The political Stupid Season, usually reserved for election years, is off to an early start.
Most of the stupidity is more silly than destructive. But not all of it.
When Sarah Palin told us that Paul Revere was ...shootin and ringin those bells... to warn the British it likely didnt help her much but, aside from that, it was just a harmless flub.
The impact is about the same when Michelle Bachmann confuses John Wayne with John Wayne Gacy or mistakes Elvis birthday with the anniversary of his death. It provides fuel for her political adversaries who delight in her every misstatement and bit of fractured syntax. It is certainly no help to Rep. Bachmann. But in the larger scope of things her occasional, inaccurate blathering is mostly meaningless.
There is another level of stupidity that is somewhat less benign. Vice President Joe Biden gave an excellent example of that next level when he claimed recalcitrant Republicans, unwilling to go along with the administrations budget proposals, were behaving like terrorists. Cmon, Joe.
Republicans are not terrorists nor have they behaved like terrorists. The suggestion they are is both stupid and dishonest and added absolutely nothing to the debate. (Actually, they were behaving like obstinate brats but thats a different issue.)
Then theres the final level of stupidity intentionally dishonest stupidity.
Michelle Bachmann is currently engaged in a fine example of that when she claims shell lower gas prices to $2 a gallon if shes elected president. She knows she will be capable of no such thing.
Oil prices are determined by a global market over which an American president has almost no control. Her explanation, that if we produced more oil in the United States prices would tumble, is preposterous.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), if we opened exploration on both the east and west coasts and Alaska and began to exploit oil trapped in shale rock and sand in the west, we could produce another 500,000 barrels a day. The EIA says that quantity, theoretically, might bring the pump price of gasoline down about three cents a gallon. Maybe, but not likely.
In fact, oil production in the United States has increased by 1.5 million barrels a day during the Obama administration and that has had no impact on the global oil market or on domestic gasoline prices. Bachmanns claim that she can reduce the pump price by nearly 50% bespeaks a profound ignorance of exactly how those prices come to be in the first place.
Then theres Rick Perrys pronouncement that if the Federal Reserve decides to increase the money supply, so-called quantitative easing, it will be a treasonous act on the part of Fed Chair Ben Bernanke.
Treason is a pretty serious charge, even in the silliness of a campaign environment. Its an especially stupid assertion since Bernanke and the Board of Governors of the Fed actually have every legal right to increase the money supply should they choose to do so.
Such a decision might well be wrong and even counter-productive, but treason, which can be a capital offense, it is not.
Governor Perry needs to read up a bit about the role and independence of the Federal Reserve. Board members each serve a single, 14-year term specifically so they can stay outside the reach of politicians like the president or presidential wannabes.
Which brings us to the most discouraging sign this early in the campaigns, a series of television ads being run by something called the Coalition to Protect Patients Rights.
The ads are blasting away at healthcare reform using a barrage of half-truths, exaggerations and distortions. The ads were produced by some of the same folks who ran the notorious and wholly dishonest Swift Boat ads that eviscerated John Kerrys presidential bid. And theyre the same group that has, in the past, run ads and PR campaigns attempting to debunk climate change science and the dangers of cigarette smoke.
We dont yet know where the money behind these ads comes from but since the consulting group involved has previously worked with the health insurance industry its a pretty good bet their billions are behind this effort.
Were pretty tolerant of heat-of-the-moment mistakes by politicians. When a Democrat makes such a faux pas, Republicans howl and point to it as proof of their incompetence. When a Republican does it, the Democrats howl just as loudly. The truth is the overwhelming majority of the verbal gaffes made by both sides are pointless nonsense meaning nothing at all.
Were hearing more Republican errors right now because there are so many of them out on the presidential campaign trail. Their days are long and their schedules impossibly crowded so mistakes are absolutely inevitable. Obama and the Democrats will make their fair share soon enough.
Unfortunately, the factual dishonesty demonstrated by the Coalition to Protect Patients Rights is not a mistake but intentional misdirection. When Gov. Perry accuses someone of treason and then refuses to back off that claim, that dishonesty is also intentional.
The reason advocacy groups and candidates push this stupidity at us is incredibly simple; they believe were stupid. They count on the fact that too many of us will accept their foolishness without bothering to do our homework. Unchallenged by a somnambulant media, they know they can get away with almost any assertion or accusation no matter how stupid it is.
In the end, the Stupid Season is our own creation, a product of our willingness to assume the worst about those with whom we disagree while blithely ascribing some kind of divine infallibility to our favorites.
As long as were willing to ignore the facts and abandon common sense the Stupid Season will be with us.