Back at my old blog, I had fun going back and forth with the Calbuzz guys. They were simply better writers than anyone else on their side of the political aisle, and funny, too. I read them every day. But something about the broad conclusion reached by tens of millions of Americans that Barack Obama has been a mediocre president or worse has driven them around the bend. This translates all the time into the argument that amounts to, “If he’s unpopular, his critics are bad people.” Really? It’s that simple, huh? They’re all driven by rotten motives, not their honest perception of the state of America after nearly three years of this administration?
Here’s what is still the worst example, in which the idiotic Orange County GOP official who sent out a racist email is offered up as the embodiment of the mass tea party movement.
Now let’s hear what a sophisticated person sounds like when discussing the tea party: historian Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the N.Y. Times Review of Books. During the debt ceiling fight in July, he noted that antipathy toward government debt has been a key part of American political thought since day one:
In one version or another, this conflict, centered on protest against the federal debt, has been going on almost since the beginning of the Republic.
America’s first elected opposition party, the Democratic-Republican Party formed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the 1790s, promised a “second revolution” whose axioms included “the general principle that payment of debt should take precedence of all other expenditure,” as Henry Adams put it in “History of the United States of America During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson,” his monumental study.
Now this week, the Calbuzzers insist that the reason Republicans don’t like Obama’s plans to revive the economy is because they know the plans will work but they can’t allow that because they don’t want him to win re-election.
What about the endlessly displayed GOP conviction that Obama’s policies have hurt the economy? That health-care non-reform is a disaster? That government-dominated economies dependent on subsidies and rent-seeking aren’t healthy?
It’s all just hot air, the Calbuzzers insist. Or racism.
This isn’t sophisticated analysis at all. For starters, Democrats have sought to deny victories to GOP presidents to hurt their re-election bids, yet the Calbuzzers are shock’d, shock’d by this when the other side does it. Yet even that point isn’t worth bringing up, because anyone who reads conservative writers and blogs knows it’s not remotely just politics driving GOP opposition.
Do the Calbuzzers really think it’s settled science that government spending is always effective at reviving an economy in a healthy way? Paul Krugman says so, it must be true!
Well, what about the latest Nobel economics laureate? Here’s what:
But what does NYU professor Thomas Sargent know anyways? He’s probably a racist or an Obama hater.
In their shrill insistence that Republican and public disappointment and anger with Obama are driven by ugly motives, not genuine dismay over the course of the nation, the Calbuzz boys remind me in one way of New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael.
In fall 1972, Kael expressed surprise to her Manhattan circle of friends over published reports that Richard Nixon was going to crush George McGovern in the presidential race. Kael said she literally didn’t know a single person who was going to vote for Nixon.
The Calbuzz boys appear similarly cloistered. Sam Tanenhaus could teach them a thing or to.
But so could Pauline Kael. She may have been a Manhattan liberal, but she was willing to see a political continuum in which both parties and advocates of both parties were deeply flawed.
No film critic did a better job skewering Michael Moore. Kael on Moore’s first movie:
I’ve heard it said that Michael Moore’s muckraking documentary “Roger & Me” is scathing and Voltairean. I’ve read that Michael Moore is “a satirist of the Reagan period equal in talent to Mencken and [Sinclair] Lewis,” and “an irrepressible new humorist in the tradition of Mark Twain and Artemus Ward.” But the film I saw was shallow and facetious, a piece of gonzo demagoguery that made me feel cheap for laughing.
And in 1991, when asked why she was retiring as New Yorker film critic, she famously joked, “The prospect of having to sit through another Oliver Stone movie is too much.”
It’s possible to look at the world and not presume one side is the good guys and the other side has no good guys, just naifs and racists and partisans.
Now to anticipate the predictable Calbuzz pushback: What do you expect from a Republican hack like Reed?
The problem is I’m not a Republican hack. I hold both parties in contempt.
Bush 43 was a horrible president, and I wrote it many times and said it many times on KOGO. Here’s one iteration from 2009 responding to emailers upset with my ripping on Obama and convinced I was a GOP stooge:
Bunk. I’m against the drug war and “three strikes.” I’ve had skeptical columns on U.S. foreign policy and military issues featured on antiwar.com. I wrote that Bush 43′s administration demonstrated “Incompetence as far as the eye can see” and counted down the days until his departure. When I went after Donald Rumsfeld — I once approvingly quoted a critic who likened the then-defense secretary to “Dilbert with guns” — I got e-mails like this one.
START EMAIL — why don’t you go live in Iran? Join up with the terrorists that will eventually try to murder you, your wife and children. Then we’ll see how nice they are. To bad there is not some immediate consequence for liberals like you who try to lead our county into chaos. I guess that’s free America in lieu of YOUR Iran! You are disgraceful! END EMAIL
So call me names if you want, but be accurate. I may be rabid. But I’m not a rabid Republican. I’m a rabid libertarian lite.
What he said. Or what I said. Back to you, Calbuzzers!