George Will needs an editor

GEORGE WILL NEEDS AN EDITOR…. It’s common for conservative Washington Post columnist George Will to make arguments I disagree with, but the far more troubling aspect of his work is Will’s habit of misleading his readers.

Today, for example, Will is incensed by those hoping to learn lessons from the massacre in Tucson. The columnist turns his attention, in particular, to Howard Dean.

Three days before Tucson, Howard Dean explained that the Tea Party movement is “the last gasp of the generation that has trouble with diversity.” Rising to the challenge of lowering his reputation and the tone of public discourse, Dean smeared Tea Partyers as racists: They oppose Obama’s agenda, Obama is African American, ergo …

Let us hope that Dean is the last gasp of the generation of liberals whose default position in any argument is to indict opponents as racists. This McCarthyism of the left — devoid of intellectual content, unsupported by data — is a mental tic, not an idea but a tactic for avoiding engagement with ideas. It expresses limitless contempt for the American people, who have reciprocated by reducing liberalism to its current characteristics of electoral weakness and bad sociology.

There’s that “McCarthyism” line again.

There’s quite a bit wrong with Will’s analysis, but the most jarring problem is his willingness to misrepresent Dean. Will’s column took 11 words from Dean’s comments, and used them to argue that Dean was calling the Tea Party crowd racist.

But Greg Sargent bothered to look up the actual Dean quote, and it’s clear Will either didn’t check the original, didn’t understand it, or decided to mislead his readers. In fact, the conservative columnist got it largely backwards — Dean said he doesn’t consider Tea Party activists “racists.”

Will’s column said “Dean Dean smeared Tea Partyers.” I don’t think Dean’s the one doing the smearing.

Postscript: This isn’t related to the post, necessarily, but as long as we’re talking about Howard Dean, I thought I’d bring up a question: does he seem a bit less liberal lately, or is it me? Last week, Dean endorsed Bill Daley for White House chief of staff, when much of the left was unhappy with the choice. In the new issue of the Washington Monthly, Dean urges President Obama to have one specific priority in mind: deficit reduction. I wonder if this is a deliberate shift, or just a coincidence.