Wednesday, September 09, 2009

(Or: Is Jonah Goldberg calling John McCain and Mitt Romney liberal fascists?)

The right-wing mob that's beginning to swarm around Thomas Friedman in response to this column is right to find the opening passages unconscionable:

... There is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy, which is what we have in America today.

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power....

Our one-party democracy is worse....

Yes, it's very wrong to call the Chinese leaders "reasonably enlightened." (Though it's not wrong to give them a bit of credit on renewable energy.)

But Friedman mostly wants the damn Republican Party to actually participate in the process of governing America when it's not in the minority. He'd be happy if the GOP participated a lot, dragging bills to the right -- just so long as we get some sort of health care and energy bill. He just wants more of the democratically elected legislators to do some legislating.

Jonah Goldberg thinks that's "liberal fascism" (it's neither liberal nor fascist -- discuss), based on his reading of the column -- assuming he read the entire column and didn't just stop after the passage quoted above. Goldberg:

So there you have it. If only America could drop its inefficient and antiquated system, designed in the age before globalization and modernity and, most damning of all, before the lantern of Thomas Friedman's intellect illuminated the land. If only enlightened experts could do the hard and necessary things that the new age requires, if only we could rely on these planners to set the ship of state right. Now, of course, there are "drawbacks" to such a system: crushing of dissidents with tanks, state control of reproduction, government control of the press and the internet. Omelets and broken eggs, as they say. More to the point, Friedman insists, these "drawbacks" pale in comparison to the system we have today here in America.

In fact, this is the kind of thing that would satisfy Friedman (did you read this far, Jonah?):

"The central mechanism through which Obama seeks to extend coverage and restrain costs is via new 'exchanges,' insurance clearinghouses, modeled on the plan Mitt Romney enacted when he was governor of Massachusetts," noted Matt Miller, a former Clinton budget official and author of "The Tyranny of Dead Ideas." "The idea is to let individuals access group coverage from private insurers, with subsidies for low earners."

And it is possible the president will seek to fund those subsidies, at least in part, with the idea John McCain ran on -- by reducing the tax exemption for employer-provided health care. Can the Republicans even say yes to their own ideas, if they are absorbed by Obama? Without Obama being able to leverage some Republican votes, it is going to be very hard to get a good plan to cover all Americans with health care.

So there you go: to Friedman, a Romney/McCain health plan is fine, just so long as it's some sort of health care plan.

To Goldberg -- assuming, as I say, that he read that far -- a pundit who'd be happy with a functioning two-party system that produces a Romney/McCain health plan is a "liberal fascist."

Does that make Mitt and Johnny Mac "liberal fascists," too, Jonah?


Oh, and I see Goldberg has a follow-up, in which he says:

I'm not a great student of what's going on in China, and I don't have its enlightened rulers on speed dial the way Friedman does. But I just find the idea that China is a great environmental steward absurd beyond ken (or barbie).... I simply do not believe Tom Friedman et al when they say that China is beating us on the environment.

I guess Goldberg doesn't read newspapers ("China Racing Ahead of U.S. in the Drive to Go Solar," New York Times, 8/25/09) or watch television ("A Greener, Better China," ABC News, 9/8/09), nor is he capable of Googling to make up for these shortfalls.

And yes, he did write "beyond ken (or barbie)."

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