Sunday, August 08, 2004

A brief reply to Leon Wieseltier

OK, one more thing on today's Times, and then I'm going to put the paper and the blog down and get back to work. In the Sunday Book Review, Leon Wieseltier writes, whilst discussing Nicholson Baker's Checkpoint:

Liberals must think carefully about their keenness to mirror some of the most poisonous qualities of their adversaries. It was never exactly a disgrace to American liberalism that it lacked its Limbaugh. But demagoguery now enjoys a new prestige.

There is an old Jewish joke that goes like this (quoted from the rendition in this Canadian Jewish News article):

Two Jews, sentenced to death by the czar, are before the firing squad. They are offered blindfolds. One says, "You can stuff your blindfold." The second Jew responds, "Shh! Don't make trouble!"

That is all.

UPDATE: No, wait. I'm too mad. Just one more thing. Wieseltier writes:

The demagogue's gravest sin is not incivility, it is stupidity. Does the Bush administration love capitalism too much? But it is also possible to love capitalism too little. The greatness of capitalism, after all, is that it may be politically corrected. Was American power used improperly, or for ill, in Iraq? But it is also possible for American power to be used properly, and for good. Is the friendly opinion of the world a condition of American security? Often, but not always. The incompetence of the Bush administration in world affairs, too much of which was ideologically ordained, does not alter the fact that the United States must sometimes deploy overwhelming force against extreme wickedness. It will be disastrous, for liberalism and for America, if the indignation against George W. Bush becomes an excuse for a great simplification, for a delirious release from the complexities of historical and political understanding that it took the American left decades to learn.

And, of course, it's us irrational "Bush-haters" (note how this term insinuates that our hatred of the man derives from something other than hatred of his policies) who are leading America off the cliff. We're a simplistic rabble, too immature to run the country, unlike wise old men who, like Wieseltier, understand the ins and the outs and the what-have-yous, the intricately braided complexities of homiletic aphorisms like "it is also possible for American power to be used properly, and for good".

The supercilious hectoring of liberal hawks, like Wieseltier, and the editorial staff of The New Republic, and Thomas Friedman, should be viewed in light of a singular fact: they supported the Iraq war. They believed that even with an obviously dishonest and incompetent American administration at the helm, it was worth killing Iraqis and killing American soldiers on the enormous gamble that was the Iraq war. (Needless to say, none of these well-fed pundits' lives were placed in the line of fire. Funny how it's so much easier to let other people die for your grand abstractions.) All the while, they caricatured people who were against the war (such as, say, 90% of the population of Spain) as a bunch of shaggy, dunderheaded narcissists. And now, the Iraq war has predictably turned into a disaster; and, far from being ashamed of their own gullibility, they are turning around and lecturing us on how to run a country, accusing us of "demagoguery" and "stupidity".

This is like a guy who walks into a chess tournament drunk, loudly calls everybody a patzer and a cheater, brags about his own strategic brilliance and moral probity, passes out handbills containing glowing encomia to his amazing unbroken string of victories, and then sits down at a table and gets roundly checkmated in six moves.

And then he gets up and tells everybody else how he's still got all the answers and you should never open with king's pawn to four.

I never thought I'd quote approvingly from Forrest Gump, but stupid is as stupid does. The American liberal hawk faction, of which The New Republic was perhaps the leading light, has done stupid, big time. It would do well to sit down and display a little humility.

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