THE IDIOTIC SEASON. Eric Boehlert has an excellent (if depressing) rundown of the thoroughly phony Pelosi plane non-scandal. As recently as Sunday -- although the House Speaker-At-Arms had released a statement saying she didn't request the plane on Thursday, and even the White House had dismissed it as a "silly" non-story -- Glenn Reynolds appeared on CNN's Reliable Sources and not only falsely claimed that Pelosi had "requested" a larger plane but added the made-up-from-whole-cloth embellishment that "her staff said she wanted to have room for an 'entourage,' which was perhaps an unfortunate choice of word." (Were it not for the unfortunate death of Anna Nicole Smith, it's frightening to think of the traction this smear job would have received.) What's particularly useful about the Boehlert piece is that he notes carefully how this fake scandal fits into pre-existing Republican smear narratives: "Journalists adore the Democrats-are-hypocrites narrative so much that they often refuse to allow the facts get in the way of the storyline." (Admittedly, it did take the blogosphere to try to mesh this fake scandal into the Democrats-hate-the-troops narrative.) While it's tempting to ignore this kind of nonsense, these broader narratives are adaptable into an endless number of stories -- some imaginary, some not, all of them meaningless trivia. But this kind of trivia can affect presidential campaigns, and end up getting a lot of people killed in counterproductive wars.

It's also worth noting the silliness of trying to turn this into a story about global warming. First of all, global warming is a collective action problem -- the effect of any individual's choices on global warming is less than infinitesimal. (If it's acceptable to fly direct to Illinois in a private jet but not California, shouldn't the president save even more money and fuel by moving from Texas to Virginia? Obviously, this is silly -- nobody would apply this ad hoc "principle" consistently.) But, more importantly, even if the false claim that Pelosi requested a bigger jet was true, the crucial decision is not marginal distinctions among private jets, but the decision to fly in private jets rather than commercial -- a decision, of course, that was made not by Pelosi but in post-9/11 legislation passed by a Republican Congress, signed by a Republican president, and used by the previous Republican Speaker of the House, but amazingly to approximately no criticism from the people now trying to turn a non-scandal into a story about global warming hypocrisy. Because, of course, these people don't care about global warming; they care about smearing Democrats.

--Scott Lemieux

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