Friday, September 12, 2008

Gerson's Continuing Condescension


You might think that the nation's dumbest columnist would hesitate before being condescending to his readers, but no... today he even gives his brand of condescension a fair label, Faith-Based Condescension.

My regular readers (all three of you? ;-) ) may recall this suggestion from a few weeks back - a campaign ad poking fun at McCain's attacks on Obama's credentials:
I appreciate your work for civil rights. Me, I've fought my entire life for equal rights for everyone. But aren't you being presumptuous? You did some good things as a lawyer back in Illinois, but you're trying to become commander in chief. These are troubled times, my friend, times of war. You've never been on a battlefield. You've never commanded soldiers. What makes you think that you can govern a divided nation and defend our way of life?

Sorry, Mr. Lincoln, I just don't think you're qualified.
That was then, this is now. Lincoln is now used to defend Palin's lack of qualification:
There are reasons to question the choice of the commander of the Alaska National Guard as a prospective commander in chief (though there were equally serious reasons to doubt the military qualifications of another backwoods candidate, Abraham Lincoln, who served for a few months as a private and a captain in the Black Hawk War).1
See? She's just like Lincoln, so she's qualified.

Except "Honest Abe" would not have pretended his military record qualified him for the Presidency. It takes a great deal of chutzpah to argue that being in a state that's near Russia, or being commander in chief of a state's national guard but not making any decisions pertaining to state or national security, qualify you for higher office.

Now Gerson could have addressed the issue of Palin's qualifications honestly, but that would presuppose that he's an honest man. His brand of faith-based condescension does not involve honesty:
But instead of engaging this issue, liberals have been drawn, helpless and mesmerized -- like beetles to the vivid, blue paradise of the bug zapper -- toward criticizing Sarah Palin's religion.
Well... No. The mainstream coverage has almost exclusively focused on her qualifications. Her religious beliefs and questions they implicate have been raised, but not with any greater disrespect than those questions raised by the polical right about Sen. Lieberman's observation of the Sabbath back in 2000. And certainly nothing like the suspicion poured on JFK over his Catholicism. Sure, you can find people who will say and argue pretty much anything, but we're talking about the mainstream here, aren't we? Well, obviously not - that would be the honest approach, but it doesn't suit Gerson's purposes.

Gerson gives one quote - only one - to show the unfair treatment of Palin, and of course he doesn't attribute it. And, can you believe it... he's quoting the professionally ranting rabid athest, Christopher Hitchens.
She has inarticulately said that her gubernatorial work would be hampered "if the people of Alaska's heart isn't right with god." Her local shout-and-holler tabernacle apparently believes that Jews can be converted to Jesus and homosexuals can be "cured."
Hitchens is his best example of a "liberal" who is unfair to Palin? And why is he only complaining that Hitchens was unfair in describing Palin's church as opposed to her beliefs? Wasn't that part of what Hitchens sad vastly more relevant than whether he was fair in his description of her church? Gerson also lies by omission, failing to note that Hitchens also attacked Obama's religion:
Interviewed by Rick Warren at the grotesque Saddleback megachurch a short while ago, Sen. Barack Obama announced that Jesus had died on the cross to redeem him personally. How he knew this he did not say. But it will make it exceedingly difficult for him, or his outriders and apologists, to ridicule Palin for her own ludicrous biblical literalist beliefs.
Gerson gets even less honest from there. After suggesting that it's unfair to even ask Palin about her religious beliefs, he speaks of the role of religion in the advancement of "liberty, tolerance and pluralism". Yet even here he's internally inconsistent:
And, of course, Palin is portrayed as a "theocrat" -- a Muslim fundamentalist in lipstick.
If religion, per se, leads to these advancements, Gerson might have a point. But Gerson is also implicitly condemning Islam, and particularly Islamic fundamentalism. Gerson doesn't want Palin questioned because he agrees with her, but makes it obvious that he has no faith in other faiths - if she were Muslim, he would be among those waving a torch or a pitchfork. And so the lies continue:
Democratic politicians press their appeal to blue-collar workers and the working poor -- while liberal intellectuals and pundits express their disdain for the religious values and motivations of the poor and middle class themselves.
Except it's not onlyDemocrats and "liberal intellectuals" who are concerned about the role of religion in the political sphere. And that's true even if we presuppose that all of the founding fathers were Democrats and liberals. There are conservatives who are skeptical of Palin. And as we just discussed, when the shoe is on the other foot Gerson is among the first on the attack. His faith-based condescension toward secular values seeps out of his every word. His faith-based disdain for the religious values and motivations of Muslims is also patent. His leading concern is Christianity, and moreso his own personal brand of Christianity. Condescend toward any other belief, and you're still okay in his book - in fact, you're following his lead.

Meanwhile, in case you're taking notes, beyond his self-parodic comarison of Palin to Lincoln, Gerson never got around to actually telling us that he sees Palin as even slightly qualified for national office.
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1. Lincoln was not involved in military action during his brief enlistments.

1 comment:

  1. And Lincoln, when he was asked about it, always minimized and downplayed his experience during that war.

    ReplyDelete