Today's Worst Partisan Political Columnist Blindness, Today!


Let's read Charles P. Pierce–writing on politics since 1976, author of Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Freetelling us what's what in his article in the May issue of Esquire, shall we? (Issues that gripe his gut in that book? Creationism and the Terri Schiavo matter, both far more signs of contempt for "those sorts of people" than well-honed intelligence.)

The article is uninterestingly titled "Into the Wilderness," and its point is that the Republican Party has become so insane and dangerous it is the duty of the American people to do everything they can to defeat them politically on every level. This is a thesis I have some sympathy with, minus considering the likely alternatives.

But how does this veteran tough-minded political thinker make his case, that the GOP is so dangerous that 100 percent Democratic Party control of America is a moral and political necessity?  

He starts off with some sort-of high-middlebrow mockery of those shit-for-brains Republicans, in the person of Rick Santorum, speaking, one is lead to believe, for the Party whose presidential nomination he failed to win and for which he holds no office:

At one point, while debating Christ's death and resurrection with one of the prominent heretics of the day, Tertullian rather famously stated, "Certum est quia impossibile est."

"It is certain because it is impossible."

Not long before, I'd heard Rick Santorum tell a gathering of supporters in New Hampshire of his dread of the possibility of Iran's gaining a nuclear-weapons capability. He touched upon the destabilization of the region that he believed this would cause. He spoke briefly of how it might ignite a general arms race in the area of the world that least needs a general arms race. He mentioned his stalwart support of the state of Israel. Then he claimed that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a direct threat to the United States.

There seemed to be a hole in this part of his argument. Any attempt by Iran to use a nuclear weapon against the United States would result in Iran's future as a glass parking lot. Santorum thereupon made a case that the Iranian government — the entire Iranian government — was open to the idea of national suicide because it would bring about the return of the Twelfth Imam, a messianic figure of Shiite Islam whose arrival will presage the Day of Judgment. I looked around the room, and heads were bobbing up and down in agreement.

They were certain, because it was impossible.

I don't want to adopt mock outrage, or pretend that Pierce is somehow so dumb or forgetful (dare I suggest, an idiot?) that he doesn't know what I'm about to write, or that his editor at Esquire didn't know it, and which pretty much every American who even knows there is a country called Iran knows: that President Obama (Democrat) and his administration believe the exact same thing, or at least he claims to and acts like he does. (What beliefs truly reside in these people's heads is something I'll never know and probably don't want to.) Really, Mr. Pierce. I believe it because it's true!

President Obama, in March:

During his address to pro-Israel lobby AIPAC on Sunday, President Obama told the audience that in regards to Iran, he did "not have a policy of containment." He had "a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

"As I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests," Obama exclaimed.

Leon Panetta, Obama's secretary of defense, in January:

"We see the threats coming from Iran and a nuclear-capable Iran represents a threat to us and to the world," Panetta told reporters at a Pentagon news conference…

Now, Pierce nowhere says that the Democrats do not believe this absurdity–which I agree is absurd. But the entire framing of his piece is that the Democrats remain the sensible, noble opposition to whom we must turn, because, as he writes, the GOP "has become completely demented." So far his only proof of this dementedness is that they agree with the Democratic President Obama on Iran. What else has he got though? Maybe he's saving the best for later.

OK, he's got global warming, birth control, voter ID, all issues in which there is a genuine difference, generally, between most Republicans and most Democrats, but not ones that actually are energizing much real political action on the part of either party, whether or not you agree there should be such action.

To show that he's an establishmentarian at heart, Pierce has to hat-tip to Mitt Romney for being, well, normal and respectable (although he believes the exact same thing that Pierce led with at length to prove the insanity of Republicans):

That's how Mitt Romney came to tie himself in a bowline trying to run for president, even though he was the only real candidate in a field of crackpot poseurs, and even though he was running the only real campaign as opposed to tent revivals, exercises in brand maintenance, and extended book tours. Too late did Romney realize that the path to the nomination led through an alternate reality.

Who is the one GOP candidate–hell, the one national political figure of any sort–who shares Pierce's good sense on Iran and its (lack of) threat? Ron Paul (I wrote a book about him), who I guess doesn't even deserve to have his name mentioned. Is he a "crackpot poseur" or doing "brand maintenance"? The reader has to guess, because Pierce won't say his name.

He has some negative words for the Democrats too, though not the true ones that they believe in what his portentous long lead marked as a unique insanity of the GOP:

As conservatism was developing its powerful infrastructure, the Democratic party was still sucking its thumb over what happened to George McGovern in 1972. While conservative millionaires were pouring money into the construction of the network of institutions on the right, the Democrats were throwing themselves, through the creation of the Democratic Leadership Council, in the general direction of the same money. Nothing arose on the left, or around the Democratic party, that remotely resembled the formidable arsenal of opinion that developed on the right, and of which the Republicans took full advantage, not realizing at the time that all of that success was hollowing out their party's essential intellect until all that is left today is raw, overwhelming id.

The Democrats were powerless against this, and they did not seek to be anything else. They became gifted at defense, surrendering bits of what was once fundamental to their party's identity as a bulwark against losing it all.

Not sure what part of the Democratic soul he thinks is lost–he gives no specifics. It isn't that they aren't still spending as much as they can and more, creating or being complicit in the creation of new entitlements, taking over the health care market, or generally in no way shrinking the modern liberal megastate.

Perhaps it's a failure to keep taxes higher? That might be a legitimate point to make–it is, I think, the one somewhat unambiguous area where partisans could point to a Republican "victory" of sorts lately–but Pierce remains maddeningly unable to discuss actual politics or policy, as opposed to the rhetoric or attitude of people like Sarah Palin who scare him:

This is what keeps the Democrats from being able to make the Republicans pay full price for their party's departure from reality on so many issues. In 2006, the Republicans were handed a defeat in the midterms every bit as resounding as the one suffered by the Democrats four years later. The difference is that there were so many institutions enabling and validating the Republicans' outré ideas that they didn't see any need to moderate them as a result of the 2006 debacle. They simply rode out the 2008 presidential election and retooled those ideas for the age of Obama. Suddenly, we started hearing about "czars," and more talk about socialism than you would have heard at Eugene V. Debs's bachelor party. What were once moderate Republican ideas were now the thin edge of the collectivist wedge. The transformation was complete. And it was remarkable.

The Democratic party has an obligation to beat the Republican party so badly, over and over again, that rationality once again becomes a quality to be desired. It must be done by persuading the country of this simple fact. It cannot be done by reasoning with the Republicans, because the next two generations of them are too far gone.

I wish some editor had asked Pierce: what exactly are you talking about? What have these Republicans actually done, that the Democrats would have done differently? What should Democrats be doing to prove how sensible they are, or to "make the Republicans pay full price" which alas in a democracy means convincing enough voters they are right and the GOP are wrong? What exactly are the Democrats right about? What should they be right about? Not a hint of an adumbration of an example or argument in this longish column.

As I said, it is so impossible even Tertullian wouldn't believe it that Pierce and his editors didn't know that he professes to be appalled at Republicans for believing exactly what the president and his party believe. Thus, it is merely gross disrespect for their readers' intelligence in the name of idiot partisanship that could lead Pierce to write this, and a reputable and often quite good (except when writing about politics) magazine like Esquire to let that utterly nuts lead (for Pierce's own rhetorical purposes of explaining why Democrats are so much better than Republicans) stand, and for letting the rest of this vague article whose only base of intellectual support seems to be the unspoken, or unspeakable, assumption that: we all know Democrats are better even though we don't know exactly how or why, or we assume the answer to how or why is so obvious we don't need to say anything specific.

Is it because they are supposed to be better on civil liberties, the drug war, not turning government into a tool of the plutocracy? Because they aren't better on any of that. If it's because they don't generally say things publicly about being against birth control or wanting voter I.D. laws? If so, I guess you got me.

But that seems like a thin reed on which to lean the weight of the future of this Republic–being gutted and ruined by profligate and anti-liberty policies from both major parties. But Pierce is the kind of guy who doesn't seem to care that much about policy–just knows that the type of people at a Santorum rally or who worry about the fate of Terri Schiavo aren't for him. I'm with you there, Mr. Pierce, mostly. But think through your options for opposition to one party's nuttiness a little more clearly, please, for yourself and your readers.