On the Sunday chat show circuit, conservatives kept pressure on the Mitt Romney campaign. Here is Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “I don’t think you can beat an incumbent president, even if the economy is slow, if 27 percent of the voters think you, as the challenger, don’t have a clear plan for improving the economy.” Washington Post columnist George Will was slightly more forgiving, telling ABC’s “This Week” that “at some point in every campaign, the people that are not included in the campaign — which is 90 percent of activists — say we can do it better. So this is normal.” Yes, but there are different degrees of intramural criticism; the Democratic establishment, after all, was fairly unified in its support for the Obama campaign strategy in 2008.
But Will also warns that the strategy of criticizing President Obama’s job performance without robustly offering a competing vision is no strategy at all: “Governor Romney seems to be risk-averse. He seems to be in something of a four-quarter stall; that almost killed basketball. So, they put in a 30-second shot clock. But you can’t get the NCAA Championship — you can’t get to the presidency — running out the clock. So he’ll have to do something more than say, ‘Obama’s not working.’ And he said to CBS News this week, ‘As long as I keep talking about the economy I’ll win.’ But it’s what you say about the economy and what hope you give to people.”
Last week, I responded to Kurt Andersen’s New York Times opinion piece claiming that libertarianism was the ideology of the selfish. It was a curious argument, heavy on presumption and light on fact, but odder still valuable Times op-ed real estate was ceded to a novelist’s flimsy critique of libertarians. Perhaps I should give Andersen points for prescience, anticipating this piece from the AP and launching a preemptive strike: “Something’s going on in America this election year: a renaissance of an ideal as old as the nation itself — that live-and-let-live, get-out-of-my-business, individualism vs. paternalism dogma that is the hallmark of libertarianism.” Funny thing: As individual freedom contracts the number of small-l libertarians increases. And if you are one of those Andersen types who still believes that the “free market” is just another two words for “big business,” I submit this from the always interesting Tim Carney. He leads with this truism: “The most dangerous enemies of capitalism today are capitalists.”
— According to various news reports, Google is launching a campaign to further the cause of gay marriage, “focus[ing] on places with homophobic cultures, where anti-gay laws exist.” It will be of little surprise to readers that I’m a supporter of gay marriage, and I eagerly anticipate Google’s campaign to promote it in places like Saudi Arabia (keep an eye on www.google.com.sa). But I can’t help but imagine the reaction if this billion-dollar corporation—with its astoundingly large customer base and outsized political clout—was touting, say, social conservatism. We would be doubtless find ourselves wading through an unending stream of non sequiturs and irrelevant denunciations of Citizens United and the baleful influence of politically-engaged big business. On a related point, I’ve heard all the spin on this but the disparate media treatment of Warren Buffett and David Koch (denounced on HBO’s new drama “The Newsroom” just last night!) suggests that most people don’t believe that politically active billionaires subvert democracy; they think politically active billionaires they disagree with do.
— Apparently, Maine’s governor believes the IRS is not unlike the Gestapo. In his weekly radio address—this was no extemporaneous remark, kids—Republican Gov. Paul LePage said that “We the people have been told there is no choice: You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo—the IRS.” Well, no.
If I could offer the following bit of advice to politicians of all parties. Nazi references ensure two results: It underscores how vehemently you object to your opponent’s policies while ensuring voters know that you are astoundingly stupid and have a tenuous grasp on reality. This is, incidentally, a bipartisan habit. In 2008, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, said the following about immigration: “You know who is in charge now? The Gestapo agents at Homeland Security. They are in charge.” Well, no again.
So to LePage, Gutierrez and every other historical illiterate tempted to draw parallels between their political enemies and Heinrich Himmler’s secret police, a reminder: The Gestapo was complicit in genocide. Whomever you are talking about isn’t.
And for the historical illiterates out there who believe that either of the above statements are even remotely sensible, I recommend you click over to the New Statesman, where historian Richard Evans—who, a few months back, wrote a terrifically mean review of a terrifically bad book on Adolf Hitler — discusses the success of actual fascist parties in Europe. There is much I disagree with in the piece, but it’s worth a read if only for the depressing discussion of the situation in Hungary and Greece.
— I took a few pokes at Gail Collins’s thin new book on the awfulness of Texas politics last week; now I see that Reason’s Tim Cavanaugh has taken a meat cleaver to it. A sample: “…I did learn something from this book. It just wasn’t about Texas. It was about Gail Collins. Though her name rang an old-timey New York media bell, I had been laboring under the impression that Collins occupied the Anthony Lewis/Bob Herbert spot in the Grey Lady’s columnist lineup: the dull, earnest grappler with injustice whose columns are valued because nobody enjoys them. But Collins, it turns out, is supposed to be a laffmaker.” Ouch.