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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Have Pity, Your Honor, I’m an Orphan!

There are some conservative commentators who can be extraordinarily amusing to read because they combine a massive sense of pompous self-righteousness with a willingness to offer without embarrassment arguments of absolutely flamboyant silliness.
A case in point is the Washington Post’s official windbag-in-residence “Big Charlie the K” Krauthammer, Whenever Big Ole Charlie boy grabs himself a handful of some GOP talking points to recycle and sets his internal dudgeon on “high,” the results are often a kind of warped comic surrealism resembling a Cohen Brothers sequence in films like Raising Arizona or The Big Lebowski.
For example, here’s big Charlie hyperventilating loudly about the outrage of Obamacare:

From Social Security to civil rights to Medicaid to Medicare, never in the modern history of the country has major social legislation been enacted on a straight party-line vote. Never. In every case, there was significant reaching across the aisle, enhancing the law’s legitimacy and endurance. Yet Obama¬care — which revolutionizes one-sixth of the economy, regulates every aspect of medical practice and intimately affects just about every citizen — passed without a single GOP vote.

Now as everyone who actually follows events in Washington knows, it was decided by the top Republican leadership in a meeting in March of 2009 that the GOP would resolutely refuse to participate in any negotiations with the Democrats about the shape of the proposed law and to instead instruct all Republican representatives to totally oppose it. In Charlie’s hands, this carefully and deliberately calculated GOP strategy and decision to refuse bipartisan cooperation then becomes the basis for an argument that the law is unacceptably “partisan” because the Dems could not get any Republicans to support it.
Now many conservatives, lacking as they do a sense of absurdist humor and therefore any broad familiarity with the history of American comedy, will actually take this argument quite seriously. But connoisseurs of comedy will immediately recognize that it is actually a tongue-in-cheek update of a classic old vaudeville routine:

Judge: You have killed your mother and father. This is a vile and heinous crime that deserves the maximum penalty.
Defendant: Have pity, your honor, I’m an orphan.

The logical structure of the argument offered by Charlie the K and the homicidal defendant in the vaudeville routine is, of course, precisely the same.
But you really have to give Big Charlie an awful lot of credit as a stand-up comedian here. He manages to tell this old classic joke with a completely straight face and without even once beginning to giggle.

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