Monday, November 19, 2007

Markos Moulitsas at Newsweek: Crazy for Kos?

Markos Moulitsas and Karl Rove have been invited by Newsweek to write periodic commentaries for the magazine. I'm a Newsweek subscriber and every weekend I get an e-mail newsletter with a preview of the magazine's highlights for the next week. Here's the editor's announcement of the new essayists:

This week... marks the debut of two new occasional contributors to our pages and to Karl Rove and Markos Moulitsas. They are controversial figures, which is why we asked them aboard. We have a long tradition of asking practitioners and opinion makers to write for us (George Stephanopoulos is a good recent example) and believe that Rove and Moulitsas will give readers useful perspectives. Sometimes they will write in the same issue (as they are this week), sometimes not. Agree or disagree with them, or with me for asking them to contribute from time to time, we can safely say this: conducted civilly (as it will be here), debate and disagreement are good and healthy things. I think I read that in a book somewhere.

As readers of my previous blog know, I don't like Moulitsas, so at least I'll get the heads up on Moulitsas' forthcoming columns, which will give me something on which to rant. One of the things I've noted about Moulitsas is his megalomania. He's got an incredibly false sense of self-importance, and unfortunately the Newsweek hiring validates Moulitsas' undeserved acclaim.

Some of that self-inflation comes through in Moulitsas' introductory commentary, "Make the Bush Record the Issue." Here's the introduction:

Times are tough for the Republican Party and its candidates. Earlier this month, according to Gallup, more people strongly disapproved of George W. Bush than any previous president since the advent?of polling—and, really, how could things be any different? Bush can boast of an unwinnable quagmire in Iraq, a decimated housing market, economic instability and a collapsing dollar, a dysfunctional health-care system, a still-devastated Gulf Coast, a wealth gap of a scope unseen since the Great Depression and a pervasive and disturbing image of America as a hapless, blundering giant, rather than a beacon of freedom and morality in the world.

Yet despite this dismal rap sheet, Republicans refuse to distance themselves too far from Bush and his record lest they take a hit from the fringe voters who still support his presidency. That is, after all, the Republican Party base, and no presidential or congressional candidate can get far without its help. It's why Republicans refuse to break from the president on Iraq, despite the lack of political progress in Baghdad. It's why Republicans voted to support Bush's veto of the wildly popular State Children's Health Insurance Program, denying health care to millions of needy kids. Time and again, GOP leaders have forgone sensible and popular policies in favor of catering to a shrinking and increasingly isolated base.

Consequently, to stand any chance of winning next year, Republicans must pray for a national amnesia to erase the previous eight years from the minds of voters. But amnesia only happens in soap operas—and that's why Democrats will win in 2008. As long as Democratic candidates remind voters that the Republican platform and Bush's record are one and the same, victory will be assured.

In his first Inaugural Address, Ronald Reagan remarked that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." While the quip has provided Republicans with a cheap slogan for two decades, the philosophy behind it is beginning to box them in. If they govern effectively, they invalidate their own antigovernment ideology. And when you elect people who believe that government won't work, you shouldn't be surprised when government stops working.

Bush, who in his failed congressional run in 1978 campaigned against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, gutted the effectiveness of the Mine Safety and Health Administration as president. When sharp decreases in inspections and fines led, not unexpectedly, to a rash of deaths in underground mines from the Appalachians to Utah, the administration might have thought to reverse its leniency. Even mining companies braced for a new round of regulations. Instead, the only major move from the Bush administration has been to relax regulations, in effect rewarding mining companies for having contributed to the deaths of their employees.

That's not even the entire essay! But where to begin? Notice first how Moulitsas turns policy criticism of the administration into moral indictments of the president himself.

Not only that, Moulitsas' attacks are wildly inaccurate: Iraq is not "an unwinnable quagmire." Moulitsas is a veteran, and one might think he'd have some knowledge of military tactics and strategy. General Petraeus' new approach in Iraq is working, but as Moulitsas' spin shows, no amount of progress on the ground will overcome the nihilist Bush-hatred of such antiwar fanatics.

How about the housing market, the economy, and the dollar? Easy target I'd say, but any serious analyst of politics knows that presidents have limited direct influence on the economy. Monetary policy has been the big driver of current economic difficulties, so if anyone should be taking the heat, it's Alan Greenspan and his easy money pump-priming.

Moulitsas' notion of a "dysfunctional" health care system is a poorly conceived normative interpretation. Americans have the best health care in the world, but changes in the economy over the last couple of decades have shifted more and more of the burden of insurance onto individual consumers. Moulitsas' unsaid solution to this "dysfunction" is a governmental takeover of healthcare, which would destroy access, choice, and quality in the provision of medical services.

How about the income gap? Moultisas mentions it's the worst since the Great Depression. That's strange, since most economic populists cite the "roaring twenties" as the last gilded age, just prior to the economic collapse that led to a Democratic realignment. Kos should work on his historical analogies, not to mention his economics, since the current background is more complicated and not so dire (see here and here).

Kos should also review some recent electoral results. If Gulf Coast residents are still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, they certainly aren't taking it out on Republicans at the polls: Republican Bobby Jindal won the governorship of Lousiana in October, and Haley Barbour cruised to reelection in Mississippi this month.

As for America's international image: Only radical administration's opponents would indulge in such America-bashing as found in Moulitsas' mocking characterization of the United States as a "hapless, blundering giant, rather than a beacon of morality in the world." I'm sure al Qaeda in Iraq would welcome more hapless blundering around Anbar and Baghdad right now, and just ask the Indonesians - eternally grateful for America's assistance after that country's devasting tsunami in 2004 - about America as moral beacon.

I could go on. As the essay develops, Moulitsas continues to build steam in his moral attacks on President Bush. This is not policy analysis; it's character assassination.

In an earlier post I wrote about "The Political Psychology of Bush Hatred." The views of Markos Moulitsas epitomize the left's unmitigated hatred of any and all things Republican. I don't go in for political hatred myself, but when I read Moultisas' hare-brained hit pieces, I do get a tinge of such emotions.