I have to take issue with Kevin Drum, who believes Harry Reid is, let us say, stretching the truth in his charges about Romney’s taxes:
Politically, of course, Reid’s ploy has worked like a charm. Romney’s taxes are back in the news and Romney’s ham-handed handling of the whole affair has kept it there. And that gives everyone a fifth reason to cheer on Reid: the end justifies the means.
Take a deep breath, folks. This is contemptible stuff and it’s not just business as usual. We’ve spent too many years berating the tea partiers for getting on bandwagons like this to get sucked into it ourselves the first time it’s convenient. It’s time to quit cheering on Reid and get off this particular bus.
(via Mother Jones)
He may be right about what Reid is doing, but I think he’s wrong when he prescribes that we return to the days when we reflexively condemned our own when they were accused of bad behavior. For one thing, we often just played into Republican lies (think Acorn).
Many years ago I read an article in Scientific American that argued, and I think persuasively, that the best way to stop someone from engaging in bad behavior is to adopt a tit for tat strategy. If a bad actor knows that he or she will be subjected to the same treatment he or she is dishing out, that actor will think twice about dishing in the first place. Well, Republicans have been titting for years, with nary a tat from Democrats in response. The result has been a ratcheting of bad behavior, to the point that it is now considered perfectly acceptable for them to lie about the citizenship of the president of the United States, or the military service of a decorated hero, to give but two examples. Compared to those lies, Harry’s, if it is a lie, is of the little white sort, since it has the redeeming quality of having a certain amount of truthiness to it. If we want to stop this sort of behavior, we have to show there’s a price, and while it may offend the pure of heart, tit for tat appears to be the most efficacious way to impose that price.