Sunday, November 12, 2006

Four Play

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I'm a big fan of Glenn Greenwald and Russ Feingold, that one of my favourite refrains is "Do the right thing" and that one of my favourite targets for contempt is the worthless pundit class. Well, I've got a "quadruple play" here for you.

Glenn is at his best writing a powerful article on Feingold's announcement in which he slams the "Beltway pundits" who were so cynically critical (and wrong) in their criticism of Feingold for introducing his resolution to censure GWB for breaking the law by eavesdropping on Americans without warrants.

The pundits were so sure 1) that it was a disastrous idea and 2) that Feingold wasn't doing this because he believed that it was the right thing to do but simply because he was preparing to run for President.
As for premise (1), Democrats spent all year opposing warrantless eavesdropping (mostly mild and reluctant opposition, though in some cases passionate). That opposition culminated in a House vote just 6 weeks before the election where 85% of Democrats voted against a bill to legalize warrantless eavesdropping.

Thereafter, Republicans did everything possible to make that an issue in the campaign, and Democrats just crushed Republicans in the election. As but one example, 12-term GOP incumbent Nancy Johnson made her support for warrantless eavesdropping (and her challenger's opposition to it) a centerpiece of her campaign. She was easily defeated.

As for premise (2), Russ Feingold announced today, definitively, that he is not running for President in 2008.

It is hard to overstate how ignorant and wrong Beltway pundits are about everything, and how barren and corrupt inside-Washington conventional wisdom is.

Russ Feingold has spent his entire idiosyncratic political career espousing views because he believes them, even when those views are so plainly contrary to his political interests.


Despite all of that, when Feingold stood up and advocated censure -- based on the truly radical and crazy, far leftist premise that when the President is caught red-handed breaking the law, the Congress should actually do something about that -- the soul-less, oh-so-sophisticated Beltway geniuses could not even contemplate the possibility that he was doing that because he believed what he was saying. Beltway pundits and the leaders of the Beltway political and consulting classes all, in unison, immediately began casting aspersions on Feingold's motives and laughed away -- really never considered -- the idea that he was motivated by actual belief, let alone the merits of his proposal.

That's because they believe in nothing. They have no passion about anything. And they thus assume that everyone else suffers from the same emptiness of character and ossified cynicism that plagues them. And all of their punditry and analysis and political strategizing flows from this corrupt root.

Not only do they believe in nothing, they think that a Belief in Nothing is a mark of sophistication and wisdom. Those who believe in things too much -- who display political passion or who take their convictions and ideals seriously (Feingold, Howard Dean) -- are either naive or, worse, are the crazy, irrational, loudmouth masses and radicals who disrupt the elevated, measured world of the high-level, dispassionate Beltway sophisticates (James Carville, David Broder, Fred Hiatt). They are interested in, even obsessed with, every aspect of the political process except for deeply held political beliefs -- the only part that really matters or that has any real worth.


The Beltway pundit class and the premises which generate conventional Washington wisdom are corrupt to their core and always wrong. And this Feingold announcement illustrates a major reason why that it so. They operate from a set of completely unexamined, empty premises that reflect their own character and belief system, but nobody else's. They have no core convictions and no passion and think that those attributes are the marks of sober, responsible people. And they project those character flaws onto everyone else and assume that nobody other than unserious lunatics are motivated by real belief.

All of that combines to produce a worldview that is as inaccurate as it is bereft of integrity and principle. The excitement over new politicians like Jim Webb and Jon Tester -- and the passion inspired by Russ Feingold and even Howard Dean -- has nothing to do with long-standing and increasingly obsolete liberal/conservative stereotypes (the only prism through which the media can analyze the election results, which is why they are so confused). Instead, the excitement is due to a widespread hunger for people who are outside of and immune to the entire, soul-less Beltway machinery -- a system which, in every aspect, is broken and empty at its core.


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