An Embarrassment From Chris Caldwell

At Lunch Buffet I mentioned the dueling Jon Chait/Chris Caldwell essays on Obama’s legacy that New York has published as sidebars to a long series of brief comments on the subjects by historians. But in retrospect, “duel” is not an accurate metaphor; it’s more like a fly-swatting, or at least it will be if the essayists are allowed to address each other in a follow-up. I’ve always thought of Caldwell as among the most thoughtful of conservative commentators. But in this case it’s as though he outsourced the writing job to a Weekly Standard intern.

You can read Scott Lemieux’s brisk demolition of Caldwell’s essay if you like. Suffice it to say that Caldwell simultaneously accuses Obama of being a deal-making scuzzbucket and an inflexible ideologue on ACA; suggests that $20 billion in fines paid by JPMorgan Chase were part of a deal to give the administration disposable “stimulus” money; and identifies himself as the only conservative this side of Tony Perkins who purports to believe this marriage equality thing is a fad that will be reversed. But the crown jewel of Caldwell’s piece is his assertion that Obama is solely responsible for a regression in race relations in this country, as measured by Mitt Romney’s share of the white vote in 2012. I honestly didn’t think anybody other than the worst agitprop shock troops of the Noise Machine actually bought the idea that Barack the Aggressive Black Militant drove away white voters with his racism. And It’s actually alarming to hear it from so prominent a voice.

Lemieux says of the Caldwell essay that “virtually every word…is an embarrassment.” That’s not hyperbole.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.