Indy Racist Star photo credit, if that's the word, to AT.
Michael Gerson,"Obama's Pragmatism Lacks Vision". February 11
GOD, the WaPo site is awful. It's a color scheme searching for design principles. And content.
It's so bad I generally find myself jumping to the Indianapolis Racist Star just to convince myself it could be worse, although the Star features more tits. A lot more tits. And, look, I'm a lifelong fan of tits, even as captured in leering amateurish photographs, but I maintain enough aesthetic sensibility to generally prefer them without the distraction of a disposable plastic drink cup half-filled with some unspeakably neon-red Alcoholic Delivery System in every shot. And sometimes at breakfast I'd really prefer coffee, toast, and forty-five minutes of not being reminded that half the population can't enjoy itself without killing off brain cells it obviously needs for other purposes.
This has been the Racist Star's solution to The Dwindling Popularity Of Newspapers Among People Who Do Not Read for most of the decade. If young people aren't reading newspapers, well, by golly, let's replace the news we aren't all that interested in covering anyway with Whatever It Is They Like To Do. Which, it turns out, is drink to excess and fuck. I have some lingering doubts about the approach, but then it seems on the surface of things to beat the hell out of what Walter Isaacson was peddling on The Daily Show the other night, the idea that online newspapers need to find a way to start charging for content, preferably in a way which the consumer doesn't recognize until the credit card bill arrives next month.
That is, Let's try the Bloated Bureaucrat Solution before it's too late! Get your money above the line, and preserve the executive lifestyle and and superstar pundit class before you're overrun by tattooed hoardes of music pirates.
To which we say: 1) if people don't want to go to the Theatre, nobody can stop 'em; 2) why is it the solution never, ever, includes the people actually in the sinking boat grabbing buckets and bailing? 3) maybe somebody could design a Surge; and 4) at the risk of sounding like a comments-threat concern troll, y'know, I'm not in the desired Demo, but I can say that I didn't leave newspapers; newspapers left me.
By, for example, spending the last thirty years as the ink-stained catamites of right-wing opinion. By exercising the power of the Free Press to build up acquisition opportunities for The Parent Company. By giving us Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Barone, Peggy Noonan, and Karl Rove as pundits, the better to balance screaming leftists like Richard Cohen and Joe Klein. By giving us...Michael Gerson?
These stumbles have had an almost theological effect among Republicans: The doctrine of Obama's political infallibility has been challenged. But the administration's setbacks -- particularly those on personnel -- are temporary, and easily reversed by a series of legislative victories that have already begun.
Ah, yes, the Resurgent Republicans! as demonstrated by the fact that Republicans are willing to say so, and god knows they always bring the facts to back up the talk. What doesn't have an "almost theological" (man, you can't beat professional wordsmithery, especially when it's free) effect on them?
This approach has earned Obama praise for his prudence, independent thinking, epistemological modesty, empiricism, curiosity, results orientation, lack of dogmatism, distaste for extremism, willingness to compromise and insistence on nuance. He has been compared to William James and John Dewey, the heroes of American pragmatism.
By at least one columnist who checked the encyclopedia entry under "Pragmatism" recently. (This is another problem with The Young; they know how to do the Googling. )
But that creed has now been tested in two areas. First, the new president deferred almost entirely to the Democratic congressional leadership on the initial shape of the stimulus package -- which, in turn, was shaped by pent-up Democratic spending appetites instead of by an explainable economic theory.
One: the good news, Michael, is: just 1.45 x 10 raised to the 24th power more wishes to go before the 2008 election is magically, almost theologically, reversed. Two: I have a lot of uncomplimentary things to say about the new President, but "not trying to work with Congressional Republicans" isn't one of them, and "deferring to the Democratic leadership" would be, if it were true. Believe me.
But Obama's pragmatism, in this case, was a void of creativity, filled by the most aggressively ideological branch of government. And this managed to revive Republican ideological objections to federal overreach. In the new age of pragmatism, all the ideologues seem to be encouraged.
Mother Mary on a Miraculous Tortilla: it's the fucking system; those "ideological" objections to "federal overreach" were hiding where, exactly, before last week?; and not to mention the Congress isn't exactly brimming with newly elected Republicans. These are the same guys who spent, grafted, and deregulated us into this mess in the first place. Plus, it's your byline, and--Walter Isaacson please note--worth every penny I paid to view it, but maybe you could engage This Year's Nobel Laureate in Economics on the merits instead of just regurgitating Pork.
Look, nobody's any sorrier than I am that the early Obama campaign decided on this bi-partisan routine; I hope after last week he's beginning to reach the same conclusion. But, for fuck's sake, whatever the merits, the idea that the GOP was just gonna roll over and hope to collect some sloppy baby belly kisses, well, maybe you should find somebody who actually believed that before trying to sell it as the Default position we're now moving away from.
The second test of Obama's pragmatism has been education. During his campaign for president, Obama's post-partisan appeal was most credible -- to me and to others -- on education reform. He supported test-based accountability and merit pay for teachers -- significant departures from the education union agenda.
Just guessing, here, but I bet "departures from the union agenda" counted for a lot more of those Virtual Right-wing Obama hard-ons than the already disastrous High Stakes Testing Program and the irretrievably-linked merit-pay fantasies combined. And that "overtaking Hillary Clinton in the polls" accounted for 99% of the remarkably quick return to flaccidity.
And, of course, that wasn't exactly what he said on the campaign trail; the man has supported the idea of merit pay, yes, but he expressly decoupled it from test-based "achievement" scores, which means, in practical terms, Now Leaving Fantasyland. Obama was a ward-heeler in Chicago and an Illinois State Senator. That is, he had direct responsibility for operating public schools, as opposed to the Fed's ability to pay 6% of the freight and then let the most aggressively ideological branch of government use the states in round after round of political hacky-sack. Believe it or not, Education Reform is the favorite flavor of Pie in the Sky for poor people whose children are trapped in over-extended and underfunded public schools; the failure of the last forty years of baking experiments being centered on urban, poor, minority school districts tells us all we need to know about education "reform".
But education spending in the stimulus -- about $140 billion in the House and $80 billion in the Senate -- has little or no emphasis on teacher quality in schools with high ratios of minorities, little or no emphasis on strengthening charter schools, little or no emphasis on improved assessment, little or no emphasis on teaching the basics of reading. With shrinking state and local education budgets, an increase in federal spending may be justified. But the administration's approach abandons the most basic principle of school improvement: reform, and then resources.
Excuse me, but has anybody seen some Revived Republican Ideological Objections to Federal Overreach? Damned things got loose a few minutes ago, and you couldn't swing a sand wedge without hitting one. Now, all of a sudden, The Stimulus isn't spending enough on the sorts of Education Miracles favored by the party which announced the thing wasn't getting any votes from its direction, no how. Y'know, the recently theologically re-invigorated party of small government.
It is still early in the Obama era. But it is already evident that pragmatism without a guiding vision or a fighting faith can become little more than the service of insistent political interests.Jesus Christ, that's it? If you twist a campaign pledge so it resembles your own, voted-out-of-power-in-a-landslide view, then you can declare the President "lacking in vision" to the extent that he doesn't fight for you, in the form of those ragged picaninnies Republican hearts just bleed for? How is it, Mr. Gerson, that we still need to address the problem after eight years of your enlightened administration? Why is it, Mr. Isaacson, that I should pay a nickel for this when high-quality tripe is only a dime?