Patterico's Pontifications

1/7/2016

Noah Rothman Falsely Claims Accuracy on Cruz and Ethanol

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:57 pm



In my battle against people who have been distorting Ted Cruz’s position on ethanol, I took on Noah Rothman on Twitter this morning. Noah rather sanctimoniously proclaimed that his recent piece on Cruz and ethanol was accurate:

Well. There’s not enough room on Twitter to list all the problems with Rothman’s piece. Thank goodness for blogs, where I have all the space I need to debunk the notion that his piece is “perfectly accurate.”

In short, a lobbying group desperate to sound effective pretended that Cruz had recently flip-flopped on ethanol. But Cruz did not change his position recently, at all. I’m not going to rehash the details of Cruz’s ethanol position at length in this post. I already did so last night. If you need those details, they’re all available right here. I will merely summarize them here, along with the fundamental problem with Rothman’s piece:

  • In 2013, Cruz sponsored a bill to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard immediately.
  • In March 2014, Cruz moderated his position to one of a gradual phase-out over five years. Under his March 2014 plan, each year for five years, the ethanol mandate would be reduced by 1/5, until it was gone by 2022.
  • Throughout 2015 and the beginning of 2016, Cruz was absolutely consistent with his March 2014 position.
  • Yesterday, pro-ethanol lobbyists tried to snooker gullible pundits into thinking Cruz had recently flip-flopped on the issue.

Chump suckers like Jazz Shaw and Noah Rothman raced to their keyboards to denounce Cruz. Later in the day, it became clear to the sheep in the conservative commentariat herd that they had screwed up. Apparently, a couple of people in the herd accidentally listened to the 90-second audio of Cruz actually explaining his position — something I did the moment I heard about it (imagine! going to the primary source before making up my mind!) — and people started retracting their breathlessly inaccurate pieces. By the end of the day, the herd had finally realized its error, and only stubborn people like Jazz Shaw were refusing to correct their error.

When I criticized Rothman for this on Twitter, he tried to pretend that he never claimed that Cruz flip-flopped since 2014:

That is horseshit, as I am about to show you in loving detail. Rothman repeatedly suggested, over and over and over, that Cruz had just flip-flopped in very recent times . . . not in 2014 as he tried to claim on Twitter.

Let’s look at Rothman’s contribution to yesterday’s storm of misinformation. First, look at the title of Rothman’s hit piece:

Ted Cruz Passes on Principle

The use of the present tense is a device that headline writers use to report news — i.e., things that happened in the last 24-48 hours. You don’t say “Truman drops atomic bomb” or “Wilson pushes U.S. into World War I” because those events happened long ago. If you were referring to something that happened in 2014, you would not say Cruz “passes” on principle.

But maybe Rothman does not write his own headlines, so let’s look at the content of his actual piece, to see if he ever implies that Cruz recently changed his position on ethanol, rather than changed it in 2014, as he now claims he was saying all along.

The piece opens with Cruz’s very effective invocation of sugar subsidies in the November 2015 debate. Many noticed that this was a subtle attack on Marco Rubio, who is wholly owned by sugar magnate Jose “Pepe” Fanjul, who has been Rubio’s sugar daddy (thank you! I did intend that) from Day One. Keep that November 2015 date in mind, now. Now Rothman says:

In the intervening weeks, Cruz has presented himself as a rock-ribbed figure beholden only to the Constitution and conservative dogma, a governing program that, in theory, rejects corporate subsidies for well-connected industries. No exceptions. And Cruz generally held to this courageous stand, even when it negatively affected his electoral prospects in a crucial primary state, one that the Texas senator needs to emerge from victorious: Iowa. For a state with a strong farming economy that benefits substantially from taxpayer-provided subsidies for alternative fuels, the 2005 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is sacred. Cruz declined to pander to the Iowa corn farmer when he refused to endorse the RFS – a program that mandates American transportation fuels contain a certain portion of renewables, including corn-based ethanol.

Again, keep the timeline (as portrayed by Rothman) in mind here. “In the intervening weeks” since November 2015, “Cruz declined to pander to the Iowa corn farmer.” Keep in mind that he had already supported a phase-out in March 2014, and has been consistent on that point throughout 2015.

Then Rothman describes how Cruz penned an op-ed in the Des Moines Register which (as I described in last night’s post) says what Cruz has been saying all along: that he supports a phase-out of ethanol subsidies as well as an end to any other government restrictions on ethanol. Rothman says (accurately, as far as it goes) that Cruz supported a bill for total and instant repeal in 2013, but now supports a gradual five-year phase-out.

Rothman immediately resumes dishonestly suggesting that Cruz only recently changed his position. Read these passages and see if you believe for one second that Rothman is talking about a nearly two-year-old compromise on timing, as opposed to what he is really trying to suggest: that Cruz recently flip-flopped.

Cruz’s stand against the RFS was a noble one. . . . That Cruz could back this policy and remain at the top of the polls in the Hawkeye State suggested that the fever associated with addiction to federal subsidies was breaking, and Iowans were ready to commit to treatment. This climb down from Cruz suggests he’s willing to play the enabler so long as there is some associated political benefit.

I dare Noah Rothman to claim he is here talking about Cruz’s change from 2013 to early 2014 when he talks about “this climb down.” What Iowa polls did Cruz remain “at the top of” before March 2014? None that I am aware of! Rothman is here clearly claiming that Cruz did a “climb down” after he had led polls over the last few weeks while refusing to pander until this week. This makes it clear that Rothman is not talking about Cruz’s early 2014 moderation on timing. He is a sheep bleating out yesterday’s herd-wail about Cruz suddenly reversing himself.

Rothman points to his next sentence as evidence that he was up-front with his readers:

Cruz’s clarification on the RFS isn’t exactly an about-face aimed entirely at 2016 (he committed to supporting a phased retirement of the RFS in 2014), but it is a setback for his campaign.

Frankly, this has the feel of a sentence tossed into an already written piece, just after seeing Tim Carney’s retraction. Rothman was clearly unwilling to trash the whole post (which he should have), so he inserted here a true fact that is undercut by nearly everything else he says in the piece. Regardless, the reader can see that in the very next sentence, Rothman returns to Dishonest Insinuation Mode:

To the extent that you believe Cruz can, as president, force Congress to pass a five-year phase out of the RFS in his first year in office so that it expires by the time it is already set to expire, it is the extent to which you have faith in Cruz’s commitment to his word. With this latest maneuver, some of the faithful may be experiencing a bit of a crisis.

“This latest maneuver” obviously does not refer to a moderation on timing between 2013 and March 2014. With the language “[t]his latest maneuver,” Rothman is, beyond all doubt, suggesting that Cruz just changed his position.

Let’s sum up. Cruz changed nothing about his position between March 2014 and today. Nothing at all. Yet Rothman insinuates that he did in the following ways:

  • Publishing a piece under the headline “Ted Cruz Passes on Principle” (present tense).
  • Rothman refers to “[t]his climb down from Cruz” which he clearly says occurred after November 2015.
  • Rothman talks about “this latest maneuver” as reason to question Cruz’s word.

Then Rothman tries to tell us he was talking about Cruz’s moderation of a timeline in March 2014.

Riiiight.

Now. It’s not part of the piece, but I did my best to confront Rothman about this on Twitter, and the closest he came to justifying a claim that Cruz has abandoned his principles recently is this:

Christ on a popsicle stick! This is not an argument about whether ethanol is good or bad, but whether government should pass laws either restricting or mandating the use or sale of ethanol. Thus, if Cruz says he supports ethanol, that does not mean he supports ethanol mandates. If Cruz opposes ethanol mandates, that does not mean he is anti-ethanol. This becomes important because Rothman and Shaw keep conflating the two.

Ted Cruz never had an “anti-ethanol position.” He had an anti-government mandate position. Please, please try to understand that very simple point, will you, Jazz Shaw and Noah Rothman?

Just admit it, Noah. You got snookered. You decided to stick with your narrative even after you learned it was wrong. You got caught. Quit pretending your post was “perfectly accurate.”

P.S. Rothman, clearly referring to me, insinuated that I am a cultist:

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 8.27.09 PM

Note how that first reference to cults came immediately after his response to me.

So I thought this might be a good place to criticize Cruz. Yesterday Rich Lowry wrote:

During the Gang of Eight debate, Cruz made stirring, table-thumping professions of his profound support for legal immigration, demonstrated by his advocacy for drastic increases in the H1B visa program. As soon as Trump released his immigration plan attacking H1Bs last August, the odds of Cruz changing on the issue were quite high. Sure enough, he now opposes greater legal immigration and wants a moratorium on H1Bs.

Lowry’s right. Cruz’s support for increased legal immigration was one of the things I liked about him. He has changed that, as a review of his current plan shows. He says it’s because of the low labor participation rate. But that rate has been low forever, and it’s not low due to a glut of legal immigrants. It’s low because of Obama’s policies (including ObamaCare’s threatened employer mandate, together with an explosion of SSI and food stamp benefits and repeated extensions of unemployment benefits).

Cruz deserves criticism for that.

I am not a cultist, Noah Rothman. I just don’t like it when people are the victims of distortion. This time, you’re doing the distorting. Stop it. Retract the false insinuations in your piece.

39 Responses to “Noah Rothman Falsely Claims Accuracy on Cruz and Ethanol”

  1. Ding.

    Patterico (86c8ed)

  2. cultism, is the eternal defense of hackery, most everywhere,

    narciso (732bc0)

  3. rothman was at best, inattentive at campaign and elections, missed the point often at Hot Air, and now tarnishes Commentary’s rather illustrious history,

    narciso (732bc0)

  4. @NoahCRothman so is sloppy, disingenuous journalism. You should feel ashamed.

    Colonel Haiku (467f23)

  5. Smells to me like Mr. Rothman is tripping over his own ego. Or maybe he is doing a bit of cheerleading?

    Simon Jester (5dda81)

  6. after the evidence has been presented clearly, it becomes obvious Rothman is lying,

    narciso (732bc0)

  7. “Herd” is right. Dishonesty seems to be a nonpartisan affliction among journalists/ pundits.

    It’s great that you are calling Shaw and Rothman on their “hors**hit.”

    Thank you.

    ThOR (b81f2a)

  8. Bravo, Patterico. You are 100% right on this, as you are most of the time. Oops, is someone going to accuse me now of personality cultism? :-)

    Milhouse (8489b1)

  9. Someone on Twitter suggests that part of the issue is that Commentary is a neocon publication that is in the tank for the uber-neocon Rubio. That makes some sense.

    Patterico (86c8ed)

  10. Christ on a popsicle stick!

    ???

    seeRpea (ab6952)

  11. Thank you, Patterico, for the fiskings of Rothman and Shaw. It’s been very instructive, both in the clarity and illuminations of your corrections, as well as the disappointing responses of Rothman and Shaw. Somehow I expected a more mature, less prideful reaction from two people whose work, to one degree or another, I had previously found interesting and at times, engrossing. But then I realize that as it can be difficult to be found wrong in one’s private life and have to not only admit it, but also make it right, how much more difficult is pride to put down, graciously and humbly, in front of the entire Internet? I hope both come around. They have too much to offer to allow their pride to win. It’s an ugly trap to let oneself get snared in.

    Dana (86e864)

  12. Pathetic rove plants attempting to muddy the waters for Cruz.

    mg (31009b)

  13. Dana,

    In all honesty, I have not made it easy on them to retract and save face. I have not been as polite as I would like to think I usually am, due to anger — and the aggression probably makes them defensive.

    Patterico (9109d4)

  14. here’s the story of how failmerican union filth successfully destroyed the sugar industry in hawaii

    happyfeet (831175)

  15. Cruz should bring the Benghazi families on stage and let them berate bill’s wife.

    mg (31009b)

  16. This is not an argument about whether ethanol is good or bad, but whether government should pass laws either restricting or mandating the use or sale of ethanol. Thus, if Cruz says he supports ethanol, that does not mean he supports ethanol mandates. If Cruz opposes ethanol mandates, that does not mean he is anti-ethanol. This becomes important because Rothman and Shaw keep conflating the two.

    What about “I am for a free market approach” do they not understand?

    That is really it in a nutshell — Cruz has always been consistent — let the free market decide, and get the govt. out of it as quick as you can.

    Does that fit on Twitter? (Which I never use.)

    Bored Lawyer (aff0d2)

  17. I think this part is true: Rothman (and others) were not aware that Cruz advocated a 5-year phaseout, rather than immediate abolition of the RFC as soon as he could get it passed.

    And the fault for that could be with Cruz, because Cruz did not call, and is not calling, attention to his change of position in 2014. In fact even now he claims he always had the same position. But some people were aware of his general opposition to the RFC, and knew about the original Cruz bill.

    There is a way of describing what he advocated in 2014 as not being a change of position from the one he had in 2013, but a concession to political reality. But in that case, Cruz should not be pointing out that he calls for phaseout, nor should he be giving arguments for a phaseout rather than abolishing it abruptly, because then that would not be his real position. Well, he could call attention to it, but the way an opponent of abortion could point out that he’s not going to be able to make it illegal again till a lot of things happen that can’t happen soon.

    More likely, Cruz did reverse himself on one point in 2014, (abrupt end vs phaseout) but is claiming absolute consistency. Why can’t he say this is perhaps a policy easier for people to take? Lincoln advocated the gradual abolition of slavery at one point, only ending in the year 1900..

    You could make a point that Cruz, in declaring that his position never changed, is not being completely straightforward here, because either it did change at one point (albeit not recently) or he’s making an argument for a phaseout that he does not, in principle, support. And I think also he may be misleading people in saying there could be a big market for ethanol, regardless. If he wants to say that, he needs to develop the argument. This all isn’t anything for anyone to rest his case on.

    Sammy Finkelman (dbec95)

  18. I always found both Shaw and Rothman’s articles at Hot Air less than substantial. Thank you for taking the time and effort to address these specious attacks.

    Wordygirl (bebecd)

  19. Rothman’s basically just another Lefty, so ytou get an argument from very few people.

    formwiz (6b3a5a)

  20. This is perfectly in line with Noah’s time at Hot Air. Apparently Jazz is taking up the slack for Noah.

    JD (28f2b1)

  21. Patterico – you shouldn’t make it easy for them. They have conducted themselves like sanctimonious asshats, and should be treated accordingly

    JD (28f2b1)

  22. I think the problem is Cruz’s present position on ethanol, which is actually different from what it ought to be, and what it ostensibly was in 2013. No mandate. Period. The end.

    Ethanol mandates for gasoline simply shouldn’t exist.

    SarahW (67599f)

  23. I mean, if he isn’t willing to call a boondoggle a boondoggle and move to end it, what can his justification be besides corrupt expediency to some other goal?

    SarahW (67599f)

  24. And I don’t care that Rothman twisted to make a two year old “moderation” look like a recent flip. It’s still the wrong thing for Cruz to support in any degree.

    SarahW (67599f)

  25. One can honestly change one’s opinion about the appropriate level of legal immigration based on an argument about recent low employment rates. That employment rates were also low in 2013 doesn’t make this implausible. In 2013 one might think this recovery had to get better soon (based on historical precedents), while two years later noting that it clearly isn’t doing so.

    David Pittelli (b77425)

  26. Well thats a different question.

    narciso (732bc0)

  27. I mean, if he isn’t willing to call a boondoggle a boondoggle and move to end it, what can his justification be besides corrupt expediency to some other goal?

    He does support moving to end it — over the course of five years, to give people time to adjust.

    Milhouse (8489b1)

  28. Thanks. I’m not sold on any candidate, but Jazz’s post made me think that Cruz was developing into a regular politician.

    amr (64cd2d)

  29. Neither Jazz Shaw nor Noah Rothman have been all that Conservative. Back when I did read Hot Air, they were more Chamber of Commerce level Republicans. Right of center, but squishy as a month old Jack-o-lantern.

    John Hitchcock (364d1d)

  30. Cannot stand the likes of Rothmans and Jazzes. These extremely fragile snowflakes are the worst!

    Bar Lawyer (0d8dae)

  31. I think the problem is Cruz’s present position on ethanol, which is actually different from what it ought to be, and what it ostensibly was in 2013. No mandate. Period. The end.

    Ethanol mandates for gasoline simply shouldn’t exist.

    I commend to you Beldar’s comments from the related Jazz Shaw post. There are expectations to deal with that can be handled through a phase-out. I am as firm a free-market advocate as they come, but I’m fine with this.

    Patterico (86c8ed)

  32. Corrupt expedience is the only possible option, SarahW? At least Obama gives us two false choices.

    JD (b3cb62)

  33. I hear that Twitter might go to 10,000 word tweets. Nobody tell Patterico!

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  34. I hear that Twitter might go to 10,000 word tweets. Nobody tell Patterico!

    Ha. I already heard that. I pledge not to change my behavior as a result of this policy. I will continue my practice of writing 10,000 word posts on this blog, and merely linking them on Twitter, staying within the 140-character limit — and preserving my reputation for brevity among those who never visit here.

    Patterico (86c8ed)

  35. There are expectations to deal with that can be handled through a phase-out.

    We have an administration creating a demand economy. People are trapped in it, forced to choose between acquiescence and ruin. As we dismantle this system we have to make sure we don’t force people into ruin ourselves.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  36. You do know I’m just funning with you.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  37. Of course! I’m funning back in my own way. My humor is an acquired taste. Few acquire it.

    I think that makes it very special.

    Patterico (86c8ed)

  38. What do you expect from Rothman? He’s a leftwinger that writers for nominally conservative sites. He won’t change who he is, especially on twitter. He blasted the commentary on Hot Air time and time again before he left for greener pastures. He was hated there and nothing has changed. Bring up his name and it will continue to get blasted.

    Rothman doesn’t have principles. He has interests.

    NJRob (a07d2e)

  39. This is perfectly in line with Noah’s time at Hot Air. Apparently Jazz is taking up the slack for Noah.

    JD (28f2b1) — 1/8/2016 @ 8:55 am

    That’s a cheap shot on Jazz who has adjusted his opinion quite often and improved his writing to become the best current writer at Hot Air. He has written may solid pieces lately and is just plain wrong in this instance. Showing him to be wrong does not change how far he has come at Hot Air.

    If you want to see the pathetic replacement at Hot Air for Rothman, it’s Taylor Millard. He’s Rothman with a better spellcheck.

    NJRob (a07d2e)


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