Fifteen years ago Jeff Jacoby's first regular column appeared in the Boston Globe. He has recyled it recently. See below. I usually agree with him but I have some reservations about this column that I set out at the foot of it
So what's a nice conservative like me doing in a newspaper like this? Wondering, for a start, why so many liberals think of conservatives not so much as people they disagree with, but as people they despise.
Most mainstream conservatives acknowledge that liberals are essentially well-meaning. Misguided, to be sure. And naive? Certainly. And elitist, self-righteous, collectivist know-it-alls, chronically unwilling to learn from their mistakes, clueless when it comes to the workings of the marketplace, always persuaded that the next government program will fix whatever went wrong with the last government program? Yeah. But well-meaning.
It should go without saying that you can mean well and do ill. Those liberal good intentions have helped pave more than a few of the 20th century's roads to hell, from the Evil Empire to the welfare state to the meltdown of the American criminal justice system. Conservatives condemn the demonic results that liberal good intentions have led to, and with gusto. What they don't do, as a rule, is demonize their opponents. Liberals do.
Liberals look at conservatives and see moral cripples: Conservatives hate the poor. Conservatives are greedy. Conservatives have no compassion. Conservatives are Neanderthals . . . racists . . . homophobes . . . warmongers. To be conservative, in the eyes of many fervent liberals, is to be by definition a vile human being -- someone to recoil from, not reason with; someone to damn, not to debate.
Personal vignette: It was a roundtable discussion about poverty and social welfare policies in Massachusetts, and I had made some point or other about welfare and illegitimacy. The representative from the prominent, Boston-based foundation spoke up in disagreement. "People like Mr. Jacoby can say that because they don't care about the poor," she began. "But the rest of us . . ."
"They don't care about the poor". Period, end of story. No room for differences of philosophy here. You're a conservative? Then you're morally defective, your views are warped, and would you please get out of the marketplace of ideas before you stink up the joint. Think of Ted Kennedy's slander of Judge Robert Bork in 1987 ("Bork's America is a land in which . . . blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids . . ."). Or of Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey's foul comparison of his colleague, conservative James Kelly, to a Nazi ("It would be like electing David Duke . . . he has the same politics and rhetoric as David Duke.")
"Liberals go for the jugular," says David Horowitz, the one-time antiwar activist and editor of the radical magazine Ramparts. "With them, it's always about character assassination. If you're conservative, you're either sick or in some way deeply malevolent."
The most flagrant recent example oozed across The New York Times op-ed page last month, when columnist Frank Rich launched a vitriolic personal assault on conservative journalist David Brock, author of a controversial article on Bill Clinton's extramarital adventures. Brock's "motives are at least as twisted as his facts," wrote Rich. "It's women, not liberals, who really get him going. The slightest sighting of female sexuality whips him into a frenzy of misogynist zeal. All women are the same to Mr. Brock: terrifying, gutter-tongued, sexual omnivores."
Imagine a conservative trying to discredit a liberal by sledgehammering him as an unhinged woman-hater, or none-too-subtly "outing" him as a homosexual. Actually, that's hard to do: The last well-known conservative with a taste for baseless personal invective was named Joe McCarthy.
At the 1984 Democratic National Convention, Tip O'Neill -- the great-hearted, much-mourned late Speaker himself -- voiced his opposition to President Reagan's policies thus: "The evil is in the White House." The evil. Never would Reagan have used such language to describe O'Neill.
But then, Reagan wasn't a man of the left. He wasn't on a utopian crusade. Like most conservatives, he didn't think the blights of the world could be ended by transforming human nature. And he certainly didn't imagine the only thing blocking that transformation was wrong-thinking people who must be gotten out of the way -- or excommunicated as "evil."
So what's a nice conservative like me doing in a newspaper like this? Why, conserving. Looking to the past to figure out what has succeeded, and trying to apply its wisdom to the conundrums of the present. Acknowledging that there are no guarantees and that life is unfair, but knowing that the best road for the pursuit of happiness is the one marked with the old signposts: Freedom. Responsibility. Virtue. Work.
I think Jacoby is right in saying that many conservatives give Leftists the benefit of the doubt -- but I think that is a mistake. I think Leftist motives have to be inferred from their deeds, not their words -- and their deeds are with eerie consistency destructive of the wealth and wellbeing of the society in which they live. That cannot just be a mistake. Except for Joe Biden, Leftists are not stupid people. I think that the Leftist AIM is destruction of the world they see about them and which they hate for various reasons. Conservatives may or may not support the status quo but Leftists uniformly want to destroy it. And the Leftist hatred of conservatives is a part of that. They see that conservatives do NOT want to destroy the society in which they live so conservatives are hated obstacles to Leftist aims. I think conservatives should view Leftists as evil. They have no hesitation in viewing us that way. It is of course an old Leftist dodge to see in others what is true of themselves ("projection"). Conservatives need to wake up to that. "You're just projecting" should become a standard reply to Leftist abuse.
Obama misrepresents his opposition
Why does he routinely ascribe to opponents views they don't espouse?
By KARL ROVE
President Barack Obama reveres Abraham Lincoln. But among the glaring differences between the two men is that Lincoln offered careful, rigorous, sustained arguments to advance his aims and, when disagreeing with political opponents, rarely relied on the lazy rhetorical device of "straw men." Mr. Obama, on the other hand, routinely ascribes to others views they don't espouse and says opposition to his policies is grounded in views no one really advocates.
On Tuesday night, Mr. Obama told Congress and the nation, "I reject the view that . . . says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity." Who exactly has that view? Certainly not congressional Republicans, who believe that through reasonable tax cuts, fiscal restraint, and prudent monetary policies government contributes to prosperity. Mr. Obama also said that America's economic difficulties resulted when "regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market." Who gutted which regulations?
Perhaps it was President Bill Clinton who, along with then Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, removed restrictions on banks owning insurance companies in 1999. If so, were Mr. Clinton and Mr. Summers (now an Obama adviser) motivated by quick profit, or by the belief that the reform was necessary to modernize our financial industry?
Perhaps Mr. Obama was talking about George W. Bush. But Mr. Bush spent five years pushing to further regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He was blocked by Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank. Arriving in the Senate in 2005, Mr. Obama backed up Mr. Dodd's threat to filibuster Mr. Bush's needed reforms.
Even in an ostensibly nonpartisan speech marking Lincoln's 200th birthday, Mr. Obama used a straw-man argument, decrying "a philosophy that says every problem can be solved if only government would step out of the way; that if government were just dismantled, divvied up into tax breaks, and handed out to the wealthiest among us, it would somehow benefit us all. Such knee-jerk disdain for government -- this constant rejection of any common endeavor -- cannot rebuild our levees or our roads or our bridges." Whose philosophy is this? Many Americans justifiably believe that government is too big and often acts in counterproductive ways. But that's a far cry from believing that in "every" case government is the problem or that government should be "dismantled" root and branch. Who -- other than an anarchist -- "constantly rejects any common endeavor" like building levees, roads or bridges?
During his news conference on Feb. 9, Mr. Obama decried an unnamed faction in the congressional stimulus debate as "a set of folks who -- I don't doubt their sincerity -- who just believe that we should do nothing." Who were these sincere do-nothings? Every House Republican voted for an alternative stimulus plan, evidence that they wanted to do something. Every Senate Republican -- with the exception of Judd Gregg, who'd just withdrawn his nomination to be Mr. Obama's Commerce secretary and therefore voted "present" -- voted for alternative stimulus proposals.
Then there's Mr. Obama's description of the Bush-era tax cuts. "A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy," he explained in his Tuesday speech, after earlier saying, "tax cuts alone can't solve all of our economic problems -- especially tax cuts that are targeted to the wealthiest few."
The Bush tax cuts were not targeted to "the wealthiest few." Everyone who paid federal income taxes received a tax cut, with the largest percentage of reductions going to those at the bottom. Last year, a family of four making $40,000 saved an average of $2,053 because of the Bush tax cuts. The tax code became more progressive as the share paid by the top 10% increased to 46.4% from 46% -- and the nation experienced 52 straight months of job growth after the cuts took effect. And since when is giving back some of what people pay in taxes "transferring wealth?"
In his inaugural address -- which was generally graceful toward the opposition -- Mr. Obama proclaimed, "We have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord." Which Republican ran against him on fear, conflict and discord?
Mr. Obama portrays himself as a nonideological, bipartisan voice of reason. Everyone resorts to straw men occasionally, but Mr. Obama's persistent use of the device is troubling. Continually characterizing those who disagree with you in a fundamentally dishonest way can be the sign of a person who lacks confidence in the merits of his ideas.
It was said that Lincoln crafted his arguments in "resonant words that enriched the political dialogue of his age." Mr. Obama's straw men aren't enriching the dialogue of our age. They are cheapening it. Mr. Obama should stop employing them.
A Leftist realizes that Obamism is Fascism
Here's some news: a liberal has proven capable of recognizing true fascism. Here's liberal journalist Robert Scheer on NPR, via The Hawblog:
I don't think the idea of nationalizing, as it's now being called - which means bailing out these banks, setting them straight, then letting them go private again, which is the model that everybody is using, and the people who get screwed are the people whose retirement funds had common or preferred shares and they get wiped out, and these bankers come out richer than ever at the other end - that's not a leftist idea and it's not socialism. This is what we used to, in Comparative Economic Systems, call fascism. It's putting government at the service of the big financial interests. That's what happened in Italy, that's what happened in Germany, that's what happened in Japan.
Despite the "down with bankers" slant, Scheer is correct that fascism is what you get when an authoritarian government entangles its tendrils with ostensibly private industry. Tony Blankley was on hand to ask,
What I don't understand is how my colleagues on this show, who I believe were for Obama, are now saying he's leading a fascist regime. Did he mislead them a few weeks ago when he was still running?
Scheer's befuddled response is something we'll be hearing more often as liberals who aren't total fiends wake up and realize what they've done to this country:
To answer your question, I am disappointed in Barack Obama and I'm not quite sure what he's doing.
It's going to be a little difficult to pretend the Moonbat Messiah is whoever you want him to be, now that he is actively engaged in destroying our economic system to pave the way for authoritarianism - as anyone familiar with his background should have predicted he would do.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)