Tuesday, November 26, 2002

I’ve been trying to get my mind around Ron Rosenbaum’s latest exercise in group libel of the Left, which appears in the November 25 New York Observer.

The meat of the column is a tedious and inconclusive comparison of the George W. Bush saga to The Godfather -- surely somewhere on the Internet there’s a "Which Corleone Brother Are You?" quiz that’s more illuminating and more entertaining. Bookending this, however, are two rants consisting of more of the self-important apostasy that made Rosenbaum’s recent "Goodbye, All That" column such a favorite of Free Republic subscribers everywhere.

Rosenbaum declares at the beginning of his essay, predictably, that Gore Vidal and obscure e-mailers who believe Bush murdered Paul Wellstone represent mainstream Left thinking. (For a rebuttal to this absurd notion, read Eric Alterman’s most recent Nation column.) Then Rosenbaum goes further: He stamps his foot, wags his finger, and says, "Why aren’t those who railed against paranoid, right-wing, murder-list Clinton-hatred standing up to this ‘cesspool’ of incoherent Left Bush hatred?" In other words, we must each denounce conspiratorial thinking by people who agree with us on certain issues or we are guilty of such conspiratorial thinking ourselves.

Conveniently, Rosenbaum never applies this theory of group responsibility for individuals’ words and deeds to his newfound friends on the Right -- he never holds conservatives responsible for failing to denounce the Clinton Death List crazies. (Did any prominent conservatives do so? If so, could Rosenbaum please supply a list?)

Then, near the end of his essay, Rosenbaum really kicks it into high gear: He essentially declares everyone on the Left unfit to speak on contemporary politics because of an inadequate Left response to the evils of communism and (so Rosenbaum claims, erroneously) theocracy. But if offering insufficient opposition to global bad actors is a moral disqualifier, why the hell are we supposed to support a war in the Middle East conducted by an administration larded with the folks who gave us arms sales to the ayatollahs’ Iran, as well as Iraqgate and large amounts of covert aid to Afghanistan’s repressive theocrats?

It gets worse. At one point, Rosenbaum seems to be channeling Laurent Murawiec, the ex-LaRouchenik who last July outlined a crusade to overthrow several Middle Eastern regimes in a now-notorious PowerPoint presentation to the Defense Policy Board. Rosenbaum writes:

Wouldn’t it be a victory for the oppressed people of Iraq, of North Korea, of Iran, if their police-state regimes were overthrown? Even by a cowboy unilateralist? Even by The Devil? Even by the nation of Disney and McDonald’s?

Those who would object to such a global series of American ass-kickings are accused by Rosenbaum of wanting to "protect and shield … odious police states and torturing theocracies." Um, no, Ron -- maybe we’re just a bit squeamish about possibly starting World War III. Maybe our fantasies just don’t happen to run to neo-imperialism.

One last detail before I drop this: About midway through his Bush/Godfather riff, Rosenbaum parenthetically works Al Gore in, suggesting that the "pusillanimous" Gore might be analogous to "the snotty WASP Senator in Godfather II." Thus we see how far gone Rosenbaum is. Isn’t Godfather II’s "snotty WASP Senator" right? Isn’t the Mafia a genuine menace? Aren’t the machinations of the Corleones in the Senate scenes of Godfather II criminal and evil? Yes, as viewers we enjoy Michael Corleone’s ruthlessness and cunning, but he’s a blight on America.

Fiction gives us permission to admire villains, but Rosenbaum is taking this license back to the real world. He despises Gore for being a plodder. He likes Bush the more he thinks he sees in Bush the thuggish Machiavellianism of the brilliant, sexy criminal boss Michael Corleone.

If that’s what floats Rosenbaum’s boat, fine. Me, I’m with Diane Keaton.

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