Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 29, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE PUBLIC RECORD....Aroused by Daniel Davies' and Jon Chait's recent tongue lashings of the right, Tyler Cowen throws out an idea:

I'd like to propose a new research convention. Anytime a writer or blogger talks about what The Right or The Left (or some subset thereof) really wants or means, I'd like them to list their personal anthropological experience with the subjects under consideration. Davies presents [Milton] Friedman as a shill for the Republican Party; I'd like to know how many (public or non-public) conversations he has had with Friedman about the topic of the Republican Party.

....How many supply-siders has Chait talked to? It might be a lot, but again I'd like to know. Has he met with the people who write The Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page? How many of them? How many leading Republican donors and strategists does he know? Did they really chat with him, or were they in controlled "interview mode"? How motivated are they by supply-side doctrine? What did those say who weren't so motivated?

How many intelligent pro-life Republicans do you know? How many southern racist Republicans do you know? Have they confided in you? Do they trust you? Do you really think you know what they believe?

Actually, this kind of amateur anthropology goes on all the time, and it obviously has its uses. But it also has its drawbacks: the conventions of social interaction allow people to obfuscate, prevaricate, evade, and just generally lay on the charm in ways that frequently blur distinctions instead of sharpening them. And human beings being the social primates that we are, we often give views that we hear in person more weight than they deserve simply because we heard them in person.

So I disagree: When it comes to important issues of public policy this kind of personal interaction should be secondary. For the most part, we shouldn't judge people by what they say in private or how they act around their kids. We shouldn't judge presidential candidates by how sociable they are on the press plane or whether they'd make a good drinking buddy. That's how we ended up with George Bush. We should judge them mostly by their public record: their speeches, their actions, their roll call votes, and their funding priorities. Anthropological research, aka hanging out and having a few beers, is fun and interesting, but it's not necessarily a superior guide to what someone really thinks or what they'll really do when the crunch comes.

As a political blogger, I often wonder if I'd be better off if I lived in Washington DC. There are obvious upsides: DC is full of interesting conferences, has scads of subject matter experts, and is home to lots of social gatherings where I could catch up on the latest gossip, discuss issues in more depth than I can via email, and take the measure of people in person instead of only in print. This kind of thing is great blog fodder. I'll bet that lunch with Tyler and his GMU confederates would be both instructive and entertaining, for example.

But there's an upside to being a continent away, too: I don't hear any of the gossip, so it doesn't affect what I think or write. Everyone's on the same print-based plane. And I don't have any close relationships, so I can pretty much say whatever I feel without worrying that I'm going to lose a friendship over it. (I worry about that sometimes, of course — I'm a human being, not a cyborg — but certainly less than if I had regular social contact with the people I write about.) Overall, even with the downsides factored in, I'll bet that my analytical track record is better because I keep my distance and avoid being spun, not worse.

But of course, there's no way to know for sure. Maybe someday Marian and the cats and I will move to DC, and after a few years you can all decide whether my blogging is better or worse for it. But no time soon, I'm afraid.

Kevin Drum 2:31 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (51)

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Comments

"And I don't have any close relationships, so I can pretty much say whatever I feel without worrying that I'm going to lose a friendship over it."

That's a real advantage. It reminds me of a film critic friend of mine noting how hard it was to be a critic in L.A., because you were always running into the people you panned. It can be acutely embarrassing and you have to be pretty strong-minded to avoid toning down your criticisms.

Posted by: Steve on November 29, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Stay out of The Village. I doubt that getting to know Maureen Orth and Sally Quinn will help your analyses at all.

Posted by: blatherskite on November 29, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

"But there's an upside to being a continent away, too"

Sorry to interrupt your little self-congratulatory soliloquy, but if this is true, why is it that you forever predictably regurgitate the standard turgid leftist talking point of the day?

Posted by: a on November 29, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
IMHO this is your finest post. You are exactly correct, and I would say you are a better political analyst for _not_ being part of the DC scene.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on November 29, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Is that a trial balloon for Marian or your employers?

:)

Posted by: gfw on November 29, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

I would hate to see what Domino and Inkblot were to turn into if you moved them to the idiot village.

So if you do move, I would be happy to provide the kitties with a comfy home; fenced back yard with well fed (and dumb) birdies, faux fur duvet covers to snuggle into, continually filled nibblie dish, tall glasses filled with filtered ice water to drink from, and of course the opportunity to become subjects in Cleopatra's empire.

Please, don't, move, the, cats, to, D.C.

Posted by: optical weenie on November 29, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "That's how we ended up with George Bush."

We ended up with George Bush because his brother, Jeb Bush, then the governor of Florida, and Kathleen Harris, then Secretary of State of Florida, successfully conspired to fraudulently remove tens of thousands of eligible African-American Democratic voters from the Florida voter rolls by falsely identifying them as felons who were ineligible to vote.

Then, when Al Gore won the Florida election anyway, they conspired to prevent every legally cast ballot from being counted in compliance with established Florida election law.

We ended up with George W. Bush because the 2000 election was blatantly stolen. Never forget that. George W. Bush is not and never has been the legitimately elected President of the United States. He is a "strongman" who seized power in a bloodless coup.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on November 29, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

A few years back, Krugman wrote a column about precisely this: he figured that residing in NJ instead of DC was a huge contributor to his accurate reading of the world. Stay out of the Village, indeed.

Posted by: pdp on November 29, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

In support of Kevin's position, we may consider the example of the Washington and White House press corps in the run-up to the War in Iraq.

How well did that group, with it's local access to politicians and pundits, assess the validity of the information presented by the White House relating to WMD, and how well did it assess the longer term conditions to be found after the invasion?

Not very well at all, it turns out. As Bill MOyers' program from last May ably points out, it was reporters for Knight-Ridder -- well-removed from Washington -- who were far better able to assess and investigate the issues and get closer to the truth of the matter.

See: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/btw/transcript1.html

Posted by: McCord on November 29, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

I became interested in Robert Altmeyer's The Authoritarians earlier this year, and the implications for the dynamics of American politics in recent years.

That's sociology, not anthropology, and it is "measuring" attitudes with narrowly-drawan tests, not observation in personal interaction, with the analysis, statistical.

But, many of the same problems raised by Cowan come up.

Authoritarian "personalities" are simply people, whose attitudes form a cluster at a distinct extreme from the general variation in attitudes. The association with any particular partisan identity or political program is a matter of historical circumstance.

"Authoritarians" are far from a perfect fit for the traditional conservative political program of establishing an hereditary aristocracy: their disposition is egalitarian and they are more likely to respond to "populist" appeals than "plutocratic" appeals. Their association with plutocratic-driven politics has to do with the ease with which they are manipulated by demagogues.

And, it matters a lot if authoritarians are leavening in a larger political batter, where, as good followers they strengthen the organization, or whether they are a pure lump of easily manipulated stupidity, passivity and ignorance, with remarkable insensitivity to the consequences of their attitudes re-written as policy.

Our two-party system flattens every issue into a partisan divide, and the bullying of the idiocratic Media forces politicians to adopt a defensive posture of cant. Beneath that surface, the real people have a remarkable diversity, and even more, a remarkable plasticity of views.

And, it does matter a lot, with whom you or they hang out. Milton Friedman at an AEA convention would be quite different from Milton Friedman schmoozing with the WSJ editorial board.

Posted by: Bruce Wilder on November 29, 2007 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Cowen's off-base here.

Public officials appear in print, in formal statements, BECAUSE that's they way they state their positions for the record. It's accurate, and necessary, to judge them on those statements, not on what they might tell you over coctails at somebody's party.

Posted by: CN on November 29, 2007 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

I can't comment on whether your efforts here would be better coming directly from this area. Overall, if you came here you might find some things remind you well enough of home (like the traffic--only at least the distances can be shorter here than SoCAL).
Overall, my own feeling is that the amenities of the DC area are best enjoyed if one does NOT have to make a living as part of the Beltway/Company Town Inc. But that can be easier said than done.

Posted by: Bill H. on November 29, 2007 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

I think this post gets at an important truth.

In large measure, the function of social interaction and non-verbal cues is to make it possible to get another party to swallow something they wouldn't otherwise.

Many, many times, I've had the following experience. Someone tells me that they can't figure out what the real agenda was in a social incident they just went through. They describe the incident, repeating the precise words that were exchanged. I immediately tell them what the true intent of the other party must have been. Later, it becomes clear that I was exactly right.

Now I'd like to think that I had some extraordinary insight into people that allowed me this predictive ability. But I know that as often as not the positions have been reversed; I've been baffled by a social incident, explain it to, say, my wife, and she immediately pounces on the correct underlying motivation.

My conclusion from this is that it's typically far easier to figure out what's going on by attending to the actual words and real content of what's being said, than it is to be present to hear and observe all the non-verbal cues whose entire point is to distract one from, or mollify, the real import of what is being communicated.

In politics, Paul Krugman knew that Bush was a liar because he could look at the pure content of what Bush uttered regarding his tax cuts and realize it literally didn't add up. Other political reporters couldn't attend to those issues no doubt because they were instead distracted by the warm and fuzzies Bush and his campaign issued forth when those reporters were in Bush's company.

Point is, inside the beltway, you're likely somebody's bitch and don't even know it.

Posted by: frankly0 on November 29, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

So if I want to say the Nazis are bad, then I should talk to some at parties first and maybe discover most of them are pretty alright guys after all?

Kevin's right. Speeches, actions, votes, donations speak just as clearly, if not more so, than chit chat over a beer.

Posted by: tomeck on November 29, 2007 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Agreed, tomeck, if a writer like Milton Friedman or a politician who wraps himself in the Battle Flag of the Confederate Traitors don't want to be accused of being exactly what they look like, then they need to stop looking like shills for the rich or defenders of racism. People who make excuses for why the poor should die unnecessarily or why those with dark skin can be mistreated are evil. I don't have to talk to them further to find out how evil they are. I only have to know that they are bad people and need to be stopped.

The fact that evil people can be appealing and persuasive in person does not mean that their evil should be overlooked. If anything it should be a reason to be on guard. Watch Triumph of the Will to see how appealing evil can be. Even though we all know in advance that Hitler is the gold standard of evil, he can still engage us with his speaking, whether we know German or not.

Posted by: freelunch on November 29, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

"It's not who you are inside that counts, it's what you do."

Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins says this to a young Bruce Wayne.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on November 29, 2007 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Like pdp above, this post made me think of Paul Krugman.

And Krugman, when he said that, made me think of Bill James, writing essentially the same thing about baseball commentary 25 years ago in the 1982 Baseball Abstract. At the time, sportswriters were as entwined with the managers and ballplayers they covered as today's reporters and punditocracy is with the politicians they cover. And it got in the way of their reporting just as thoroughly.

Bill James was removed from all that, and the distance helped him get a better perspective on baseball's questions. The blogosphere has had a similar effect.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on November 29, 2007 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is exactly right. We should assess our public on their records and stated positions, not on their personal characteristics. Not doing this is, in significant part, how we ended up with Bush. It still frustrates me when people criticize Bush for mangling the English language, or for looking like a chimp, or for being stupid, all things he does or is, but things that are really beside the point. It's the policies, stupid. Would subverting the constitution be more acceptable if it were done by someone smart and well-spoken?

Posted by: jrw on November 29, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

I've never understood the meme "GWB is the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with". When I was a drinker, both the Harvard Square (intellectual) and Central Square (working class) bars that I hung in would have sized him up as a bully, phony, and Grade A Texis-sized asshole in minutes.

As to personal charm, it's said that Hitler loved his dog. Which is not to say Bush=Hitler but that personal interchange tells you next to nothing, as Kevin indicates. Sociopaths are particularly good at personal charm, which makes them excellent con artists. This is to say that Bush=sociopath.

And dry drunk, but that is another matter.

Posted by: jrosen on November 29, 2007 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Has he met with the people who write The Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page?

Who the hell cares? As Kevin says in what I agree is a great post, he reads -- Ford help him! -- the people who write The Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page. 'Nuff said.

We shouldn't judge presidential candidates by how sociable they are on the press plane or whether they'd make a good drinking buddy. That's how we ended up with George Bush. We should judge them mostly by their public record: their speeches, their actions, their roll call votes, and their funding priorities.

Word. Unfortunately, that's require the DC press corpse to do some actual reporting on candidates' records and policy positions, not jerkoff horserace and personality bullshit.

But speaking of Bush, it's worth noting that Molly ivins and Lou Dubose -- whose chamber pots most of the DC press corpse isn't fit to lick clean -- did exactly that -- examine Bush's actual record -- in their book Shrub, which made clear he wasn't fit to be President of the United States.

Posted by: Gregory on November 29, 2007 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Tyler Cowen, you ignorant slut!

And, JRosen is right. Although the term gets used as a slapdown a lot, "dry drunk" is a very precise description of W.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 29, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

There's more in this. If Tyler Cowen's point is, as I take it, that various people who could rightly judged to be Republican tools for spouting the intellectually dishonest claptrap that's the faith-based underpinnings of the modern conservative movement's feckless and fantastic ideology are getting a bad rap because they might not actually hold such strong opinions in person, then shame on them for knowingly pushing bullshit they don't believe in anyway to serve their political agenda.

Cowen's apologia is hardly flattering to Republican tools. I agree -- if they don't want to be identified with the lackwits, sleazebags, hucksters, perverts, crooks and con artists that make up the modern Republican Party, then they can either stop shilling for it, throw the rascals out, or form another party. That they do what they do instead is hardly to their credit.

Posted by: Gregory on November 29, 2007 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum wrote, "We should judge them mostly by their public record: their speeches, their actions, their roll call votes, and their funding priorities." Yes, but of course governors and most mayors don't have roll call votes. Also, legislators should be judged not only by roll call votes, but by their work in committees (which is where most of the real work of Congress is done) and by their leadership on various issues. This is harder to quantify than just tallying votes, but it's much more meaningful. Today, Sen. Frank Church (D-ID) is remembered for his outstanding and courageous leadership against the war in Vietnam. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) is remembered for his tireless work in the area of drug safety. Russ Feingold (D-WI) is known for his leadership in the area of campaign finance reform. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is known for her leadership in getting the Desert Protection Act passed. Roll call votes are important, but it's leadership that makes real change possible.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on November 29, 2007 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I don't think you got the whole gist of Cowen's post. With this blather about "amateur anthropology", Cowen is seemingly arguing that you can't make inferences about a person's seemingly various, discordant beliefs unless that person makes a confession to you. The matter in question seems to be whether Milton Friedman is a real libertarian or just a pro-corporate, anti-federal government hack. I don't think dsquared persuades me that Friedman is a hack, but that's really not important. What's important is Cowen's contention that you aren't allowed to make that inference unless you have personal experience of numerous people professing Friedman's beliefs publicly, but privately really not much caring if the liberties of hippies and dark-skinned people are trashed as long as their own tax rates are low.

And that's just plain bullshit. No one in a position like Friedman's is ever going to explicitly admit to a "screw you, I got mine" variety of libertarianism. But that doesn't mean it isn't perfectly reasonable to infer that those are the sentiments of many people who call themselves libertarians. And obviously the principle applies to lots of beliefs and sentiments that people aren't willing to profess.

Posted by: kth on November 29, 2007 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Smart post, Kevin.

Posted by: Winston Smith on November 29, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Remember all the testimonials about how Michael Kelly was a wonderful guy after he got killed in Iraq? People who worked for him said he was a wonderful boss, colleagues said he was a loving husband, great friend, blah blah blah.

I didn't know that Michael Kelly. The Michael Kelly I knew was an insane lying shrieking son-of-a-bitch who landed on my breakfast table three days a week and jumped off the op-ed page of the WaPo to throttle me by the neck.

When Kelly was killed I didn't feel any more sadness about the death of the private man than I feel at the death of any other total stranger. But when the motherfucker that was the public man got his, I was one happy fellow.

Posted by: Bloix on November 29, 2007 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You have just explained to me my late mother’s uncanny ability to size up a situation and sum it up two sentences.

I would tell her about some involved work situation that was giving me problems. I was so wrapped up in all of the non-verbal cues, body language used, tones of voice, etc., that I could never unravel the situation on my own.

She, with her 8th-grade education, and no direct contact with my workplace would simply analyze what I told her about what people said and did. Then she would tell me what was really happening. Eventually, I would discover that she was right. (At the time, I thought her talent was some kind of mother thing.)

Posted by: emmarose on November 29, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

I would actually entirely agree with Tyler, and if I ever set out on the entirely uninteresting and quixotic project of working out what Milton Friedman "really" believed, I'll be sure to bear his advice in mind. I fear that with that post, I may have pissed on my chips as far as the Milton Friedman official intellectual biography contract is concerned, however. So I'll stick to what I was actually interested in, which was:

a) did the man ever, ever criticise a serving Republican administration?

b) did the man ever fail to support the Republican party platform in election years?

and most importantly,

c) given that the answers to a) and b) are "basically nope", why are so many people on the liberal left so keen to regard him as anything other than a party line Republican?

I mean, let's do Milton Friedman the respect of taking his actions seriously. *He* certainly thought that his views on civil liberties, sensible fiscal policy, negative income tax etc, were not important enough to bother dissenting from the Republican line from, ever. So why shouldn't we respect his actual, revealed preferences, rather than paternalistically trying to assert that deep down, we know what he wanted better than he did? Guess which giant of 20th century American economics and Nobel prize winner I got this methodological approach from.

Posted by: dsquared on November 29, 2007 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

My personal experience: Most of them really are that bad. (And, I really have a BA in Anthropology!)

Posted by: NB on November 29, 2007 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

The matter in question seems to be whether Milton Friedman is a real libertarian or just a pro-corporate, anti-federal government hack.

There's a difference?

Posted by: Gregory on November 29, 2007 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin--Donna Haraway says you are a cyborg.

Posted by: Bush Lover on November 29, 2007 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Anytime a writer or blogger talks about what The Right or The Left (or some subset thereof) really wants or means, I'd like them to list their personal anthropological experience with the subjects under consideration.

So ...

... we're all Tom Friedman now?
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on November 29, 2007 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Opinions should not be judged by the anthropological experience of the opinion maker. Opinions should be judged by the arguments used to justify them.

Editorial monopolists have never had to justify their opinions based on arguments, they have relied upon their institutional authority and repetition to persuade. Anthropological knowledge is neither good nor bad. It is interesting, but it does not inform an opinion with logic.

Posted by: Brojo on November 29, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

We ended up with George Bush because his brother, Jeb Bush, then the governor of Florida, and Kathleen Harris, then Secretary of State of Florida, successfully conspired to fraudulently remove tens of thousands of eligible African-American Democratic voters from the Florida voter rolls by falsely identifying them as felons who were ineligible to vote. Posted by: SecularAnimist

No. Kevin is right. It was much simpler than that. We ended up with Bush because the press gave him a pass. A couple of sit downs, which they were unlikely to get anyway, with a few serious journos, from outside the beltway, would have revealed him then for the idiot he has always been. Shit, everyone in Texas with six brain cells to rub together knew this. Read Molly Ivins.

Posted by: JeffII on November 29, 2007 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

This is why I always wonder about the intelligence of people who even read Tyler Cowen. Most of us probably haven't heard the "But did you actually know him" ploy since the fifth grade- because it is so incredibly stupid.

First of all because of the stupidity of reciting our "anthropological" experiences with "The Left", but secondly because even if you did know a black person who went to Harvard or a female underwater demolition expert who's an atheist, your questioner always dismisses your reply as unimportant, which we've all known since the fifth grade is going to happen, so when someone asks us that question we tell them not to be stupid or just ignore them.

IOW, Cowen is not only stupid and trivial and childlike (but no in the good sense), but he's incredibly boring.

It's a mystery to me why so many bloggers read him and comment on his stupid ideas, but I'm guessing it's a pretty unimportant mystery. Cowen should stay sober, there's no inner Robert Benchley or James Thurber yearning to be free.

Posted by: serial catowner on November 29, 2007 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

"As a political blogger, I often wonder if I'd be better off if I lived in Washington DC."

In two words — N.O. I refer you to the late I. F. Stone, who would not have any contact with government personnel. And as some have commented, Paul Krugman’s reason for not being in DC.

Posted by: Graphic Guy on November 29, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

We ended up with George Bush because his brother, Jeb Bush, ...
SecularAnimist at 3:03 PM

No. Kevin is right JeffII at 5:19 PM

You're both right. The election was stolen but, at the same time, if the press hadn't helped to make Bush seem like a regular guy you'd want to have a beer with, the Gore vote could easily have been out of stealing range. Even the official count gave His Chimpness a very small margin of victory.

Posted by: thersites on November 29, 2007 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

Does Cowen demand the same "amateur anthropology" from the Right? No. Of course not. They can determine the character of a politician simply by the way they clap, or laugh, or who does their hair. They don't even need to read or in any way understand what a person is saying as long as they have some personal behaviours to give them the picture: Gore's color choices in clothes (earth tones), Kerry's choice of sports (wind surfing), Hillary's cleavage.

Posted by: Deb Tinsley on November 29, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps this is what Tyler Cowen meant instead:
In this week's Newsweek, Charles Peters writes about Vietnam, "Liberals became so antiwar that they could not admit that every South Vietnamese was not a closet Viet Cong; in fact, a significant number of them did not want to live under the communist North."

If Peters is going to make such a silly statement, then somebody should call him on it. If he claims to know so much about Liberal opinion during Vietnam, then maybe he should tell us how many times he discussed the political beliefs of every South Vietnamese with Liberals during the War.

Anybody associated with this blog have any associations with Peters?

Similarly, Friedman did not write extensively about the Republican Party, so how did Davies become an expert on Friedman's relationship to the Republican Party?

Posted by: reino on November 29, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

How many intelligent pro-life Republicans do you know?

None.

How many southern racist Republicans do you know?

Counting my relatives? Lots.

Have they confided in you?

Let's just say they haven't been shy about sharing their views with me.

Do they trust you?

Who knows?

Do you really think you know what they believe?

Well, yeah, because they keep telling me exactly what they think about lazy blacks and so on.

Well, that was easy.

Posted by: kc on November 29, 2007 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

"As if there aren't any liberals who demonize and stereotype conservatives."

Since nobody has pretended otherwise, forgive us if we ignore this as the lame strawman argument that it is.

"The only difference is that, if you are a conservative, many liberals will accuse you of being racist or greedy, whereas if you are a liberal, some conservatives will accuse you of being a secularist sinner."

ROFL.... You don't get out much, do you? Have you really not been paying attention for, oh, just the last five years or so, where liberals have been accused of being traitors, of aiding the enemy, of hating and failing to support the troops, of hating their country, of supporting child molesters and perverts, of supporting terrorists, of killing babies and the infirm, and so on. Trust me, I could go on and on and on, and I didn't even get to "tax-and-spend."

And we're not talking about anonymous blog commenters: we're talking about Congressmen, Senators, members of the Bush administration, popular pundits like Coulter, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and more.

"It may be true that many on this blog detest the 'Plague on Both Their Houses' argument as a simple-minded argument that is repeated because of its surface-level common sense."

No, we detest it because it is so often manifestly untrue, as it is in this case.

"Bush may have failed, yet Pelosi's Congress has an approval rating lower than Bush's."

ROFL.... Dear heart, they have a lower approval rating because they have failed to block Bush.

"The Democrats are perfect failures, too."

No, dear, they aren't, but I'm sure it comforts you to believe that.

"And oh, I've already written the following rebuttal that I'm sure the thoughtful and adult liberals on this blog would make:"

ROFLMAO.... Yes, dear, we know. Your kind always prefers to deal with strawman arguments than real world arguments. They're just so much easier to deal with.

This was rather pathetic, dear. Is this really the best you can do?

Posted by: PaulB on November 29, 2007 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

How can anyone be a good writer no matter what the subject is if they don't know people - all types of people of every ideology. Not superficially knowing but keenly observing and knowing what makes people feel and say and do what they do. Being able to keenly observe people would seem to only be achievable with personal contact but also with enough detachment and distance. Karl has a point.

Posted by: Chrissy on November 29, 2007 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Well, someone's gotta do it...
Karl, give us names for those liberals who call conservatives racist and greedy, please. Otherwise all you're offering is your opinion (and from your post, it's not worth much).
As for your admission that GWB is a failure; well, that's the first step toward sanity. Don't stop now.
Oh, and the reason that many people might refer to conservatives as "racist" could be that the actions of many conservatives provides support for racism. And honestly, "greedy" conservative is nearly an oxymoron.

Posted by: Doug on November 29, 2007 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

"Davies presents [Milton] Friedman as a shill for the Republican Party; I'd like to know how many (public or non-public) conversations he has had with Friedman about the topic of the Republican Party."

Friedman's shill rating is best not based on his words, but his deeds, e.g., the ruination of various foreign economies. However, he has proven the Keynesian dictum that "In the long run, we are all dead."

Posted by: Rula Lenska on November 29, 2007 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

Well it may be a simple argument, but it's also true. Bush may have failed, yet Pelosi's Congress has an approval rating lower than Bush's.

Bullshit. That is what the intelligent commenters here recognize as a false equivalency and we have debunked it as such on many, many occasions. For a body that consistently polls lower than the executive no matter who is president, the incumbents sure do enjoy a strong advantage! That's because we all think our own congresscritters are doing just fine, thanks, but everyone in the country knows that the other 434 are bastards every one (especially yours!) and should have already been indicted, the polecats!

No need for you to argue with me, I've already said what you would say for you.

Not by a long-shot, Bub. Your insults are amateurish, clumsy, inept and certainly not on a par with the rhetorical eviscerations that are visited upon the heads of assorted right-wing nimrods and nincompoops on an hourly basis on these boards.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 29, 2007 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
I live in the DC Metropolitan area and you don't want to move here. The weather sucks big time and the traffic is ridiculous. It does have a very nice subway system; but, it isn't as much fun as it was when I was 10 years younger. I plan to retire in the spring and move back to God's Country--Seattle, Washington.

Posted by: Mazurka on November 29, 2007 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

"Anthropological research, aka hanging out and having a few beers, is fun and interesting, but it's not necessarily a superior guide to what someone really thinks or what they'll really do when the crunch comes."

Lord knows I like making fun of anthropologists, but dimwitted attacks on qualitative analysis are also easily mocked. Especially when a dimwitted hack like Cowen is at issue -- clearly, the love of Cowen from people who should know better comes from economics envy of the worst sort. He doesn't talk to people to find out what they think, he looks around for ways to justify his glibertarianism.

What serial catowner said -- well said.

Posted by: david on November 29, 2007 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

"For a body that consistently polls lower than the executive no matter who is president, the incumbents sure do enjoy a strong advantage"

Yup, and when you break it down by party, generic Congressional Republicans are polling significantly lower than generic Congressional Democrats.

The real reason for the low Congressional approval ratings, of course, is that Democrats are hugely unhappy that they aren't doing more to block the Bush agenda. But none of those people are going to vote Republican, so it ain't gonna help the GOP in 2008.

Posted by: PaulB on November 29, 2007 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

PaulB wrote: liberals have been accused of ... supporting child molesters and perverts

Hey now...liberals by and large don't vote Republican!

Posted by: Gregory on November 30, 2007 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I think your tax-hiking, lattee-drinking, sushi-eating, volvo-driving, New York Times reading, body-piercing, Holloywood-loving, left-wing freak show lifestyle would be welcome in DC.

That's the sort of rhetoric that I think Tyler was asking people to tone down.

Attacking Milton Frediman as some sort of Republican and authoritarian apologist, just because he supports the free market, despite all evidence to the contrary, is a shallow form of journalism.

"The ideological core of Chicago-style libertarianism has two planks. 1. Vote Republican. 2. That's it.""

This isn't an example of judging people by their public record.

Posted by: FreedomDemocrat on November 30, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Free Porn on November 15, 2010 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK
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