In Which Steve Benen is Hoist With His Own Petard
Steve Benen, writing for the Washington Monthly, has a fairly storied history of hating Glenn Beck. There are times when Mr. Benen’s writing is somewhat stimulating and provocative; what he wrote regarding the “Restoring Honor” rally is an exercise in pure intellectual laziness and dishonesty.
Mr. Benen, though intelligent, is apparently at a loss to discern any sort of ’cause’ motivating the Tea Parties. Why he chose to air his grievances with the Tea Parties when the rally in question had no ostensible political objective is a question for the ages. Bearing in mind that what he really takes issue with are the Tea Parties, he purports to offer up ‘statements’ from tea partiers, only to offer up snide and often wholly irrelevant answers to those questions. A quick sampling:
This is about “freedom.”
Well, I’m certainly pro-freedom, and as far as I can tell, the anti-freedom crowd struggles to win votes on Election Day. But can they be a little more specific? How about the freedom for same-sex couples to get married? No, we’re told, not that kind of freedom.
This is about a fight for American “liberties.”
That sounds great, too. Who’s against American “liberties”? But I’m still looking for some details. Might this include law-abiding American Muslims exercising their liberties and converting a closed-down clothing store into a community center? No, we’re told, not those kinds of liberties.
This is about giving Americans who work hard and play by the rules more opportunities.
I’m all for that, too. But would these opportunities include the chance for hard-working Americans to bring their kids to the doctor if they get sick, even if the family can’t afford insurance? No, we’re told, not those kinds of opportunities.
My–how pithy and glib! Only a journalist with the highest degree of discipline and training could ever string together such brilliant ripostes.
It would be easy to dismiss every leftist political rally or movement as without cause, if I were wont to be intellectually lazy and rather dishonest. How pissed would Mr. Benen be if his technique were applied to anti-Iraq War rallies? What of the Obama campaign and its accompanying political rallies? What animates leftist movements? What were there specific grievances during the Bush years? What of the ObamaCare debate?
Health care is a basic human right. This is about rights!
Well, I’m certainly for human rights. Who doesn’t support human rights? I’m still waiting for some details. What of the basic right of patients, doctors, and insurers to make informed decisions on the free market absent onerous government regulation? What of the basic human right of babies not to have their brains sucked out by an abortionist? No, we’re told, not those rights.
The gay rights movement is about freedom!
Well, I’m all about freedom. What about the right of a free people to make decisions that preserve the civil society? What about the freedom of a people to choose that marriage, by virtue of its very nature, implies exclusivity? No, we’re told, not that freedom.
This is all about tolerance. We must not brook any discussions on propriety, lest we be viewed as intolerant!
I’m all for tolerance, too. What about the ability to tolerate the point of view that although the Park 51 group has a legal right to build on land they own (no conservative disputes this essential point, which seems to elude liberals), they also have a moral obligation to understand tolerance goes both ways? No, we’re told, that’s not tolerance.
This is about leveling the playing field and giving people a hand up.
I’m all for a level playing field and ensuring the greatest opportunity possible for all people. Would that include the ability of people who just happen to have succeeded in life to keep their hard-earned money to pass on to their children? Would this include not allowing rules that are punitive to, say, white people, to exist in academia and elsewhere? No, we’re told, that’s not a level playing field.
This is about people willing to sacrifice some of their hard-earned money so that we can all enjoy a greater quality of life. We all have to do our part!
Wow, that’s wonderful! Would these “sacrifices” include liberals limiting the amount of unemployment insurance a person can get to 90’s era standards of sustainability? Would these sacrifices include Democrats sacrificing the possibility of a built-in voting block by denouncing amnesty once and forever to illegals who won’t sacrifice and stand in line? No, we’re told; not those sacrifices.
This is about speaking truth to power!
What a wonderful thought! Would that include disclosing the amount and source of funding for global warming research grants? Would this include not putting political enemies through procedural paces to see if you can trip them up? Would this include calling despots what they are, admitting the success of the Iraq War, or the effectiveness of the Bush tax cuts? No, we’re told, not those truths.
See how easy that is? If Mr. Benen wishes to be taken seriously every time out, maybe he ought to treat the opposition with a little more respect. The Mosque debate, health care reform, tax reform, immigration reform, and a whole slew of issues are serious and complex; while I believe that conservatism offers the best answers to these problems, I at least attempt not to treat every liberal and every liberal argument as though they are stupid and petty, nor do I sink to intellectual dishonesty (global warming is far from settled science, for instance; Mr. Benen could at least cede this point). But hey! –I suppose perhaps Mr. Benen’s point is that unless a movement has at its core the goal of advancing liberalism, it has no cause. What a shame.