Debating a Gish Galloping Etch-a-Sketch Performance Artist


“If you are a salesman and you see life and politics as about the sell, you adjust the sell every time to a different customer-base.” — Andrew Sullivan

Who was that last night at the debate with President Obama?  It kind of looked like it might have been former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. But, the words that came forth from that guy’s mouth didn’t sound anything like what he’s been saying over the last 18 months.  Was the debate stage yet another etch-a-sketch moment for Mr. Romney?  And if it was, what might we expect should he win the opportunity to walk through the doors of the White House to take up residence there?

Governor Romney has been saying, that is, up until last night that is, that he is on the same page as Congressman Ryan.  If that really is his stance, and I suspect that it is, America’s seniors and the middle class should take note of what that means for them.  And if you listened to Andrea Mitchell this morning. as she interviewed former Gov. Sununu, absolutely everything will be on the table for identifying spending cuts with which to balance out Romney’s tax cuts, medicare, medicaid, social security, home mortgage interest deductions, charitable deductions … everything!

Up until last night’s debate, Romney’s budget plan has been strikingly similar to Paul Ryan’s “Path to Poverty” budget which espouses some serious tax cuts for the top and what will most likely be deep cuts for the middle class.  But apparently, since Mr. Romney new he would have his largest audience to-date and figuring that “that” audience would have a large number of people who, up until now, hadn’t chosen to tune in to his rantings, that it was time to employ a “gish gallop” debate strategy … or, if you spent any time in the service, it’s a common technique known as just “baffling them with bullshit.”

The Urban Dictionary defines the Gish Gallop as follows:

Named for the debate tactic created by creationist shill Duane Gish, a Gish Gallop involves spewing so much bullshit in such a short span on that your opponent can’t address let alone counter all of it. To make matters worse a Gish Gallop will often have one or more ‘talking points’ that has a tiny core of truth to it, making the person rebutting it spend even more time debunking it in order to explain that, yes, it’s not totally false but the Galloper is distorting/misusing/misstating the actual situation. A true Gish Gallop generally has two traits.

  1. The factual and logical content of the Gish Gallop is pure bullshit and anybody knowledgeable and informed on the subject would recognize it as such almost instantly. That is, the Gish Gallop is designed to appeal to and deceive precisely those sorts of people who are most in need of honest factual education.
  2. The points are all ones that the Galloper either knows, or damn well should know, are totally bullshit. With the slimier users of the Gish Gallop, like Gish himself, its a near certainty that the points are chosen not just because the Galloper knows that they’re bullshit, but because the Galloper is deliberately trying to shovel as much bullshit into as small a space as possible in order to overwhelm his opponent with sheer volume and bamboozle any audience members with a facade of scholarly acumen and factual knowledge.

Again, up until last night, Mitt Romney touted both in speeches and on his campaign website, permanently extending the 2001-03 tax cuts, further cutting individual income tax rates, broadening the tax base by reducing tax preferences, eliminating taxation of investment income of most individual taxpayers, reducing the corporate income tax, eliminating the estate tax, and repealing the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and the taxes enacted in 2010’s health reform legislation.

If the above outline isn’t what what Romney has been stumping about, why or why would the Tax Policy Center (TPC) take the time to prepare a preliminary analysis of the Romney plan, an analysis based on information posted on Romney’s campaign website and a slew of email exchanges that have gone back and forth between TPC and Romney’s campaign policy advisors? Now, if Romney’s campaign policy advisors don’t speak for Romney, that opens an even bigger can of worms that brings his leadership skills into question.

Romney pushed his plan throughout the primary season and once he was officially named the GOP nominee, he announced his running mate … Paul Ryan, someon we’re all familiar with given his stance on economic issues. Romney has expounded on how much he likes how Ryan thinks, fiscally that is. Their budgets/plans are surprisingly similar. Both the Romney “plan” and Ryan budget would:

  • Turn Medicare into a voucher program,
  • Increase health care costs to seniors by thousands of dollars, and
  • Make arbitrary cuts to programs essential to middle class families, like education and clean, affordable energy.

They plan to all of do that, while at the same time, giving massive tax cuts to the wealthiest and protecting taxpayer subsidies to oil companies and hedge fund managers. But they’re not stopping there. They also plan on repealing health care reform and cutting over $1 trillion from Medicaid. By doing so, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan would deny coverage to approximately 50 million Americans who currently have it, including low-income children, pregnant women, nursing home patients and people with disabilities.

Up until last night, this is what Romney supposedly espoused as compared to what we know that Rep. Paul Ryan promotes (because Ryan’s “Path to Poverty” is actually in writing and has been introduced in Congress):

I’m now sure who the decoy Romney was who showed up last night to debate President Obama. The policy ideas “decoy” Romney perpetrated on unknowing first time viewers bore no resemblance to what the “real” Romney has been stumping about on the campaign trail for 18 months. Call it yet another Etch-A-Sketch moment, call it a Gish Gallop strategy, call it masterful performance art, or just call it what it was … LIES. It’s all about the same.

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