Waiting for the liberals to calm down

As you know, I’ve been picking our syndicated columns since we lost Mike Fitts. This means judging a fairly stiff competition each day, since most days that we have an oped page, I only have room for one syndicated column (and one local, which Cindi deals with). On Sunday there’s room for two; on Saturday and Monday, zero. Then there’s Saturday’s online, where I can run several "also-rans" from during the week.

Each day, I just try to pick the best column, without keeping count as to how many "liberals" or "conservatives" I’ve run. "Best column" to me means the most thought-provoking and least predictable. I’m utterly uninterested in a column that simply channels the rantings of left or right that you can find on the Blogosphere. That shouldn’t be hard, right? These people are professionals, the tops in their field, so they should be perfectly capable of original thought, right?

Not always. Too often, especially during an election year, columnists succumb to the urge to play to a side. I think of it as writing so as to get pats on the back from the people you meet at Washington cocktail parties — reinforcing the prejudices of one’s friends, rather than provoking them to think. (Admittedly, I’m having to guess at something from the outside. I don’t have a ready-made set of folks who agree with ME, since I’m uncomfortable with both established flavors.)

Anyway, the point is, about a month into my doing this, one of my colleagues noted that I was picking mostly "conservatives." Was I? I looked back, and yes, I was. I didn’t try to change anything, but kept on picking the best column each day, regardless of its point of view — giving no more thought to it than I give during the process to whether the candidate we’re endorsing is a Democrat or a Republican. And I noticed (without having it pointed out to me again) that I was still picking mostly "conservatives."

But that’s because the conservatives were more interesting this year. Why? Because they were struggling. They were uncomfortable. They knew they were likely to lose this election, so they struggled. They were unusually critical of "their" standard bearer, and particularly his veep choice. Some just went ahead and endorsed Obama. They bickered with each other, and in their struggle, in their striving, they had an occasional original thought here and there. You had Kathleen Parker saying Sarah Palin should drop out. You had George Will sneering for all he was worth at McCain for having embraced campaign finance reform, only to be done in by an avalanche of money. You had David Brooks struggling for sociological metaphors to explain what was happening. You had Charles Krauthammer getting irritated at the lot of them, and in reaction writing an endorsement of McCain that was sharper than it otherwise would have been because he wrote it in reaction to the defections of conservatives, as an argument against their apostasy.

Meanwhile, on the left, you had what you always had — recitations of "the failed policies of the past eight years," the assertion that McCain equals Bush, yadda-yadda. Same old-same old. Lots of vitriol of the repetitive variety. When people find a formula is working for them, they stick with it. Failure, however, is simply more interesting. It provokes thought, and builds character. So the left just wasn’t nearly as interesting.

There were exceptions. Tom Friedman was good as always, but as critically important as his "Green Revolution" columns are to an Energy Party guy, they often seemed off-topic at a time when everybody wanted to read about and talk about the election. Friedman’s best that WAS election-oriented? His lecture to Sarah Palin (and the Mark Sanford’s of the world) explaining that paying one’s taxes IS patriotic. Amen, Brother Thomas.

And I thought David Broder’s two columns on "what we have learned about" McCain and Obama to be two of the most thoughtful, helpful summaries of the candidates I saw anywhere. They’re better than David Brooks’ attempts at similar columns on McCain and Obama — and certainly more concise than my own offbeat efforts. (I particularly recommend the McCain piece, which was as clear-eyed as anything I saw during the long campaign.) But that’s because Broder, who is center-left at most, is a reporter first and foremost. His writing, while sometimes dull, is refreshingly free of cant. He makes observations that are fair, and therefore sometimes ground-breaking. Those two columns were a nice coda on a long and distinguished career.

But Bob Herbert, Paul Krugman? Fuhgeddaboutit. Occasionally, Krugman was able to write something helpful about the financial crisis, and when he did, I ran it. But he should stick to what he knows, and too often does not.

Anyway, with the election over, I thought maybe the liberals would settle down. Their guy just got elected; they increased their majorities in the Congress. The man they hate more than any other human in the history of the world will soon be out of office. So maybe, once they’d gotten over celebrating, they’d start saying, "OK, so know we’ve got to govern, and we have differences even among ourselves, so let’s start thinking."

But it hasn’t happened yet. I’m still seeing the same old patterns. Gail Collins, who is usually not one of my favorites, nevertheless had a somewhat provocative piece over the weekend looking at poor winners and losers. I might use it tomorrow. But Bob Herbert? He went out of his way to illustrate what Ms. Collins called " the dark side of the postelection mood." He had a column for the same day that you’d think would be constructive, or at least upbeat. It was headlined, "Take a bow, America." So I read on, hoping to be uplifted for once.

Then I got to his second sentence, in which he was explaining the significance of the election results:

Voters said no to incompetence and divisiveness and elbowed their way
past the blight of racism that has been such a barrier to progress for
so long….

Those, of course, would be the only reasons anyone might have voted for John McCain — if they were in love with incompetence, or just stone racist.

Explain something to me, folks: How can someone who habitually writes that way about people with whom he disagrees, even in a moment of celebration, accuse other people of "divisiveness," and do so without any visible trace of irony? Some of it is the unfortunate New York mindset that one often sees in the Times — most perfectly expressed in the writing of Frank Rich — that folks out there in flyover land are just beneath contempt. That is expressed in Herbert’s very next sentence: "Barack Obama won the state of North Carolina, for crying out loud." In other words, even THOSE redneck idiots knew better.

Perhaps even Herbert will settle down eventually, and turn to the actual issues facing the country — and facing the just-elected administration-to-be. Just as the right has gotten interesting in recent months as it has struggled to define itself in adversity, perhaps the left can settle down and address such difficult issues as the tension between the far left and the pragmatists like Rahm Emanuel, who infuriated True Believers by recruiting Democrats who could win back in 2006?

We’ll see. In any case, I plan to continue doing my best to choose the most thought-provoking column each day, whether that produces a string of liberals, a run of conservatives, or a perfectly blended mix.

53 thoughts on “Waiting for the liberals to calm down

  1. Lee Muller

    So you ran Paul Krugman, who calls himself a “liberal”, but doesn’t trust individuals with the opportunity to make up their own minds. He calls for Obama to ram a socialist agenda down the throats of American, and expand the most socialist, failed, and bankrupt programs of FDR and LBJ.
    All they need is more money and more compassionate, intelligent socialists running the government than all the other Ivy League fascists who failed to deliver on any promises since 1932.
    Krugman may have been an economist when he was a graduate student, but his writings today don’t reveal any grasp of how things work in the real world, where he has never worked.

  2. Randy E

    Subjects of Krugman’s last few pieces since Sept 1:
    New Deal
    Obama should think big
    *Republican party
    Banking system
    Economic slump
    PM Gordon and economy
    Rescue plan
    Health Care
    Financial abyss
    Financial emergencies
    Leadership for financial crisis
    Crisis endgame
    Bank regulation
    *McCain camp lies
    Containing financial crisis
    *Politics of resentment
    Hurricane Gustav
    He has focused a great deal on the financial crisis with only 3 pieces on Republicans. You give credit to conservatives for analyzing their own party, and much of that was critical of John McCain and his pick of Palin. You applaud them for being interesting while you completely IGNORE the point they were making about your boy, McCain. Democrats point out the problems with McCain, and you dismiss them as being political.
    Brad, I think you should focus your analytical lens on your own bias towards this presidential election. If you did, I believe you would realize that McCain’s eratic and nefarious campaign tactics were the focus on the left and right for good reason. Instead, you cite his promise to run a good, clean campaign and dismiss anything he has done the past few months that could tarnish the image you maintain of him.
    Isn’t it possible that you may be bias?

  3. bud

    There’s good reason George W. Bush is the most hated man in liberal America. He is simply the worst president since WW II if not ever. That’s not a partisan rant. Rather it’s a concise observation of facts. Bush failed to protect us from terrorist attack. Then, after doing the right thing by going after Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, inexplicably turned his attention to a nation that posed us no harm. After 3 trillion dollars of spending and 4200+ lost lives and we’re still there. Why? Obama will do what’s right and get us out of there. Cry if you like but this is something long overdue. I’ll shed a few tears when the last soldier comes home from Iraq. They will be tears of joy that we’ve finally decided to do what’s right.
    Then we had the illegal wire-tapping, the catastrophic management of Katrina, the push for gutting social security. And finally, the mother of all mismanaged economies. And now we’re paying. The country finally woke up and voted the failed GOP neocons out. And all Brad can do is stand in wonder at why liberal columnists can find so much to criticize. Well guess what Mr. Editorial Page editor, I’m damn proud to be a liberal right now. I make no appologies for my partisan attitude toward our new president. He’s a well equipped leader who stands to move this country in the right direction. A direction away from war and toward peace. Away from arrogant antagonism of other nations and toward dialogue and cooperation. Away from the stagering recessions and greed imposed by the failed Reagan economic trickle-down calamity.
    The GOP has gotten away with murder (literally in some cases) for far too long and it’s about time we celebrate the dawning of a new era. One free from the vile George W. Bush. One free from the tyranny of neo-con attrocities.

  4. bud

    I just re-read the Krauthamer piece. Not an original thought in it. It was just a collection of talk-radio spin points. What a waste of valuable op-ed space.

  5. blue bunny

    the columnists have a hard time moving beyond the election results because they know little of Obama’s agenda. they spent so much time cheerleading instead of questioning. time for the blame game to stop, the liberals have no excuses from this point forward. time for some positiive and uplifting stories of our soon to be worker’s paradise. where every industry that has succumbed to government meddling, is now lining up for a bailout.
    maybe a column on how the dow industrial average serves as a barameter of investor’s confidence in future earnings. i’d like to see a column on the upcoming ethics investigation of the senate banking oversight committee.
    i think krugman was an enron advisor; he could take on these subjects.

  6. slugger

    dont_repeat_errors_of_new_deal_137967.htm. The below was taken from the New York Post Blog. Don’t repeat errors of new deal. It was posted by someone named Skipper. Thought I would pass it along because I was born about that time and I remember it well.
    was born the year that FDR won his first term, I was 12 yrs old when he died in 1944. The New Deal DID NOT WORK!! He not only spent money in the millions but his polices included killing little pigs, calves, pouring milk down the sewers, and paying farmers NOT TO PLANT! That last one is still being done! The WPA & the organization for young men, both of which HIRED them to work on community projects, was a total failure, at least here in Indiana! There were people in this country who starved to death. I went to school with children who wore the same clothing to school and shoes that were kept on their feet with rope, every day. My Dad worked any job that he could get and they were very few and far apart. It was in 1940 that he got a job helping to build a munitions plant up in the South Bend- Hammond area. Why munitions? The rest of the world was getting into a world war, and we sold them arms. The economy changed little until 1940. Pearl Harbor happened on Dec. 7, 1941 and that is when the production really took off. Roosevelts New Deal was in no way responsible for any thing good, it was unfortunately the war! IF Roosevelt had kept his huge, unwieldy government out of business and the “welfare of the people” it would have recovered on its own probably by 1935 or 1936. I worked my head off emailing and calling congess people to NOT PASS THE BAILOUT BILL! I knew it would not work! The banking system would have righted itself given some time! The way it is now the AMERICAN PEOPLE are in debt 700 billion! I have driven GM vehicles all of my life but I certainly do not believe that they should be bailed out either! Also, a large chunk of that will go to the unions, I heard this A.M. The past few years while they were waning, the economy and people got along fine. They will take your money to belong, and then call a strike that could last for months. You will never be able to make up that lost money EVER!

  7. Phillip

    Brad, I take your point, and I hope that most liberal writers avoid the temptation to gloat too much.
    But I really think you misread some of Frank Rich’s recent work…his piece “in defense of white America” was actually not at all contemptuous of “flyover country”, in fact quite the opposite! His point was that all kinds of assumptions were being made about white working-class or rural voters that were going to be proven not true, and indeed that was the case. Sure, there’s a big swath running from rural Kentucky to Arkansas that gave McCain MUCH larger margins than they gave Bush 2004, but nationwide Obama did better with the white vote than any Democrat since Jimmy Carter.
    I don’t deny that there exists some snooty contempt for flyover country…but it’s not the exclusive domain of New York liberals. Rich’s point, and a very good one I think it was, was that McCain’s own campaign showed contempt and condescension towards these voters by assuming they would fall for code-word assaults on Obama.
    What happened in this election was that conservative and GOP assumptions about much of flyover country were proven wrong.
    Herbert’s point was not that everybody who voted for McCain did so out of divisiveness or racism. But the McCain was characterized in large part because of its extraordinary level of divisiveness compared to Obama’s.
    I know you have a problem wrapping your mind around this, but THAT is why the election went from a tight one to an electoral rout. Ayers. Socialist. Palling with terrorists. Real America. Real Virginia. The very choice of Palin as a running mate.
    I’ll agree with you that liberal columnists should avoid gloating or re-running the campaign too long after the fact, if you will agree that there were major aspects of the McCain campaign that deserved the repudiation he received at the polls, on the merits.
    As for “NC

  8. Phillip

    My last sentence was cutoff, I meant to add that “NC for crying out loud” is just a way of expressing surprise at how many red states Obama won. It is a big deal and to say so does not imply contempt for those states’ citizens.
    Virginia? Indiana? First time since LBJ 1964, for crying out loud!

  9. Lee Muller

    Virginia’s population has been greatly increased by the influx of Yankees to Washington, DC to join the Mooching Class, as the federal government has grown out of control.
    Indianapolis has enough population, along with Gary, a black government ghetto uburb of Chicago, to nullify the rest of the state. College students were a big part of Obama’s Airhead Cool Vote, and Indiana has several large colleges.
    Then throw in the massive voter fraud in Indiana, with Indianapolis having over almost twice as many voters as there are people, and ACORN assured a win for their man.

  10. Lee Muller

    slugger, the socialists know that the New Deal didn’t work, in the sense of ending the Depression. They don’t care. They just feed those fairy tales of FDR to their ignorant voters.
    The New Deal was about increasing government control of people’s lives. The best way to do that is to keep them in economic limbo. The many Stalinists and other socialists in the FDR administration rejoiced in the economic misery which they imposed from their cushy federal jobs.
    The Progressives and liberals who really wanted to bring about economic recovery were just inept, and believed in the “middle way” of Keynesian economic manipulations, which played into the hands of the socialists. The only socialists who wanted recovery were the fascist elements in the FDR administration, but they also liked the power inherent in the programs which they copied from Mussolini and Hitler.

  11. blue bunny

    Lee’s right. when will the fifty year ‘war on poverty’ end? did anyone really think it would? A ‘problem’, a program, a constituent.

  12. sarah palin

    I think the Republican ticket represented too much of the status quo, too much of what had gone on in these last eight years, that Americans were kind of shaking their heads like going, wait a minute, how did we run up a 10 trillion dollar debt in a Republican administration? How have there been blunders with war strategy under a Republican administration? If we’re talking change, we want to get far away from what it was that the present administration represented and that is to a great degree what the Republican Party at the time had been representing. So people desiring change I think went as far from the administration that is presently seated as they could. It’s amazing that we did as well as we did.

  13. Phillip

    I just read the Herbert column, Brad. Talk about “calming down,” I think you are taking this McCain loss very hard, Brad, too personally. If you found that column offensive than it is you who is being hyper-sensitive. Mostly Herbert talked with great positivism about America. The “incompetence” reference I think was mostly about Bush; the “divisiveness” applied to both Bush and McCain; and the mention of moving beyond the blight of racism is obvious to anybody, simple acknowledgement of the significance of Obama’s election which one does not have to be a partisan Democrat to recognize.
    I guess the baton of partisanship and hyper-criticality that carried by the MoveOn folks and similar groups in the last 8 years is being handed off, and you seem to want to take that baton for the next four.
    enjoy running the relay.

  14. Brad Warthen

    When I hit something like that at the top of a column, it loses me completely. Maybe if it were followed by a "Just kidding; I was being ironic," it would be different. But that doesn’t happen. Herbert loses me a lot; so does Cal Thomas over on the other end of the spectrum.

    Then there are the people who lost me years ago, Frank Rich on the left, Thomas Sowell on the right, are two examples that come to mind.  Rich has the additional problem that his columns are twice the length of everybody else’s, so I don’t even look because I know I don’t have the room. You know those two EXTREMELY long columns I did on Obama and McCain? Those had to be those lengths, and I think readers agreed with me that they needed to be those lengths, because I got a lot of positive feedback on them. But those were very special cases. Rich writes at that length every week.

  15. Reader

    3 things:
    Liked the Hebert column-we SHOULD take a bow!
    Got in trouble the last time Lee needed meds.
    Cal Thomas is chopped liver (not a McCain-o)?

  16. p.m.

    Voters said no to incompetence and divisiveness, but put more Democrats in Washington?
    They said no to incompetence and divisiveness, but added more Democrats to a Democrat House that already has a single-digit approval rating?
    Nah. Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank have done no better than match Bush and McCain bumble for bumble, and Obama’s off and running with a misstep or two.
    If there’s anything the next four years probably will accomplish for America, it’s that comedians may finally be able to rise above political correctness to make fun of a black person again, as long as they don’t do it in some way that stereotypes race.
    It’s going to be a bumpy ride, and Obama’s going to get the blame for it.

  17. Randy E

    Democrats picked up seats in the house and senate for the second consecutive election. Obama beat McCain by almost 7%. PM, you can put lipstick on a pig…
    I believe we’ve already seen a shrewd and pragmatic president-elect who will be more of a uniter. PM and others will jump to conclusions because of hard feelings but Lindsey Graham has already praised Obama for a smart pick for CoS because he knows Rahm is a straight shooter (as he found out when setting rules for the debates).

  18. slugger

    Inez Tenenbaum, former S.C. superintendent of schools, appears on a list of those being considered for Education secretary.
    Tenenbaum has said she would be interested in an education post in the Obama administration. (Taken from The State newspaper today).
    You have got to be kidding me. What did she ever do for educating the masses here in S.C.?
    Show me some facts. Another Riley in a job that educating our children is a prime force.

  19. bud

    Out of extreme (and unnecessary) conscientiousness, McCain refused to raise the legitimate issue of Obama’s most egregious association — with the race-baiting Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Dirty campaigning, indeed.
    Seriously Brad, Krauthamer was defending this purely PARTISAN line of attack, yet you praise the article!! Unf****** believable. Do you really expect anyone with a brain to take you seriously?

  20. Harry Harris

    You criticize Bob Herbert, but frequently print Krauthamer? You cite a Kathleen Parker and a George Will column as “balance,” when they were only stating what a disasterous, irresponsible move your favorite candidate made – and were zinging it from their usual conservative position. Apparently, Parker was castigated and threatened by the right-wingers of her own constituency just for stating her unease at McCain’s choice and suggesting that Palin withdraw for the benefit of his candidacy.

  21. Lee Muller

    Jeremiah Wright is only one piece of evidence among many of the racism of Barack Obama and his divisive campaign.
    Now the Obamedia is trying to sell the line that, “Obama avoided mentioning race or the poor.”
    That’s right, he lied when he talked about “helping the middle class”, and his audience of moochers knew it. Obama used all the code words for “whitey” and “the Jews”, and his racist followers knew it.
    They knew it because the campaign on the street and in the black churches told them about the real Obama – the communist, Jew-hater, the activist who beat down the landlords, the worker for ACORN who trained them on how to skirt the law, supporter of “reparations”, and all his racist friends in the Black Muslims and racist sham churches.
    The news media knew about this campaign. They heard the had speech of Obama’s surrogates. They heard Obama’s old speeches and interviews. They chose to conceal it from the moderate voters.

  22. Brad Warthen

    Randy saying Obama won “by almost 7 percent” is one of those assertions that makes me stop and think, just how far gone are we in this country? Unfortunately, I know the answer.
    It reminds me of when Ronald Reagan won by over 8 percent, and the Republicans were gushing about the overwhelming victory, and making like the consensus of the country was that the Reagan Revolution was the greatest thing in the history of the world, yadda-yadda — and I kept saying, “Yeah, but 40 percent of us didn’t want him. In fact, 40 percent of us SO didn’t want him that we voted for Mondale.”
    For me, this election is different in that on the whole I like Obama, and I couldn’t stand Reagan. But 46 percent of us — a WHOLE lot more than went for Mondale — still preferred McCain.

  23. p.m.

    I’ve been waiting for the liberals to calm down myself, Brad.
    This idea they have — that getting most of the votes means they’re right — is pretty scary.
    In his day, Barabbas got most of the votes.
    Getting most of the votes means that you get to be the designated driver, not that you know how to drive.

  24. Lee Muller

    Reagan and Nixon won almost every state, not just the urban ghettos filled with moochers who live on a subsistence check from the government, or million dollar bailout checks from the government.
    As little as I get to listen to news during the day, in my automobile, yesterday I heard three top print news editors dismissing all those who didn’t vote for Obama as irrelevant dwellers of “flyover country”, to be ignored.
    Johnathan Alter of Newsweek admitted they slanted the news for Obama and hid facts about Obama’s racist past, because his team wanted to be part of history, and defeat the audiences of talk radio and other alternative news media.
    Other socialistic liberals are calling on Obama to not only ignore those who did not vote Democrat, but to punish them, to bury them with an avalanche of taxes and legal restrictions on their liberty.

  25. Phillip

    Flyover country means different things to different people. Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana…there’s a lot of “flyover” terrain there, and they all went for Obama, were critical to his success, so I don’t think that the contempt for these areas is anything like you seem to think, Brad.
    Have you ever heard a Frank Rich or Bob Herbert dare to say that Massachusetts is “real America” whereas Alabama is not? or some such phrase? What about it, Brad? What about the contempt that runs the other way, contempt we heard uttered by the GOP’s invocation of the “real America,” contempt we hear all the time when urban America is dismissed as some kind of liberal irregularity within our “center-right” (yeah, right!) nation. You share that contempt when you talk about a “New York mindset.” I’ve also heard you dismiss “San Francisco liberalism.” And this season, we heard much about the evils of “Chicago-style politics” without much specificity, as if Obama’s Chicago roots are enough to cast suspicion upon him among denizens of Real America.
    The truth is that this reverse contempt for “Fly-To Country” has caused the GOP to shrink into primarily a regional Southern party, ironically reducing the influence of the South on the national political scene.
    In that piece to which I linked, you can read about some of the counties in Alabama that gave McCain huge margins in the white vote relative to George W. Bush’s in 2004. No, the fact that many racists voted for McCain is not McCain’s fault and is not prima facie evidence why he should not have been elected President. Nevertheless, as part of understanding how far we’ve come as a nation vis-a-vis racism and how far we still have to go, it’s important to acknowledge racism where it exists, and to look at it squarely without denying its existence.
    Some attitudes that still flourish in SOME portions of flyover country ARE beneath contempt.

  26. Brad Warthen

    I heart New York, as the saying goes. I like to visit there whenever I can, if only to ride the subway (and I’m a total sap for the Little Italy tourist trap). But I don’t heart the attitude that Frank Rich on the left, and people like Thomas Sowell on the right, exhibit toward people they disagree with. And in Rich’s case, I think the attitude arises from — or at least, is reinforced and rewarded by — his environment.

    The point that you raise about "real America" is difficult to engage constructively, because there are a couple of different ways to break it down. I think a lot of folks who bridle at "real America" rhetoric do so for two reasons — one laudatory, the other not. On one level they object to someone saying MY America is the real America and yours isn’t, and that — to the extent that it criticizes a real failing, and isn’t just wishfully projecting a meanness into the hearts of one’s opponents whether it exists or not — is laudatory. But there’s a second level, and it’s one where invoking America as not only the "land that I love" but as what Madeleine Albright termed the "indispensable nation" is looked down upon. It’s a world view that causes one to automatically infer jingoistic wickedness, or at least foolishness, whenever anyone waves a flag.

    I’m often accused of being an elitist — in fact, my colleagues did so just today (and Cindi, I believe, is working on a column in which she calls me that) — but maybe it takes one to know one. And I am less bothered by people who try in their own inept ways to invoke their vision of "real America" than I am by those who sneer at them.

    It’s like … one day not long ago I was doing one of my favorite things to do on the rare occasions when I have time to kill — I was drinking coffee while browsing Barnes & Noble. And I picked up a copy of Babbitt, one of those novels I read ABOUT in college, but never actually read. Obviously, I didn’t get far reading over a cup or two, but I did get far enough to be offended by Sinclair Lewis’ sneering at everything about George Babbitt. I didn’t like Babbitt, but I felt like no one (and though he was a fictional character, we know he was meant to comment on reality) deserved that sort of contempt, just for living his life in his own lame way.

    It’s like … my initial impression of Sarah Palin was taken by some of you as insulting and demeaning to her. But before long, the woman had been so vilified from ALMOST all quarters that I felt moved to defend her. I did not, because I didn’t think anyone would take it the way I meant it — elections so warp political discourse that few would have been able to see past my support for McCain. And I certainly didn’t want anyone to think I thought she’d be a good president, because I didn’t. But Good Lord, the woman wasn’t nearly as awful as her detractors on both the left and the right (such as the McCainiacs who now call her dumber than a stump) made her out to be. And now I reproach myself for not sticking up for her, whether anyone had listened or not.

    Just because Nixon made political hay with his "Silent Majority" stuff doesn’t mean there is not a silent majority of ordinary people who ARE decent and law-abiding and unassuming and flag-waving, and who too often get either neglected or looked down upon.

    Am I getting across what I mean here?

  27. Randy E

    Brad, I am amazed by your bias regarding McCain because in the past I always felt you were pragmatic.
    First, the notion that the 46% of the electorate that voted for McCain automatically doesn’t want Obama is surprisingly simplistic. Certainly there are the PMs and Lees who are already hyperventalating about Obama’s performance as president. There are also those who are willing to give him a chance, including you. Also consider that FDR obliterated Alf Landon but still only garnered 61% of the vote. Your 40% doesn’t want him argument is a non sequitur.
    Second, it was universally acknowledged that the country wanted to sweep republicans out of office (except outliers like SC). For the second consecutive election, dems made significant gains. That is a collective voice. Consider that the senate minority leader has a run for the money in Kentucky.
    Finally, we heard for weeks that Obama was running as a socialist. Ok, for sake of argument, let’s assume he was. He won 54% of the vote over a “mavericky” war hero. Now Rove, Buchanan, and others are championing the vote as a centrist mandate with the country’s fulcrum positioned right center. How is voting for a socialist support for moderation and for a right center country? It’s not so why did Obama win? Clearly there is a collective voice.

  28. Randy E

    And what type of reasoning is this you offer? Palin and others villify those who would dare hold a different opinion (less American), we sneer at her contempt for others, and you blame us for sneering? Absurd.

  29. Phillip

    “a silent majority of ordinary people who ARE decent and law-abiding and unassuming and flag-waving, and who too often get either neglected or looked down upon.”
    Agreed, and what Obama understands (and probably McCain too at heart, but NOT Palin) is that in this group are Democrats and Republicans and independents, include both liberals and conservatives, they live in both blue and red states, live in both rural America and the most populous cities of our country, come from every race and ethnic group in our country, belong to many different religions including no religion at all, all contribute sons and daughters to our military service, belong to all socio-economic strata, range in educational background from Ph.D’s to never-finished-high-school.
    Patriotism is a wonderful thing and is embraced equally by folks of all political persuasions, including op-ed writers.
    The only difference is how people express that patriotism. It’s great to wave the flag, wear a flag pin. But patriotism, and more specifically nationalism, is an emotion that is easily manipulated and exploited and has been turned to evil ends throughout the course of the history of nation-states. What you call “looking down” upon certain expressions of patriotism is what I call “looking out” for cheap demogogic explotation of patriotism, such as the ridiculous flag-pin flap re Obama. Or more importantly, the notion of “My Country, Right or Wrong.”
    I hope that as the “indispensable nation” we can be evolved enough to help lead the planet to a future beyond nationalism, or at least to ensure strong multilateral mechanisms to reduce or prevent warfare and genocide and environmental degradation of the only planet we have.

  30. Phillip

    As a last addition to Randy’s last comment, which I find a particularly concise summation of how this post comes across, Brad…let me just point out:
    what you are complaining about is the domain of a certain swath of liberal-ish op-ed writers.
    what Randy and I are speaking of (and what the electorate rejected last Tuesday) is an attitude that is inculcated, is part-and-parcel of official party politics on the part of the GOP, and McCain in large part ran using this theme. (Mostly through Palin).
    Moreover, many of those policies got incorporated into the presidency of the last 8 years. We were told you’re “either with us or against us.” The slights to which you refer are just that…slights. The other attitude to which I refer, the cheap manipulation of patriotism, has caused far more ACTUAL damage to this nation, and constitutes a far greater threat if you consider its longer-range potential. While I don’t really believe at heart that John McCain buys this garbage, I think Palin does. And I’m glad you didn’t write that defense of her.
    She truly IS as awful as everybody was saying. She’s not worth defending, Brad. I know you like to be contrarian for its own sake sometimes but save it for another cause.

  31. Lee Muller

    Obama may not even be a U.S. citizen, which would mean he is not a real American. He is still refusing to hand over a birth certificate to the federal court.

  32. Lee Muller

    Obama Spokesman Says ‘Obama Ready to RULE on Day 1’
    By Warner Todd Huston
    November 10, 2008 – 02:02 ET
    The co-chair of Barack Obama’s Transition Team, Valerie Jarrett, appeared on Meet the Press this weekend and used, shall we say, an interesting word to described what she thinks Barack Obama will be doing in January when he’s officially sworn into office. She told Tom Brokaw that Obama will be ready to “rule” on day one. It’s a word that reflects the worst fears that people have for Obama the “arrogant,” the “messiah,” that imagines he’s here to “rule” instead of govern.
    Jarret told Brokaw that “given the daunting challenges that we face, it’s important that
    president elect Obama is prepared to really take power and begin to rule day one.”
    Link to original story and video

  33. bud

    This was a fascinating exchange between Brad, Phillip and Randy. Good points all. Phillip’s arguments are the most persuasive. If I understand Brad correctly, and given his circuitous way of making his point, he seems to favor style over substance. To Brad, it seems as though the ridicule of Sarah Palin was far more egregious than her substantive shortcomings. Indeed much of the abuse was over the top but, by and large, Palin was generally treated with more respect than she deserved. If some over-the-top criticism was what it took to keep her out of the vice presidency, so be it. She had no business in that job, let alone the POTUS. The good of the country comes before the sensibilities of any one person.
    The fact that McCain selected her is reason enough to question his judgement to be president. It was obviously a compulsive selection somewhat like a person who picks up a candy bar at the checkout counter only to regret the decision later. In this case the candy (or should I say eye candy) was regretted and rejected by the electorate after they had time to think about it. As for McCain, he probably wishes he could take a Mulligan on that choice. If not, then he really was a very poor choice for POTUS and the American people chose well.

  34. timmy2toes

    McCain wasnt divisive but his campaign was. Perhaps it was just Palin’s popularity, or the fact that most people didnt like Palin. Either way, for about 2 months prior to the election all the McCain campaign did was string a bunch of words like socialist terrorist etc. together. Perhaps if McCain had also talked substantially about issues, then he wouldnt have been seen as the more divisive candidate, but he didnt really and so the only thing people really got from his campaign was socialist terrorist etc. It is a shame, really, and his concession speech was very gratious. I personally think McCain got caught up in a wave of diviseness that is more the GOP than him. For Herbert to say people didnt vote for divisiveness is completely ok — that was the major theme of McCain’s campaign. Sure, people voted for him for other reasons, but McCain sure didnt talk about those other reasons.

  35. Brad Warthen

    “Fascinating exchanges” are what we’re about here at Brad’s Blog, and I thank everyone for taking part. And yes, I think Phillip deserves extra kudos, for his patience with me.
    There will always be a point at which we disagree, though. For instance, I can’t agree with this statement: “Patriotism is a wonderful thing and is embraced equally by folks of all political persuasions, including op-ed writers.” Not true. “Patriotism” is a word that has a meaning, and simply saying one has a “different kind” of patriotism doesn’t wash. Some people warmly embrace it; some are embarrassed by it; others are hostile to it. For someone to condemn or belittle patriotism in a political opponent, and then claim to have patriotism oneself — just a different kind — is to play with words.
    We aren’t all patriotic, just as we aren’t all football fans. The fact that it’s politically advantageous to be seen as patriotic doesn’t change that. I mean, suppose liberalism suddenly became like Mom and apple pie. What if it were as important to be seen as “liberal” as it is to be seen as “patriotic?” Would you accept Sarah Palin going around the country claiming to be “liberal” — just a “different kind” of liberal — following by a bunch of moaning about the people out there who are insensitive to HER brand of liberalism?
    Maybe that sounds far-fetched, but we HAVE seen something much like that happen with the word “conservative,” particularly here in the South. Everybody, from Mark Sanford to Democrats like Nikki Setzler, call themselves “conservative” (Nikki’s slogan is “Caring Conservative”). That doesn’t mean that’s what they are. Nikki, I would say, actually is — and his Republican opponent used that against him, painting him as insufficiently zealous in the pursuit of change. But Mark Sanford is most certainly not a conservative — he’s a libertarian, which is to say, a classic liberal.

  36. Reader

    He most certainly is a conservative. I’d even say he is a classic conservative governor in a state that has a large herd of swine-a55 “Republicans” to contend with. I’d even say he has also had to contend with a certain measure of media bias around here THE WHOLE TIME!
    There is an article on CNNPolitics.com — check it out:
    Commentary: Conservatives didn’t lose election, GOP did.

  37. Michael Rodgers

    Sanford’s article on CNNPolitics is horrendous. It’s so bad, that it’s almost as bad as his Obama article.
    “I am happy for President-elect Barack Obama, and for many who supported him. They and, in many cases, their ancestors fought for this day for centuries as they experienced first-hand the unthinkable wrong of segregation.”
    What? Sen. Obama forged a coalition of all kinds of people, including some who (or who’s ancestors) fought against segregation and others who (or who’s ancestors) did not.
    “Some on the left will say our [the Republican Party’s] electoral losses are a repudiation of our principles of lower taxes, smaller government and individual liberty.”
    What? President Bill Clinton said that the era of big government was over. Everybody, especially people in the Democratic Party, wants lower taxes, smaller government, and individual liberty. These are the principles of the left. It’s the right that wants more police, more prisons, and to deny people access to education, health care, and the courts.
    “[It’s my hope going forward more conservatives in all corners of America will be equally precise and exacting in making sure their views are reflected by the party that supposedly represents them.”
    I guess Gov. Sanford feels that the Big Tent era of Republican politics, if it ever existed, is over.

  38. Reader

    Who would you anoint as standard-bearer? John McCain? Lindsey?
    Joe Lieberman for crying out loud?
    Jakie? The [self-edited] Rooster?

  39. Lee Muller

    PURE LIES: “Everybody, especially people in the Democratic Party, wants lower taxes, smaller government, and individual liberty.”
    The Democrats are threatening a slew of new taxes.
    The Democrats have tripled the deficits in the last 2 years.
    Democrats want to take away free speech on talk radio and television, and the Internet.
    Democrats want to disarm honest Americans.
    Barack Obama says his litmus test of judges is that they will ignore the Constitution to implement his socialist agenda.

  40. Phillip

    Brad: “‘Patriotism’ is a word that has a meaning…” Indeed. Webster’s defines it as “love of or devotion to one’s country.”
    Though there are public manifestations of patriotism, such as choosing to live here in the first place, obeying the laws, yes—paying taxes, public service, and higher levels of patriotism such as choosing to serve in the armed forces—at a gut level patriotism, like any love, is essentially a private matter. (Hard therefore to understand how anyone could be “embarrassed” about patriotism…unless, Brad, you’re confusing PUBLIC displays of patriotism with actual patriotism). It’s not like being a football fan or not being a football fan, there’s one way to define being a football fan: you go to games, you watch games, you take an interest. There is no such clear criteria for defining HOW to love your country.
    I find it funny that I’m more willing to concede that Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are patriots (even if I believe they grotesquely misunderstand or misrepresent the nation’s fundamental founding principles entirely) than you might be to acknowledge that Frank Rich or Keith Olbermann have a great love for their country too.
    Who has a pretty level-headed and even-handed take on this whole patriotism thing? You guessed it, and his entire speech from last June 30 is well worth reading. I think, Brad, it answers most of your concerns too.

  41. Randy E

    Brad, I’ll grant you that we are not all football fans nor are we all patriotic. My question to you is how is Sarah Palin the decider of which parts of the country are the most patriotic?
    As you have likely seen in your trips to Pennsylvania, the northeast is very big on Independence Day. They have parades and a great number of houses are adorned with red, white, and blue. In South Carolina, there are lots of fireworks but Confederate heritage seems to be of greater focus.
    How is championing provincial heritage an indication of “real America”?

  42. Michael Rodgers

    President Kennedy cut taxes. President Clinton cut taxes. And President Obama will cut taxes.
    President George H. W. Bush broke his vow “Read my lips, no new taxes.” The national debt is very largely attributable to three presidents: Reagan, Bush, and Bush.
    The scariest new tax proposal I’ve seen is that of Republican Senator Jim Demint, who wanted a new national sales tax at a rate of approximately 30%.
    Democrats love free speech everywhere. Democrats want to have some policies that prevent dishonest people, like convicted felons, from having weapons, and we think that using the honor system instead of a background check is naive.
    Barack Obama is a Constitutional scholar, and he agrees with the Supreme Court’s decision against the DC gun ban. At first, Sen. Obama thought that DC’s law might be constitutional, but when he studied the specifics of the law and the briefs, etc., he agreed with the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the DC gun ban.
    Barack Obama has always believed that the Constitution provides an individual right to own guns, and he deeply respects family and cultural traditions of hunting and gun ownership by honest, law-abiding citizens.
    Lee says, “Barack Obama says his litmus test of judges is that they will ignore the Constitution to implement his socialist agenda.” Ridiculous. Absolutely untrue.

  43. p.m.

    Let’s see: Brad says libertarians are liberals, and Michael says Democrats want lower taxes and smaller government, so around here, 2 + 2 must equal 7.
    If someone thinks Obama will be governing from the middle, the new math really has taken over, unless the middle has moved so far left we’re about to fall off the edge.

  44. p.m.

    Let’s see: Brad says libertarians are liberals, and Michael says Democrats want lower taxes and smaller government, so around here, 2 + 2 must equal 7.
    If someone thinks Obama will be governing from the middle, the new math really has taken over, unless the middle has moved so far left we’re about to fall off the edge.

  45. h.p.

    I’ll post your response again p.m. – third time’s a charm.
    Let’s see: Brad says libertarians are liberals, and Michael says Democrats want lower taxes and smaller government, so around here, 2 + 2 must equal 7.
    If someone thinks Obama will be governing from the middle, the new math really has taken over, unless the middle has moved so far left we’re about to fall off the edge.

  46. Lee Muller

    President Kennedy cut taxes on everyone.
    President Bush cut taxes on everyone.
    President Clinton only cut taxes on the wealthy, by cutting the capital gains tax on investment banking and venture capital from 28 to 14 percent. Clinton raised taxes on the middle income families in 1993 and twice more before 1999. He left a recession which began in November 2000.
    Obama has not named a single tax he will cut, but lots he threatens to raise.
    His only “tax cut” is actually a welfare handout to 47,000,000 tax return filers who paid no taxes. That will encourage 100,000,000 more to file, just to get on welfare train.

  47. Lee Muller

    Barack Obama’s litmus test for judges:
    1. Empathy, rather facts and law
    2. Pro-abortion
    3. Willing to ignore the Constitution to enforce Obama policies
    Here are Obama’s own words: “[W]e need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.”
    “Well, look, I think that you — what you can ask a judge is about their judicial philosophy,” he said when asked how he would make selections if he defeats John McCain on Tuesday.
    “I can tell you that how a Justice approaches their job, how they describe the path of interpreting the Constitution, I think can tell you a lot,” he added.
    “And so my criteria, for example, would be — if a Justice tells me that they only believe the strict letter of the Constitution — that means that they possibly don’t mean — believe in — a right to privacy that may not be perfectly enumerated in the Constitution but, you know, that I think is there,” Obama said.
    – Source: October 30, 2008 interview with NBC News


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