A Key Example of What is Wrong with Politics

Via TPM:  D’oh! Romney Backer Attacks Santorum For Same Votes He Cast Himself

In a call with reporters, [former Sen. JIm Talent (R-MO)] slammed Santorum for his Medicare Part D vote, calling it a “big expansion of a federal entitlement.” Asked by a reporter how he could criticize Santorum for taking the same position, Talent offered up only a general defense of his tenure in the Senate.

“I’d be happy, if I was running against Rick, to compare my record to his because I think it’s stronger in a whole lot of respects,” he said. “But he’s running against Governor Romney and the point is that Mitt Romney has a whole lot more comprehensively conservative record than Rick does.”

This is typical insofar as it illustrate the way political argument happens all too frequently in US politics.  The goal here is to attack Santorum on something that the base doesn’t like (spending on social programs) and that can’t be attributed to his opponent (since Romney wasn’t in Congress)—in other words, it is cheap point-scoring.  What it isn’t, however, is honest argumentation.  It isn’t about principle or policy, it is about trying to find some sound-bitey attack on a political opponent.  Never mind that the attacker voted for the bill.  Never mind that the bill in question was the initiative of a GOP president and that a GOP congressional leadership rammed it through Congress.

All that matters is that it can be used in the moment to attack someone. 

Too bad it is clear that only a handful (if that) of politicos actually have a coherent view of policy.

This is nothing new, and it is hardly a surprise.  Nonetheless it remains a frustrating spectacle.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. de stijl says:

    One would assume that the Romney camp has more than one surrogate to choose from to deliver a particular talking point. Beyond all the points you’ve mentioned, Steven, it’s incredibly incompetent campaigning.

    Having Talent deliver this message negates the point the Romney campaign was trying to make and makes them look really inept.

  2. superdestroyer says:

    The real issue should be that very few people have any appetite for cutting any form of entitlements. In reality, most voters want a massive expansive of entitlements.

    Thus, the question for the coming one-party-state is not how to limit taxes and spending but what are people willing to give up to maintain the current spending levels of government. Is the population of the U.S. willing to give up restaurant meals, vacations, entertainment spending, charitable giving, and every other form of discretionary spending in order to pay the taxes required to fund the coming levels of entitlement spending.

    Politics should be a discussion of what people are willing to give up to get government goodies but that seems to be the last topic politicians are willing to discuss.

  3. Hey Norm says:

    It’s just not that much different from Romney bashing the PPACA.
    Republicans have selective amnesia.
    They refuse to accept accountibility for anything.
    Blundering in Iraq.
    Medicare Part D.
    Massive deficits.
    That the PPACA is a Republican program.
    And before I read


    there is a matter of degree here in which Democrats do not even come close.

  4. Rob in CT says:

    Heh, I get to (partly) agree with superdestroyer.

    The discussion that a lot of people in this country have been avoiding for a long time now is “how shall we pay our bills.”

    Poll after poll shows utter ignorance of what the government actually spends money on. Poll after poll shows people have very little appetite for cuts to the big boys (medicare, medicaid, ss, military) and think that cuts to things like foreign aid will do something (hah). This is mass delusion. I do largely blame this on the GOP for convincing people that they can have their cake (tax cuts!) and eat it too (benefits, massive military), but I spare some blame for the Dems as well (given their tendency to always want to increase said benefits and their cowardie/complicity when it comes to military spending & stupid wars).

    It’s unclear to me that anything meaningful will actually be done until a real crisis (as opposed to the manufactured debt ceiling one) comes. The optimist in me wants to believe that we can actually head things off at the pass. The pessimist/realist in me laughs bitterly.