REVIEWING BROWNSTEIN….Ron Brownstein’s column today sure annoyed me. Reaction #1 was: good column! It’s about the revolting USA Next attacks on AARP:

As synonyms for the word “vile,” my thesaurus offers some of the following: offensive, objectionable, odious, repulsive, repellent, repugnant, revolting, disgusting, sickening, loathsome, foul, nasty, contemptible, despicable and noxious.

Any of those words would aptly describe the advertising attack launched last week against AARP, the largest advocacy group for seniors, by the conservative interest group USA Next.

Yep. But then there’s reaction #2: how tiresome. Midway through the column Brownstein insists on playing the faux evenhandedness card by comparing USA Next’s actions to those of MoveOn, even though he himself admits there’s really no comparison:

The tone wasn’t nearly as venomous, but it’s worth remembering that the giant liberal online advocacy group encouraged its members to resign in protest from AARP when the group backed Bush’s prescription drug plan. The underlying message to AARP from both MoveOn and USA Next is the same….

No, it’s not. Brownstein is implying that any organization that fights for its cause is playing in the same swamp as USA Next and its ilk, but that’s not only untrue, it’s noxious. Fighting hard is not the same thing as fighting dirty, and blurring the distinction does no one any good.

However, this was followed by reaction #3: good point!

On the left and right, the assumption is deepening that in this highly contentious political environment, no one can ever really operate as a neutral broker. Instead, politics is reduced to a binary choice: news organizations, lobbying groups and centrist legislators searching for common ground are all either with or against you. And when they are against you, they must be overrun by any means necessary.

This sense that anyone who deviates from the party line is a traitor does indeed seem to be gaining steam. Liberals, for example, are almost as dismissive of the mainstream media as conservatives these days, and the result is an increasingly fact-free environment in which both sides feel free to ignore any news report that makes them uncomfortable. This is not an area in which I hope liberals catch up with conservatives.

Finally, there was reaction #4: that’s interesting. Here’s what he has to say about the conservative strategy on Social Security:

The USA Next attacks on AARP so spectacularly set back the cause of restructuring Social Security that they deepen suspicion that conservatives are less interested in striking a deal than provoking a stalemate they can use as an issue in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

Now that’s something I haven’t heard before. What’s more, I find it hard to believe. If Social Security does get stalemated, it seems likely it will be long forgotten by November 2006, let alone November 2008. Still, it’s an interesting thought.