Friday, March 13, 2009

Post-Partisanship Prattle

This would be funny if it weren't so pathetic. Michael Gerson is weeping, once again, because Obama won the election, is delivering on his campaign promises, and doesn't see bending to Republican obstructionism as the same thing as bipartisanship. This is the same Gerson who was a happy cheerleader for everything Bush shoved down the throat of a hesitant nation and, as we continue to choke on those bad policy choices, attempts to blame Obama for having not yet fully administered the Heimlich. Seriously.
The pledge of "bipartisan" cooperation has become an attempt to shove Republicans until their backs reach some wall of outrage and humiliation.

None of this is new or exceptional - which is the point. It is exactly the way things have always been done.
Or, more accurately, it's what Bush did. It's what Gerson supported and applauded under Bush.

Gerson, as usual, is obsessed with a few trees, even as he gives lip service to the importance of the forest:
Obama's stem cell decision was worse, because it is a thing that has never been done before. "Obama," explains Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, "is willfully ignoring the moral complexity of the subject.
When criticisms of changes in stem cell policies come from the likes of Gerson and Levin, a fair response would be to invoke Godwin's law. Were either man honest, they would admit that their analogies to Nazism and eugenics have poisoned the atmosphere for debate. They would admit that they would be making the same criticisms of any change in policy more favorable to embryonic stem cell research, no matter how well explained. Gerson carries on,
Obama's approach is ethically simplistic - the kind of argument that gets nods at a fashionable cocktail party instead of engaging and respecting serious disagreement.
Picture Obama scoring "debate points" at a cocktail party. Tee hee. But what's missing here? Oh yes... any substantive response, clinical, ethical or otherwise, from Gerson. It's like he's on the other side of Obama's remarks, having pounded back a few too many cocktails, slurring out, "I'm only letting you win this debate 'cuz I'm drunk."

Beyond that, Gerson's complaints begin and end with Obama's budget. Once again he chooses invective over substance,
Obama's proposed budget shows all the vision, restraint and grace of a grasping committee chairman, using the cover of a still-unresolved banking crisis to push through a broad liberal wish list before anyone notices its costs and complications.
As usual, he has difficulty maintaining internal consistency... returning to the forest to which I previously alluded, the programs he deems threatened by this "partisan" approach include:
expand[ing] child nutrition programs, ensuring that low-income children get breakfast and lunch during a time of economic stress. Also, to expand rental assistance to low-income families. To fully fund the Second Chance Act, which helps ex-prisoners reintegrate into society. To increase funding for domestic AIDS treatment, especially in African American and Latino communities. To make the child tax credit at least partially refundable. To limit farm subsidies that distort global food markets and hurt the poor. To provide additional support to strained food banks. To make the saver's credit refundable, encouraging low-income Americans to build assets. To maintain lifesaving commitments promoting global health and development.
Because those initiatives are so likely to win broad support among Republican legislators. Gerson suggests that those "should be common-ground issues in our politics - havens on the ideological battlefield and sources of genuine consensus". They weren't under Bush - but that's okay. It's the Republican Party that obstructs the progress Gerson desires - but that's okay. What's wrong is that Obama won't break his campaign promises, do things he regards as bad for the country, and compromise his principles on issues he deems to make "perfect moral and economic sense", rather that jettisoning those issues he regards as important to his agenda and to the country in favor the agenda preferred by Gerson and the Republican Party.

Gerson's role in this, you'll note, hasn't changed. When Bush was running roughshod over any notion of consensus, enacting bad social, scientific, and economic policies, Gerson was right there as his cheerleader. Gerson may now be squealing about how it's not appropriately "bipartisan" to reverse Bush's "accomplishments", but he does so in continuation of his role as cheerleader for those policies. I suspect it's unfair of me to ask that he offer anything substantive in his columns, as he has no discernible history of doing so and he does not appear to have to capacity to think or write at a higher level.


  1. Silly Gerson. Republicans have already been humiliated - was he asleep during the election?

  2. I sense that Gerson's conscious state approximates what you or I might call "sleepwalking".


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