Unlike MIT, Casa de Yost gets MSNBC, so that’s what I’ve been watching lately. Now, I’m no huge fan of MSNBC. Dylan Ratigan and Ed Schultz are flat out insane, and Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow are barely better. The network really is just a liberal Fox News– it’s even more ridiculous because while Fox merely reports the news from a conservative perspective, MSNBC feels compelled to tell you, frequently, that they’re liberal, as if they or their audience needs reminding.
Nonetheless, I’ve long believed that conservatives should spend more time watching MSNBC than they do Fox News. The way to win arguments is not to spend all your time talking with people who think like you do, but instead to spend time listening to the arguments of your opponents and discover their flaws. If you can anticipate the lines that are going to be trotted out against you, you’ll have a lot more success not just in defeating them, but also in avoiding the half-baked lines from your own side which will get you in trouble.
Right now, MSNBC is giving a LOT of airtime to one left-wing talking point in particular, which is that Republicans are hypocrites for railing against an earmark infested bill even though some of the earmarks in the bill were put in by Republicans.
MSNBC thinks they’ve caught Republicans in some sort of clever trap. But the truth is simple and exhonerating. Earmarks are a legislative tool. They can be used for good, or they can be used for bad. In recent times, earmarks have been used as a means of larding bills with pork– they have been abused. In response, Republicans want to do away with them altogether; some in their establishment would prefer that the practice merely be mended rather than ended, but they’ve lost the argument to their reformist wings.
So when MSNBC brings on some conservative Senator with just a couple earmarks to his name, and tries to excoriate him as some sort of grand hypocrite, they’ve missed the point entirely. This guy will gladly discuss any of his earmarks and defend them as reasonable spending. He’ll even defend some of the earmarks of others. But he is clearly not convinced that the good that is done from the few legitimate earmarks like his outweigh the bad that is done by the pork-barrel hurricane that the availability of earmarks has unleashed. There’s nothing hypocritical in that.
There are surely some Republican senators out there who have been abusing the earmark system, and if MSNBC hounds every GOP member as a hypocrite, they’ll find some who fit the bill. But if the narrative they push is that all opposition to earmarks is unfounded, they’ll be doing their audience a great disfavor by putting them out of touch with both the public at large as well as the nation’s thought-leaders– not only are earmarks overwhelmingly unpopular, but the conclusion of the conservative reformers that they should be ended has compelling logic behind it.