Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ross Douthat, Man Of The Times

Ross Douthat's first column for the Times is a promise of things to come, some of them entertaining and all of them deranged. Repeated failure has opened a schism between the two factions of the right, those who actually believe in the Republican platform and those happy to ride their platform of greed and racism to power.

In the wake of two straight drubbings at the polls, much of the American right has comforted itself with the idea that conservatives lost the country primarily because the Bush-era Republican Party spent too much money on social programs.And John McCain’s defeat has been taken as the vindication of this premise.

This nearly incomprehensible argument seems to be echoing Jonah Goldberg, who often states that the problem with Bush is that he was too soft. Goldberg chooses to believe that Bush's compassionate conservatism, embodied in his support for immigration and the religious right, kept the Republican party from being successful. It's ludicrous. Bush didn't spend too much money on social problems and the right isn't upset about him spending too much money on social problems. The "intellectual" right is upset because they think that the fundamentalist right lost them the election. Ross Douthat's special skill is to ape the mannerisms of the "intellectual" right while advocating the policies of the fundamentalist right. He brings the two sides together in an unholy alliance, held together with mutual spite and greed, and attempts to make the ugly stew palatable to the typical American.

We tried running the maverick reformer, the argument goes, and look
what it got us. What Americans want is real conservatism, not some
crypto-liberal imitation

Bush was too liberal. I've seen it before, but it's a shock every time.

“Real conservatism,” in this narrative, means a particular strain of
right-wingery: a conservatism of supply-side economics and stress positions,
uninterested in social policy and dismissive of libertarian qualms about the
national-security state. And Dick Cheney happens to be its diamond-hard
distillation. The former vice-president kept
his distance
from the Bush administration’s attempts at domestic reform, and
he had little time for the idealistic, religiously infused side of his boss’s
policy agenda. He was for tax cuts at home and pre-emptive warfare overseas;
anything else he seemed to disdain as sentimentalism.

You want "intellectual" conservatism? Then take Dick Cheney, the most hated and feared man in American. There's your "intellectual" conservatism for you. Fundamentalist conservatives don't look so bad now, do they? Which brings us to the real point of this article.

A large swath of the political class wants to avoid the torture debate. The
Obama administration backed into it last week, and obviously wants to back right
out again.

What is the torture debate? A debate about the tactics we used in Iraq? A debate about whether or not invading and occupying another country was the right thing to do? We already know it wasn't. It was an arbitrary action chosen for political reasons. But we're not having that debate. We're debating how much pain we can inflict on people.

But the argument [about torture] isn’t going away. It will be with us as long as the threat of terrorism endures. And where the Bush administration’s interrogation programs are concerned, we’ve heard too much to just “look forward,” as the president would have us do. We need to hear more: What was done and who approved it, and what intelligence we really gleaned from it. Not so that we can prosecute – unless the Democratic Party has taken leave of its senses – but so that we can learn, and pass judgment, and struggle toward consensus.

So we can learn and grow and hug, we have to debate how much torture we will permit ourselves to inflict on others. It's a moral issue and moral people must lead the nation. Don't prosecute the people who broke our laws forbidding torture, however. We must debate torture to learn (about what?), pass judgement (meaningless without enforcement), and struggle towards consensus (on whether or not we can break our laws if we're really, really scared).

How typical of a fundamentalist conservative, to be more interested in passing judgement and endless hair-spitting on ethical issues than facing more pressing and reality-oriented issue that involve actual governing.

And he's only 29. We have at least 30 more years of his toothless pontificating.


Malaclypse said...

And he's only 29. We have at least 30 more years of his toothless pontificating. Sadly, you are right - there is absolutely nothing a conservative can say to get permanently fired.

At least he was not prematurely right about Iraq. Now that he could never have lived down.

Downpuppy said...

Leaving his entire audience saying "What the hell was that thing?" after reading his first column is not a good omen for a 30 year career.

Righteous Bubba said...

Bush pretended to be compassionate, therefore he was. It's how they think.

Susan of Texas said...

RB-Yeah, that's how the right became good stewards of the earth and fiscally responsible too.

I look around and the concensus seems to be Huh? It doesn't bode well that Marc Ambinder missed the point, which was that social conservatives like Ross Douthat are the better type of conservatives. They really are cracking up into two parties--the religious/racist right and the libertarian/"intellectual" right. Conservaties don't like being on the losing side, and they will never let it go.