A while back, Matthew Yglesias coined the term “Pundit’s Fallacy,” which refers to the “belief that what a politician needs to do to improve his or her political standing is do what the pundit wants substantively.” We see this happen just about any time political writers give “recommendations” to those running for office and reelection. Today’s deployer of the aforementioned fallacy is the Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin. She suggests a campaign shake-up — firing David Axelrod — and that Obama implement two pieces of the Republican agenda:
A campaign shake-up at this stage would accomplish several things. First, it would allow Obama to step away from the negativity and attempt to recapture a higher, more presidential tone. Second, if coupled with a bipartisan effort to keep us from sagging into a double-dip recession (for example, by passing an extension of the George W. Bush tax cuts or approving the XL pipeline), dumping Axelrod would help change the image of a hyper-partisan president uninterested in governance. And finally, dumping Axelrod would be a sign, for a president seemingly buffeted by external events, that Obama can grasp the reins of leadership.
Putting aside the fact that, in any campaign season, pundits will eventually call for senior campaign staff to be fired, what makes the Pundit’s Fallacy so unconvincing in this case is that Jennifer Rubin has substantive views on the issues themselves that are diametrically opposed to Obama’s. Furthermore, it is safe to say Rubin thinks Obama is a not-very-good president who should not be reelected. All of that is well and good — opinion writers ought to have strong, clearly expressed opinions — but giving “advice” to someone who you think ought to lose, and to have that advice be for him to capitulate to his political opponents, is not advice in the normal sense, but some kind roundabout way of expressing your substantive views. Or maybe it’s something I can’t quite grasp. If only J.L. Austin were still here to help me figure this out.