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When Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said last week that the Romney people were “not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” it reminded me of George W. Bush’s aide’s (rumored to be Karl Rove) claim to a journalist, nearly eight years ago, that the Bush administration did not belong to “the reality-based community.” Progressives love to point to quotes like these and snicker, as if there’s basically no difference between saying you’re against the “reality-based community” and admitting you’re insane. But an insane person—even a stupid or competently manipulative one—would never say they were not in the reality-based community, or that they were not going to be limited by facts. Evidently, the men making these statements (political operatives, after all) believe they are communicating something more than a disdain for the truth. What could they think they are communicating? Not, I don’t think, that there is no longer any difference between truth and lies in politics (which doesn’t mean they don’t act like they believe that), nor that a Bush-style religious faith trumps analysis and deliberation. Maybe, I sometimes think, that the Republican Party is more concerned, as the Bush aide told the journalist, with changing reality than with studying it. And definitely that politics is (and should be) about more than facts. What is surprising about that last assertion is just how surprised contemporary progressives always seem when events (and elections) bear it out. It’s helpful to point out, as today’s progressive blogs have become expert at doing, when a candidate is not telling the truth. But Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney just spent two days articulating an apparently seductive vision of American society—if we want to stop them from changing reality the way Bush did, we had better find a way to question something bigger than their facts.

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