Thursday, July 5

The Idiot's Guide to Idiocy

SCOTT C points us to Jonah Goldberg's column in USAToday (motto: "The Nation's High School Newspaper"), which in turn points us to that paper's Op-Ed section (motto: "Whadda You Lookin' At? That Fish Ain't Gonna Wrap Itself Now, Is It?").

Let's deal with Jonah first. The author guy of the forthcoming something book something, Liberal Fascism is upset that people on his side of the immigration debate have been labeled "bigots". I'm not sure how this sort of thing gets published. I mean, I know the only possible reason Jonah is or was ever published, but either the American Right contains sufficient numbers of the rational and near-rational to demand the removal of The Doughy Pantload from their midst, or they're incompetent, mentally, to communicate with the outside world, let alone to form political parties. The only way to be charitable about this is to assume that hubris acted upon the Right the way slowly increasing water temperature acts on an embeakered frog, and the last conscious thought in the Collective Anti-Collectivist brain was, "Oh my God, we left Jonah out there." Too late. Cut to close up as the first bubble shimmers briefly on the surface before bursting.

Jonah's piece is so pathetic that I'm gonna argue with the subhead and forget the article:
In many countries, citizens can have a candid dialogue about preserving national identity.

Yeah, they do that sort of thing constantly in France, where it's led to the unceasing admiration for all things French that makes The Corner smell like croissants au chocolat and stale Gauloises. The Germans, not so much anymore, but boy, they had it goin' for a while there. (Though some think they may have taken it a bit too far.) And who can forget the fun we had following the ethnic discussions in Yugoslavia? Or admiring the debating techniques of the Igbo and the Hausa, the spirited give-and-take in the Congo and South Africa? Oh, how many nights we stayed up late over flavored coffees, wishing we had the sort of national identity that led the Russians into Chechnya, or sparked the good-natured ribbing the Kurds took from Saddam Hussein! But, alas, in this PC culture of ours, some people actually frown on this sort of thing, and they just have to ruin it for the rest of us.

Does anybody have an example of Jonah Goldberg ever getting something like this unequivocally correct?

Being new to these parts I'm not sure whether you can actually just read the subhead and learn as much as you need to know about every USAToday (motto: "We Are To Journalism What Barbara Walters Is To Journalism") Op-Ed piece, but there it was again in a piece on The Scooter:
Our view on Justice and the White House: Libby uproar is hypocritical, but it doesn't pardon Bush

Care to guess who's being hypocritical? Or what makes them so? It's like trying to guess what that bottle with the skull-and-bones on the label would taste like. Oh, all right:
Many of the Democrats proclaiming outrage were muted in 2001 when Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, a fugitive from justice, on his way out of the White House. Now, they've scheduled congressional hearings of dubious value.

This is, of course, "History" as she is practiced in the nation's Press: Clinton, Pardongate, Marc Rich. Memorizing just enough of the conventional wisdom to imagine you've got a shot at passing the quiz. And never bothering to fucking look thereafter. If "many Democrats" even had a voice in those heady days of Getting to Know That New Commander-in-Chief You'd Love To Have a Beer With it was used to point out that Clinton's exit pardons were roughly the same in number as his two predecessors, excepting that none seemed designed to keep him personally out of the witness box, where he in fact landed shortly thereafter. Not that those tiny voices were exactly being featured on the Nightly News (or in USAToday, one assumes, unless there was a pie chart involved).

What motivates someone to "think" this way? Pressing business? An urgent need to micturate, or nap? Gosh, there's a political uproar. Y'know, I'll bet Both Sides Do It! Uttering the name of Marc Rich in a discussion of The Scooter is shorthand for saying, "I don't care to understand this, so here's my opinion."

And we could ask how this sort of thing comes to be published, but instead we're gobsmacked by the fact that there's a fucking rebuttal, from Tony Snow, immediately following. This being an instance where you don't need to read anything beyond the byline (as with all of Mr. Snow's oeuvre) unless you're a particular fan of the tightly-reasoned argument:
The Constitution gives the president the power to grant clemency in a wide range of cases, at his discretion, with no restrictions. In the final hours of the Clinton administration, this unfettered authority was embodied in a mad rush to push through pardons with dizzying haste — 141 grants on Clinton's final day in office, part of 211 in the final nine weeks .

In contrast, no president in recent history has made more careful use of the pardoning power than George W. Bush: The president believes pardons and commutations should reflect a genuine determination to strengthen the rule of law and increase public faith in government

We're not even going to bother pointing out how respect for that sacred unrestricted Constitutional power of presidential pardons led, in Bill Clinton's case, to a Republican "Justice" Department investigation of possible criminal activity. Because, y'know, they really didn't mean it as a precedent or anything.

Instead, we leave the gang at USAToday (motto: "The News As Processed Cheese Food Product") to their endless game of flamingo croquet. Besides, we've got to finish nominating Jonah for the Nobel Peace Prize. And finally get to work on these law school applications.


R. Porrofatto said...

Jesus. The Goldberg column, like most right-wing nonsense, is replete with such acres of stupidity that it's impossible to simply catalogue the atrocities, no less rebut it all, in a brief space. But its sheer loathsomeness is plain. If it's possible to locate a nadir in this swamp, it's his link to a WaPo article which rather honestly quoted some of the outright bigotry that underlies much of the anti-immigration frenzy. To Jonah, it's just another hit piece on some simple elderly folks, assaulted by the "underside of Mexican immigration," who are unable to protect themselves from poor working-class Mexican-Americans, characterized as Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrants, parking on the grass, failing to understand how flush toilets work.

And this is in a whine about the lack of candid dialogue. The Barbara Walterization of journalism is maddening, but Goldberg's existence is in print depresses the soul.

Prof. George Edward Challenger said...


Anonymous said...

Apparently I'm a hypocrite because I think that using the pardon power to shield my government from criminal accountability involving national security is worse than pardoning for pretty much anything else.

If that's the case, then call me King Czar Hypocritus the First.

Julia said...

Me, I'm a huge hypocrite because while not being filled with visceral outrage years later about the Marc Rich pardon, I am somewhat disturbed about the sentence commutation for, um, Marc Rich's lawyer.

Who did the same thing the president of the US was impeached over. Which the current president said we were electing him to prevent from ever happening again.

Vicki said...

Well, I'm a tremendous hypocrite, too. Heavy sigh. But it's hard to feel bad about it for long, because this has to be one of the all-time best Doghouse posts ever. I laughed through the entire thing. I would like to second the professor's "BRAVO!"

jackd said...

The president believes pardons and commutations should reflect a genuine determination to strengthen the rule of law and increase public faith in government

Do you think, before he signed off on that sentence, Tony Snow had some last tiny twinge of conscience? That somewhere in his brain there lurks the knowledge that this sort of thing goes beyond the usual NewSpeak and descends to actual contempt for the truth? Or did he grin and chuckle to himself, "Heh, that'll piss 'em off."