We wrote here about Frank Lautenberg’s disgraceful speech on the Senate floor, in which he accused Charles and David Koch of attempting to “subvert the upcoming election” and apparently called for a boycott of consumer products manufactured by Koch Industries, which he identified by name (Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, etc.) It turned out that Lautenberg was asking for a boycott of his own constituents, notwithstanding New Jersey’s current economic doldrums, since Georgia-Pacific has operations and employees in that state.
Apparently embarrassed by that revelation, Lautenberg and his allies are now backtracking feverishly, denying that Lautenberg called for a boycott of Koch Industries. But that leaves us with a puzzle: if Lautenberg wasn’t suggesting that his listeners ought not buy consumer products made by Koch Industries, then why did he list them, and describe them as “a source of revenue for the Koch brothers”? Was he giving Koch a little free advertising? That didn’t seem to be his intent.
Lautenberg is thus much like Barack Obama, whose backers are desperately trying to limit the damage from Obama’s “you didn’t build it” oration by claiming that the president’s words are being “taken out of context.” (One Obama ad even accuses Mitt Romney of misquoting Obama, even though Romney quoted word for word from Obama’s speech.) In fact, the context of Obama’s remarks is what makes them so repugnant. The context was Obama’s desire to raise our taxes; his point was that the government is the source of all good, and therefore when the government raises your taxes, you should sit down and shut up rather than complain.
If Lautenberg wasn’t trying to discourage people from buying Koch’s products, then what was his point? Just as, if Obama wasn’t trying to justify the idea that government is entitled to take as much of your money as it wants, then what was his point? In both of these episodes, prominent Democrats said what they really thought, but then were forced to backtrack when they realized that they had violated basic American political traditions.