The Other McCain

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James Fallows, Eminent Fool, and the Surprising Vindication of John C. Calhoun

Posted on | September 28, 2013 | 76 Comments

“The necessary result, then, of the unequal fiscal action of the government is, to divide the community into two great classes; one consisting of those who, in reality, pay the taxes, and, of course, bear exclusively the burthen of supporting the government; and the other, of those who are the recipients of their proceeds, through disbursements, and who are, in fact, supported by the government; or, in fewer words, to divide it into tax-payers and tax-consumers.”
John C. Calhoun, Disquisition on Government, 1848

The current phony crisis, in which Sen. Harry Reid has declared that the House must approve the Senate’s spending bill or else the government will shut down, has inspired The Atlantic‘s James Fallows to an extravagant exercise in rhetorical excess:

In case the point is not clear yet: there is no post-Civil War precedent for what the House GOP is doing now. It is radical, and dangerous for the economy and our process of government, and its departure from past political disagreements can’t be buffed away or ignored. If someone can think of a precedent after the era of John C. Calhoun . . . let me know.

This is as absurd and inappropriate as it is ignorant. To find a recent precedent, we need only go back to the 1990s, when the budget impasse between the new Republican majority in Congress and President Clinton led to a (partial) government shutdown. Or, really, we might consider the extraordinary process by which Reid and Nancy Pelosi shoved ObamaCare through the legislative grinder — “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it,” as Pelosi infamously said — as more truly “radical, and dangerous for the economy and our process of government” than anything Republicans in Congress are doing now.

Having deliberately ignored the made-for-TV dramatics, I am not the least alarmed by this phony crisis, which is neither particularly new nor remotely frightening. Democrats and their comrades in the media (Fallows was a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter) are dishonestly characterizing opposition to ObamaCare as “extremist,” per se.

This is the exact opposite of truth: It is ObamaCare itself that is truly “extremist,” a measure that could only be rammed through Congress with late-night arm-twisting sessions. Were the 34 House Democrats who voted against ObamaCare in March 2010 “extremists”? Or were the millions of voters who elected a Republican House majority in the 2010 mid-term landslide “extremists”?

James Fallows is a partisan Democrat who evidently does not even read conservatives, and who declares illegitimate any reporting that takes seriously the claims of the president’s Republican opponents:

As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism and an inability to see or describe what is going on. . . .
For examples of coverage that plainly states what is going on, here is a small sampling: Greg Sargent, Derek Thompson, John Gilmour (on why Ronald Reagan believed in compromise), Jonathan Rauch, Brian Beutler, Jonathan Chait, Andrew Sullivan (also here), Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas, Dan Froomkin. On today’s Diane Rehm show News Roundup, panelists Ruth Marcus, Janet Hook, and Todd Purdum all said with a bluntness unusual for a D.C.-based talk show that we are witnessing the effects not of gridlock but of one party’s internal crisis.

Only those who share the partisan Democrat views of James Fallows,  in other words, are avoiding the “failure of journalism.”

Fallows would have us believe that “what is going on” is not a routine exercise in budget brinksmanship — something to which we have become accustomed as a ritual of divided government — but rather an “internal crisis” exclusive to the Republican Party.

In other words, Democrats are not responsible for anything, Democrats have no obligation to consider the views of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, the duly elected representatives of taxpaying citizens, because . . . well, why, really?

Perhaps James Fallows considers the illegitimacy of Republican opposition to ObamaCare self-evident or perhaps, more likely, he expects all his readers to share his partisan Democrat views, and thus also expects them to accept without question the intended putdown of his comparing conservative Republicans to John C. Calhoun.

As the cited passage from Calhoun’s Disquisition demonstrates, however, the South Carolinian who served as Secretary of War (1817-1825) Vice President (1825-1832) and Secretary of State (1844-45) was quite a profound political thinker. Lincoln biographer Thomas L. Krannawitter has called Calhoun “a public intellectual of the highest order . . . renowned for his public oratory . . . a remarkable man, and a uniquely gifted American politician.” Calhoun saw in the successive crises of the 19th century evidence of a dangerous tendency toward the centralization of power in Washington, so that control of the national government conveyed to the party in power an authority that was effectively unlimited. Calhoun articulated the doctrine of States’ Rights as a check on this unlimited authority. Calhoun’s doctrine has been disparaged because of its association with slavery and racial segregation, yet we can trace its historical origin to the Founding Fathers themselves, in a context having nothing whatever to do with slavery or race.

It was Thomas Jefferson and James Madison who, in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798-99, invoked the authority of the states to declared the Alien and Sedition Acts null and void. If we examine that crisis, we see that supporters of the Adams administration’s pro-British policy in foreign affairs had in essence sought to outlaw dissent — an odious restriction on First Amendment freedoms.

The next crisis came during Calhoun’s vice presidency, when the so-called “Tariff of Abominations” was passed. Calhoun authored the “South Carolina Exposition and Protest,” which condemned the tariff act as ” imposing duties on imports — not for revenue, but the protection of one branch of industry at the expense of others,” declaring the measure “unconstitutional, unequal, and oppressive, and calculated to corrupt the public virtue and destroy the liberty of the country.” This was a matter not just of policy, but of philosophy, because Calhoun saw that the protectionist measure involved using federal power in ways not contemplated by the Founders, nor consented to by the states in ratifying the Constitution. By gaining a majority in Washington, certain interests sought to enrich themselves through the exercise of federal tax policy, and this abuse was the result of a centralizing tendency that negated the Constitution’s limitations on federal power, converting it “into a great consolidated government, with unlimited powers.”

Well, here we are in 2013, eh?

Nearly $17 trillion in debt — $16,955,657,321,974 as of noon today  — we have added nearly a trillion dollars a year (more than $1.8 billion per day) to the national debt every year since 2008, and it is this endlessly escalating debt that keeps bringing us to these budget crises.

There were no such conflicts during the first two years of Obama’s presidency for the simple reason that he took office when Democrats held an irresistible majority in Congress and could enact whatever policies suited them, including not only ObamaCare, but also a wasteful “stimulus” that added roughly a trillion dollars to the national debt in one fell swoop while doing nothing to restore economic prosperity.

America’s problem, as complex as it may sometimes seem, is really quite simple: We have a federal government with too much power, that spends hundreds of billions dollars more per year than it collects in revenue, and which spends that money to support a system of entitlement programs that is bankrupting us, as well as a regulatory bureaucracy that stifles economic growth. An ever-increasing national debt caused by annual federal budget deficits is the result of Democrat policies that favor the endless expansion of entitlements and bureaucracy, even while they refuse (for the sake of political convenience) to enact the taxes that would be necessary to eliminate the deficits at present spending levels.

Democrats know damned well that the kind of tax increases necessary to generate another $1 trillion a year in federal revenue would strangle the U.S. economy and generate a political backlash. Therefore, Democrats like James Fallows deceptively claim that it is opposition to their policies — and not the policies themselves — which are the cause of our nation’s fiscal problem, and to silence all who speak out against Democrat policies by labeling opponents as “radical” and “dangerous” extremists.

James Fallows (Harvard ’70) is a fool whose only purpose in life is to support the endless errors of the Democrat Party, and to whom truth is always subordinate to partisan interest. Fallows has never been anything but a pretentious hack, as his latest enthusiastic eruption of wordy nonsense should make clear to anyone who had not previously recognized Fallows for the eminent fool he truly is.

And, of course, John C. Calhoun was a Democrat.



UPDATE: Linked by Bob Belvedere at Camp of the Saints, Walla Walla Tea Party PatriotsThe Lonely ConservativeRegular Right Guy,  God’s Own Crunk — thanks! — and welcome, Instapundit readers!


76 Responses to “James Fallows, Eminent Fool, and the Surprising Vindication of John C. Calhoun”

  1. lukebragg
    September 29th, 2013 @ 8:29 am

    @moskwab I am only sending this because of the John C Calhoun reference. Long Live The Coonskin Congressman!

  2. jamesbranch3
    September 29th, 2013 @ 8:49 am

    James Fallows, Eminent Fool, and the Surprising Vindication of John C. Calhoun #tcot #p2

  3. OwainPenllyn
    September 29th, 2013 @ 8:51 am

    James Fallows, Eminent Fool, & the Vindication of John C. Calhoun via @rsmccain #tcot #tgdn #ctot

  4. LouGots
    September 29th, 2013 @ 9:39 am

    Who can forget that Calhoun also accurately predicted the extent that we would become the slaves of those who cannot hack it.

  5. robertstacymccain
    September 29th, 2013 @ 9:56 am

    Moisturizer. The dude could have used some moisturizer. But seriously, this helps illustrate the difference in politicians in the age before modern media and before women’s suffrage.

    The successful modern politician is expected to be telegenic — not just physically attractive, but also to have the voice and demeanor of a TV anchorman. Barack Obama’s baritone and his skill at seeming serious yet affable are the very qualities that we expect in an Eyewitness News anchor. It is about conveying a superficial impression, rather than being about the content of the material presented.

    In the TV age, especially, people believe they can judge others just by looking at them, and this has enormous consequences, as Neil Postman explained in Amusing Ourselves To Death. Postman was a man of the Left, and he was angered by Ronald Reagan’s success as the pre-eminent TV spokesman of his age, but Postman’s fundamental criticism is sound. Conservatives who haven’t yet read Postman’s analysis really should amend this deficit in their education.

  6. jsn2
    September 29th, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    Damn fine writing. It’s the kind of writing the pinkos reward with Pulitzers and cash. Why doesn’t our side offer prestigious awards for excellence in journalism?

  7. txrepublican
    September 29th, 2013 @ 10:35 am

    James Fallows, Eminent Fool, and the Surprising Vindication of John C. Calhoun #MakeDCListen #tcot #TeaParty

  8. Yeah__Right__Sure
    September 29th, 2013 @ 10:37 am

    Tellingly, the comments section on The Atlantic’s website is not turned on for Fallows’ articles, unlike it is for their other leftist scribblers. I assume it is his own choice and his “get him a fainting couch” style of writing sure reflects a willfull cloistering.

  9. pst314
    September 29th, 2013 @ 11:01 am

    Ironically, back in the 1990’s James Fallows wrote a book titled “Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy”. But as best I recall that book did not go into leftist dishonesty and gross partisanship in the news.

  10. Regular Right Guy
    September 29th, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

    So if a tree falls on a liberal and no one hears it…?

  11. Religio-Political Talk (RPT) Common Sense Is Timeless
    September 29th, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

    […] John C. Calhoun, Disquisition on Government, 1848 — Via The Other McCain […]

  12. Quartermaster
    September 29th, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

    They would be considered right wingnut extremists. Says more about the current crop of idiots than it does about the founders.

  13. Rick Caird
    September 29th, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

    Fellows is one of those people whose intellectual prowess cannot survive pushback and opposition. Hie intellectual pretenses crumble easily. That is why he is in the “one way” print media and why he does not allow comments.

  14. Bob Belvedere
    September 29th, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

    He certainly had a lust for life.

  15. Bob Belvedere
    September 29th, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

    No Real Man uses moisturizer.

  16. 13013B
    September 29th, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

    Dems and Fallows-like pundits are angry because GOP have been closet Dems for years. That’s in danger. @instapundit

  17. Mike55_Mahoney
    September 29th, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

    An inclusion of Madison’s words in Federalist #58; “The power of the purse is the most important power of Congress. James Madison in the Federalist papers called it “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people”.

  18. Minicapt
    September 29th, 2013 @ 11:31 pm

    Fallow: uncultivated; not in use; inactive: My creative energies have lain fallow this year.


  19. Harry_Bergeron
    September 29th, 2013 @ 11:36 pm

    The Other McCain catches James Fallows talking through his ass.

  20. rsmccain
    September 30th, 2013 @ 8:11 am

    ICYMI: James Fallows, Eminent Fool, and the Surprising Vindication of John C. Calhoun

  21. MarkG_03
    September 30th, 2013 @ 8:13 am

    RT @rsmccain: ICYMI: James Fallows, Eminent Fool, and the Surprising Vindication of John C. Calhoun

  22. robertstacymccain
    September 30th, 2013 @ 8:16 am

    There are many ironies about James Fallows’ career. How is it that a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter — generally acknowledged as the worst president of the 20th century — should rise to such eminence as a pundit? Well … Harvard.

    A liberal writer with a Harvard diploma is apparently guaranteed lifetime employment, and all other liberals are expected to praise his every word, no matter what an utter fool he may be.

  23. robertstacymccain
    September 30th, 2013 @ 8:22 am

    He’s one of these print-age pundits (like Joe Klein) who have spent the past several years chasing after the Juice Box Mafia in an attempt to remain relevant to younger readers on the Left.

  24. richard40
    September 30th, 2013 @ 6:07 pm

    Carter is the worst president of the 20th century. Want to take any bets that obama will earn the title of the worst president of the 21st century, at least if the historians are honest.

  25. FMJRA 2.0: Woke Up This Morning : The Other McCain
    October 5th, 2013 @ 11:49 pm

    […] James Fallows, Eminent Fool, and the Surprising Vindication of John C. Calhoun […]

  26. New Liberal Rule: When in Doubt, Invoke Distant History You Don’t Understand : The Other McCain
    October 6th, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

    […] up with this trend, huh? A week ago, James Fallows decided to drag John C. Calhoun into the current argument, and this week we have another liberal foray into bizarre counterfactual […]