George Will struggles to recognize madness

GEORGE WILL STRUGGLES TO RECOGNIZE MADNESS…. Columnist and pundit George Will considers himself something of an intellectual, often annoyed with some of the absurdities he perceives in the political system. It’s why I find it troubling that Will doesn’t seem to recognize truly mad politicians when he sees them.

In October, for example, Will had a column about Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), following a series of humiliating moments for the unhinged Minnesota Republican. Instead of highlighting Bachmann as one of Congress’ more painful embarrassments, Will was impressed with her, writing, “Some of her supposed excesses are, however, not merely defensible, they are admirable.” (His examples were baseless.)

This weekend, Will reported from Nevada, where he apparently met Sharron Angle, the truly ridiculous Republican extremist running for the U.S. Senate this year. Will has to consider Angle too unstable for federal lawmaking, doesn’t he? Alas, no. The conservative columnist was slightly derisive of Angle’s campaign organization — he called it “unready for prime time” — but was untroubled by the candidate’s record of radicalism.

If the election becomes a referendum on him, she wins. If he makes it about some of her injudicious statements — e.g., “transition out” of Social Security; using Yucca Mountain north of here not for storing nuclear waste but for reprocessing such waste — he might survive.

“Injudicious.” That’s Will’s word to describe Angle’s record of crazed rhetoric and policy positions. He offered not a word about Angle’s speculation about armed insurrection against the U.S. government, her opposition to the separation of church and state, her desire to eliminate most of the federal government, her support for a bizarre prison program developed by the Church of Scientology, her associations with radicals, etc.

Jon Chait added that Will “doesn’t defend those things, or even mention them.”

Instead, he defines her radicalism as “injudicious statements,” and then sees fit only to mention the most mainstream of those statements. I would really love to see this method of advocacy tried out for other public figures. (Charles Manson’s colorful personality — his long hair, his affinity for bad Beatles songs — make him a source of controversy.)

If Will thinks that Angle’s radicalism is acceptable or even admirable, he should make that case. Instead he engages in rank intellectual dishonesty.

It’s not the first time.