Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Eugene Robinson Takes the Easy Way Out, Shills For Obama

I’m a conservative who revels in the art of mixing it up with those on the other side of the political spectrum, But, recently, I’ve noticed that it has become much easier to tear down liberal arguments. That’s primarily because these days the Left has very few arguments that will live up to even minimal scrutiny.

The Obama administration has undeniably failed to restore significant growth and confidence in the U.S. economy. In addition, this administration seems to have a uncanny ability to put itself on the opposite side from the American majority on nearly every major issue. In order to cope with the lack of positive developments over the past year and a half, the Obama apologists have been falling back on the very same talking points and vapid arguments that Obama successfully relied on during the 2008 campaign.

The casual Obama supporter can be expected to do little more than parrot the slogans we’ve heard Obama himself spout over the last two years. These supporters are unlikely to be following the ongoing policy debates in Washington very closely and would probably be willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt even if he decided to legalize baby hunting.

However, one would think that liberal pundits who are paid to analyze the political environment and make predictions based on careful analysis, would make it a point to delve more deeply into the realities of the complex political situations that we currently are dealing with.

Washington Post opinion writer Eugene Robinson exhibited very clearly this week that this is not the case.

In his July 16 Post op-ed Robinson falls back on this left wing classic in his defense of Obama’s economic policies:

“The thing is, we already know that the Republicans' prescription for the economy doesn't work. We gave their approach an eight-year trial under George W. Bush.”

These days, some variation on this statement is the most typical liberal response to any attack on Barack Obama’s pseudo-Keynesian economic spending spree. But ask anyone who has just tried to get away with the “blame Bush” strategy to back up this shallow hypothesis and almost inevitably that individual will do their best to change the subject. Ask them what Bush policy it was that caused the financial crisis or how he was responsible for the meltdown of the housing market or the near collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. More often than not their ignorance will immediately make itself apparent.

Again, it’s totally understandable when some political neophyte who handed out pamphlets for Obama in 2008 and now considers himself to be a knowledgeable advocate of the president's policies says something like this. Tune into to any talk radio program and you will hear some political noob defending Obama and using the same rhetoric used by Mr. Robinson in his article.

The difference is that Eugene Robinson is actually getting paid by the Post for this drivel. Robinson is given a platform in the one of the United States’ most influential publications to repeat specious talking points that Democratic politicians have been using for months. Just so the Post knows: I have a cousin who could do this. He’s five and would work cheap. He writes in crayon.

Post readers and consumers of political commentary in general, look to opinion writers for carefully constructed arguments that provide a unique political perspective that readers may not have considered before. Such commentary is an important and educational political supplement in a culture where the politicians stick almost exclusively to shallow sound bites and talking points. So it is very troubling when members of the pundit class begin substituting those very same talking points for a carefully constructed defense of the president who they support.

Robinson does this again several sentences later when he bashes the G.O.P in a piece of “analysis” that exhibits a level of thoughtfulness comparable to that of a fish sandwich.

“Americans want to see unemployment benefits extended. They want tougher financial regulation, complete with consumer protections. Even health care reform, which the GOP succeeded in painting as the Apocalypse, becomes more popular as the months pass and somehow the world does not end.”

Again, this line is almost identical to one used by Obama to sell health care reform just days after the bill was passed. It's a talking point that relies on the assumption that readers lack a basic understanding of how government works and of the details of Obamacare, most of which doesn’t even go into effect until 2014. So even if conservatives were warning that the "Apocalypse" was going to occur because of health care legislation, it wouldn’t be for another four years. All Robinson has done is reconstruct an Obama straw man and used it to avoid having to come up with any original material for his weekly column. You would expect a Post journalist to at least be creative enough to construct his own straw man!

Eugene Robinson isn’t the only pundit to have stooped to this lazy and intellectually dishonest style of commentary. Syndicated columnist Froma Harrop deals in these same kind of talking-points disguised as opinion journalism on a regular basis. But whether you support the administration or not there can be no doubt that pieces like Robinson’s are absolutely terrible for journalism and worse for the country.

Robinson takes a medium that should be informative and uses it to promote ignorance, and a purely political agenda. Do you think that the Left actually wants the American people to understand the details of what truly lead to the financial crisis? Of course not! If they did then they could no longer blame George W. Bush for all of our current economic woes. Through his bi-weekly column Eugene Robinson is complicit in the dumbing down of the American political conversation. I don’t know if Robinson knows the game he’s playing or is oblivious but the Washington Post should almost certainly hold its columnists to a higher standard.

It’s difficult to blame guys like Robinson for sinking this low. After all, it’s almost impossible to defend Obama’s policies by pointing to either short-term economic indicators or any long-term cost-benefit analysis. But a writer who has been awarded such a high profile position at the Post should at least make an effort. Instead his writing relies on an overly simplistic understanding of history and government which he passes on to his readers, many of whom undoubtedly echo Robinson’s sentiments.

Robinson should either start coming up with original material that does not rely on Obama talking points or quit pretending that he’s a journalist and resign his column at the Post. If he chooses the latter, I’m sure that Robinson would have no problem getting a job as a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee.

- Dan Joseph

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Michael said...

Republicans' handling of the economy during GWB: Decreased taxes, increased government spending during periods of economic growth. Unfunded mandates for local and state governments, which in concert with the states' own increased spending from engorged revenues, led state and local governments into crushing debt. Not pressuring the fed to increase discount rates in periods of growth. While Bush is not entirely to blame, he could have pressured the Republican congress into fiscal sanity. As President he was the head of the party, as Obama is with his. The political buck stops with them regardless of Boehner, Reid, or Pelosi. Even with some Republicans apologizing for previous poor economic choices, there is no proof that they will be economically wise if they return to power and much historic proof they will continue and expand spending. People may be realizing their new marriage with Dems is not ideal, but they haven't yet forgotten that Republicans were a lousy spouse, too.

Robinson is also correct that the majority do want the generic policies Obama and the Democrats are presenting, the questions come when plans are detailed. Do you think Unemployment Benefits should not be extended? With five people looking for a job for each available job, it isn't laziness that is keeping most people out of the workforce. Cut millions from unemployment benefits and see the already weak consumer confidence level become obliterated and do much more long-term damage than expanding debt.

It is impossible to compare an actual situation to a hypothetical one with complete certainty. While not all of Obama's/Congress' policies push economic growth and the growth of taxes in the state sector have sucked away some of the positive effects, most of these policies have proven to promote positive economic growth in times of great recessions.

If you worry about talking points and straw men, stop joining in on those created by your party leadership and promote true policy debates instead.

(Didn't realize you were pimping out your blog, and thought you could use someone disagreeing with you to drive traffic, dude.) BTW: Good Slate article discussing how even you guys love your government socialismz! http://www.slate.com/id/2260968/

Dan said...

Ah. Alas, I think that the days of this blog being a virtual town square buzzing with political disagreements have passed. Not only can I reach more folks with Facebook, but without Shannon and Bart contributing not as many feathers are ruffled.

It's a good article. Albeit a bit cynical. Could it be that we are learning our lessons now? Or will we forget about this flirtation with austerity and the addictive and poltically everlasting nature of entitlements once we return to economic normalcy? I don't know.

Steve said...

Shannon hasnt posted anything in years even on her own hippie site.

Terry Ingle said...

Just stumbled upon your site. I'm lovin it. I would like your permission to link to my site.


I have tried to enable comments, but get a lot of spam even through firewall. Most of my readers have gotten in the habit of e-mailing me. You have some good stuff here just keep it up. I think that the bloggers need to get together and take this country back. Terry