I tried yelling at the ol' TV at two out-and-out howlers I kept hearing repeatedly at last week's Republican National Convention. But the television never heard me, so here's my column instead.
Two GOP claims, repeated more times that I could count, just don't make sense. The first is about the "surge." I kept hearing how the surge is - without qualification - a success.
But if the surge's been such a success, and we've snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat, and thanks to the surge we've won, then why aren't we leaving Iraq? Because the same people who call the surge an unqualified, victorious success then say in the next breath that it's too soon to leave, that we have to stay, that the situation is too precarious, that our gains could turn to sand at any moment.
Even if you grant all the assumptions packed into calling the surge a success (that the surge really was a change in strategy; that everything good, or at least less bad, that's happened has been due to the surge, and only the surge; that stopping a downward spiral is success), how could both statements be true?
If the surge a success, why can't we leave? If it's too soon to tell, then how is the surge a success?
The current Iraqi government, which we've installed and cultivated and invested in at great expense of blood and treasure, is asking us to leave. Maybe this logical paradox (Success! But not like the way you use the word!) is keeping us from realizing that Iraqis aren't that different from us. They also don't like having somebody in Washington running their lives.
The other howler is the GOP perennial demand that to spur the economy, we need to cut taxes. Here's the problem with this one. The Bush tax cuts - the ones John McCain was against before he was for them - are phased in over a 10-year period. Taxes are still being cut this year, significantly. Taxes are already going to be cut in 2009, 2010 and 2011, too; that cake is already baked.
And we're talking pretty huge tax cuts, too. The phasing of the tax cuts, a legislative gimmick to make them fit within congressional budget rules, means that the last few years have the biggest cuts.
Think about it. We're doing right now what Republicans say they are going to do. A program of tax cuts, which still has more than three years to run, is currently in place. Big, steaming tax cuts, tax cuts still on the horizon and yet to arrive, are in place. These tax-cutting policies are giving us the economy we have today.
Oh, some Republicans say when you point this out, lots of factors have a say in how the economy performs, it's not just taxes. But you'd never know that from the rhetoric, because they have no other ideas except for tax cuts. Tax cuts are the most important thing - except when you show how they aren't working today.
These same Republicans wrongly predicted in 1993 that a tax hike would cripple the economy - which then went on a seven-year expansion, generating multiple times the growth in jobs and real wages of the so-called "Bush boom." They also claimed that Bush's tax cuts would create a boom. Too bad you missed it. And now the GOP diagnosis for the economy still consists of exactly the economic medicine that isn't working now.
Dr. McCain's prescription of more tax cuts, heavily weighted for those at the top of the income distribution, is exactly the medicine that Dr. Bush currently is giving us. We're swallowing it now, and have three more years to swallow. And doing more of the same - more of the same that we're already doing, getting all hepped up to cut taxes in 2012 - is change?
As an old "Star Trek" fan would say, it's worse than crazy. It's illogical.
Sam Coppersmith, Democratic party activist and former member of the U.S. House, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.