It was roughly two years ago at this time when some on the right started arguing that the Green New Deal climate agenda would ban American consumers from buying meat. The claim was, of course, completely absurd and was quickly debunked.
And now it's back. TPM yesterday sketched out how we arrived at this mind-numbing point.
It all started on Thursday, when [President Joe] Biden delivered remarks during the "Virtual Leaders Summit on Climate." During his speech, Biden sketched out his vision that the United States will cut its greenhouse emissions in half by 2030. His comments were short on specifics as his plan has not yet been released, more of a practice in goal-setting than a detailed outline of how to get there. Enter: the Daily Mail. The British tabloid, known to compensate for its paltry fact-checking with all-caps sensationalism, shouldered the responsibility of filling in the blanks of Biden's plan with shoot-from-the-hip speculation.
The conservative British tabloid published a report claiming that the White House "could" limit Americans to "just one burger a MONTH."
What followed was painfully predictable. Conservative media in the U.S. started telling the public that Biden intends to limit consumers to "four pounds of red meat a year," alongside chyrons that read, "Bye-Bye Burgers Under Biden's Climate Plan." Larry Kudlow, the television personality who chaired Donald Trump's National Economic Council, added on Fox Business, "To meet the Biden Green New Deal targets, America has to, get this, America has to stop eating meat. No burger on July 4. No steaks on the barbecue."
It wasn't long before Donald Trump Jr. was touting the claims, and even some members of Congress pushed the same line. "Joe Biden's climate plan includes cutting 90% of red meat from our diets by 2030," Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) falsely claimed via Twitter. "They want to limit us to about four pounds a year. Why doesn't Joe stay out of my kitchen?"
I've heard of Republicans throwing red meat at their base, but this is ridiculous.
Some have begun walking back the nonsense -- Fox News' John Roberts conceded on the air yesterday that it is "not the case" that Biden's climate plan is targeting meat consumption -- but many of the others who've peddled the claim have made little effort to acknowledge reality.
By some accounts, the White House finds all of this rather comical. The Washington Post reported, "To White House aides, the wholly fictional Biden-will-ban-hamburgers story line was in part an amusing flare-up perpetuated by Republicans who have struggled to find ways to successfully attack the president. They joked privately that White House press secretary Jen Psaki should start her daily press briefing by eating a burger."
To be sure, the reaction is understandable. Republicans didn't know what to say about the Democrats' COVID relief package, so they focused their attention on Dr. Seuss. Republicans are similarly unsure how to attack the president's infrastructure proposals, so they're focusing on an imagined ban on hamburgers.
For Team Biden, it's not too surprising that there's humor in watching the GOP try and fail to find something intelligent to say about the issues that matter. As the president approaches his 100-day mark, his opposition party is so terribly lost -- and so unable to identify legitimate issues -- that it's been reduced to making up fanciful nonsense.
But just below the surface, the story is less amusing and more disheartening.
For our discourse and our democracy to function, there needs to be something resembling a common reality. And for government to function, we need governing parties that care about the substance of policymaking.
And yet, there's the Republican Party, in the midst of serious challenges, spending the first third of 2021 at the national level preoccupied with Dr. Seuss, Potato Head dolls, Muppets disclaimers, and now a meat ban that exists only in the imaginations of fringe far-right personalities.
House GOP lawmakers are in Orlando for a conference retreat, and party leaders keep telling reporters Republicans are focusing much of their attention on "policy." That sounds like a delightful change of pace, though given the circumstances, I'd recommend some skepticism.