Party of Death

PARTY OF DEATH….Jon Stewart’s interview last night with National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru wasn’t very enlightening. Stewart was in one of his moods where he treats the interview like a monologue, and Ponnuru hardly got a word in edgewise. So we didn’t learn much about his new book, The Party of Death.

But I want to vent about it anyway. Over at The Corner, the gang has been griping for weeks about the reaction to Ponnuru’s book, and I want to answer a couple of questions they’ve raised:

  • Question 1: Why does everyone obsess about the title of the book?

    A: Because in 100 point type it blares “The Party of Death,” and the subtitle makes it clear who he’s talking about: “The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life.”

    Does the text of the book explain that he’s not saying the Democratic Party is the Party of Death? Sort of, although statements like this hardly help the cause: “The way I put it is that the party of death has largely taken over the Democratic party.” That certainly clears things up, doesn’t it?

    Look. Ponnuru is a smart guy. He knew exactly what he was doing. But if you decide to join the Ann Coulter school of book naming, you shouldn’t complain when people get pissed off at the title of your book. After all, if he didn’t want people to be put off by the title, then he could have picked a different title.

  • Question 2: Why aren’t serious lefties giving it serious reviews?

    A: Because despite the efforts of the NRO gang to make Party of Death sound like one of the seminal scholarly tomes of our time, it looks to most of us like standard issue Regnery stuff, right down to the Ann Coulter quote on the cover.

    Let’s get real here. Despite the use of red herrings like infanticide and euthanasia to make it sound like pro-choicers are leading us all down a slippery slope to the Holocaust, these subjects get only brief mentions in the book. Basically, it’s a book about abortion. And the big moral question about abortion is whether life begins at conception.

    And there’s a whole chapter on just that question. Which I read in the bookstore. But despite the implication that Ponnuru makes some kind of killer argument on this score, there was nothing of the kind. It was the same stuff I’ve read a hundred times before. There’s just nothing new here.

The idea that a fertilized egg is a full-blown human being has always struck me as a bleakly mechanistic view of human life: I figure it takes more than a few strands of DNA and some protoplasm to be truly human. Inevitably, that means I take a fuzzy view of when human life begins, but I’m willing to accept that. The real world is a fuzzy place.

That’s obviously not something everyone agrees with. But the arguments on both sides have been rehearsed in public for decades, and Ponnuru’s main contribution in Party of Death is to claim that support for abortion rights is intimately related to a desire to kill infants and old people. This is not something likely to raise the level of discourse or to engage with liberals who take a different point of view. But it will sell books to the true believers. As Ann Coulter and Michael Savage already know.