Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Anne Applebaum, WaPo's Stupidest Pundit?

Since I've written this critique of Anne Applebaum in comments at Brad DeLong's blog, I should publish it in my own, too.

Anne Applebaum, yesterday:
I am one of these elusive independent female voters, and I have the credentials to prove it. For the past couple of decades, I've sometimes voted Democratic, sometimes Republican. I'm even a registered independent, though I did think of switching to vote for John McCain in 2000. But because the last political party I truly felt comfortable with was Thatcher's Conservative Party (I lived in England in the 1980s and 1990s), I didn't actually do it.
Since 1994 at the very latest, the enormous philosophical gulf between the two parties has been self-evident. To be an independent, undecided voter over that much time is to be torn, for all those years, between two fundamentally incompatible worldviews, both in terms of policy and their respective approaches to politics.

One expects that sort of cluelessness from a low-information undecided voter, but the only reason to put Applebaum on an op-ed page is if she happens to be one of the sharper tools in the shed. And boy howdy, does she ever fail that test.

I go back to the morning after the 2004 election for the moment I became totally convinced of her cluelessness:
The worst possible outcome would be, and will always be, a repeat of Florida 2000: lawyers, spin doctors, courts and protests that would drag out the result past this evening. That is because a disputed outcome, whoever is doing the disputing, would do far more damage to the country in the long term than anyone's worst Bush nightmare or anyone's worst-case Kerry scenario, whether a declaration of war against Syria or the nationalization of private medicine.
Let's face it: If it's really that close, as it was in 2000, either candidate could plausibly be declared the victor. And the best outcome for the country will always be for the apparent loser to concede and for the nation to hand victory, quickly, to whoever the apparent winner might be.
It's hard to see how a smart person could look back at Florida 2000, look again at the total mess we'd made of Iraq in 2003-4, and somehow be convinced that the former was worse than the latter.

Getting back to Applebaum today:
The larger point, though, is that if I'm not voting for McCain -- and, after a long struggle, I've realized that I can't -- maybe it's worth explaining why, for I suspect there are other independent voters who feel the same. Particularly because it's not his campaign, disjointed though that has been, that finally repulses me: It's his rapidly deteriorating, increasingly anti-intellectual, no longer even recognizably conservative Republican Party. His problems are not technical; they do not have to do with ads, fundraising or tactics, as some have suggested. They are institutional; they have to do with his colleagues, advisers and supporters.
If the qualities of the GOP are the deal-breaker for Applebaum, then once again, this GOP has pretty much been the same party for quite a few years now. Even the pseudo-intellectual overlay that Gingrich provided has been absent for some time. This isn't a party with any new ideas, just more tax cuts for the rich in a time of mounting deficits, fewer regulations in an era where the lack of oversight of everything from baby food to our financial markets has been our undoing, and of course more saber-rattling when our troops are still tied down in two interminable wars, with no way out.

This is only a surprise to Anne Applebaum.
Another thing I liked about McCain was the deliberate distance he always kept from the nuttier wing of his party and, simultaneously, the loyalty he's shown to a recognizably conservative budgetary philosophy. Fiscal conservatism, balanced budgets, sober spending -- all of these principles have been brushed away as so much nonsense for the past eight years by Republicans more interested in grandstanding about how much they hate Washington. McCain was one of the few who kept talking about them. He was also one of a shockingly few to understand that there is nothing American, let alone conservative, about torture, and that a battle for civilized values could not be won by uncivilized means.
McCain may talk about balanced budgets, but the rest of us noticed that McCain switched from a critic to an endorser of the Bush tax cuts a few years back. That completely undermines the sincerity of his talk about balanced budgets. Applebaum apparently didn't notice. Nor did she notice when McCain cozied up to the nuttiest of the widely-known right-wing preachers, the late Jerry Falwell, a few years ago, nor did she notice when he followed that act by befriending the equally nutty Rod Parsley and John Hagee. So much for keeping distance from the wingnuts. And while he was willing to speak against torture, it seems his vote was MIA in that battle.

One can only conclude that Applebaum let herself be completely taken in by posturing. Again, one expects that of low-information voters. Applebaum has failed to distinguish herself from that class.


Anonymous said...

"One can only conclude that Applebaum let herself be completely taken in by posturing. Again, one expects that of low-information voters. Applebaum has failed to distinguish herself from that class. "

I disagree - Ann is doing what she usually does, which is lie and BS, for an elite POV. In this case, she's jumping the sinking USS McCain.


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