The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Because I’m Stupid, You See

Posted on | February 7, 2011 | 31 Comments

At what point did youngsters decide that their elders needed history lectures? This is not a moot question, for I find myself being lectured by Conor Friedersdorf:

What’s actually gone on in the United States since the year 2000? For almost eight years, the Bush Administration managed to keep the support of its base, despite pursuing all manner of idiotic policies. And they did so in large part by relying on sycophantic propagandists. Rush Limbaugh himself admitted to carrying water for Republicans during that era despite thinking they were taking the country in the wrong direction. And many pundits, especially on Fox News, behaved even worse. . . .

Friedersdorf then goes on to talk about how “Bill Buckley and George Will helped Ronald Reagan win the presidency” at a time when “The New York Times and the network news ruled the media, and Rush Limbaugh was working as director of promotions for the Kansas City Royals.”

Right. And all this time, Conor Friedersdorf was actively engaged in advancing the conservative cause. He has spent his entire life with his finger on the pulse of the body politic, and is thereby qualified to lecture us about What It Really Means.

Perhaps, as he makes reference to the year 2000, Friedersdorf would care to know what I was doing that year.

Oct. 4, 2000

With ‘no clear winner,’ ‘tie goes to challenger’
By Robert Stacy McCain
   George W.  Bush may not have won last night’s presidential debate, but he won a clear victory in the first round of post-debate media spin.
   “The tie goes to the challenger,” CNN analyst Bill Schneider said, just minutes after the Texas governor concluded his Boston debate with Vice President Al Gore.
   Mr.  Bush “held his own against Al Gore,” said Mr.  Schneider.  “A tight race just got tighter.”
   On ABC, Cokie Roberts declared that Mr.  Bush “said the right things” on the education issue to sway undecided voters, while Sam Donaldson wondered aloud if Mr.  Gore acted like a “bully” in the debate.
   Mr.  Gore’s “demeanor” during the debate seemed “arrogant and abrasive,” an undecided female voter in a Florida focus group told ABC, saying she was “leaning toward Bush” after watching the event.
   On CNN, commentator Robert Novak suggested the vice president’s “giggling and laughing” during the debate might not play well with voters.
   ABC’s Chris Bury reported on “Nightline” that the two candidates sparred on specific issues with “no clear winner emerging.”
   Mr.  Bush produced what was clearly the media’s favorite sound bite, with his charge that Mr.  Gore used “fuzzy math” getting replayed on all the late news broadcasts.
   CNN analyst Jeff Greenfield said “the atmosphere” of the debate “helped Bush,” who “was conversational . . . communicating in language voters can pick up.”
   So-called “flash polls” on both CNN and ABC showed a slight advantage for Mr. Gore — although more voters in the ABC poll indicated the debate had given them a more favorable view of Mr.  Bush.
   Later, while Mr.  Greenfield and Mr.  Schneider both said the vice president “scored more points” in the debate, they agreed Mr.  Bush actually gained more last night.
   “Bush got a bigger boost,” Mr.  Schneider said, while Mr.  Greenfield said the debate was “not a bad showing for Bush.”
   CNN reporter Candy Crowley remarked that early in the debate “we were in danger of getting hit by flying numbers,” and said that because both candidates “held their own . . . that has to favor Bush.”
   What did voters think?
   “I was very surprised that Bush is doing much better than I expected him to do,” Chris Tate, a 35-year-old mother of four in Brandon, Fla., told the Associated Press.  “I was a little surprised at Gore’s lack of coolness at
certain points.”
   “I think Gore always has to get the last word,” Salt Lake City voter Kim Higginson told the AP.  “I think it’s annoying, because I don’t like him.”
   Both candidates got plenty of free — and unsolicited — advice going into the debate.
   Media pundits and commentators filled television screens with talking-head appearances on network news programs, offering help — and hype.
   “Anticipation is building for the first showdown of the fall campaign,” announced CNN’s Judy Woodruff as she opened a special edition of the cable network’s “Inside Politics.”
   It was a “critical night,” Dan Rather declared on CBS, while ABC’s Peter Jennings admitted he could “hardly wait for it to begin.”
   “Why is this so important?  Why are the stakes so high?” Mr.  Jennings asked, leading into a feature about undecided voters, who he said are “enormously important” in “crucial battleground states.”
   The debate was the sole topic of discussion yesterday on CNN’s “Inside Politics,” where Mrs.  Woodruff’s questions to one Gore adviser were filled with suggestions for the Democrat.
   “What Gore really needs to do is prove he has a heart . . . a human side,” Mrs.  Woodruff told Tad Devine, a senior campaign adviser to Mr. Gore.  The CNN anchorwoman said the vice president “has to be careful not to come on too aggressively.”
   Fears of an overly aggressive Mr.  Gore were also aired by CBS correspondent John Roberts, who warned that the vice president “must be careful not to appear the bully.”

* * * * *

 Dec. 8, 2000:

Jane Fonda a big donor to Gore’s recount bid
By Robert Stacy McCain
   Actress Jane Fonda is the most famous of the wealthy donors who gave at least $100,000 to fund Democrat Al Gore’s monthlong contest of the presidential election in Florida.
   Internet billionaire Steven T.  Kirsch was the largest donor to the Gore/Lieberman Recount Committee, according to Internal Revenue Service filings made public yesterday.
   Mr.  Kirsch, who founded search engine Web site, gave $500,000 to bankroll Mr.  Gore’s $3.3 million effort to overturn Republican George W. Bush’s certified victory in Florida.
   Like most of the major donors to the fund, Mr.  Kirsch is a frequent contributor to liberal causes.
   Mr.  Kirsch was also among the donors to Campaign for a Progressive Future, which sponsored telephone calls to voters during Virginia’s Senate campaign that blamed former Republican Gov.  George F.  Allen for “gun violence” in the state.
   Miss Fonda, estranged wife of cable television mogul Ted Turner, made headlines earlier this year when it was reported that she had given $11.5 million to fund an abortion-rights political group called Pro Choice Vote.
   Like the Gore/Lieberman Recount Committee, Pro Choice Vote was organized under Section 527 of the IRS code.
   Other notable donors to the recount fund included:
   * Hollywood screenwriter Stephen L.  Bing, who gave $200,000. He also gave $1 million to the Democratic National Convention’s host committee last summer.
   * Tennessee real-estate developer Franklin Haney, who gave $100,000. Mr. Haney was involved in a Washington real-estate venture called Portals that was the focus of a 1998 House Commerce Committee investigation.
   * Philadelphia investment-banking heir Peter Buttenwieser, who gave $50,000. Mr.  Buttenwieser has contributed more than $6 million to Democrats since 1991.
   * Smith Bagley, heir to the R.J.  Reynolds tobacco fortune, who gave $25,000.
   * Daniel Abraham, developer of Slim-Fast diet foods, who gave $100,000. Mr. Abraham also contributed $1.1 million to Democratic campaigns during the 2000 election season.
   * Sen.-elect Jon S.  Corzine, New Jersey Democrat, who gave $25,000.
   * Democratic strategist James Carville, who gave $1,000.

* * * * *

Just a couple of samples, you see, to demonstrate that I was covering major national political news in 2000 — as a 41-year-old married father of four, my wife then pregnant with son Emerson, now 10 — back when Conor Friedersdorf was still playing grabass with college girls.

Or boys. Doesn’t matter. The point is, I don’t need any lectures about what has happened in American politics the past 10 years, and I sure as hell don’t need some arrogant punk to tell me about what happened in 1979.

Where the hell was Conor in 1979?

On more than one occasion I’ve remarked how an entire generation of young people have had their minds warped by political discourse of the past dozen or so years. From the Lewinsky scandal to the impeachment fight to the 2000 Florida recount to 9/11 to Iraq and so on up until 2008, our nation’s political battles were fought over terrain that had very little to do with the core question of limited government and economic liberty. Instead, it was “Are you for or against blowjobs?” or “Are you for or against kicking Saddam’s ass?”

Very interesting questions, but hardly the sort of propositions that, when debated endlessly in public, are very helpful to a young person’s understanding of the basic differences between conservatism and liberalism. So it is that many Gen Xers and Millennials became profoundly confused about politics.

With the cultural guidance provided by portrayals of George Bush on Saturday Night Live and the snarktastic commentary of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, however, these young people did pick up a clear message: Conservatives are clueless and uncool.

Young people were indoctrinated with that prejudice, and therefore the mere fact that someone hosts a talk-radio program or appears regularly on Fox News is to them proof that this person must be an idiot. And if you don’t join them in their sneering contempt — if you view Rush Limbaugh as anything other than the punchline of a joke — then you must be an idiot, too. This, then, is the sophisticated and enlightened attitude that Friedersdorf conveys.

“In the hands of a skillful indoctrinator, the average student not only thinks what the indoctrinator wants him to think . . . but is altogether positive that he has arrived at his position by independent intellectual exertion. This man is outraged by the suggestion that he is the flesh-and-blood tribute to the success of his indoctrinators.”
William F. Buckley Jr., Up From Liberalism (1959)

Keep it up, Conor. Maybe Arianna will give you some of that $300 million to mow her lawn. And maybe she’ll let you lecture her about “what has actually gone on” the past 10 years.

UPDATE: Dan Riehl has theories about what motivates Friedersdorf, but who needs theories?

Show me where Conor Friedersdorf has ever attacked any liberal the way he attacks Beck, Limbaugh, Levin, etc. You can’t.

To borrow a phrase I once applied to Rod Dreher, Friedersdorf is engaged in the Eternal Quest for Some Other Conservatism: The conservative movement that actually exists, the conservatism that is engaged in meaningful political battles against its natural enemy liberalism, is always too crude, too narrow, too low-brow for these people.

So they go off on a quixotic crusade and return to declare that they have found the Holy Grail of a truly conservative philosophy. Strangely enough, these apostles of Some Other Conservatism can never be bothered to criticize liberals, or to offer an argument that might help defeat the latest Democratic Party policy proposal. No, instead the enlightment bestowed up them by Some Other Conservatism always leads these people to rip into very prominent and successful people — whom the enlightened decry as faux conservatives — who are actually engaged in daily combat against liberals.

When you point out these obtrusive facts, however, they will tell you that it just goes to show how close-minded you are.

Lather, rinse, repeat.


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