Friday, October 02, 2009

Throat clearing at the Times

Other responsibilities have kept me off the blog, so here's some catching up.

In a recent column, National Review's Jonah Goldberg observes that one of the political advantages for conservatives is that the left will never take us seriously. They will never try to understand what we are saying and formulate a response. While that certainly isn't true across the board, it is - and always has been - a large part of the progressive response to political challenge.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is worried about the tone of our political debate and frets that political opposition has become so hyperbolic that the outs can't recognize the legitimacy of the ins. This makes impossible the unity that he believes is necessary to solve urgent problems. He exploits our fear of political violence.

This would come a little easier if Friedman, now so concerned about intemperate criticism or disturbed rantings against the President Obama had expressed similar concern about the same things directed at President Bush. Joe Wilson should have listened to the President in silence. So should the Democrats (note the plural) who booed the State of the Union Speech in 2005. Obscure facebook pages that discuss assassination are disgusting. But remember that Michelle Malkin had enough material during the Bush 43 administration to fill an ongoing thread on "assassination chic."

Friedman's paean to unity would be a bit more convincing from someone who hadn't just written a column suggesting that one party rule ain't all bad. When you are upset that others are criticizing your side for its statist and technocratic tendencies, you ought to avoid feeding their fears.

Paul Krugman has been on this case all summer and, earlier this week, suggests that conservatives hate Obama more than they love America because of the schadenfreude that greeted the President's failure to capture the 2016 Olympics for Chicago. People at the Weekly Standard cheered the announcement and Rush Limbaugh was gleeful. But the comment that he referred to at the Standard was a bit tongue in cheek, claiming that they cheered Obama's "jingoist" privileging of imperialistic America's grab for the Games. Although Krugman doesn't say so, Limbaugh said he was "gleeful" because he does not want Obama to succeed (that again) in putting into place policies that will hurt the country. If he loses political capital over a failed effort to score points on something as unimportant as Chicago's Olympic bid (over which even Chicagoans were sharply divided), then Limbaugh's glee is understandable.

In any event, had Bush been foolish enough to invest the same political capital in New York's bid for the 2012 games, I suspect that we could have found comparable reactions on the left.

The stunning cluelessness and hypocrisy of those who are claim to have discovered a "disturbing new vitriol" in our political debate is uncontestable. While Friedman says he has concerned about the delegitimization of the President, he is himself engaged in delegitimization of opposition to the President. In that project, he's part of the crowd at the Times.


John Foust said...

"Never take us seriously... never try to understand... While that certainly isn't true across the board..." Hrm. OK. Which is it? When I write editorials, I try to remain consistent not only within a sentence, but also from sentence to sentence, especially in consecutive sentences.

I see this pattern in your writing. You often make an absolute statement, then follow it with a hedge so no one could ever accuse you of shrieking the absolute.

Friedman's concern, as stated in his lede, is that an excess of ill-toned political rhetoric can lead to assassinations as well as a breakdown of the process of settling political differences. His gives a number of examples where both the left and the right did it and the process itself has decayed. Where's the "never" in that? He said "But a cocktail of political and technological trends have converged in the last decade that are making it possible for the idiots of all political stripes to overwhelm and paralyze the genius of our system." You see delegitimization of opposition to the President in that? That's what you call "stunning cluelessness and hypocrisy"?

You can find almost anything you wish to find on the Internets. Anti-Bush person talking about assassination? Check. Bush with a Hitler moustache? You bet. Obama as a witch doctor? Sure.

Anonymous said...

John Foust. . .I think I love you.

Anonymous said...

I heard he's available.

Dad29 said...

an excess of ill-toned political rhetoric can lead to assassinations as well as a breakdown of the process of settling political differences

So, John, that would explain that the last 2 assassination attempts on a President were on Reagan and Ford--and the last successful one was by another Lefty (Commie) on JFK.

You're probably right, John. It does rouse the rabble--who are Lefties.

Anonymous said...

I was summarizing Friedman, Dad29. Think I did a bad job?

If your theory is correct, we should've seen an attack on Bush in the previous eight years, but it only rose to the level of a Brit filmmaker's imagination. (Speaking of Malkin obsessions, are you ready to show me where she attacked Republicans as much as Dems in her lakefront speech? My transcript is still waiting.)

Ford's attacker was certainly a 60s leftover. As for Hinckley, he was mentally unbalanced and was less by politics and more by the voices in his head, unless you want to count the voices of his family members who were big contributors to Bush. Think Hinckley voted Republican? I bet he did. He wanted to kill Carter before he went for Reagan.

As for south side boy Arthur Bremer, he had delusions of grandeur but didn't like Nixon, so maybe he cancels out Hinckley. The attempt on Roosevelt here - another mentally unstable but highly religious man. I don't see much of a pattern among American would-be assassins in the last century. Mentally unstable seems to be a pattern. It's a good thing we don't have many of those around Milwaukee who start talking about a price on Obama's melon. Means, motive and opportunity. Think an armed unstable guy is less of a risk than an unarmed one?

Feel free to jump right in as to whether you think the Professor correctly interpreted Friedman, though. (I'm already booked for Friday and Saturday night, but Sunday's open, ladies.)

Jay Bullock said...

Actually, Dad29, there were some significant attempts on Clinton, including a plane flown into the White House.

(Cue the video of Condi Rice saying, "No one could have predicted they'd fly planes into ...")

Dad29 said...

"Some", Jay?

ONE is "some"? Or did several attempts by HRC fail, but not get reported?

John Foust said...

It may be Wikipedia, but it's a place to start.

charles mccain said...

Mr. Esenberg:

I hope you enjoyed reading An Honorable German.

your respectfully,

Charles McCain, author of AHG

Terrence Berres said...

"You often make an absolute statement, then follow it with a hedge so no one could ever accuse you of shrieking the absolute."

A Lee Holloway parody!

William Tyroler said...

Rick properly highlights Friedman's hypocrisy, but this, from the cited column, separately struck me:

What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, “Should Obama be killed?” The choices were: “No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.” The Secret Service is now investigating. I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin.

For a journalist to advocate criminalization of speech is astonishing. Of course the comments were disgusting, but that's not a basis for a criminal charge: they have to be "true threats" for that, and Friedman's not saying they were. He's merely claiming, instead, that they are part of an effort to "destroy the legitimacy of another president." Combine Friedman's stinted view of free speech with his paean to Chinese-style "one-party democracy," also cited in the post, and you have to wonder just how far Friedman wants to go in shoring up a floundering president.