Friday, November 14, 2008

George Will is a Nincompoop

Yglesias posted a little while back on a topic that I think is tangentially related to the discussion that Uncle Kevin, T and I were having on the previous two threads.

There's a whole genre of middlebrow conservative commentary that seems to be largely devoted to churning out windy blather meant to paint purely tactical political calculations as brave defenses of bedrock conservative principles.

This is no new phenomenon - the quotation "Politics is a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles" is attributed to Ambrose Bierce well over 100 years ago, and the sentiment is probably as old as politics itself.

It's unusual and mildly humorous, though, the degree of transparency and lack of self-awareness evident when people like George Will pretend that, as Yglesias quotes: "[Mitch] McConnell opposes public financing of presidential campaigns on Jeffersonian grounds."

Look, I understand that part of a partisan commentator's job is to put things in a philosophical context. Liberals do that when we talk about the grand importance of counting every person's vote, making sure that everyone who has a right to vote is able to vote if they want to, etc. That's all fine.

If I write that the reason I want every vote counted in Decatur, Georgia because disfranchisement of blacks is a cancerous blight on our national honor, etc. etc., I'm being a good liberal commentator. If I pretend that's the reason that Jim Martin wants to make sure every vote is counted in Decatur, Georgia, I'm being a nincompoop.

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