Yesterday morning, with Wall Street indexes falling, right-wing TV preacher Pat Robertson offered his audience an explanation. The stock market was falling, Robertson said, because of divine retribution for Planned Parenthood.
“[P]ossibly if we were to stop,” the televangelist added, “stop all of this slaughter, the judgment of God might be lifted from us.”
Other Republicans were equally eager to cast blame, but chose more terrestrial targets. GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, for example, said market turmoil is the result of “poor planning and allowing China and Asia to dictate the agenda.” Which “agenda”? No one knows. Around the same time, a variety of figures on Fox News blamed President Obama and called for tax cuts.
But it was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) who seemed even more eager than most to join the if-I-say-dumb-things-people-might-pay-attention-to-me crowd.
Shortly after Wall Street witnessed a dramatic drop in stocks Monday, Gov. Chris Christie – a Republican presidential candidate – told a New Hampshire restaurant filled with voters they should place the blame on President Obama’s reliance borrowing money from China. […]Christie responded by blasting Obama, saying the Democratic president borrowed “lots and lots of money from the Chinese” to bolster America’s economy. […] “Because we’ve been irresponsible as a government,” Christie added. “This president has been irresponsible as a president. And yes, this Congress has been irresponsible. … We better start being fiscally responsible.”
Before we dig into the specifics, the broader context really is amazing. In early 2009, with the Great Recession in full swing, Republicans blamed the faltering stock market on President Obama, just months into his first term. Soon after, Wall Street soared, sustaining a years-long hot streak, at which point the right quickly decided the major indexes weren’t important anymore.
That is, until yesterday, when Republicans decided to blame Obama all over again.
But the closer we look at the GOP rhetoric yesterday, the more obviously ridiculous it is. For example, Wall Street tumult is not Planned Parenthood’s fault. We also know that tax breaks for the rich do not make the markets soar.
As for Christie’s rhetoric, the guy simply has no idea what he’s talking about. Paul Krugman noted yesterday:
You could, conceivably, tell a story in which America becomes dependent on Chinese loans; then, when China gets in trouble, it demands repayment, pushing us into crisis too. But any story along those lines has a corollary: we should be seeing a spike in US interest rates as our credit line gets pulled.What you actually see is falling rates.
In other words, the scandal-plagued governor, desperate for attention, has the story exactly backwards. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes called Christie’s rhetoric “mind-boggling,” adding that the governor is demonstrating an “embarrassing core misunderstanding of, basically, everything.”
If campaign politics made more sense, this would effectively be a disqualifying moment for the beleaguered GOP candidate.
Finally, note the general incoherence of the right’s reaction to recent developments in the market. There’s no common thread, there’s no consistent theme, there’s just wild nonsense being thrown in multiple directions at once. It seems conservatives are simply hoping someone, somewhere will blame Obama for something, without regard for reason or voters’ intelligence.
When the heat is on, we tend to discover who falls to pieces and who’s made of sterner stuff. If Republicans ever expect to be taken seriously as a governing party, they’ll have to respond to developments like yesterday’s with far more maturity and seriousness of purpose.