Friday, January 18, 2008

Let's Watch Bilbo Get Hysterical

Being the opinionated and intellectually pugnacious fellow I am, I frequently get into extended political arguments by e-mail with many of my friends. One in particular, Bill, has learned over the years which buttons to push to send me off on a screaming high parabola of outrage ... he often sends me articles he knows will spin me up, then sits back to watch the mushroom cloud rise from my keyboard.

This happened yesterday, when Bill sent me a link to an article by Larry Elder in the Jewish World Review titled "What Republicans Believe, What Democrats Believe." This article, which Bill described simply as "simplified but insightful," epitomizes for me everything that is wrong with the poisonous political rhetoric that passes for rational thought and debate nowadays.

Take a moment to read Mr Elder's article, then read my e-mail back to Bill, reproduced below. NOTE: in the interest of fair disclosure, you will probably recognize some of my rhetoric from earlier blog posts. I can recycle arguments with the best of them. Here we go:

"My bottom line comment on the linked article: simplified, yes; insightful, no.

"As with so much of what nowadays passes for political discussion in this country, this article is a hodgepodge of exaggeration, minimization, and outright balderdash. I consider myself fiscally conservative and socially liberal, neither Republican nor Democrat, and from that perspective, I think this article grossly overstates Republican virtues while minimizing Democratic ones by limiting discussion to the positions of the most radical wing of the party.

"I have developed a lot of these themes in my blog over the past month or so. Here are just a few specific comments:

"'Republicans believe ... that a government that taxes least taxes best.' Nobody likes paying taxes. But, amazingly enough, the Constitution grants Congress the power to levy taxes to pay the legitimate expenses of the government. You and I have to go to work to earn money to pay our bills. The government gets the money to pay its bills in three ways: levying taxes, assessing fees for services, and borrowing money. Each time taxes are reduced, one of two things has to happen: spending has to go down, or the money has to be found in one of the other two places. Neither party has done a very good job of reducing spending, although they have radically different views of what should be reduced if they had the guts to do it. Rather than cutting spending (which always irritates some part of the electorate) or assessing fees for government services (wait till you get your Defense Bill in the mail), the government opts for the secret way: borrowing the money. This levies a huge interest bill down the road AND reduces the amount of money available for Real People to borrow for things like homes, cars, and college educations. I long for the day when some wild-eyed, tax-bashing Republican admits that there is a reason we have to pay taxes ... and then clearly and specifically lays out a plan that tells exactly where the money lost in the tax cuts will be made up.

"'Republicans consider the Constitution a contract, limiting the duties, powers and obligations of the federal government.' Mr Bush seems to take a somewhat different view, especially as it concerns the powers he believes are implicitly granted to him as Commander in Chief. He obviously has one of the copies of the Constitution that inadvertently omitted the Bill of Rights (except for the sacred and untouchable Second Amendment...see below).

"'Republicans believe in the Second Amendment ... the Founding Fathers wanted this right to protect against tyranny by government. Democrats consider the Second Amendment an impediment to public safety.' Has it occurred to anyone that both sides have a legitimate argument here? While I believe that the "protection from tyranny by government" argument is hyperbolically overblown in most cases, I also believe that I am in far more danger every day from gun-toting criminals than I am from the Feds. I long for the day someone will take both sides of this argument and lock them in a room without food or water until they start acting and thinking like responsible adults.

"Republicans believe in peace through strength ... Democrats believe in strength ... through demonstrating our good intentions." Once again, this is a stupid and illogical argument. No responsible person argues that we don't need a strong military. However, no responsible person would argue that we should exhaust all possible avenues of resolving disputes before lobbing bombs. Every so often there comes a Hitler who just needs killing. But military force should always be the last tool drawn from the box. Even Mr Gates has said as much.

"I could go on, but I hope I've made my point. Nobody is golden in this debate. Republicans are arrogant, opinionated, simplistic, and self-righteous; Democrats are whiny, opinionated, simplistic, and self-righteous. Both are acting unutterably stupid. The current Republican administration has done a wonderful job of ignoring the Constitution, ruining our image abroad, and wrecking the economy for those on whose backs it rests. If you're rich, this is a great time, and the Republicans are your best friends. If you're middle class or poor, hey, that's the breaks.

"The Constitution was written to "...form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty..." It applies to everyone. Everyone, regardless of political party, has a vote. It's time for some adult discussion of these issues.

"Which we won't find in an election year, and particularly with the crop of losers running on both sides.

"Okay, I'm calm now. You'll probably see some of this, and more, in my blog in the next few days."

If you read Mr Elder's article (and I hope you do), I think you'll agree with me ... unless, of course, you're one of those rock-ribbed, dyed-in-the-wool, bottled-in-bond, aged-in-wood, gold-plated, head-up-the-butt-all-the-way-to-the-esophagus political partisans who believes everyone who doesn't agree with him has horns and a tail and lives to demonize the opposition, rather than seeking rational discussion of the issues.

Bill hasn't responded to my diatribe yet. I'll let you know what he says.

New topic: the weather stinks.

Yesterday we had a typical Northern Virginia winter storm: rain, changing to snow, changing to freezing rain and sleet, then back to snow, then rain again, then sleet, then snow, then freezing rain, etc, etc. The ground this morning is a messy morass of dirty slush.

But at least it reminds me of the state of political discussion this year.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



La Chanson de Phoenix said...

I am lost about
everything except the fact
that I am quite lost.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

At least he didn't send you an Anne Coulter book. Then you would have exploded.

Amanda said...

All I can say is that you certainly put a lot of effort into email discussions.

The weather here in Ipoh on a typical day: Cool, Stuffy, Blazing Hot, Heavy Rain, Extreme Humidity and Mosquitos. Its been like that this whole week.

Mike said...

Looks to me like Larry Elder is the atypical jewish person. Most (not all) jews tend to be somewhat liberal. Larry is definitely NOT liberal.

General comments -
"until they start acting and thinking like responsible adults."
Never going to happen. Ever.

"Both are acting unutterably stupid."

"It's time for some adult discussion of these issues."
Where are the adults going to come from?

Bilbo for president! (I'm trying to start a movement)

Bilbo said...

Mike, while I'm flattered at the nomination, I don't think I'm cut out for politics, as I know who my parents are. Nevertheless, were I to become president, I'd want a copy of your resume...