Two Cheers for Bob Scheer

Among the many problems with critiques of libertarianism from both right and left is the degree to which they confuse principle and pragmatism within the disparate and diffuse arena of libertarian thought. Virtually every hit piece on Rand Paul or libertarianism coming from the likes of Jen Rubin, Commentary, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Free Beacon or other such neoconservative bastions takes the most extreme characterization of non-interventionism and posits that radical isolationism is the norm because libertarian allegiance to the non-aggression principle leads inexorably to a principled and committed stance to never, under any circumstances, use force. Never mind that Rand Paul believes fervently in free trade and global diplomacy and cooperation, qualities that should automatically inoculate one from the “isolationist” slur. He frequently cites how national defense is explicitly framed as the primary duty of the federal government, thus he would not hesitate to use force in a constitutional manner (where Congress regains primacy in the decision).

Paul’s foreign policy sounds more realist and pragmatic than non-interventionist, and it is far from “isolationist.” It’s difficult to imagine a Rand Paul presidency converting us to the Swiss or Icelandic model of foreign engagement, postures which would indeed be isolationist. The even-keel Paul suddenly abandoning his George Kennan infused realism for an erratic, withdrawal-at-all-costs, “leave us alone” retrenchment seems as likely as his giving us the final installment in an Iraq War trilogy. Still, the isolationist pejorative persists because the forces arrayed against Paul on the right stand in rabid opposition to him, simply because he dares to criticize their worldview. It is much easier to slander libertarians as isolationist and equate them with leftists than to actually engage with the criticisms and perhaps be forced into some painful soul-searching. In this regard, neocons mirror progressives, in that their reticence to acknowledge real failures in their foreign policy mirrors the left’s reluctance to acknowledge failures in their war on poverty, the welfare state, economics or healthcare. People hate credible challenges to their ideological dogma, which is why elements of left and right are lashing out at Rand Paul, the bearer of bad news.

Right now the attacks from the right are more noxious and unhinged than the average panicked screed from the left. But the left is no less in error in its critique of libertarianism when it states emphatically that a philosophical hypothetical about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Paul’s position on abortion (as if he’s going to be eager to federally ban the practice as POTUS; much more likely he would adopt a state’s rights/federalism stance) will, ipso facto, automatically disqualify him with 100% of the Obama coalition. But can the left really be that confident that the whole bloc of Obama millennials is going to catch the fever for Hillary the same way they did for Obama? Listen to Robert Scheer’s hour long paean to libertarian consistency in fighting crony capitalism in which he declares proudly that Rand Paul would have to be his choice against Hillary Clinton. So we’ve got a principled democratic socialist sounding off on the consistent, principled, laudable positions of Rand Paul and libertarians, and doing so in the context of Paul’s raucous reception from millennials at Berkeley. But we’re supposed to accept the smug liberal wisdom that insists Paul’s attraction to young people is all just a a mirage, because abortion. Please.

In the process of assuring the Bay Area radio audience that he was not a libertarian but a committed liberal who believes in “throwing money at the problem” and “leveling the playing field,” Scheer regaled his skeptical host and listeners with as robust a defense of libertarianism that you are likely to ever hear from someone on the left. He celebrates their consistent contempt for corporatist privilege, applauds the consistent belief in avoiding imperial temptations such as “nation building,” and even pushes back on the naive leftist assertion that libertarians are in bed with the “1 percent” and favor accelerating inequality by pointing out that it was in fact Bill Clinton’s affinity for crony capitalism, the notorious Wall St-Washington D.C. revolving door and the left’s coziness with the Federal Reserve that are chiefly responsible for growing inequality. I don’t necessarily agree with Scheer’s diagnosis, particularly regarding his claim that the repeal of Glass-Steagall was the high crime of the century, but he is surely correct to highlight that nowhere are libertarian policy prescriptions to blame for the economic turmoil of the past decade. I most certainly would not agree with Scheer’s antidote to the so-called inequality “crisis” either, as only stable economic growth in the private economy can enhance prosperity for all (though of course not uniformly; thus even with growth, you will always have “income inequality,” which shouldn’t even be “a thing” in our modern lexicon), but it is beyond refreshing to hear someone on the left instructing fellow travelers to train their ire at the bipartisan duopoly of cronies responsible for the rigged (and ongoing) Big Business-Big Government tryst, not at the libertarians who, Scheer recognizes, are not to be lamented but lauded for adhering to principle in earnest and with consistency.

Scheer also makes a crucial point in this interview about the need for the modern left to come to terms with totalitarian socialism. Though I would argue with him that there really isn’t that much of a difference between democratic and totalitarian socialism, as any system oriented around central planning and expert maintenance of an economy is ultimately going to end in tyranny, whether it begins with democratic elections or not. Managed economies are confused societies, and confused societies are chaotic and prone to corruption, abuse and authoritarianism. Still, how encouraging to actually hear a socialist suggesting that not enough socialists have come to grips with the most abhorrent socialist outcomes? I get the feeling that Mr. Scheer is uncomfortably aware of his own ideology’s shortcomings when it comes to the actual administration of government; that it is impossible to ignore that socialist regimes inevitably abuse the power they seek to consolidate.

So two cheers for Robert Scheer, who deserves the maximum number of cheers this libertarian is capable of bestowing on a self-described democratic socialist. Perhaps one day he might even discard the socialist label and come all the way over to the libertarian reservation, where liberty is exalted, where government and collectivism are scorned, and where the mutton is nice and lean

Here is an interesting interview Scheer did with Reason a while back:

Politics of Vilification

“The left is exhausted.”
-Paul Ryan, CPAC 2014

Wouldn’t you be? Delivering revolutionary change while pretending that nothing is up and there is nothing to see here is bound to drain the energy from even the most enthusiastic political operation. What the Obama progressives have been doing the past five years is a thoroughly postmodern attempt to effectuate dramatic changes to the United States government, but in the process to be seen as unaffiliated with said change. It’s basically a vindication of the Limbaugh Theorem, which asserts in the grandiose timbre of the world’s preeminent blowhard that President Obama’s chief accomplishment has been to present himself as perpetually removed from the nuts and bolts of governing, thereby exempting himself from prolonged or intense scrutiny from the national media. According to Jonathan Tobin at Commentary, the media has been more than happy to play the role of Obama Protection Society rather than serve as combative investigative journalists. Here’s Tobin:

While most journalists have been reliably liberal in their politics for decades, the culture of the profession has always valued an “agin’ the government” mentality in which all politicians are viewed with cynicism. So long as even liberal journalists regard it as their duty to ferret out stories about corruption, mismanagement and failure within the government, we can feel safe that no administration, even one that is favored by the left, will escape the scrutiny necessary to provide accountability.

But there is little doubt that this has begun to change since Obama came to office. After the media hammered both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush throughout their presidencies, Obama has had it relatively easy. Part of it is due to the special hold that this historic president has over liberals… The culture at CBS and like-minded outlets is to see any aggressive reporting about the president and his policies as evidence of wrong thinking rather than part of their obligation to ask uncomfortable questions and speak truth to power.

Is there any doubt that a vast majority of American media fall into this category? Is it any wonder that most of these Ivy-educated, Beltway-bred, coastal elitists who were so keen to speak truth to power (when power had an (R) next to it) are now willing participants in state-sanctioned ideological propaganda? Of course there are scores of principled leftists like Kevin Gosztola, William Saletan and (perhaps) David Sirota, but the bulk of progressives in media today are more likely to be animated by hostile caricatures of the right and to seek out “evidence of wrong thinking” than by actual truth. As I’ve recounted before, the left is complicit in government propaganda because exaltation of big, activist government is the only direction their ideology leads. It remains their Big Idea despite the fact that the intellectual and practical justifications for it were eviscerated by… well, the twentieth century.

Kevin Williamson of National Review perfectly captures the aimless cynicism of a progressive movement unmoored from meaningful ideas:

I do not much blame the Left for hesitating to talk about Big Ideas. The Left has been losing the Big Idea debate for a generation or more, in no small part because its last Big Idea killed 100 million people, give or take, and not in Mr. Klein’s projecting-abstractly-from-a-CBO-study way but in the concentration-camps-and-hunger-terror way. Marxism was the Left’s Big Idea for the better part of a century, and its collapse — which was moral, economic, political, and complete — left a howling void in the Left’s intellectual universe. Nothing has quite managed to fill it: In the immediate wake of the collapse of Communism, the anticapitalists sought shelter in a variety of movements, few of which grew to be of any real consequence, with the exception of the environmentalist movement. But the lenten self-mortification implied by a consistent environmentalist ethic has limited that movement’s appeal as a governing philosophy and an individual ethic both, hence its fragmentation into a motley sprawl of mini-crusades. It is easy to be anti-fracking when that does not require you to give up anything, easy to oppose the expansion of the Keystone pipeline network when you can be confident that the gas pumps in your hometown will always be full, easy for well-off Whole Foods shoppers to abominate varieties of grain that are possessed by evil spirits or cooties or whatever it is this week.

The intellectual decline of the Left has been something to see. I am reminded of a joke that P. J. O’Rourke once made about my hometown: “There’s also a whiff of highbrow in Siberia. For a hick town, Irkutsk had too many opera houses, theaters, museums, and academic institutes. This is because, for hundreds of years, the smarty-pants reformers, annoying idealists, and know-it-all do-gooders were sent here for life. It’s as though everyone who voted for George McGovern was packed off to Lubbock, Texas.” You could not make the same joke about Obama voters or Occupiers — or, especially, about Jon Stewart’s audience — because nobody expects any of them to start an opera house or an academic institute. They are busy watching an ersatz Beavis and Butt-Head for psychology majors who enjoy having their modest intellects flattered and their perceived enemies “destroyed.”

Williamson earns my Hero of the Moment award (and not for the first time) for astutely calling out Jon Stewart as “the leading voice of the half-bright Left because he is a master practitioner of the art of half-bright vitriolic denunciation,” which can just as easily be used to describe the left-at-large. Robbed of their Big Ideas (don’t get any), the left plays a politics of vilification. Without much of an intellectual or philosophical foundation to rely on, the left operates almost entirely out of pragmatic rather than principled concern. Sure, vague paeans to “equality” and “social justice” can be mistaken for principled stances, but do not be fooled; the left’s drive for egalitarianism is always premised on the notion that society is unjust and only government (with the right experts – themselves – at the helm) can eradicate the injustice. Thus the welfare state and redistribution programs that sound like principled desires for a “fair” society are really just the pragmatic means for producing the ultimate end: power.

As to the question of what progressives want with power, the ends are up for debate, but the means never are. People like myself who look askance at progressives assume (not without justification) that a not-insignificant cadre wishes to use government solely to grab power. This group knows that the left’s “coalition” of voters who are susceptible to promises of government-as-panacea must be consistently pandered to, whereas other progressives indeed wish to bring about positive change with their power but unfortunately lack the wherewithal to deliver. The disparate factions of progressivism envision different ends, yet they embrace the same means, the means of vilification.

Which brings us to Paul Ryan.

In a radio interview last week, Ryan had this to say on the culture of work in American inner cities:

We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

As we all know, there is only one appropriate response here: RAAAAAACIST!!!!! Never mind that Ryan is stating what should be an uncontroversial and obvious truth, and never mind that nowhere does he mention race. If you are a conservative and you offer a critique of any kind (implicit, explicit, oblique) of the welfare state’s failure to curtail poverty, you are a racist as far as the left is concerned, plain and simple. Instead of engaging on this crucially important topic and trading ideas on how to address pervasive poverty in urban areas, the left vilifies any would-be reformer as heartless and racist. As Pete Wehner notes, the true motive behind this incessant vilification of their opposition is the left’s insecurity about their own record:

Liberals who have complicity in the problems plaguing America’s inner cities are attempting to make an honest conversation about poverty impossible. They are signaling that they intend to try to take out Republicans who want to address some of the root causes, the behavioral causes, of poverty.

As a posterchild for the left’s psychotic narrative that says Republicans hate the elderly, the poor, the middle class, women, the gays, minorities, puppies, ice cream and orgasms, Ryan knows how the left operate when they have someone in their crosshairs. As the primary budget scion among House conservatives, Ryan is persona non grata for progressives because he represents a sober, green eye-shade accounting of their fiscal failures, and they will do whatever they can to forestall the reckoning. This is how Ryan is cast as He Who Throws Granny Off Cliff or as factually challenged or even as equivalent to the evil British purveyors of the Irish Potato Famine. The left trashes Ryan and “fact-checks” him into oblivion because they are terrified of his policies ever seeing the light of day since a Ryan fiscal reform would mean the beginning of the end of the progressive project. If Ryan is successful in restoring a baseline of sanity to Washington-as-usual (and “baseline budgeting” is a great place to start), the left’s budget gimmicks and procedural theatrics will no longer matter once actual accounting is again the standard. They know this, so they react accordingly, with wave after wave of dishonest attack, in the same vein as they went after Romney. I’ve learned not to underestimate the capacity of the modern left to defame genuinely good and decent men like Ryan and Romney, who because of the threat they posed to the immoral and unsustainable government gravy train, had to have their characters assassinated. Nothing is more important than the ultimate agenda, and if a little shameless vilification of decent people is needed to keep the progressive train on the tracks, so be it. And yet there was Paul Ryan at CPAC, proudly proclaiming that the left is exhausted because they are out of ideas. The left hasn’t really had any ideas since the official failure of their Big Idea almost twenty-five years ago. They are resigned to playing identity politics and pandering for votes until such time as free-thinking citizens wise up and hand them a decisive defeat, or else until they run out of other people’s money.

Solvency of the States

If you had to guess which American states currently enjoy long-run projections of fiscal solvency and which do not, the answer you give probably depends on what you think of the chasm between red state and blue state governance; particularly of their competing approaches to budgets and balance sheets. If you’re a sane person with a modicum of economic comprehension, you are likely to know the right answer (the red states are more solvent), whereas a progressive is sure to proclaim with the same certainty as Harold Camping predicting the apocalypse that the blue states are the winners.

One of the unfortunate drawbacks of the digital revolution is the way it created fast tracks to confirmation bias. With seemingly all the information at our fingertips, it’s increasingly easy to find support on the web for one’s pre-existing biases, in the form of a snappy infographic, statistic or article. I’m sure I am guilty of this myself on occasion. On matters from the minimum wage to energy to Keynesian multipliers, policy debates in the 21st century that should be “winnable” are instead given to endless harangues by both sides as the crux of the issue at hand gets distorted to the point of incoherence. Like ships passing in the night, points and counterpoints are hurled into the dark like aimless projectiles from blind cannons. No one trusts anything that emanates from the enemy.

Of course I blame the left for most, if not all of this. For it is our leftist friends who adhere to the relatavist dogma that says truth is essentially nothing more than a social construct. In other words, truth is whatever society deems it to be. The entire field of macroeconomics can be boiled down as an exercise in giving fanciful collectivism a scientific veneer. A modern political philosophy that scorns individualism and exalts egalitarianism is going to need a shiny veneer if it’s to attract converts, given history’s rather convincing verdict on the matter. Because nearly every consequential epoch of human history since the Middle Ages was premised on the primacy of the individual over that of the Church or the State, it’s a bold endeavor to preach egalitarianism to Americans. The notion that fairness is paramount to our national conscience is apt if we’re talking about opportunity. It is anathema to the free society however, if we’re talking about outcome. And yet progressives really are interested in equal outcomes, much as they know they can’t get away espousing as much in such blatantly socialist language. So the trick is to muddy the waters, cloud the issue, fog the lens. The trick is to erect an army of fact checkers, truth police and Vox Medias in order to keep the ambitious young stenographers active and engaged. This way no sound economic takedown of exhausted Keynesianism can be allowed to stand without some minion somewhere penning a brave defense of bureaucracy and having it picked up by HuffPo and distributed through media channels as DNC talking points.

So it is with that long-winded introduction that I offer this banal piece of data on state budget solvency, from Real Clear Politics. This is funny because even I would not have guessed that the results drew as clear a distinction between red state and blue as these rankings show. The fact that states with smaller governments and fewer impediments to market entry and participation have brighter fiscal outlooks and rosier balance sheets than those of those benevolent blue staters who just want to do right by the poor and downtrodden should come as a shock to no one. But it is still jarring to see such comprehensive success and failure at the front and back ends of the list bifurcated so as to be so ideologically distinguishable. So without further ado, the five most solvent states followed by the five least solvent.

Most Solvent

1. Alaska
2. South Dakota
3. North Dakota
4. Nebraska
5. Wyoming

Least Solvent

46. California
47. Massachusetts
48. Connecticutt
49. Illinois
50. New Jersey

In case you are still under the misapprehension that large public sector workforces financed by high taxation and regulation are the way to go, all one need look to is domestic migration patterns in the U.S. and try to come away with any conclusion other than blue state policies amount to a pathway to citizens shipping out.

Rand Paul’s Filibuster

One year ago today, Rand Paul captivated much of the country with his filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination to the CIA. The 13 hour marathon went spectacularly viral on social media and was responsible for CSPAN’s largest ratings in a while. By now very few Americans are unfamiliar with the Kentucky senator’s passionate rebuke of our clandestine drone program, and that is due to Paul’s political instinct for latching on to broad populist concerns that generally transcend partisan lines. Whether it’s reforming mandatory minimum sentencing, advocating government (state and federal) exit from marriage contracts, suing the NSA for domestic spying or championing drug war reform and felon voting rights, Paul has shown he is virtually peerless at applying his libertarian message to issues that garner broad support and thus enhance the appeal of libertarian ideas overall. Still, for all his policy entrepreneurship in just three years in the Senate, Paul is known most for his stance on drones.

As much as the filibuster was about drones, it was also about much more. It was about the wider War on Terror, as well as a plea for a restored reverence for the Bill of Rights, especially the fifth amendment. Most of all though, the filibuster was a disquisition on checks and balances and constitutional separation of powers. Rand used the hypothetical threat of an American being killed via drone strike on American soil without due process as a vivid entry point through which his audience could begin to appreciate the distorted power distribution within the branches of government.

Since Woodrow Wilson progressives have believed that government power should be concentrated in the executive branch and that the presidency demanded a “vision.” George Will describes the Wilsonian impulse as a desire for the president to interpret the constitution in a way that comports with the wishes and wants of the people and to be the voice that affirms these wants. Wilson’s view of the American founding and of separation of powers would become the legacy sentiment of the American left for a hundred years: not good enough. For Wilson and his ascendant progressive cohort, science was becoming the dominant and indisputable truth; bolstered by Darwin’s theory of evolution in biology, they set out to apply the science of evolution to human behavior. Wilson believed that government’s purpose was to efficiently guide humanity towards its inevitable endpoint of societal evolution. The perfect society would be attainable once the experts were put in charge. You know, top men

F.A. Hayek famously disparaged this inclination to impose scientific plans on a society the fatal conceit. The idea that you can acquire enough knowledge to plan an economy through the expertise of administrators is essentially the definition of hubris. That you would attempt such a project in a polity expressly founded in opposition to this conceit is nigh treasonous. And yet there was Woodrow Wilson, the first American president to directly challenge the very nature of our government’s structure and the idea that power should be diffuse and majorities neutered. Our Madisonian construct is meant to consist of constantly shifting majorities among competing segments of government, while factions are to be constrained by being discouraged on large scales, the idea being that the inevitable rise of small factions within civil society would harness productive resolutions among competing interests. Wilson and the progressives declared all this nonsense, said “Hail Science!” and went to work on a century long project to gradually erode checks and balances by growing the executive to a scale fit to house a legion of expert administrators, aka “unelected bureaucrats.”

This was the subversive message of Rand Paul’s filibuster. The crucial issue he really meant to highlight was embedded inside his bombastic portrayal of an immediate threat to our natural rights posed by drones. That is not to say that Paul was not sincere about his clarion call for reform to both overseas and domestic drone protocols. Rand is nothing if not a rabid defender of all of the Bill of Rights, and his alarm at the vague guidelines, oversight and legality of the government’s drone program was about protecting various parts of our fourth, fifth and sixth amendment rights. More than anything to do with drones though, the crux of the filibuster was about drawing attention to the bipartisan abuse of executive power.

Paul is fond of quoting Montesquieu (really, who isn’t?), the French political philosopher whose principal contribution to politics was the idea of separation of powers. A merger between executive and legislative branches would mean no liberty, according to Montesquieu’s revolutionary tripartite concept under which our government was conceived. Likewise, as Paul offered repeatedly throughout his filibuster, a combination of the executive and the judiciary can yield no justice. Paul was rightly tying the concern over due process and extrajudicial assassinations to the broader discussion of an overreaching executive. The presidency has simply become too big, with too many agencies and bureaucracies under its aegis. Congress has gradually and steadily forfeited much of its authority to the executive on everything from war powers to educational administration (as if that should be a role of the federal government at all). I believe Rand Paul was sincere when he said he would have stood and raised the same objections regardless of who was occupying the White House. This was not a partisan attack on Barack Obama, but a larger critique of the subtle degradation to our constitutional prerogative to live under three coequal branches of government.

Before Wilson, Congress had far more authority than it enjoys today and the roles of the branches were unambiguous: the legislature writes the laws, the executive branch executes the laws, and the judicial branch determines the constitutionality of the laws. But with the rise of our imperial presidency – brought to you unapologetically and enthusiastically by progressives and their presidential “visionaries” – the executive branch has become Leviathan, buttressed by unaccountable battalions of expertise known as executive agencies, able to cast the tentacled nets of the administrative state across the land, unimpeded and with little input from the other branches. Our government as currently construed is not very far from completing the progressive vision of having a benign dictator administer an expert plan for the country. As the executive branch grows and grows, and with it the number of petty authoritarians manning the cubicles at EPA, IRS, DOE, HHS, and wherever else the executive agencies have usurped power, the ability of Congress and the Supreme Court to effectively check its authority diminishes. We know who is responsible for this. Paul’s meta-narrative was not to affix blame for the bloated, corrupt, too-powerful presidency, but to cast a bright shining light on it and to spend thirteen hours subtly lamenting the fact that not enough Americans in the 21st century seem to care that government today is not functioning as it was designed.

And what better way to jar Americans out of complacency than to warn them that an unchecked executive might drop a drone through their roof. That was the real point of the filibuster, to wake Americans up to the perils of absolute power.

Parallels in Propaganda

Vladimir Putin gave a rambling press conference today in which he insisted that Russian troops were in fact not occupying the Crimean region of Ukraine. Russian state-controlled media has bombarded Russians with accounts of Nazis and fascists on the march, while purportedly “independent” Kremlin-funded outlet RT blanketed its airwaves with the hilarious narrative that any military mobilization in Ukraine was expressly to do with protecting ethnic Russians.

Of course all of this is untrue.

There is a delicious and spectacular irony to the Obama administration’s exasperation at all this Russian deception. It is almost as if they are experiencing their karmic comeuppance for all the lies and propaganda they spew on the domestic front. Speaking from Kiev today, John Kerry was literally dumbfounded when told of Putin’s claim that the Russians hadn’t actually invaded Crimea. President Obama must feel betrayed after his 90 minute talk with Vlad turned out to be a bunch of misdirection and empty promising; imagine our president’s dismay at seeing the footage of Russian helicopters breaching sovereign borders after being assured by the Russian leader over the phone that no such thing, under any circumstances, would occur. Mr. Burns exhibited less naivete about foreign despots when he allowed Fidel to glimpse the trillion dollar bill.

Julia Ioffe, The New Republic’s resident Russia expert describes the bubble Putin lives in:

For the last few years, it has become something like conventional knowledge in Moscow journalistic circles that Putin was no longer getting good information, that he was surrounded by yes-men who created for him a parallel informational universe.”They’re beginning to believe their own propaganda,” Gleb Pavlovsky told me when I was in Moscow in December. Pavlovsky had been a close advisor to the early Putin, helping him win his first presidential election in 2000. (When, in 2011, Putin decided to return for a third term as president, Pavlovsky declared the old Putin dead.) And still, it wasn’t fully vetted information. We were like astronomers, studying refractions of light that reached us from great distances, and used them to draw our conclusion.

Sound familiar? To what other politician or ideology can we ascribe a fondness for propaganda? To the man who said “you know, I actually believe my own bullshit” perhaps? To the political party obsessed with constantly portraying their opposition as culturally backward, intolerant, sexist and racist? Whether the culprit is President Obama or the wider progressive movement, the inescapable fact of 21st century American politics is that the left’s coalition accepts the powerful utility of propaganda and deploys it mercilessly. The Obamacare Deception has been well documented to the point where it is now wholly uncontroversial to cite Obama’s “lie of the year” or mock the incessant failed promises that accompanied the law’s sales pitch. And yet the administration clings to the same false and meaningless explanations and technicalities regarding the “if you like your ______ , you can keep your ______” lie, and continues to maintain sites offering helpful FAQ answers to the pervasive “myths” surrounding the law. Leftist hacks, media, and the administration have all thrown fits of late whenever the CBO has trashed their claims and destroyed their propaganda. On the consequences of raising the minimum wage, on the effect the ACA will have on the labor market, on the real unemployment environment, on the Benghazi talking points distortions, and on the apparent scourge of all things democracy known as the Koch Bros, the left’s propaganda is currently suffering through its first prolonged expose. Yes, the internet and the proliferation of 24/7 news is a major factor in checking the left’s monopoly on disseminating information. But the larger reason for the weakened posture of the left’s Ministry of Information is reality. The truth usually does win out, and no matter how sophisticated the scheme, operations based on propaganda and lies usually fail.

Which is why the clash of two epic champions is so exciting. Who is going to out-deceive the other? Who is better at keeping a straight face while telling outrageously tall tales? Will the Russians under Putin prevail with their stories of fascists arriving in Crimea from Western Ukraine (even though the bus’ license plate is Crimean and the thugs were Russian plants)? Or will American progressives win the prize for Harry Reid’s suggestion that “all” Obamacare horror stories “are untrue“? Sadly, even Stephen Colbert has received his marching orders and, being the good little progressive mouthpiece he is, has answered Reid’s bat signal.

Ultimately there can be no winner in a battle of shameless propagandists, particularly when the scale of the campaigns are so different. For the Obama administration and the left, their “messaging” is intended solely for a domestic audience. They couldn’t care less what the rest of the world thinks; as long as they’re winning the propaganda war at home, the progressive cause is secure. For the Kremlin, Russian propaganda fights a two-front war, at home and abroad. They must convince their Russian citizens that intervention in Ukraine is a noble endeavor to protect ethnic Russians longing for the motherland, and at the same time tell the world that they haven’t actually done anything and that it’s all the fascists’ fault.

The result of juxtaposing these two great propaganda powers is somewhat counter-intuitive: one would assume that the country with the state-controlled media and the censorship would be better at hiding its duplicitous deeds, yet the world and the Russian people alike are clear-eyed about the corruption of their government and seem reflexively allergic to trusting much of what Putin says. Meanwhile, the country that prides itself on a free press – a press meant to antagonize and check its government in order to foster accountability in its representatives – has evidently stopped caring very much about the role of the fourth estate in extracting truth from government. Instead, most American media are increasingly political and aligned with progressivism, and have concluded that occupational integrity is subordinate to political gain. Most of our media are part of the cause, and if a little lying is necessary in furtherance of the cause, meh.

Nonetheless, truth does win out, even against rigged games and long odds. Propaganda cannot win in an information era like the one in which we are now living. It can be harder to identify and to quash, as the cacophony of voices and opinions can sometimes be as unintelligible as it is noisy, but ultimately propaganda is going to be exposed for what it is. Vladimir Putin is currently testing the boundaries of the alternate universe he has crafted for he and his cronies, whereas progressives and the Obama administration are rapidly discovering that their fantasy version of America is being rejected by those not susceptible to fairy tales and witless propaganda. And they did not anticipate that there would be so many…

I am somewhat sympathetic to the toxic clouds of frustration billowing out of the White House, Pentagon and State Department this week. No doubt, it must be infuriating to listen to a strong man ruler of a kleptocratic petro-oligarchy talk in circles to the global community. It must be exhausting to witness a country fabricate out of whole cloth and in plain view of the international community a false motive for invading a sovereign neighbor. And it must be excruciating to have to deal with a world leader who consistently over-promises and under-delivers. And yet all one can ask of Obama and the progressives is “how does it taste?”

In Vladimir Putin and all the lies that come with him,  it is simply a taste of their own medicine. Liars meeting their match by way of confrontation with other, better liars. Considering the political and ideological forbears for all concerned though, should we be at all surprised that the radical left and the ex-KGB elements in the U.S. and Russia deploy similar tactics in messaging?