FRIDAY, MARCH 28, 2003
DECLINE OF THE POST: It was true at the dawn of the west. Sadly, it remains true today. Have you somehow failed to notice? We humans reason quite poorly. But you dont have to run to talk radio to learn itjust visit the op-ed page of the Washington Post. How did this page decline as it has? Here at THE HOWLER, we dont have the foggiest, but we tried to shield our analysts eyes from Robert Samuelsons effort Thursday morning. How can it be that work so weak is so common at our greatest political newspaper?
Samuelsons inquiring mind wants to know: What explains [t]he great breach between the United States and the rest of the world over the war in Iraq? The pundit rattled polling figs from Europe, with large majorities opposing the war. Then he began explaining:
SAMUELSON: What explains the anti-American fury, particularly in Europe? Simple. It makes people feel good. It gives them a sense of moral superiority. It doesnt cost them anything. It diverts attention from domestic discontents. It doesnt require hard decisions or hard thinking. Its a convenient moral exhibitionism that, on inspection, is full of delusion, shortsightedness and moral hypocrisy.Simple, he saidand Bob Sam wasnt kidding. What explains European attitudes? Simple! Our tribe is right, and their tribe is wrong, the chin-pulling pundit informs us. Given Samuelsons sweeping claims, we eagerly fell on the pundits inspection. And we uttered some harsh, mordant chuckles:
SAMUELSON (continuing directly): Start with delusion. Many foreigners wrongly think Americas stated motives cloak raw greed. In a poll late last year, Pew asked whether the United States might invade Iraq because it believes Saddam is a threat or because it wants to control Iraqi oil. Oil, said 76 percent of Russians, 75 percent of French and 54 percent of Germansand only 22 percent of Americans. The idea that a country would risk troops and money for anything but selfish gain seems so silly to many other peoples that they cannot grasp it.And yes, thats his full inspection of this point. Europeans think the U.S. has vile motives, Samuelson notesand theyre wrong, the pundit states, making no effort to say how he knows it. How easy it is to pen pundit piffle when such palaver goes into print!
And dont worryEurope is shortsighted too, the scribe says. Another great inspection quickly follows:
SAMUELSON: Next, shortsightedness. Even if foreigners mistake American motives, they might think that the war will backfire. A devastated Iraq will slip into chaos. The Middle East will be destabilized. These failures are possible, but polls suggest that Europeansat leastdoubt they will occur.And yes, that was the full brief in favor of Europes shortsightedness. Of course, by this analysis, if the morally superior Europeans are shortsighted, Americans are hugely shortsighted too. Attention disorder? Samuelsons piece started as an explanation of why Europeans differ from American. Three paragraphs later, the brilliant savant is showing us all in one camp.
Samuelsons attacks on Europe are especially odd, because he seems to doubt Bush policy too. (Read the column if you enjoy self-punishment.) But reread that passage about Europes moral squalor and ask yourself the obvious question. Were a nation of 280 million people. We praise our schools of higher learning. So how, then, is it dimly possible? How is it possible that work like this now defines the Posts op-ed pages?
KAUS:We marveled at the line of reasoning. Could anyone else draw reassurance when press corps CW supports his instincts? Sensible people would, of course, see this as occasion for massive self-doubt. Only Kaus could have failed to notice the press corps inability to make judgments on character. For example, whatever one thinks of this presidents policies, does anyone think that George W. Bush is a plain-spoken man who tells you what hes really thinking? This portrait, of course, is utter nonsensebut the press corps has long pimped it. Similarly, has anyone failed to understand that AL GORE, LIAR was a simple press hoaxa tale the corps persistently conjured? Only Kaus could still pretend that the press corps is skilled at discerning Pol Character. Only Kaus could feel relieved when the corps sees the world as he does.
What explains the anti-Kerry fury in Kaus? Simple. It makes him feel good. It gives him a sense of moral superiority. It certainly doesnt cost him anything. It doesnt require hard decisions or hard thinking. Its a convenient moral exhibitionism that, on inspection, is full of delusion, shortsightedness and moral hypocrisy.