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New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shrugged off right-wing attacks alleging that she's unprepared to serve in the U.S. House. (Photo: @Ocasio2018/Twitter)

Ocasio-Cortez Calls Attacks on Her Intellect 'Lazy' While Others Note Widespread 'Brain Drain' That Dominates Washington

"It's lazy to assert that young women are 'intellectual lightweights,'" the progressive candidate said. "Let 'em do it: I was underestimated before my primary, and I'm underestimated after."

Julia Conley

Hitting back against recent attacks on her intellect and preparedness to serve her congressional district in the U.S. House (mostly from older men), Democratic candidate for New York's 14th district Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described those questioning her abilities as "lazy" and denounced suggestions that young women like her are politically naive as nothing but a "stereotype."

She tweeted Friday:

Ocasio-Cortez's tweet followed a number of columns in which political journalists have picked apart her statements on Medicare for All, the U.S. immigration system, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and other political issues.

Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post attacked her for using "sweeping rhetoric" regarding the realities faced by the American middle class and accused her of "not understanding policy nuances" after she stated that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in favor of the ACA because it found monthly premiums to be akin to a tax; the court had in fact ruled that the individual mandate was comparable to a tax.

At the Daily Beast, Matt Lewis dismissed the candidate as the "telegenic it girl of the left," and addressing her, wrote, "You have the potential for a very bright future. Don't blow it. Take your time. Avoid overexposure. Bone up on the issues."

As Laura McGann at Vox noted on Friday, politicians like House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have hardly been subjected to the same scrutiny after lying to the American public about the benefits the Republican tax law has held for middle class families, and other falsehoods.

McGann writes:

Paul Ryan's been fact-checked for years and he's still considered an ideas man. PolitiFact has collected some of Ryan's "pants on fire" claims, like:

• "We've got dozens of counties around America that have zero insurers left."

• "We got to a point that our Air Force pilots were going to museums to find spare parts over the last eight years" under President Obama.

• "Because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke."

• Obama "has doubled the size of government since he took office."

No one saw these statements and said Ryan is unfit to serve in Congress. No one told him to go put training wheels back on. No one told him he wasn't ready for primetime.

His legacy as a smart policy thinker is secure.

As McGann wrote, although many politicians make misstatements, nefariously or mistakenly, "no one demands those politicians go back to school, or shut their mouth for a few years until they're more seasoned."

"The standard in Washington allows politicians to say things that are untrue without harming their reputation as a serious policy thinker and political operator," she continued.

In addition to displaying sexist and ageist biases, some of the recent criticism of Ocasio-Cortez's statements has been blatantly incorrect. Earlier this month, as Common Dreams reported, CNN anchor Jake Tapper scolded the candidate as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for asserting that a study by the Koch brothers-funded Mercatus Center revealed that Medicare for All would cost less in total healthcare expenditures than the current for-profit system does, over the next decade.

Not grasping the difference between total healthcare expenditures and costs to the U.S. government, Tapper and his fact-checking team aired and then defended a segment alleging that Ocasio-Cortez was mistaken before correcting it three days later. 

Meanwhile, those criticizing Ocasio-Cortez for her political inexperience appear content to ignore how her meteoric rise to national prominence, beating out a 10-term congressman who had been presumed as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) successor, was able to happen. Rather than spending years establishing herself as a policy wonk, as her critics suggest, Ocasio-Cortez connected with voters in her district who had previously been ignored by their representatives, finding out what issues mattered to them, truthfully conveying that she had experienced the same struggles, and pledging to fight alongside other progressives for reforms that are well within reach of the U.S. government.  

Meanwhile, although Ocasio-Cortez dismissed criticism of her political knowledge and pledged to continue working for her constituents, other defenders showed less diplomacy toward her detractors.

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