Patterico's Pontifications

3/6/2009

Worth Noting, in Today’s Wall Street Journal

Filed under: General — Jack Dunphy @ 11:57 am

[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

From today’s Letters to the Editor:

In an attempt to find some sanity amid the insanity gushing out of the White House and Congress, I reread my autographed copy of “Free To Choose” by Milton and Rose Friedman and came across the well known, but never more apropos, quote by Justice Louis Brandeis taken from Olmstead v. United States in 1928.

“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficial. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greater dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

Richard Miller
Sunriver, Ore.

The book Mr. Miller refers to is a masterpiece. You can buy it here, at Amazon.com

–Jack Dunphy

More on Limbaugh

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:20 am

Lee Stranahan recently wrote a piece which contained the provocative line: “You’re damn right I wanted the Iraq war to fail.” I think there’s a good parallel between that piece and Rush Limbaugh’s statements that he wants Obama to fail.

Stranahan’s use of that line was a blatant attention-grabber — and the gambit worked. Numerous conservative sites — including this one, Hot Air and Instapundit — linked to the piece with that provocative quote and nothing else. If you wanted the context, you had to go read what he had to say.

Now, Stranahan obviously didn’t want to see Americans suffer and die. He just didn’t want Bush’s policies enacted because he thought they were bad for the country. However, his line could have meant one of two things:

  • Stranahan opposed President Bush’s policies, and felt that they were likely to lead to more death. He wished Bush’s policies had never been enacted to begin with. However, once the war started, he wanted to see it succeed.
  • Stranahan opposed President Bush’s policies, and felt that they were likely to lead to more death. So, even after the war started, Stranahan wanted it to fail. This is not because Stranahan wanted more death for U.S. soldiers. But he felt that, in the long run, the quick and dramatic failure of the war might lead to his proposed policy being adopted: namely, getting out. In the long run, this would be best for America.

You can read Stranahan’s piece and see which interpretation you think is right. I happen to think it’s the former, but it’s not crystal clear. He says he wishes the war could fail without loss of life, but that would require magic, and there’s no such thing as magic. One could read those lines and conclude that, even knowing more soldiers would die, he still wanted the war to fail. This bothered me the first time I read it, and I can guarantee you that it bothered plenty of conservatives. My commenters mostly respected his straight talk, but some said things like: “Can I question his patriotism now?” At Hot Air, commenters reacted similarly, with praise for his courage intermingled with comments like: “so failure meant troop deaths, right?” and “Hoping the Dow go down is not the same as hoping casualties go up.” and ‘Libs wanted soldiers to die, hell all Rush wants is BO to fail..not die.” and “I’ll bet he claims he supports the troops.”

I think Stranahan knew that his line could be read as saying the more controversial of the two interpretations I list above. He could argue that’s not what he meant — but the possibility that people could take it that way is what gave it its provocative power.

If I were a liberal, and if Stranahan had had a major national platform where the entire country was discussing his views, I’d want to tell him to find a different way to say what he said. Do you think it would help Democrat politicians to spend days answering questions like: “Do you also want the Iraq war to fail, like Lee Stranahan?” — and have to spend time explaining to people that Stranahan didn’t really want soldiers to die? I’d tell Stranahan: You want to say you opposed Bush’s policies, great. Stop saying it in a way that makes it sound like you wanted troops to die. Yes, I know you don’t mean that. People will still think you do — and frankly, you weren’t all that clear about saying you didn’t. You said it, but the implications of what you said could suggest to some that you might not have meant it.

Rush Limbaugh’s “I hope Obama fails” statement is similar in many ways.

Rush’s use of that line was a blatant attention-grabber — and the gambit worked. Numerous media outlets have talked about the line. If you wanted the context, you had to go read and/or listen what he had to say. Not everybody did.

Now, Rush obviously doesn’t want to see Americans suffer. He just doesn’t want Obama’s policies enacted because he thinks they are bad for the country. However, his line could have meant one of two things:

  • Rush opposes President Obama’s policies, and feels that they are likely to lead to more suffering. He hopes Obama’s policies are never enacted to begin with. However, if they are enacted, as seems likely, he wants to see them succeed. He wants the economy to do well. He doesn’t want Americans out of work.
  • Rush opposes President Obama’s policies, and feels that they are likely to lead to more suffering. So, even if the policies do get enacted, Rush still wants them to fail. This is not because Rush wants more suffering for the American people. But he feels that, in the long run, the quick and dramatic failure of the policies might lead to Rush’s own proposed policies being adopted: namely, spending less and employing the free market. In the long run, this would be best for America.

You can read Rush’s actual words and see which interpretation you think is right. I happen to think it’s the former, but it’s not crystal clear. He says he wants Obama to fail because he thinks Obama’s policies will be bad for the country. But give me a quote that clearly says which of the above interpretations is right. Here‘ is his radio statement, and here is his CPAC speech. Don’t just tell me he has explained it again and again. Give me a quote that excludes the second interpretation above. I can’t find it.

Now, you could even defend the second interpretation above. But recognize that it’s a hard sell for the American people.

The media reads his words as saying that, even knowing more Americans might suffer, he still wants Obama’s policies to fail even if they are enacted. This possible interpretation bothered me the first time I read it, and I can guarantee you that it bothers plenty of Americans. Many respect his straight talk, but others clearly think Rush wants another Depression, just to prove conservative policies are better.

I think Rush knew that his line could be read as saying the more controversial of the two interpretations I list above. He could argue that’s not what he meant — but the possibility that people could take it that way is what gave it its provocative power.

Rush has had a major national platform where the entire country was discussing his views. As a result, I wish he’d find a different way to say what he said. I say to him: if you want to say you oppose Obama’s policies, great. Stop saying it in a way that makes it sound like you want Americans out of work. Yes, I know you don’t mean that. People will still think you do — and frankly, you weren’t all that clear about saying you didn’t.

Anyone who bristles at hearing the phrase “You’re damn right I wanted the Iraq war to fail.” — or who can imagine other Americans bristling at that line — should understand what I’m saying.

P.S. Recently Allahpundit said:

Coulter repeats the boss’s point from earlier today about how it’s perfectly okay to criticize Rush. Since when? Did CPAC pass a resolution?

Heh. Yeah, I don’t think so. Yesterday, I didn’t criticize Rush, but praised him as a talented expounder of conservative principles. I also noted that “some of the things he says are designed principally to stir controversy and draw attention to himself” — and opined that prominent conservatives need not sign on to his “I want Obama to fail” formulation in order to demonstrate their commitment to conservatism.

Was that “perfectly okay” for me to say? I’ll spare you a dramatic woe-is-me Kathleen Parker-style all-out martyrdom scene. I hate that crap. Just judge for yourself. (To be fair, some of the people made very good arguments and points; not everyone knows me that well at other blogs; and people have indeed been burned lately by supercilious folks like David Frum and Kathleen Parker.)

P.P.S. Yesterday, speaking of the reaction to his doubling down on the “I hope he fails” rhetoric, Rush Limbaugh specifically named some people who have backed him up. Note especially the comments in bold:

“The Power Line guys, the guys at Power Line blog have been stupendous, as have been the people at NewsBusters, and Hot Air, Ed Morrissey and some of the people at Hot Air. There’s some oddballs there, but Ed Morrissey, Michelle Malkin, they have been great on this.”

OH NO YOU DID-ENT!

On Twitter, Allahpundit says: “I’m THE oddball, I presume.” I’m having a hard time interpreting it any other way.

Nobody disses my favorite blogger! Nobody! THIS MEANS WAR!!


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