Saturday, March 03, 2007

The ideal adversary

We should be grateful to George Will. Throughout this presidency, which has been a study in folly, ill will, and mendacity from the beginning, Will has remained a polite, well-spoken conservative. David Broder gets flak for being a "can't-we-all-just-get-along" Beltway hack, but there's a crucial difference between him and Will: Whereas Broder's criterion for success and goodness seems always to be compromise, even if the outcome is crap, Will actually has convictions. He's just not rude about them. (At least, by comparison with most Bush administration officials and conservative media personalities, which isn't necessarily saying much.) This makes Will a rare case: he's a synthesis of the best qualities of the nice-guy types who are either ideologically vapid or just mendacious (Broder, Joe Klein, Friedman) and those who possess deeply held political convictions but can't be bothered to be polite (I think many of the wonks on the blogosphere fall into this category).

In short, there might be plenty you could say in disagreement with Will, but he's pretty much the ideal adversary. This presidency has been an invitation to laziness for some political commentators, since you can always make fun of Bush's stupidity or, on a more serious level, harangue the White House about Iraq and Katrina. The idea then creeps in that if only Bush and co. weren't so fucking dumb, maybe we could all live in peace and harmony. People wonder where the vital center went and lament the polarization of America. Talk of a Unity '08 ticket arises. If anything, this is a formula for delivering ourselves into the hands of some monolithic party (insofar as the Republicans and Democrats are different) that can't possibly represent all of our divergent interests.

I say all this because Will has a column in Tuesday's Washington Post about the Employee Free Choice Act, which passed in the House on Thursday 241-185. I agree with almost nothing in his column, but that's the point: These sorts of purely ideological disagreements, untainted by rudeness and bullying, do and should exist. Will's bonhommie is not a hindrance to, but is actually felicitous for, arguing seriously about these issues.

That said, he's a scab and a blackleg!


Blogger curry king said...

Well said Scantron. And I would never seek public office with Robot, as funny and super nice as he is. I think Austin, who has some Indian already in his blood, would be a great running mate for America's first presidential candidate of swarthy descent.

That being said, I think Will's "I'm a common sense conservative and I COME ACROSS as really smart in my writing" voice that he uses is a clever selling point. Even with the left-of-center readership that the Washington Post caters to, I bet most people who read the
Post read Will's columns because he IS that "common sense, smart conservative" all of us despise in Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, etc. I fear, however, that liberals and people who sit on the fence believe the dangerous conservative bullshit he often puts out. For example, his nonsense that Employee Free Choice is "undemocratic" and coercive to workers. And his column in Newsweek last week saying global warming is still not confirmed to be manmade, or threatening to the environment.

It shows just how clever Will is in that he often recycles the same conservative talking points we hear so often on unions, global warming, economy, and foreign policy (to name a few), but in a manner that makes him come across more esoteric and knowledgeable than the other silly pundits, like Robert Novak for example. I just hope people don't fall into this trap. Fine, it's a necessary to have political discourse and debate, I know, but really George, global warming IS fucking man-made!

11:05 PM  
Blogger Scantron said...

Curry, I certainly recognize all of those faults in Will. In fact, it would be quite an easy exercise to note all of the ways in which Will's nice guy persona masks his dangerous conservative agenda. But dangerous to whom? Well, to you and me, definitely, and maybe to America as a whole (?), but that's my point: we've got to recognize that people have fundamentally different conceptions of how society should work than we do, and what's more, that they really do believe in them--Will's not just a political operative in the right people's pockets, but an actual conservative (they do exist, it's not a mental disorder). Obviously you know all that, I'm just trying to make clear the stance I'm taking here.

As for his misleading talk, it just ain't going away, on either side of the political spectrum. Dodgy rhetoric will *never* be gone from politics, any more than disagreement ever will be. If this is the case, I'd rather engage in wordplay with Will than some of the other unsavory characters you list.

I don't know what's come over me here, as I'd normally be talking about the pundit class as a whole propping up the interests of the Washington elite and the big money people, etc. Either I'm slipping or I'm just content to discuss "superstructural" issues.

2:40 AM  

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