Remember the “McLuhan Moments”? There’s a scene in “Annie Hall” in which Woody Allen starts lecturing some pedantic academic in a movie-theater line about how little he knows about Marshall McLuhan. When the guy protests, Allen brings the actual McLuhan over. “You know nothing of my work,” the scholar says.
This dynamic appears in politics with some regularity – politicians cite someone else’s work for support, only to find that this person doesn’t agree with the politician at all. Take yesterday, for example.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sent a letter to the White House with a transparently ridiculous debt-reduction offer, claiming it was based on the work of Erskine Bowles, the former Clinton White House chief of staff who helped lead the unsuccessful Simpson-Bowles Commission. Within a couple of hours, Bowles issued a statement effectively telling the Republican leader he knows nothing of Bowles’ work.
“While I’m flattered the Speaker would call something ‘the Bowles plan,’ the approach outlined in the letter Speaker Boehner sent to the President does not represent the Simpson-Bowles plan, nor is it the Bowles plan. In my testimony before the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, I simply took the mid-point of the public offers put forward during the negotiations to demonstrate where I thought a deal could be reached at that time.
“The Joint Select Committee failed to reach a deal, and circumstances have changed since then.”
In other words, Bowles opposes the “Bowles plan,” or at least John Boehner’s manipulation of it. I suspect the Speaker hoped to capitalize on the credibility “Simpson Bowles” enjoys with the Beltway establishment, but that clearly failed once the co-chair of the debt commission was able to speak up for himself.