing significant is happening as they pull off their tricks.
But when the tricks involve moving money away from the middle class or protecting the politicians who encourage it, these masters of distraction do not deserve to be called magicians. Magicians entertain us. In politics, they more closely resemble pickpockets. And the pickpockets had a good week.
Thankfully for us, not every attempt at distraction and larceny is pulled off with the success of a Houdini. Here in Wisconsin, our senior senator more closely resembles Professor Hinkle, the hapless prestidigitator from “Frosty the Snowman.” Ron Johnson’s ham-handed attempt to highlight so-called “Victims of Government” was quickly skewered by all who noted the irony of using taxpayer dollars and government resources to advance a political agenda rooted in the belief that politicians should spend less of our money. His energies might be better spent dealing with the 900 job losses in his hometown that could grow worse at Oshkosh Corp. if he doesn't help craft a Defense budget that smartly addresses the military's changing needs instead of merely embracing a reckless sequester.
Assisting fellow businessmen with their victim mentality over having to follow basic rules and pay their taxes is one thing, turning your back on real victims in another. When the time came to vote on whether to allow debate on a gun safety bill with overwhelming bipartisan support, Sen. Johnson tried to conjure up his favorite audience distraction: the self-fulfilling prophecy of political impotence. If the Senate couldn't agree to debate the bill in the first place, he could argue that it only underscores his contention that Washington is broken.
Had it worked, had he been able to successfully distract attention from the dead children and women of Sandy Hook Elementary, the filibuster would have been a cruel trick indeed. But Johnson and his allies were finally foiled, not so much by Democrats as by a chorus of citizens of all political stripes, led by the family members of the Newtown victims, who had seen enough trickery and demanded senators do something real, even if what passes for real is a vote to debate an idea that may still be killed before it has a chance to prevent more mass shootings in our schools.
It was only a first step, but the week ended with at least a little hope that some politicians could take a moment to stop picking our pockets or killing the messengers or trying to distract the public.
Now, who’s ready to watch some Congressional hearings on Jay-Z and Beyonce’s visit to Cuba?