Saturday, May 29, 2010

Recommended Reading

1. I recently said that I had once thought Newt Gingrich had some integrity. I'm not sure why I thought that, but this recent interview with Nate Silver of suggest that if he is not a demagogue, he's a wacko.

Gingrich says that any reasonable standard, Obama is committed to socialism...  Not only have we taken over GM, Chrysler and AIG, but there’s a czar in the White House who believes he can establish the pay scale for 30 companies he’s never been in, for hundreds of people he’s never met. They just nationalized the student loan program...So there’s a lot of different practices that would lead us to believe this is socialist operation.

Now, does anyone in his or her right mind believe the administration intends to hold on to GM, Chrysler and AIG in perpetuity? But before we quickly vote "demagogue," consider: would a demagogue really say that even though we've lent banks hundreds of billions of dollars, those banks should retain complete freedom to pay their executives as much as they want? Only a very dumb demagogue would say that. This sounds more like someone who values theoretical purity over all else. So which is worse, a demagogue or a fanatic?

Of course, with statements like, "Two Democratic legislators in Connecticut introduced a bill that would have destroyed the Catholic Church," or "They just nationalized the student loan program," (actually, they returned it to what it was before Republicans started subsidizing the banks to do it) I start to think maybe I was too hasty in dismissing demagoguery as a possibility. But decide for yourself.

2. I sort of had Mark Lilla pegged as a standard neo-con, despite not having actually read anything by him. Turns out he writes regularly for the non-con New York Review of Books. Other people seem confused too, particularly right-wing bloggers who are enraged by an article he wrote entitled "The Tea Party Jacobins." For example, a blog called "Minnesota Conservatives" calls him "a respected intellectual," presumably meaning a conservative,  while over at "The Other McCain," Robert Stacy McCain (remember him?) refers to him as "liberal Lilla," though not for any apparent reason except that Lilla doesn't like the Tea Party.

Anyway, the article strikes me as a pretty penetrating analysis, not only of the Tea Party, but of why American democracy doesn't seem to be functioning very well right now. Read it and weep.

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