Thursday, August 31, 2006

Challenging Times for Conventional Wisdom

What passes for conventional wisdom in Washington these days sat on its hands in 2002 as the president made a bogus case for war in Iraq; if this were the only failure of conventional wisdom in the last twenty-five years, I would be forgiving but the failure of conventional wisdom to challenge Bush on Iraq was only it's most spectacular failure. The list of failures is long. It begins with a twenty-five year record of failing to challenge the increasingly conservative noise machine of the American right.

I can remember a time when conventional wisdom had a reasonably accurate read on those who would presume to lead the country. Forty years ago, the conventional wisdom was that right wingers like the John Birchers were out of their ever-loving minds and that we needed to stay as far away from them as possible. Today, there's little difference between members of The John Birch Society and people like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. They're still out of their ever-loving minds. And they're not particularly competent and not particularly honest. But the conventional wisdom today thinks in terms of how well a photo-op was done or whether a speech was well-written (not whether such a speech was consistent with the facts or what actions were subsequently taken) or whether a candidate is consistent on the issues (never mind the inconsistencies of whoever brings up the issue in the first place).

The Washington Post has two deans on its staff: David Broder and George Will. In the 1980s, many liberals like myself read George Will to get a reasonably honest feel for conservative thinking. Unfortunately, George Will discovered Rush Limbaugh and spent too much time in the 1990s and even in recent years simply imitating Limbaugh by making things up as he went along. But Will at least seems to be finally catching on that the muddled right-wing thinking of the current era and the current administration are perhaps not in the nation's best interest and don't seem to have much to do with classic conservatism.

Broder, on the other hand, is still caught up in a way of thinking that passed for conventional wisdom in the 1990s but that hasn't been particularly relevant for twenty years. The nation is facing at least a dozen major problems at the moment, most of the problems being a byproduct of an incompetent and ideological administration; there is also the added issue of a Congress about as corrupt as anything this country has seen since the 1920s. Broder goes on vacation and the only thing he notices is that the Democrats have changed the primary schedule in 2008 and oh what a tragedy that is:
So Nevada, with a growing Hispanic population, was inserted before New Hampshire, thanks also to a boost from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada's senior senator. And South Carolina was an easy choice to fill the need for a state with lots of black voters, pleasing native son and former North Carolina senator John Edwards, an unannounced contender for the nomination that eluded him last time.

This Democratic version of affirmative action leaves a lot to be desired. Unions are a major source of Democratic votes and money. Maybe Rhode Island should be rewarded for being a stronghold of union activity at a time when labor elsewhere is beleaguered. And gays vote Democratic; shouldn't the states that are home to San Francisco and Key West be allowed to vote early? And if Jewish contributors keep the party solvent, shouldn't New York be up there with the other pacesetters?

Huh? What Broder offers the reader was already a poorly considered caricature of the Democratic party ten years ago. It's a caricature, albeit with different names, that one might have written in 1932 in the depths of the Great Depression when our problems far outstripped regional or ethnic concerns. It's a caricature that ignores the disaster that goes by the name of the Bush Administration. Broder goes on vacation and this is the best 'conventional wisdom' he can offer? Thirty years ago, Broder was considered a moderate who had an eye for the fulcrum of the nation and a sense of where we might be going. We're going off a cliff and Broder is dickering over a primary schedule?

Perhaps Broder should read Laura Rozen of War and Piece who, among other things, has a useful post from the Chris Nelson report on the potential problems of dealing with Iran. Is Broder aware that Bush may lead us into a third war? That Bush has no idea of what he's doing? That Bush has destroyed our foreign policy?

Or perhaps Broder could read former Bush official Flynn Leverett in The American Prospect who talks about Bush's flawed foreign policy and how we need to get back on track. He was one of those who actually worked on a serious plan to deal with Osama bin Laden. Remember Osama? He's the guy Bush let escape into Pakistan before taking the bulk of our military more than a thousand miles in the other direction! Has Broder noticed that Afghanistan is not going well these days? That it is, or at least was, a winnable war?

Or perhaps Broder could read The Oil Drum and other such sites which seem to be doing a fine job of explaining the simple fact that we have an energy problem and also an administration that doesn't seem interested in doing much about it. Does Broder understand that if Bush goes to war in Iran, we're going to be in even more of an bind when it comes to energy?

Or perhaps Broder, as is his wont, can just look at the polls and notice that Americans are not satisfied with the direction our country is taking. Or that on domestic issue after domestic issue, Americans are increasingly unhappy with Bush and his fellow Republicans. These would be useful things to notice. And useful things to write about.


Post a Comment

<< Home