Towards the end of the first “Zoolander” movie, Will Ferrell’s Mugatu character becomes overwhelmed by the madness around him. “Doesn’t anybody notice this?” the exasperated character says. “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”
I had a similar reaction reading this Axios report on Republican advertising in the debt-ceiling fight.
House Republicans are putting their money where their mouths are with a new ad attacking Democrats for voting against Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) debt ceiling bill, Axios has learned. … The American Action Network, an issue advocacy nonprofit closely aligned with House Republicans, is launching a six-figure ad buy hitting House Democrats for voting against the bill.
The 30-second commercial, which has racked up quite a few views since being uploaded to YouTube four days ago, features a narrator telling viewers that Democrats “refused” to go along with the House Republicans’ plan to “responsibly raise the debt ceiling.” The ad concludes that Democrats are “putting the economy in crisis.”
Despite the chasm between the message and reality, the Axios report added that this spot “will run in the districts of 11 vulnerable House Democrats, including the five whose voters backed former President Trump in 2020.”
At this point, it’s worth pausing to acknowledge the two parallel flaws with the GOP’s co-called Limit, Save, Grow Act. The first is the tactical problem.
Even if McCarthy’s bill were a legislative triumph for the ages, the way in which Republicans are trying to pursue their goals would still be indefensible. The House speaker and his GOP team could’ve put together a responsible piece of legislation, in pursuit of serious objectives, with sound arithmetic and noble priorities, and it’d still be outrageous that he and his party are threatening to impose a deliberate economic catastrophe on Americans unless their demands are met.
But as it turns out, the radically dangerous tactics aren’t the only problem — because the bill itself is a mess.
Following up on our earlier coverage, the GOP’s hostage note is better described as a right-wing fantasy than a serious piece of federal policymaking. In order to prevent Republicans from deliberately crashing the economy, Democrats are apparently supposed to accept a plan that would push hundreds of thousands of American out of work, take health care coverage from hundreds of thousands of Americans, derail the U.S. manufacturing boom, and gut all kinds of critically necessary public investments on everything from veterans care to education, border security to food security, law enforcement to medical research, Head Start to rail inspections, agriculture to air traffic control, infrastructure to national parks.
It also takes a crowbar to efforts to combat climate change for reasons that have nothing to do with deficit reduction.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz told Politico, “The leadership just picked up the House Freedom Caucus plan and helped us convert it into the legislative text.” (The far-right Floridian apparently meant that as a compliment.)
Even some of the House GOP members who voted for it were reluctant to defend the bill on the merits, saying that they voted for it simply to advance the process, not because they saw it as a great piece of legislation. At least one House Republican suggested he would’ve opposed the measure if he thought it stood a chance of actually becoming law.
It’s against this backdrop that the latest Republican ad effectively asks the public, “Can you believe Democrats rejected this radically regressive and overtly partisan bill filled with unpopular ideas?” To which the obvious answer, “Yes, of course they rejected it.”
Common sense suggests the 217 GOP members who voted for this monstrosity would be worried about the kind of attack ads they’re likely to see in next year’s elections. But the American Action Network apparently wants to turn the tables, insisting that voting against the bill is a bigger political liability that voting for it.
Why? Because they say so.
It’s an extension of a line of thought that says going on offense always works, even if it means abandoning reality, propriety, and anything resembling common sense. As the Democrats’ House Majority PAC runs debt ceiling ads of its own, we’ll soon see whether the truth prevails.