Reactionary liberalism

Today’s liberals, George Will argues, are strangely oblivious to history and resistant to change.   After giving some examples and examining the apocalyptic objections to Paul Ryan’s plan to cut the deficit, Will says this:

The hysteria and hyperbole about Ryan’s plan arise, in part, from a poverty of today’s liberal imagination, an inability to think beyond the straight-line continuation of programs from the second and third quarters of the last century. It is odd that “progressives,” as liberals now wish to be called, have such a constricted notion of the possibilities of progress.

Liberals think Medicare and Social Security as they exist are “fundamental” to the nation’s identity. But liberals think the Constitution — which the Framers meant to be fundamental, meaning constituting, law — should be construed as a “living” document, continually evolving to take different meanings under whatever liberals consider new social imperatives.

The lesson of all this is that one’s sense of possibilities — and proprieties — is shaped by what we know, and often do not know, about history. The regnant ideology within the Obama administration and among congressional Democrats is reactionary liberalism, the conviction that whatever government programs exist should forever exist because they always have existed. That is, as baby boomers, in their narcissism — or perhaps solipsism; or both — understand “always.”

via History lessons for Obama and other liberals – The Washington Post.

Libertarianism vs. Conservatism

I know some of you are libertarians and some of you are Ron Paul fans.  What do you think of Paul’s proposal at the Republican presidential candidate debate to legalize prostitution and drugs?  What do you think of Michael Gerson’s smackdown of Paul and his proposals?

Paul was the only candidate at the debate to make news, calling for the repeal of laws against prostitution, cocaine and heroin. The freedom to use drugs, he argued, is equivalent to the freedom of people to “practice their religion and say their prayers.” Liberty must be defended “across the board.” “It is amazing that we want freedom to pick our future in a spiritual way,” he said, “but not when it comes to our personal habits.”

This argument is strangely framed: If you tolerate Zoroastrianism, you must be able to buy heroin at the quickie mart. But it is an authentic application of libertarianism, which reduces the whole of political philosophy to a single slogan: Do what you will — pray or inject or turn a trick — as long as no one else gets hurt.

Even by this permissive standard, drug legalization fails. The de facto decriminalization of drugs in some neighborhoods — say, in Washington, D.C. — has encouraged widespread addiction. Children, freed from the care of their addicted parents, have the liberty to play in parks decorated by used needles. Addicts are liberated into lives of prostitution and homelessness. Welcome to Paulsville, where people are free to take soul-destroying substances and debase their bodies to support their “personal habits.”

But Paul had an answer to this criticism. “How many people here would use heroin if it were legal? I bet nobody would,” he said to applause and laughter. Paul was claiming that good people — people like the Republicans in the room — would not abuse their freedom, unlike those others who don’t deserve our sympathy.

The problem, of course, is that even people in the room may have sons or daughters who have struggled with addiction. Or maybe even have personal experience with the freedom that comes from alcohol and drug abuse. One imagines they did not laugh or cheer.

Libertarians often cover their views with a powdered wig of 18th- and 19th-century philosophy. They cite Locke, Smith and Mill as advocates of a peaceable kingdom — a utopia of cooperation and spontaneous order. But the reality of libertarianism was on display in South Carolina. Paul concluded his answer by doing a jeering rendition of an addict’s voice: “Oh yeah, I need the government to take care of me. I don’t want to use heroin, so I need these laws.” Paul is not content to condemn a portion of his fellow citizens to self-destruction; he must mock them in their decline. Such are the manners found in Paulsville.

This is not “The Wealth of Nations” or the “Second Treatise of Government.” It is Social Darwinism. It is the arrogance of the strong. It is contempt for the vulnerable and suffering.

The conservative alternative to libertarianism is necessarily more complex. It is the teaching of classical political philosophy and the Jewish and Christian traditions that true liberty must be appropriate to human nature. The freedom to enslave oneself with drugs is the freedom of the fish to live on land or the freedom of birds to inhabit the ocean — which is to say, it is not freedom at all. Responsible, self-governing citizens do not grow wild like blackberries. They are cultivated in institutions — families, religious communities and decent, orderly neighborhoods. And government has a limited but important role in reinforcing social norms and expectations — including laws against drugs and against the exploitation of men and women in the sex trade.

via Ron Paul’s land of second-rate values – The Washington Post.

The journalism/Hollywood/political complex

The big social event of the year in Washington, D.C., is last weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, which is known as the “prom” for the journalism/Hollywood/political complex.  Dana Milbank of the Washington Post feels guilty about what it has become:

The fun begins, appropriately enough, at the offices of the American Gas Association, where White House reporters are feted by the lobbyists of the Quinn Gillespie firm. More lobbyist-sponsored entertainment comes from the Motion Picture Association. Along the way, journalists wind up serving as pimps: We recruit Hollywood stars to entertain the politicians, and we recruit powerful political figures to entertain the stars. Corporate bosses bring in advertisers to gawk at the display, and journalists lucky enough to score invitations fancy themselves celebrities.

Cee Lo Green sings for us. Seth Meyers tells us jokes. Lindsay Lohan’s ex, Samantha Ronson, is our DJ. All the cool kids — Sean Penn, Kate Hudson, Steven Tyler, Paula Abdul, Courteney Cox, David Byrne and Bristol Palin — want to party with us. A Johnnie Walker “cigar tent” furnishes us with scotch and hand-rolled stogies. We are handed Fiji water, or Grey Goose vodka, to slake our thirst and Shea Terra Organics Vanilla Body Butters to soothe our pores.

The correspondents’ association dinner was a minor annoyance for years, when it was a “nerd prom” for journalists and a few minor celebrities. But, as with so much else in this town, the event has spun out of control. Now, awash in lobbyist and corporate money, it is another display of Washington’s excesses.

There are now no fewer than 20 parties, plus a similar number of receptions, at the Washington Hilton before the dinner. A pre-dinner brunch, once an intimate affair in a TV producer’s backyard, was moved this year to the Georgetown mansion of multimillionaire Mark Ein. Democratic and Republican consultants shell out five figures apiece to join the Cafe Milano owner as hosts. (Cafe Atlantico’s owner, by contrast, is cooking for the Atlantic’s party.)

Time Warner booked the St. Regis for the People and Time fete; Conde Nast has the W Hotel for the New Yorker and the French ambassador’s residence in Kalorama for its Vanity Fair party done with Bloomberg. The MSNBC party is in the Italian Embassy, while others choose the Hay-Adams, the Ritz-Carlton or the Ronald Reagan Building. A few sponsors, generally Hollywood-oriented nonprofits, hold cocktail parties masquerading as charity benefits.

Hungover hobnobbers reconvene Sunday morning at Politico publisher Robert Allbritton’s Georgetown manse to “nosh on hand-rolled sushi and dim sum prepared by Wolfgang Puck’s The Source.” The news release continues: “The Allbrittons’ lush garden, filled with 200-year-old poplar trees, will feature a white century-style tent adorned with blue-and-white ceramics” — not to mention Ashley Judd and Janet Napolitano.

Is it Politico’s job to get Judd and Napolitano together? Is it ABC News’s role to unite “Glee’s” Jane Lynch with White House chief of staff Bill Daley or “30 Rock’s” Elizabeth Banks with national security adviser Tom Donilon? What’s the purpose of Fox News introducing actress Patricia Arquette to Rep. Michele Bachmann, National Journal presenting “The Vampire Diaries’ ” Nina Dobrev to Obama strategist David Axelrod, NPR introducing REM’s Michael Stipe to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, or The Post connecting Trump and House Speaker John Boehner?

I don’t fault any one host for throwing a party or any journalist for attending. Many of them are friends. There’s nothing inherently wrong with savoring Johnnie Walker Blue with the politicians we cover.

But the cumulative effect is icky. With the proliferation of A-list parties and the infusion of corporate and lobbyist cash, Washington journalists give Americans the impression we have shed our professional detachment and are aspiring to be like the celebrities and power players we cover.

via How the journalist prom got out of control – The Washington Post.

Here is the problem:  Both journalists and politicians are trying to become or have been reduced to or think they are Hollywood-style celebrities.   This debases both journalism and politics.

Who do the Republicans have?

When Americans have to pay $60 to fill their cars up with gas, they usually aren’t going to vote for the incumbent president. And yet, who is there to run against him?

Mitt Romney? Newt Gingrich? Donald Trump? I can’t see Christian conservatives rallying behind any of those guys.

Ron Paul, the libertarian?

Mitch Daniels, who is calling for a truce on cultural issues to focus exclusively on the economy?

Sarah Palin, who for better or worse has been turned into a punchline?

Mike Huckabee, who may be happier as a pundit on Fox News?

Rick Santorum or Tim Pawlenty, but are they too obscure to win?

And do any of these individuals have the gravitas to seem presidential enough (which I’m convinced is a major factor in this era of image over substance) to compete successfully against the actual president?

Are there any potential candidates who might ride in on a dark horse to win this thing?

Birther certificate

President Obama has released his birth certificate, showing that he was, in fact, born in Hawaii and is thus constitutionally eligible to be President.

One would think this would put the birther theories to rest, but already it appears that they are unfalsifiable, that no evidence will satisfy the true believers that President Obama is not an American.

See this for a closeup of the certificate: Will Release Of Obama’s Purported Birth Certificate Give Rise To New “Certer” Movement? | The Smoking Gun.

Those of you who had your doubts, does this satisfy you?  If not, what would?

“Fairness” and “Common sense”

Two articles take apart the language of political rhetoric:

Arthur Brooks examines the way the Democrats invoke the concept of “fairness” and shows that there is more to justice than just taking from the rich: Obama says it’s only ‘fair’ to raise taxes on the rich. He’s wrong. – The Washington Post.

Then, from the other side, Sophia Rosenfeld critiques the way  Republicans are invoking the concept of “common sense”: Beware of Republicans bearing ‘common sense’

In a day when reason is widely rejected and political discourse has become reduced to manipulative rhetoric, is political debate just a matter of who gets control of the language?  Can you think of other examples of this sort of thing?


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