Thursday, February 17, 2005

Krugman, Sobran, and Coulter

Paul Krugman's February 15 column on Howard Dean becoming Chairman of the Democratic National Committee is interesting. He also comments on the Social Security issue, saying things I tend to agree with.

On Dean, I still think it was a mistake to put him in charge of the entire Democratic Party. He may be a moderate, in a Democratic context, but he doesn't represent the entire party. He's more a politician with presidential aspirations than a party organizer and manager. But Krugman makes some good points:

"The Republicans know the America they want, and they are not afraid to use any means to get there," Howard Dean said in accepting the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. "But there is something that this administration and the Republican Party are very afraid of. It is that we may actually begin fighting for what we believe."

Those words tell us what the selection of Mr. Dean means. It doesn't represent a turn to the left: Mr. Dean is squarely in the center of his party on issues like health care and national defense. Instead, Mr. Dean's political rejuvenation reflects the new ascendancy within the party of fighting moderates, the Democrats who believe that they must defend their principles aggressively against the right-wing radicals who have taken over Congress and the White House.

Krugman may have a point here. If in 2006 and 2008 the Democrats come straight at the voters with who and what they are, promoting and defending their policy preferences, proud of their liberalism, we may see a different result. One of the many failings of the Kerry candidacy, beyond basing his campaign mostly on an uncertain war record of three decades ago, was his tendency to "duck and cover" whenever the word "liberal" was heard. Why not take the Dean approach? Stand up for what you believe, and defend it with all your heart. Give the people a real choice, and see what they think.

* * *

I belatedly came across an interesting February 1 column by Joe Sobran on the Iraqi election:

The United States has long asserted the Monroe Doctrine, forbidding the powers of the Old World to interfere in the affairs of the New. But no corresponding doctrine forbids the United States to interfere in the other hemisphere. Such interference is assumed to be an American prerogative. What we call “foreign policy” now largely means how and where, not whether, American power will be exerted beyond the seas. (Americans who think America should behave like other countries are “isolationists,” whereas other countries that behave like America are “rogue nations.”)

Foreign observers have often found this one-way application of the Monroe Doctrine inconsistent and even hypocritical. It implies a right of American global hegemony: others must stay out of “our” hemisphere, but we may go — guns blazing, if need be — wherever we please? Anything odd about that?

But any such objection to the American double standard is sure to be called “anti-American,” because most Americans take the double standard as a God-given right. They justify it, if they think of it at all, with the conviction that U.S. intervention is always benevolent, aimed at spreading democracy and freedom. The subjects of that intervention may sometimes disagree, but that doesn’t disturb American moral complacency and may even reinforce it. Being righteous, we expect a certain amount of opposition from the unrighteous, recognizable by their hatred of freedom and democracy.

So the Bush administration is construing the mere fact that most Iraqis showed up at the polls as one more vindication of American power. Did any of Bush’s critics really think that if the elections had turned out to be a bloody disaster, he would have felt chastened and changed his course? Or would he simply have redoubled his efforts?

The answer is pretty obvious. No setback can make a real dent in the stubborn ideology of American power. And if you predict a setback, you’d better not be wrong. This week Bush owes some of his harshest critics a great debt of thanks.

* * *

Reading Ann Coulter is a lot like pleasuring yourself--more folks do it than admit to it. So, when no one is looking, quietly click the link and read her February 17 column. Nobody will know.

Her subject is University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill and free speech. Mixed in with the usual outrageous humor and biting sarcasm, she makes some provocative points, such as:

Tenure was supposed to create an atmosphere of open debate and inquiry, but instead has created havens for talentless cowards who want to be insulated from life. Rather than fostering a climate of open inquiry, college campuses have become fascist colonies of anti-American hate speech, hypersensitivity, speech codes, banned words and prohibited scientific inquiry. ...

The whole idea behind free speech is that in a marketplace of ideas, the truth will prevail. But liberals believe there is no such thing as truth and no idea can ever be false (unless it makes feminists cry, such as the idea that there are innate differences between men and women). Liberals are so enamored with the process of free speech that they have forgotten about the goal.

Mind you, I don't agree with her. Ever. In fact, I found this column by accidentally clicking the wrong link. Honest.

11 Comments:

Blogger Gindy said...

My main problem with Dean is not so much his policy desires because as many have noted he doen't make policy. Buy, he is such a loose cannon. You never know what the guy will say next. It is almost always an amusing surprise.

11:32 AM, February 17, 2005  
Blogger Kevin said...

Coulter once again demonstrates the common NeoCon strategy of ascribing her own traits to her political opponents... namely "fascist."

The fascist rhetoric coming from the Coulters and Limbaughs is all the more disturbing because so few have the courage to call it what it is.

I personally don't find fascist rhetoric amusing or entertaining on any level. But, I'll freely concede that I'm prejudiced against it. I grew up hearing stories from my ethnically German dad about how my grandfather would caution he and his sister not to mention their last name during WWII because it's obviously German. He worried that my dad and aunt would be descriminated against (or worse) because of the fascists in Nazi Germany.

12:22 PM, February 17, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Kevin, I agree with you that Coulter is something of a fascist, at least in spirit. But there's nothing to fear from her; she's become pretty much a caricature of herself. And she is, in fact, pretty funny sometimes.

Limbaugh isn't a fascist, unless you consider all conservatives to be fascists. That would be another kind of problem.

Do you read/listen to conservative pundits/commentators? Sampling points of view across the spectrum can be pretty useful, and sometimes funny, in a Chris Rock kind of way.

1:17 PM, February 17, 2005  
Blogger Kevin said...

I think you misunderstood what I was saying, Tom. I didn't say that Coulter or Limbaugh are fascists. They may well be. But, what I said was that they use fascist rhetoric.

Some Conservatives use fascist rhetoric too. However, I don't consider Coulter or Limbaugh to be true Conservatives. In fact I don't consider very many of the prominent Republicans or their sympathizers to be true Conservatives. I think you'll find a lot more true conservatives in the Constitution Party or as Independents. Talk to many of them and they'll quickly tell you that the GOP and the NeoCons are morally and ethically bankrupt.

The fascist rhetoric pretty much tracks the rise of the NeoCons within the GOP, as far as I can tell. So, it is at the feet of the NeoCons that I lay the blame.

That said, though... I don't believe that many (if any) NeoCons are actual fascists. Which is to say that I don't believe that they buy into their own BS. Rather, I think they use fascist rhetoric as a convenient and very effective tool for lighting a fire under the ignorant faction of their base.

Of course our political leaders don't have to be actual fascists for fascism to take hold. After all, it is with the people that true political power lays, according to Lincoln. Which is why the rhetoric concerns me. Get enough dupes to buy into it and the next thing you know fascism becomes more than just rhetoric.

5:00 PM, February 17, 2005  
Blogger Gindy said...

I have personally found that "fascist" is the new term of the left used to silence those that disagree with them. I was called a Fascist by some from France because I posted an article that points out how Jews are worried walking home from temple in France. That was all it took to make me a fascist. Expect to see this word a lot more over the next few months. You believe in lower taxes. Fascist. You want to change Social Security. Fascist. You think Ward Churchill should be rediculed for his outrageous comments. Fascist. The word is losing all meaning.

12:21 PM, February 18, 2005  
Blogger Kevin said...

People incorrectly use terms they don't understand all the time. That doesn't invalidate the proper use of those terms, though.

I did a Google search on "fascist" a while back and came across a Freeper piece about how Clinton and Gore supposedly are fascists. Which is a ludicrous misuse of the term "fascist."

From the Britanica encyclopedia:

"Fascism: Philosophy of government that stresses the primacy and glory of the state, unquestioning obedience to its leader, subordination of the individual will to the state's authority, and harsh suppression of dissent.
Martial virtues are celebrated, while liberal and democratic values are disparaged."

Martial (ie. military) virtues are celebrated.... liberal values are disparaged. Hmmm.... does that sound like the Left side of the Blogosphere or the Right side of the blogosphere?

4:56 PM, February 18, 2005  
Blogger Gindy said...

First of all, I appreciate that definition. And I respect your point of view on that issue.

"Martial (ie. military) virtues are celebrated"

But, what exactly are you referring to. The fact that one believes a military is necessary to keep a nation from being overrun or a military in place of a government or what?

6:02 PM, February 18, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Look, very few conservatives, even the neo-cons, are fascists by any measure. And very few liberals are commie pinko wimps. Exchanges of ideas are seriously weakened by those kinds of terms. And I'll admit to using incautious language once in a while, too, even though I try not to.

Personally, I respect the views of almost everyone in our political spectrum, regardless of how strongly I may disagree with some of them most of the time. Some folks on the far fringes are true kooks, of course, but they're easy to identify and, fortunately, there aren't that many of them.

7:22 PM, February 18, 2005  
Blogger Kevin said...

First of all, allow me to assert that my criticism of the Bush administration not withstanding, I'm a moderate, not a Liberal or a Conservative. I have problems with both sides as well as points of agreement with both sides.

"But, what exactly are you referring to. The fact that one believes a military is necessary to keep a nation from being overrun or a military in place of a government or what?"

Not exactly. The overwhelming majority of Liberals believe that a military is an absolute necessity. Every single poll taken on public opinion of our War in Afghanistan demonstrates that fact. It enjoyed massively overwhelming support.

Martial virtues being celebrated, fascist style, would be more along the lines of posturing. Think of how a bully on the playground postures with threats (overt and implied) of violence. Kinda like that.

Here's the way I see American politics... The best analogy I've heard is when Liberals are likened to a nurturing mother figure and Conservatives are likened to a disciplinarian father figure. The reality is that both are necessary. It's like yin and yang. Together they make a complete whole. Wise folks like Tom here recognize that fact.

7:35 PM, February 18, 2005  
Blogger Gary B said...

"Fascist" has come to mean, at least when used disparagingly, as simply someone who is mean and unsympathetic. This term is thrown about by the left probably because they wore out "mean-spirited" and also because they must have realized that in the last three years they have become exceedingly mean-spirited themselves with all the Michael-Mooreish Bush-hating and so forth.

So I think calling Coulter a fascist, even in spirit, is a mischaracterization. Coulter goes over the top sometimes, but she is razor shart when it comes to pointing out hypocrisy, which is usually her target. E.g. her latest:

"So now liberals are lashing out at the gays. Two weeks ago, the New York Times turned over half of its op-ed page to outing gays with some connection to Republicans. There is no principled or intellectual basis for these outings. Conservatives don't want gays to die; we just don't want to transform the Pentagon into the Office of Gay Studies.

"By contrast, liberals say: 'We love gay people! Gay people are awesome! Being gay is awesome! Gay marriage is awesome! Gay cartoon characters are awesome! And if you don't agree with us, we'll punish you by telling everyone that you're gay!'

"In addition to an attack on a website reporter for supposedly operating a gay escort service and thereby cutting into the business of the Village Voice, another Times op-ed article the same day gratuitously outed the children of prominent conservatives."

There is nothing "fascist" about this. It is simply so shockingly true and we are so trained to never, never say such things that it seems harsh. It's not.

7:59 PM, March 05, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Gary B, thanks for the thoughtful comment. As I said, I don't like to see labels like "fascist" being thrown around. For one thing, throwing a label at someone as a response to an argument permits you to just disregard what they are saying. I have to admit that Coulter might deserve that label sometimes because she can get way over the top. Still, she makes good points now and then, and she always manages to be funny in the process.

5:30 AM, March 06, 2005  

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