December 30, 2009

Even the liberal New Republic…

By: AFF Editors

…publishes enough cliche tripe polemics [UPDATE: The original word was less than civil] to justify the adjective “liberal”. Now, it is certainly true that TNR generates enough heresy to justify its reputation as much more than a liberal meat grinder. That’s why I have a subscription. But TNR also provides enough simplistic GOP-bashing to fortify the perpetually indignant, self-satisfied liberal intellectualism to which so many of its readers subscribe.

Case in point: The Rise of Republican Nihilism by Jonathan Chait. Here’s a sample paragraph:

One observer dismissed DeMint’s [stimulus] plan thusly: “It is not innovative or particularly clever. In fact, it’s only eleven pages.” Oddly enough, this observer was DeMint himself, talking up his proposal in a speech at the Heritage Foundation. On the contemporary right, it is a mark of intellectual integrity that even a massive economic cataclysm would not prompt any revising of one’s economic prescription.

Clearly, DeMint was trying to score points by comparing his 11-page plan to the dictionary-length democratic alternative. Yet for Chait, DeMint’s self-denigration suddenly becomes evidence of catastrophic intellectual rigidity.

Here’s another example:

The quintessential moment in the health care debate came when Senator Lamar Alexander objected to Democratic attempts to weed out Medicare waste: “If you’re going to find some savings in waste, fraud, and abuse in Grandma’s Medicare,” he proclaimed, “spend it on Grandma.” Consider this as an ethical proposition: Alexander is saying that every dollar of Medicare is sacrosanct, that even those dollars he concedes provide zero public benefit must stay in the program. We live in a country where the occasional appearance of a roving charitable medical clinic will prompt thousands of desperate people to line up in parking lots for hours on end, to help mitigate their suffering. And yet, Republicans will not countenance the shift of even indisputably wasted resources to help them.

Impressively, Chait elevates Sen. Alexander’s anodyne talking point into conclusive evidence of the GOP’s cold-hearted intellectual rigor mortis. This kind of logic is one of the perils of being so smart. Sometimes, you fall into the trap of believing that being smarter means being right.