Sunday, January 01, 2012


Hey, kids! It's quiz time!

One of the following passages was written by right-wing hack Ross Douthat. The other was written by the Last Living Progressive Truth-Teller, Glenn Greenwald. Can you tell which is which?

1. The United States is living through an era of unprecedented elite failure, in which America's public institutions are understandably distrusted and our leadership class is justifiably despised. Yet politicians of both parties are required, by the demands of partisanship, to embrace the convenient lie that our problem can be pinned exclusively on the other side's elites -- as though both liberals and conservatives hadn't participated in the decisions that dug our current hole.

In this climate, it sometimes takes a fearless crank to expose realities that neither Republicans nor Democrats are particularly eager to acknowledge.

In both the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, Paul has been the only figure willing to point out the deep continuities in American politics — the way ... overseas commitments multiply no matter which party is in power, the revolving doors that connect K Street to Congress and Wall Street to the White House, the long list of dubious policies and programs that both sides tacitly support. In both election cycles, his honest extremism has sometimes cut closer to the heart of our national predicament than the calculating partisanship of his more grounded rivals. He sometimes rants, but he rarely spins -- and he's one of the few figures on the national stage who says "a plague on both your houses!" and actually means it.

2. ... America's election season degrades mainstream political discourse even beyond its usual lowly state. The worst attributes of our political culture -- obsession with trivialities, the dominance of horserace "reporting," and mindless partisan loyalties -- become more pronounced than ever. Meanwhile, the actually consequential acts of the U.S. Government and the permanent power factions that control it ... drone on with even less attention paid than usual.

Because most of those policies are fully bipartisan in nature, the election season -- in which only issues that bestow partisan advantage receive attention -- places them even further outside the realm of mainstream debate and scrutiny. For that reason, America's elections ironically serve to obsfuscate political reality even more than it usually is.

... for better or worse, [Ron] Paul -- alone among the national figures in both parties -- is able and willing to advocate views that Americans urgently need to hear.

If I didn't know the answer, I suspect I wouldn't be able to tell the difference, apart from a few subtle telltale clues. Maybe you could. If you care, Douthat wrote the first passage, Greenwald the second. Both insist they're not endorsing Paul. Both, I imagine, are not agreeing with each other for the last time.


UPDATE: On further reflection, I realize I'm being a bit unfair. The Douthat column and the Greenwald post take divergent paths apart from the passages I've quoted: Douthat sincerely blames both parties for the mess we're in, while Greenwald aims almost all of his anger at liberals and the Obama administration (for failing to live up to the marvelous progressive model set by Ron Paul, who, of course, will never have to put what he yammers about into practice, since he'll never be president, or even lead a congressional coalition large enough to fight for his agenda). Douthat and Greenwald do agree on one larger point: the Republican Party does not deserve the lion's share of the blame for America's current troubles. Thanks for that insight, guys.


c u n d gulag said...

Relating to my prior comment, Douthat doesn't qualify for Chuck Todd's world land-speed record for adapting DC's "both sides do it," zeitgeist, because he was a hack from day f*cking one.
Todd was, until he got to his ultimate level of incompetency as political analyst, a good political reporter; and Bruni was a good food critic.

I'm sure, like I had a poster of Farrah Fawsett, he's got one on his wall of David Brooks.
And I'm pretty sure he's doing the same thing I was doing when I was looking at mine.

And you know how I feel about Glenn. All that rage and vitriol - but suck terrible aim!

And you know how I feel about Glenn. All that rage and vitriol - but terrible aim.

Improbable Joe said...

You know... I love Glenn Greenwald on a lot of issues. But this Ron Paul thing, I just don't get it.

Let's assume that Ron Paul is a man of principle. His principles suck, and are antithetical to progressive principles. So what if he wants to disband the DEA, he also wants to eliminate all the other federal agencies. That doesn't make him pro-weed no matter what the stoner fools seem to think. His "anti-war" stance is equally wacky, in that he wants to reassign the troops to the borders and take whatever savings occur to create even more tax cuts for billionaires. He's all for "civil liberties" if you mean that he's for whatever local governments define as "liberty". And on every other issue he's openly against progressive positions.

This whole "weed and war" support for Paul from the Left is a failure of intellect and integrity, and is a crying shame.

Tom Hilton said...

Bravo, Steve. This is outstanding.

Mick O/Redfishingboat said...

That Greenwald is so disingenuous for claiming he doesn't endorse Ron Paul... plus he's so misguided for his endorsement of Ron Paul. I just don't get it... How can he possibly endorse Ron Paul??

jinchi said...

Mick O: "How can he possibly endorse Ron Paul?"

He doesn't. He explicitly says "I am not “endorsing” or expressing support for anyone’s candidacy". He wrote it in bold type for anyone who might accidentally misunderstand that point.

What he does say is "even though I don’t support him for President, Ron Paul is the only major candidate from either party advocating crucial views on vital issues that need to be heard, and so his candidacy generates important benefits." Those issues being covert warfare, the right of due process, the drug war, attacks on whistleblowers, and protection of the privileged class against accountability.

These things are what Glenn Greenwald is all about. But for Ron Paul, nobody on the national level would be talking about them. And while it's hardly surprising that in a column titled Progressives and the Ron Paul fallacies he'd be focusing his comments on liberals, can Steve M honestly believe that Greenwald reserves his attacks to them alone? Was he sleeping through the Bush years?

ploeg said...

Certainly Greenwald let Bush have it during his years in office (with reason). In fact, Greenwald's main beef with Obama is that Obama has "entrenched" the "Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers" and has "shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability."

I think that our problem here is twofold: 1) Greenwald directly compares Obama with Paul on specific issues and finds Paul's stance on these specific issues to be preferable to Obama's. 2) Greenwald contends that Paul's advocacy of these issues is useful. With regard to the first issue, it seems more than a little cute to compare two candidates directly by name, say that this candidate's views are preferable to the other candidate's, but preface all that with the contention that you are not "endorsing" or expressing support for anyone's candidacy. With regard to the second issue, it would seem that Paul's candidacy "generates important benefits" only insofar as Paul is able to make changes that are more substantive than adding a couple of his favorite planks to the GOP platform (which would be duly ignored in time). The overwhelming evidence is that, in the end, Ron Paul will find his common ground with his GOP colleagues, grandstand on the issues where he differs with them, and move on.

BooMan said...

I guessed wrong.

ploeg said...

As for the notion that Paul might make a difference on the other side of the ledger... well, I can understand the desire for some signs of sanity on the other side of the political ledger, in that it might force some level of competition between the parties for your vote. If that's the hope, sorry to say, but Ron Paul isn't your guy. As previously noted, the only people who would vote for Ron Paul in the general are people who think that government is doing way too much for other people (though hands off their Social Security and Medicare!).