The Other McCain

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

‘Partisan Koch-Brothers Style Attack’

Posted on | October 3, 2011 | 11 Comments

The secret of punditry is to appear to know what you’re talking about. The most successful pundits are those who can utter incomprehensible gibberish with an air of certainty and authority.

So I woke up before 4 a.m. this morning, came down to the office and turned the TV on to MSNBC. They were re-airing Sunday’s Meet the Press and, as I worked, the chatter was a sort of background music, none of which made any real impression until I heard E.J. Dionne say the phrase quoted in the title:

“I agree with Peggy [Noonan] that the underlying and often unspoken issue here is worry about American decline, and will it still be America? But I just don’t see that Chris Christie speech as being this visionary thing. I mean the clip you showed, where he said Obama wants to diminish the success of others — as far as I can tell, rich people are richer today than they were when Barack Obama took office. That struck me as a partisan Koch brothers-style attack on his part, and as for Obama . . .”

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“A partisan Koch brothers-style attack”? What the hell is E.J. talking about? Does he believe that no one ever criticized class-warfare rhetoric in politics before David and Charles Koch began funding free-market activism? And isn’t any Republican’s criticism of Democratic policy (or vice-versa) in some sense “partisan”? Dionne uttered this remarkable phrase in the process of pretending not to understand New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s Reagan Library speech. In that speech, Christie quoted Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, in which Obama decried those who divide Americans. Then Christie said:

Now, seven years later, President Obama prepares to divide our nation to achieve re-election. This is not a leadership style, this is a re-election strategy. Telling those who are scared and struggling that the only way their lives can get better is to diminish the success of others. Trying to cynically convince those who are suffering that the American economic pie is no longer a growing one that can provide more prosperity for all who work hard. Insisting that we must tax and take and demonize those who have already achieved the American Dream. That may turn out to be a good re-election strategy for President Obama, but is a demoralizing message for America.

Christie here accuses Obama of engaging in class-warfare rhetoric — the president’s frequent speeches demonizing “millionaires and billionaires” who, he alleges, don’t “pay their fair share” of taxes — as part of a “re-election strategy.” What honest person can say that the president’s left-populist turn is not a re-election strategy?

It doesn’t matter, in evaluating Christie’s speech, whether or not you believe that the rich should pay more taxes. If Obama’s oratorical assaults on the rich are intended for the political purpose of helping him win re-election, then Christie’s analysis is correct.

Dionne does not engage Christie’s actual argument. Instead, Dionne pretends that he can refute Christie’s characterization of the president’s rhetoric by asking whether “rich people are richer today than they were when Barack Obama took office,” but this is a complete non sequitur.

The remark by Christie that Dionne cites is not directed at the policy Obama has hitherto pursued. Rather, Christie is criticizing the rhetoric by which Obama seeks support for the policy that Obama advocates now. Dionne attempts to change the subject by distracting us with a completely different issue, i.e., how the rich have prospered since January 2009, and then accusing Christie of “Koch brothers-style” partisanship — whatever that is supposed to mean, if anything.

Consider these two truth-claims:

  1. The rich have made out like bandits during the first 32 months of Obama’s presidency.
  2. Obama is now — “cynically,” as Christie says — demonizing the rich as part of his re-election strategy.

Both claims may be true and, indeed, there may be a relationship between these two claims: Obama never pushed for higher taxes on the rich during the two years when Democrats controlled Congress by overwhelming margins, and his newfound left-populist rhetoric about making the rich “pay their fair share” may be seen as an appeal to those members of the Democrat base disappointed by Obama’s previous failure to pursue such a policy. Neverthless, Chris Christie would be correct in accusing Obama of cynicism if the president’s recent advocacy of higher taxes on the rich is a matter of politics rather than policy. And there are many reasons to believe that Christie is correct about Obama’s motives.

All of this is ignored by E.J. Dionne, however, in his effort to negate any praise for Christie’s speech “as being this visionary thing.” E.J. therefore derogates Christie as having made a “partisan Koch-brothers style attack” and then tries to divert attention with a non sequitur (how the rich have fared under Obama’s policy to date) offered as if it were a self-evident refutation of Christie’s speech. Dionne’s allusion to the Koch brothers is a guilt-by-association attack, intended to tie Christie to pre-demonized scapegoats of the Left, and the word “partisan” is just E.J.’s way of saying that Christie is a Republican.

An intellectual’s job is to enlighten his audience by clarifying issues. E.J. Dionne seeks to obscure the issues in order to confuse his audience. And he thinks we’re too stupid to see what he’s doing.


11 Responses to “‘Partisan Koch-Brothers Style Attack’”

  1. Anonymous
    October 3rd, 2011 @ 11:27 am

    All of this is ignored by E.J. Dionne…

    Well, duh!  That’s what makes him E.J. “Baghdad Bob” Dionne!

  2. Bob Belvedere
    October 3rd, 2011 @ 11:53 am

    A partisan Koch-brothers style attack.

    EJ obviously was issued his new talking point phrase and, like the good apparatchik he is, he used it on his first opportunity.

    He’s hoping for a sinecure in the future Ministry Of Truth, after the uprising.

  3. ackvil
    October 3rd, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

    You guys just don’t understand.  If it criticizes Obama it’s a partisan attack.  

  4. Joe
    October 3rd, 2011 @ 1:05 pm

    A partisan Koch-brothers E.J. Dionne attack!

    The Koch brothers give millions to charity every year.  What has E.J. ever done for anyone? 

  5. Anonymous
    October 3rd, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

    The Koch brothers give millions to charity every year.

    Thereby starving the needy of precious tax revenue!  The bastards…

  6. Anonymous
    October 3rd, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

    RSM: a crackejack dismantling of Dionne’s shoddy logic!

    Should we be encouraged or distressed by the spread of intellectual rigor mortis from the pseudo-intelligentsia to the “respectable” elites? On the one hand, it gives us an opening to exploit; on the other hand, few of the elites who not yet all the way gone are oblivious to the decay.

    And, yeah, yeah, I studied history, so I’m aware that curmudgeons have warned about intellectual decay for two-thousand odd years; but every so often, they end up being right.

  7. Anonymous
    October 3rd, 2011 @ 4:26 pm

    While technically being “sentient life” in the strictly scientific  sense of that term, EJ Dionne’s verbalizations are not really in context unless one thinks of him as a parrot.

  8. chuck coffer
    October 3rd, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

    Dionne is a leftist. Being a leftist in 2011 means being a liar. Dionne is a liar. It’s part of his job description.

  9. elaine
    October 3rd, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

    It seems like the rich who got richer during this administration are those who are directly connected to Obama and the congressional democrats.  And they got richer off our tax dollars or by making bets against our economy.  I’m talking about Warren Buffett, George Soros, Solyndra and all the other green job scam-shacks, Goldman Sachs.  I could go on, but why bother.

    Why is it the idiots demonstrating on Wall Street can’t see this?  Oh, right… because all they can do is swallow the pablum the MSM feeds them and spew it right back out.  And that includes lefty “intellectuals” like E J Dionne.

  10. Datechguy's Blog » Blog Archive » I have no interest in anything Robert Stacy McCain says…
    October 3rd, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

    […] I can’t be bothered with his thoughts on Mark Block, Herman Cain latest straw poll, tough times for musicians, the cheap Koch attack. […]

  11. Bit
    October 4th, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

    Did anyone quetsion Reagan about class warfare when he said the wealthy didn’t  pay their fair share?