Patriotism, Mark Shea and Ezra Klein

Then none was for a party—
Then all were for the state;
Then the great man helped the poor,
And the poor man loved the great;
Then lands were fairly portioned!
Then spoils were fairly sold:
The Romans were like brothers
In the brave days of old.

Now Roman is to Roman
More hateful than a foe,
And the tribunes beard the high,
And the fathers grind the low.
As we wax hot in faction,
In battle we wax cold;
Wherefore men fight not as they fought
In the brave days of old.

Horatius at the Bridge, Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay



Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts has an interesting post on Ezra Klein, a man upon whom Mark Shea bestows the title of patriot:


According to Mark Shea, Ezra Klein.  Why?  Because Klein is a leading voice in the call for Trump’s impeachment.  He is a an activist not at all shy about donning his PhD and MD in psychiatry and declaring Trump to be mentally unstable.  He supports the contraceptive mandate of Obamacare.  He supports abortion rights.  He supports gay marriage.  In short, Klein is a hard left activists who represents many of the radical Leftist extremes that got us Trump in the first place.
And Mark Shea gushes with love and adoration over this folk hero of American patriotism.  Why?  Because, again, Klein is against conservatives and Trump.  Apparently, that is the litmus test.  Support abortion rights, gay marriage, the eradication of religious liberty, Leftist politics – it matters not.  Oppose the Right and Trump at all costs, and that alone is worthy of praise and adoration.  Oh, and that abortion thing?  We just blame it on sexist men and capitalists who give women no other choice but to have an abortion.  
Remember when Mark joined other Catholics in saying support for abortion rights was bad, or that the HHS mandate was a threat to freedom?  Yeah, so do I.   But then I can hardly blame Mark for excusing what the Church once so loudly opposed when the Church no longer seems to loudly oppose them. 
Note: None of this is to take issue with Klein’s interpretation of Trump’s interview, or tendency to gloss over the similar foibles that have plagued the media over the last few years.  It’s just to notice the term ‘patriot’, which has alternately been used as a compliment, an insult, and a joke in my life, is applied by Mark in such a way.
Go here to comment.  Those of us with good memories will recall that Klein founded Journ-O-list.  This was a secret cabal of left wing journalists that was uncovered in 2010.  I guess for them the mainstream media was too right wing.  Klein, of course, is not a patriot.  He is what the Founding Fathers would have called a factionalist.  He seeks not the good of his country, but rather the triumph of his political faction.  I have no doubt that if queried he would protest that the policies of his faction would be good for the nation, and he might well be sincere in that statement, but there is little doubt that he views the nation through the prism of his factional loyalties and that America is only to be loved insomuch as it embraces his faction.  This all brings to mind a brilliant scene from True Grit:

LaBeouf: The force of law? This man is a notorious thumper. He rode by the light of the moon with Quantrill. – Bloody Bill Anderson.

Cogburn:- Them men were patriots, Texas trash.

LaBeouf: They murdered women and children in Lawrence, Kansas.

Cogburn: That’s a God damn lie!

Politics have often been heated in the US.  The trouble is that on two occasions in our history heated politics led to outright war:  the American Revolution, which might also be rightfully called the First American Civil War, and the Civil War.  Great issues were involved in both those conflicts and perhaps they were unavoidable.  But when politics reaches  a stage where we bestow the title of patriot upon those who agree with us politically, and condemn those who oppose us traitors, we would do well to remind ourselves that such talk has before led this country down the path to open war.  Something that Mark Shea, and all of us, might wish to consider,




It is not Dishonorable to be Honorable

Chris Johnson, whom Donald has labeled as Defender of the Faith, sums up my feelings on the Todd Akin affair both here and here. Darwin also has an eminently sensible take. Meanwhile, Akin continues to labor under the delusion that he can still defeat Senator McCaskill this November, bolstered by this preposterously over-Republican sampled poll showing that he maintains a one point lead. Evidently his idiocy extends to issues beyond rape.

What’s remarkable is that a hefty proportion of conservatives are calling for Akin to withdraw. When Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter and (kinda sorta) Rush Limbaugh are all urging you to get out of the race, it’s a sign that it’s not just establishment “RINOs” that have turned against you.

Now I do also think that Levin and our own Bonchamps make good points about Democrat hypocrisy on this issue. That said, those few who continue to defend Akin are relying on the most obnoxious tu quoque strategy in order to justify Akin’s continued presence in the Missouri Senate race. Chris and Dana Loesch have been Akin’s most ardent supporters on twitter. They haven’t necessarily defended his statement, but they have insisted that because Democrats say and do much viler things, and because leftists tend to rally around those Democrats who say and defend stupid things, it’s wrong for conservatives and Republicans to insist that Akin get out. They argue that conservatives opposed to Akin are being cowards who are chickening out in the face of Democrat aggression.

First of all, I would argue that the more cowardly and politically weak-minded thing to do is to essentially cede what should be a fairly easy pick-up for Republicans. More importantly,  blind partisan loyalty is not a virtue to be emulated, and the proper response to gutter politics is not to get in the gutter with your opponents.

Let’s take a look at two comments left on Bonchamps’ post.

Yes women get pregnant from rapes. No your body doesn’t shut that down. If a man ejaculates semen into a woman, she can get pregnant whether it’s consensual or it’s rape. I knew a woman who did indeed get pregnant after being gang raped. It happens. Apparently you folks think rape is a joke. Hardy har.

This was downright erudite in comparison to this one:

i hope all of you get raped and then you can feel what it is like, bunch of hypocrites

If you read the comments on Congressman Akin’s facebook page announcing that he is staying in, you’ll see comments from conservatives supporting him, comments from conservatives politely asking him to step down, and comments from unhinged leftists who think that Akin’s comments are a sign that he and all Republicans want women shackled and subservient. Twitter is alive with comments from the likes of Michael Moore:

Don’t let the Repubs paint Akin as a lone nut. HE is THEM. They all believe this: Gov’t MUST have control over what women do w/ their bodies

This is a sentiment that has been echoed in various corridors.

There’s really no charitable way to put it: these people are obviously out of their gourd. These are people not interested in dialogue, nor or they people who can be reasoned with. Yet these are types of people that Akin supporters, in a sense, want to emulate. Instead of being reviled by the viciousness or ruthlessness of the hyper-partisans on the left, some on the right are consumed with the idea of “fighting fire with fire.”

Don’t get me wrong. The Akin supporters (by and large) have not said anything nearly as dumb or vile as these people. Yet instead of recognizing the behavior of the other side as something anti-social and to be avoided, it’s as though certain conservatives see this, dig in their heels, and insist on playing a somewhat milder version of the same game.

A lot of the people on the right behaving like that think that they are simply following in the path of the late Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart, of course, was largely beloved on the right because of his take no prisoners attitude, and because he had an amazing ability to beat the left at their own game. But there’s a difference between sticking to your guns and blind partisan loyalty. I can sympathize with individuals who believe that Republicans are too soft at times and easily back down from political fights. Yet, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that Republicans actually are willing to hold other Republicans’ feet to the fire. In other words, there is nothing dishonorable about being honorable. I don’t think blind partisanship is something we need more of.


Condescender In Chief

Charles Krauthammer has an excellent column about President Obama’s immigration speech in El Paso the other day.  Here’s a sample:

The El Paso speech is notable not for breaking any new ground on immigration but for perfectly illustrating Obama’s political style: the professorial, almost therapeutic, invitation to civil discourse, wrapped around the basest of rhetorical devices — charges of malice compounded with accusations of bad faith. “They’ll never be satisfied,” said Obama about border control. “And I understand that. That’s politics.”

How understanding. The other side plays “politics,” Obama acts in the public interest. Their eyes are on poll numbers, political power, the next election; Obama’s rest fixedly on the little children.

This impugning of motives is an Obama constant. “They” play politics with deficit reduction, with government shutdowns, with health care. And now immigration. It is ironic that such a charge should be made in a speech that is nothing but politics. There is zero chance of any immigration legislation passing Congress in the next two years. El Paso was simply an attempt to gin up the Hispanic vote as part of an openly political two-city, three-event campaign swing in preparation for 2012.

Accordingly, the El Paso speech featured two other staples: the breathtaking invention and the statistical sleight of hand.

Krauthammer continues, calling out the president for his abuse of statistics and his demagoguery.

For a man who has blown so much hot air about civility and changing the dialogue in Washington, President Obama has been in fact more overtly partisan than any president I can recall, and my political memory dates back to Reagan.  Most of the president’s major addresses contain the following elements:

1 Discussion of other side’s opposition to his plans in tone that suggests mild surprise and even outrage that other people have differing viewpoints.  President Obama often pays lip service to respecting other’s viewpoints, but when he actually gets around to discussing policy issues his tone becomes sarcastic and mocking, as though no sentient human being could possibly think other than he does.

2Erecting strawman arguments and mischaracterizing opponents’ positions. An absolute staple of any Obama speech, as highlighted by Krauthammer above.

3 – Testily dismissing opponents.  Having characterized his opponents as people who want to starve the elderly, children, women, Asians, Eskimos, and puppies, President Obama then concludes this portion of his speech with a metaphorical wave of his hand.  On several occasions he has quite literally said that Republican input was not welcome.

What a uniter, that guy.

And here’s the thing.  In a certain sense I don’t really care.  There were times during George Bush’s presidency that I wanted him to be a bit feistier and take on his opponents more fiercely.  Presidents are supposed to be above the fray, but that’s a bit of hogwash.  Presidents can be partisan crusaders as long as they keep it within respectful limits.  In other words, they should be above the level of your typical comment box antagonist.

Besides, when President Obama gets into sarcastic mode it’s one of the few times he almost seems human and non-boring.  Most of the time Obama displays two rhetorical styles: faux Martin Luther King Jr, and robot teleprompter reader.  Either he’s doing his worst impression of a dynamic speaker or else he sounds like someone who has just woken from a deep nap.  I don’t know who these people are that think he’s a great speaker, but frankly he rarely speaks like a normal man except when he’s cranky and sarcastic.  In fact, if he were more regularly sarcastic and petty then I might be able to sit through more of his talks.  At least then they would be entertaining.

No, what grates about his divisive rhetoric is that it contradicts all his campaign blabber from 2008.  Oh, sure, it’s the same nonsense we hear from all camps every election season, and I’m sure several GOP candidates this Fall and Winter will go out of their way to make some appeal to “curing our partisan discord.”  Hopefully I will have my bucket at the ready for such moments.  But not only has Obama not kept this unkeepable promise, he actually has gone above and beyond to completely obliterate any sense of being some kind of uniter.

Unfortunately we will never learn, and again we’ll fall for this cheap rhetoric in the future.  As I said, we’ll get more of the same in 2o12.  Like the rising of the sun and its setting, empty campaign promises of entering into some non partisan fairy land are sure bets.  Such meaningless dribble overlooks two facts of life:  there have been very few times in American history when we have not been subject to deep partisan divides, and there will never be a time in America where people do not have passionate beliefs that are irreconcilable with other beliefs.  That’s not to say we have to be jerks about it, but it should make us wake up to the reality that differences of opinion will always exist in a free country, and glossing over those differences by vacuous campaign rhetoric won’t bring us any closer to bridging those gaps.

The Advantage of Ideology

One of the main problems with politics is that it is complicated. Take, for example, the recently passed health care bill. The bill was over 2,000 pages. I haven’t read it. Neither, I imagine, have most of our readers (indeed, it would not surprise me if no single person has read every word of the bill, though obviously each of the bill’s many provisions has been read by someone).

Of course, even if someone had read every word of the bill, this would not be sufficient to have a truly informed position on it. To have a truly informed position one would have to not only read the bill but understand it. And to do that would require a great deal of knowledge about fields as complicated and diverse as the law, medicine, political science, economics, bureaucratic management, etc.

And, mind you, even if one were somehow able to master and muster all of this information, that would only entitle one to a have a truly informed position on that one bill.

Continue Reading


The Bi-Partisanship Fallacy

There’s a school of thought which greatly admires “bi-partisan” approaches to solving political problems. The idea of representatives and senators putting aside their differences to “reach across the aisle” and work together seems admirably, if only because our social training all points towards the importance of compromise in order to get along with others.

However, I’d like to question whether there are often pieces of legislation which are genuinely bi-partisan.

Some legislation is essentially non-partisan. Instituting a national alert system to help track down kidnapped children, for instance, is hardly something which has a major political faction aligned against it.

In other cases, there’s legislation which applies to factions within each party — a result of the fact that our two major political parties include sub-factions which disagree with each other on major issues. For instance, “bi-partisan” immigration reform might draw support both from the business faction within the GOP and the pro-immigration faction within the Democratic Party, while being opposed by labor focused Democrats and immigration focused Republicans.
Continue Reading


Lesser of Two Evils or Worthy of Honor

Since the Notre Dame controversy has all the staying power of an inebriated relative after a dinner party, I’ll attempt one more brief comment on it.

It is a disappointment to me, though hardly a surprising one, that just about everyone in the Catholic blogsphere who advocated voting for Obama in the first place (or sympathized with those who did) now find so much to object to in those Catholics (including quite a few bishops — all who have address the topic to my knowledge) who are upset at Obama being made the commencement speaker for Notre Dame and awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

The argument, which was made frequently enough during the election, was that while Obama was far from perfect (and, we were always assured, the speaker was indeed deeply troubled by his positions on abortion) he was the better of two distinctly poor alternatives available on the ballot.

If such was one’s true position, I disagree, but with a fair amount of respect.  Sometimes both options available are very bad, and choosing the lesser of two evils is quite the judgment call.

Continue Reading


Partisanship and Empty Rhetoric

It seems in recent week that an ever-increasing focus has fallen on Rush Limbaugh and his radio show.  Not only have the usual suspects worked themselves into a frenzy over him, but we’ve even had President Obama command Congressional Republicans to ignore him.  And the White House has yet to let up on speaking against him.  White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has even taken a few stabs at Limbaugh.  Even more amazingly, Republican Chairman Michael Steele has voiced disapproval of Limbaugh’s talks.

Continue Reading