Everybody Loves a Good War
Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist A. Barton Hinkle highlights the curiously selective concerns about government waste and abuse on the left and the right:
There's nothing like a juicy report on Medicare fraud or union rules that protect incompetent teachers to get the right-wing blogosphere gleefully abuzz with righteous indignation.
To conservatives, the lesson to draw from such stories is that government is inherently wasteful, ineffective, mendacious, and corrupt. But ask them to extrapolate that conclusion and apply it to the armed forces or the CIA, and you're likely to get blank stares. Go further and suggest that, just perhaps, soldiers and spooks can make mistakes, so maybe persons accused of terrorism ought to have a means of asserting their possible innocence, and you're likely to get hotheaded rebuttals.
By the same token, liberals often linger with almost pornographic delight over the details of waste, fraud, and abuse in homeland security—"At Military Contractor's Trial, Telltale $100,000 Belt Buckle," exulted a front-page article in The New York Times the other day. For those on the left flank, the abuses inflicted in the name of homeland security—bureaucratic bloat, warrantless wiretaps, civilian casualties, indefinite detention without trial, waterboarding, and so on—provide inescapable proof that government is inherently wasteful, cruel, mendacious, and corrupt.
But ask them to extrapolate that conclusion and apply it to, say, nationalized health care, and— well, you get the idea. For many liberals, a single exposé is enough to discredit the war on terror. But a thousand exposés will never give them cause to question the war on poverty.