Brad quotes Jacob Weisberg blaming the American public for the nation’s ills:
[O]pinion polls over the last year reflect… a country that simultaneously demands and rejects action on unemployment, deficits, health care, climate change, and a whole host of other major problems. Sixty percent of Americans want stricter regulations of financial institutions. But nearly the same proportion says we’re suffering from too much regulation on business. That kind of illogic—or, if you prefer, susceptibility to rhetorical manipulation—is what locks the status quo in place.
It’s funny when a Villager pretends to dislike the status quo. But let’s take Weisberg at his word. He’s frustrated; what should he do about it to make the situation better? Answer: go Galt, and take all the other Villagers with him. Yes, the public is “suscepti[ble] to rhetorical manipulation;” duh. The public wants stuff that works, which is brought about by leftwing solutions that are often lately promised them by politicians yet are constantly undercut in the media by wingnuts on the one hand and Sensible Liberals like Weisberg on the other, when not totally sabotaged by the politicians themselves. Hence, the public’s apparent schizophrenia.
It’s hard to be more Villager than Weisberg; he was offered Skull and Bones membership, spent many years at The New Republic, and was, until recently, editor of the many “contrarian” douchebags at Slate. The TNR connection is the most salient. Consider the following blurb in which Weisberg praises David Frum (yes, that David Frum):
Jacob Weisberg, editor in chief of the Slate Group and a longtime observer of and participant in the political magazine sphere, said, “I think Frum is the most interesting writer they have. You can’t assume he’ll come down on the side of the party line.”
“I think the problem of conservative magazines is they often follow the party line more than liberal magazines,” he said.
Bear that “party line” thing in mind while considering what Weisberg saw fit to write about Israel’s invasion of Lebannon and Robert Farley’s criticism thereof:
We do know enough, however, to divide responsibility for the current war among these players: Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. This has not stopped many analysts in Europe and the United States from laying blame for the violence squarely at a less obvious doorstep—that of the Bush administration.
[I]t’s interesting to see what Weisberg thinks an important contribution really is… To be sure, Weisberg can write anything he wants… But this is part of a pattern with Weisberg; regardless of the issue, he seems to find a way to attack liberals, rather than bother with conservatives who are making egregious and unsupportable claims.
Weisberg is a graduate of The New Republic school of journalism, which is all about attacking liberals. Therefore, Weisberg’s praise of Frum should actually be seen as self-serving. However, Farley is also imprecise in his criticism: there is nothing wrong with not “follow[ing] the party line” and there is nothing wrong with attacking liberals per se, with whatever frequency.
“You’re using a rightwing talking point/frame/trope” is a common call-out phrase among the netroots. But a political point is not necessarily bad or truly rightwing even if it is first communicated by a wingnut (the question of whether the speaker has a right to say it is something else altogether); just because a wingnut says something doesn’t automatically make it false or evil. What’s crucial, for a liberal, is the direction from which it comes; Weisberg, like pretty much all Villagers who claim to be or are advertised as liberal, always attacks from the right or sides with the right. That’s the TNR way, and pretty much everyone who’s worked at that dump — wherever they end up — will uphold the tradition.
Considering the above, it naturally follows, then, that Weisberg:
- Defended Joe Lieberman against the Dirty Fucking Hippies (i.e. genuine liberals and leftists) who opposed him in 2006. Still not sorry.
Weisberg truly blows, but then that’s the nature of his species. The depressing irony of so many TNR graduates, and their clones, loosed on the landscape is that their “contrary” take on the alleged conventional liberal wisdom of the day actually becomes the conventional “liberal” wisdom of the day. Who will offer a “contrarian” take on Weisberg’s Sensible Liberalism? The glibertarian/Randroids had a hard time with that question, finally forcing themselves to believe that he didn’t really mean:
“Liberals lost the support of the nation not because of their ideals,” argues Weisberg, “but as a result of the flawed way they put them into practice.” To regain the public’s trust, he says, today’s Progressives have to advocate a pragmatic, limited government, guided by what he refers to as “five habits of highly effective liberals”: Accept risk, and steer away from policy prescriptions that treat adults as children, or as helpless victims of their environment. Stop overpromising and offer programs that try to alleviate social ills rather than “solving” them. Sunset federal programs frequently, because a “set expiration date fosters a mission mentality [on an agency] rather than a bureaucratic one.” Stop pushing massive new laws that leave most of the regulatory decision-making in the hands of executive branch bureaucrats. And place a limit–as a percentage of national income–on the ability of federal, state, and local governments to tax and spend.
That was 1996. In the years since, thanks to Sensible Liberals like Weisberg, the Overton Window’s moved even farther right. Now it’s 2010, and he can be found at about where one would expect: Yes, he — like his Villager colleagues — is an Obamaton, and will continue to be until the President does something decently radical, which is highly unlikely even though the hopeyness that he would do so was the source of his massive political capital. Now that capital’s worth about as much as AIG stock, but such is the predictable result when you behave in a way of which Jacob Weisberg approves.
Update: I regret that I did not see Doghouse Riley’s excellent take on the insufferable Weisberg until after I posted this.