KAUSISM REVISITED….Mickey Kaus defended himself at length over the weekend from my charges of “fogeyism,” suggesting that many of the demons of the Democratic Party from the 70s remain powerful enough that they need to be vigorously fought at every opportunity. Well, maybe so. All I can say is that the demons of the Republican Party have grown so monstrous in the past decade that it strikes me that anyone with even moderate liberal tendencies should nowadays feel a desire to spend more time criticizing Republican interest group pandering than they do Democratic interest group pandering. Way more.
Let me offer up an example. Here, Mickey denounces Democratic support of the civil service system:
Democrats may temporarily benefit when the bureaucratic sclerosis that results from these and other practices leads to government failure, as in the Katrina rescue. But as the party of “more government” Democrats should be even more concerned about reforming those practices than Republicans. That was once the point of a small magazine called The Washington Monthly.
Let’s put aside the appalling suggestion that Democrats somehow contributed to the failure of FEMA ? you can click here, here, here, and here to see that the truth is exactly the opposite. Instead, consider Mickey’s reference to the well-known views of Charlie Peters, the founding editor of the Monthly. Charlie was indeed a scourge of “bureaucratic sclerosis,” and it was a centerpiece of this magazine during his tenure.
But times change. Charlie is no longer editor, but he continues to write a regular front-of-the-book monthly column for us called Tilting at Windmills, just as he’s done for decades. Here’s the September 2006 edition.
Notice anything? Sure, Charlie takes a couple of swipes at bureaucracy (in Washington DC) and corruption (in his home state of West Virginia). But the vast bulk of his column is sharply critical of Republicans and Republican policy. The conduct of the war gets several well-deserved takedowns. The Jack Abramoff scandal merits a couple of scalding mentions. Dick Cheney takes a hit. Tax cuts for the rich are derided. And this isn’t just a coincidence: Charlie still believes in reforming the bureaucracy, but a decade ago he realized that although the Democratic Party had made a lot of progress on this score, its acceptance of change wasn’t being matched by any kind of similar softening among Republicans. Just the opposite, in fact, and this realization meant that Charlie’s focus changed. He is, after all, a liberal.
And this is my point. There’s nothing wrong with a liberal criticizing liberal policies he finds indefensible. It’s all part of the show. But the rest of us can judge writers and pundits only by what they say, not by what’s in their heart of hearts. If the only thing you do is snipe at liberal policies, the only reasonable conclusion is that this represents the sum total of what you really care about. And if that’s the only thing you care about even in our current era of rampant conservative extremism, Bush-inspired governmental incompetence, and Rovian dedication to ever-increasing polarization as a positive political good, it doesn’t suggest a very robust commitment to liberal principles.
More here on bloggingheads.tv, where Josh Marshall defends my honor and Mickey tries to explain why he does what he does.