Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ornstein and Mann Identify the Problem in Washington: Republicans

You might have missed this one, concerned as I know all of you were with the annual White House Correspondent's Circus Dinner and the prospect of a Lindsay Lohan/Kim Kardashian throw-down.  Is there any better symbol apropos of our government?  But, I digress.

No, on Friday, really, really famous and really, really respected Washington based political scientists Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann (with a book out next week) took the pages of the Washington Post to inform us all of what their forty years (each) of experience has led them to conclude. "We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."  There you have it folks.  It's the Republicans fault.

I urge you to read the whole article.  What fascinates is the easy/breezy way that the two present their "studying Washington politics and Congress..." as if it is, in fact, fact.  And because one of the criticisms they levy against Republicans is a rejection of logic and science, well of course, then any objection to what they write must rightly then simply be a manifestation of the same Republican pathology that caused all this mess.  Get it?

This kind of (il)logic is familiar to anyone who spends time around liberals, who tend to present their views as if ideology were non-existent and whatever it is they think springs solely from the font of reasonable, logical policy-making.   Again-this sets up and feeds their accompanying view that any objections thereto are in fact SOLELY ideological, and without basis in logic, a practice I believe Jonah Goldberg treats in his upcoming book "The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas" (which goes on sale 1 May).

Ornstein and Mann lay it out in such a reasonable manner that there cannot possibly be any objection.  If one objects by pointing out that the Democratic Party has been captured by its baser fringe, that it has in fact moved as far left as the Republicans have moved right--we get this:  "The post-McGovern Democratic Party, by contrast, while losing the bulk of its conservative Dixiecrat contingent in the decades after the civil rights revolution, has retained a more diverse base. Since the Clinton presidency, it has hewed to the center-left on issues from welfare reform to fiscal policy. While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post."  And how do we know this is true?  Why, because they SAY it is true, and they are not ideological--therefore, they must be right. The complete disappearance of a pro-life wing of the Democratic Party?  Nah.  Not evidence.  The embrace of the the "Occupy" movement by the leadership of the Party?  Nah. Not evidence.  The savagery of the opposition to George W. Bush?  Dismissed thusly:  "No doubt, Democrats were not exactly warm and fuzzy toward George W. Bush during his presidency. But recall that they worked hand in glove with the Republican president on the No Child Left Behind Act, provided crucial votes in the Senate for his tax cuts, joined with Republicans for all the steps taken after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and supplied the key votes for the Bush administration’s financial bailout at the height of the economic crisis in 2008. The difference is striking."  Eight years of venom against GWB is elsewhere sloughed off as "Democrats are hardly blameless, and they have their own extreme wing and their own predilection for hardball politics. But these tendencies do not routinely veer outside the normal bounds of robust politics. If anything, under the presidencies of Clinton and Obama, the Democrats have become more of a status-quo party. They are centrist protectors of government, reluctantly willing to revamp programs and trim retirement and health benefits to maintain its central commitments in the face of fiscal pressures."  

So when Democrats do it, it is within the bounds of robust politics, especially when their "status quo" approach of being "...centrist protectors of government, reluctantly willing to revamp programs and trim retirement and health benefits to maintain its central commitments in the face of fiscal pressures."  is---and I stress it once again--so damn REASONABLE and RATIONAL.  Please read this once again, friends.  Is the Democratic Party you know willing to (reluctantly or otherwise) revamp programs and trim retirement and health benefits?  Where is that happening?  Please, someone--anyone, give me that information.  The very same newspaper that published this heap of steaming dung masquerading as scholarship published an insider's view of the great debt compromise breakdown last Summer between Speaker Boehner and the President--which ultimately broke down NOT because of Republican intransigence but because of the President's cowardice toward his own, unready to compromise, ideologically emboldened base by taking $800B in new revenue vs. $1.2T.  Presumably Mann and Ornstein "missed" this one in their forty years of study and research into the nature of the current logjam.

Nowhere in this treatment of the ideologically unhinged Republican Party is there even a shred of discussion about what it is the two sides are fighting about, what it is that is at stake.  What Mann and Ornstein dismiss as "...fiscal pressures..." is more to the point, the bankrupting of a great country.  What Mann and Ornstein dismiss as ideologically driven objections to reasonable and sensible programs to provide healthcare and other entitlements is--in the view of Republicans--continuing to dig when you are already in an abyss of debt.  The President ran on criticizing GWB for running up $5T in debt in eight years, only to equal that number in a third of the time--and not a peep from our wizened old think tankers, Ornstein and Mann.  It isn't WHAT they are objecting to that has them so riled up, it is the WAY they object.  So damn unreasonable.  So  inconvenient.

Update:  Yet another--and better done--disputation of Mann and Ornstein.


Tom de Plume said...

The GOP lacks an understanding of science? This charge comes from the party of the congressman who thought if we put too many people on Guam, the island might tip over?

"The Hammer" said...

...or that we put a man on Mars!

I see this as just part of the Democrats multifaceted approach to elections. They trot out a couple of Brookings hacks to to buck-up the (so called) intellectuals in their party who are getting killed in water cooler debates all across the country. The authors try to give them some modicum of moral authority, but you're right, they just accuse in flowery language. There's no substance to their argument, and for good reason, Obamaism cannot be defended on any terms.

I'm curious as to why they always say conservatives are anti-intellectual. Is it because we refuse to accept their bullshit on face value? For example, global warming has been debunked as a viable theory. The data supporting this theory has been PROVEN false and the proponents PROVEN to be corrupt. So by accepting global warming as fact, who are the anti-anti-intellectuals here.

Another faith based science is evolution. If evolution is real, fine, I have no problem with it. But the evidence just isn't there. The fossil record does not exist. And some present day creatures could not possibly have evolved incrementally through random mutation. But we are cretins for rejecting their half-assed construct.

And lastly, the whole idea of socialism is a lie from beginning to end; in fact the biggest lie in history. Whole countries for decades have tried to make it work. They did everything they could, even substituting death and imprisonment for market incentives, and it still didn't work. Markets are no more and no less than the will of the people both individually and collectively and proportionately. That's it. And for leftists, that is the problem.

Anonymous said...

An example of what happens when the pseudo intellectuals are put in charge.

Of Ships and Shuttles
Sunday, 29 April, 2012
Phillip C. Goddard
Six hundred years ago China was unrivaled on the global stage, a dominant economic power with technological skills that were unmatched by India, the Ottoman Empire or any of the European powers. It was a medieval superpower who’s Yongle Emperor, Zhu Di determined to reinforce the preeminence of the Chinese Han after centuries of domination by the Mongols.
He launched a series of wars against Mongolia to consolidate his northern borders; Established Beijing as the capital of China; dredged and restored the Grand Canal from Beijing to Hangzhou; Commissioned the Yongle Cannon the largest encyclopedia of its time, and ordered Admiral Zheng He to carry out a series of voyages of exploration with the Chinese Imperial Fleet.
Admiral Zheng He commanded an impressive armada of 317 ships carrying 27,000 men to establish diplomatic contacts and develop trade with nations in South East Asia, India, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. Over 27 years in a series of seven voyages the Chinese Imperial Fleet reigned supreme over large areas of the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. Some researchers believe that they entered the Atlantic Ocean and may have visited the Caribbean nearly a century before Columbus.
Abruptly, the maritime expeditions of Admiral Zheng He were brought to an end because of the cost of maintaining the fleet. An imperial decree made it unlawful to construct ships with more than one mast and China began a period of introspection and inward focus resulting in a long period of decline. The age of exploration was over for China and the nations of Europe would command the oceans of the world in the centuries ahead. The Age of European exploration would lead to European dominance in economic and military matters.
A short 50 years ago President Kennedy challenged his nation to embark on another voyage of exploration, this time into space with the objective to put a man on the moon. Implied was an exploration of the solar system and beyond. In a few short years Americans walked on the surface of the moon and developed a constellation of satellites that circle the globe, providing a vast array of services.
Communications, global positioning and weather satellites are but a few that we all benefit from. America led in the design and construction of the International Space Station and developed the remarkable shuttle program that resupplied it and rotated the crews that manned the facility. America’s technological and human feats in the exploration of space have been unparalleled but now with the end of the shuttle program with no clear replacement in sight, it seems that another imperial edict has abandoned the leadership in space exploration as America retreats from its unchallenged position. It seems as though it has turned away from taking man to the frontiers of space with an absence of vision for the future.
It is but another example of a lack of leadership that would maintain America’s role in the forefront of space exploration and technological innovation. It is a retreat from lofty goals of space exploration that benefit all mankind. Instead it is one more expression of Obama’s vision that America is not extraordinary or exceptional but is willing to pay the Russians double the price for delivering its astronauts to the International Space Station now that they have a de facto monopoly on the service.
Indeed it is ironic that it is the descendants of the Yongle Emperor have articulated a goal of establishing a colony on the moon during the third decade of this century while the Obama Administration remains mute on the subject.

B. Franklin said...

Wow. I came looking for some counter arguments to Ornstein and Mann's opinion piece and new book but, it appears I have found more evidence if their argument.

I must say, from the above article and the comments it appears that no one has taken the time to read what O&M have written. It's easy enough to fact check and the detail you claim is missing is explained in the book.

Also, there is no mention of Ornstein and Mann's central contention - that the Republican strategy of tearing down the institutions of government by refusing to govern and lead, by fanning the the flames of populist anger towards government by hyperbolic language has put party loyalty before country. I guess more succinctly, the strategy is to destroy people's lives, point to a self fulfilling republican prophecy of a failed government and then take power.

Used to be legislators worked together to solve the problems of society. Now the republicans just refuse to govern, so people suffer and so they can blame the government. Wake up, smell the coffee, drop the hate filled exaggerated rhetoric and start being part of the solution.

It's really disappointing to see the nature of political discourse.

B. Franklin

PS. Please go to any natural history museum and you will see millions of fossils demonstrating the history of evolution. Saying science is faith based demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the mechanisms of science, feel free to email me and we can discuss. Such misunderstandings can be dangerous and harmful.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

B.Franklin--you came looking for nothing of the sort. You came looking with your squishy left of center, we are never guilty of ideology, we only deal in facts mindset-- (which is ridiculous, and ideologically based itself) to post a spam version of a comment that shows the only person who hasn't read the article (won't buy the book, sorry--no interest in enriching charlatans) is you, and the article in question is my post.

"Used to be legislators worked together to solve the problems of society. Now the republicans just refuse to govern, so people suffer and so they can blame the government. Wake up, smell the coffee, drop the hate filled exaggerated rhetoric and start being part of the solution." What country are you talking about here, Ben? The U.S.? Well, perhaps in the glory days of 200 seat Democrat majorities in the House and thirty seat majorities in the Senate--something akin to this happened. But that isn't cooperation and bipartisanship now is it, that is one party government.

Sorry Ben. Sell it somewhere else.

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