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Why Oh Why Can't Clive Crook Find Any Examples of Thoughtful Public-Spirited Republicans with Views Worthy of Respect?


Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Clive Crook is unhappy because Paul Krugman does not take him and his ilk of opinions-of-shape-of-earth-differites seriously:

Paul Krugman’s Proud War on Fools, Knaves and Lunatics: I think Krugman’s been right about U.S. fiscal policy -- the stimulus was too small and it’s being withdrawn too soon. But he’s wrong about many of the people who disagree with him…. A line has been crossed when the principal spokesmen for contending opinions have no curiosity whatsoever about their opponents’ ideas and radiate cold, steady contempt for each other. That’s dangerous. Civil society depends on a minimum threshold of tolerance and mutual respect…. Krugman stirs up the right in much the same way that Rush Limbaugh, for instance, inflames the left. Granted, if you’re going to have a spokesman, better a Nobel laureate than a talk-radio clown. The fact remains that Krugman’s weary disdain for roughly half the country is self-defeating…. I just wish he’d meet a wider range of people…. [T]he modern Republican Party includes a growing number of extremists who have no interest in the kind of discussion I’m recommending…. But if Krugman got out of his bubble a bit more, he’d find… a lot of thoughtful, public-spirited Americans whose views on the proper scale and scope of government are different from his, yet worthy of respect.

From my perspective, the most interesting thing about Crook's column are two:

  • Crook does not provide a single quote from a Republican being "thoughtful [and] public-spirited… [with] views… worth of respect"

  • Crook does not provide a single quote of Krugman unfairly criticizing any such Republican who is not a fool, a knave, or a lunatic.

Clive Crook ten years ago was right-wing but smart. Clive Crook more recently is… intellectually lazy, inconsistent, and says lots of things that just aren't true--look below for ten examples, from Crook attacking Newt Gingrich for believing in science rather than in party loyalty, to Clive Crook claiming that Obama stood by and did not exercise "leadership" in 2009-10 while a far-left Democratic congressional caucus passed two important moderate bills.

And I read Crook, and I really think that Crook needs to read Jonathan Chait and follow Chait's advice:

David Brooks and the Role of Opinion Journalism: Don’t debate straw men. If you’re arguing against an idea, you need to accurately describe the people who hold them. If at all possible, link to them and quote their argument. This is a discipline that forces opinion writers to prove that they’re debating an idea somebody actually holds. And quoting the subject forces them to show that somebody influential holds it — if the best example of the opposing view is a random blog comment, then you’re exposing the fact that you’re arguing against an idea nobody of any stature shares. This ought to be an easy and universal guideline, but in reality, it’s mostly flouted.

And he also should listen to Ta-Nehisi Coates, who adds:

How to Be a Political-Opinion Journalist: You'd be shocked how many professional writers don't do this. Much like a boxer who wants to fight the best in the world, you want to take on the best of your opposition, and their most credible arguments. (My neighbor James Fallows excels at this.) This is not only for the benefit of people who read you, but for your own. To paraphrase Douglass, a writer is worked on by what she works on. If you spend your time raging at the weakest arguments, or your most hysterical opponents, expect your own intellect to suffer. The intellect is a muscle; it must be exercised.

Get back into training, Clive. Step up your game. It was good. It was world-class.


Ten examples of Clive Crook being intellectually lazy:

  • Clive Crook attacks Newt Gingrich for believing in science: "Charles Krauthammer…. nails my own main objection to Gingrich: 'Take that ad Gingrich did with Nancy Pelosi on global warming, advocating urgent government action. He laughs it off today with "that is probably the dumbest single thing I've done in recent years. It is inexplicable." This will not do. He was obviously thinking something. What was it? Thinking of himself as a grand world-historical figure, attuned to the latest intellectual trend (preferably one with a tinge of futurism and science, like global warming)….' Exactly. An undisciplined overconfident creative thinker (let's be generous) is one thing in Congress, quite another in the White House."

  • Clive Crook Attacks Barack Obama for Wanting to Turn America Into France: "Perhaps some liberals privately long to make the United States over in the image of France, but the great majority, I imagine, are more interested in taking the things they regard as best in the European economic model… and combining those “socially enlightened” policies with the traditional economic virtues of the United States…. Color me skeptical…. Culture—that bundle of traits of self-reliance, self-determination, innovation, and striving for success—underpins the American exception.… [I]t would be an error to assume that the policy transformation that some liberals long for—and which Obama, if his budget is any guide, appears to be aiming for—would leave America’s unusual cultural traits…. Repairs here and improvements there, of course, but transformation? It would be a shame…"

  • Clive Crook Says It Is Barack Obama's Fault That the Republicans Have Tried to Block Everything He Has Proposed: "Independents feel let down because Mr Obama said he would bridge the partisan divide and unite the country. Except for uniting left and right in disappointment, he failed…. Independents have much the most reason to be disappointed…. Mr Obama promised to strive for consensus. On issues such as energy policy, healthcare, education and immigration, there is no reason why moderates on both sides cannot make common cause. That is something many Americans long for. It was the great hope independents had of Mr Obama. In his first year, he rarely even tried. He simply chose not to exercise this kind of leadership. To be sure, moderate Republicans (an endangered breed) offered no encouragement, content to oppose for opposition’s sake. But Mr Obama made no stand against this. Instead he went with the flow, deferring to the implacably partisan Democratic majorities. This disengagement, this reluctance to lead, is the real disappointment of Mr Obama’s first year…"

  • Clive Crook Says That the Bowles-Simpson Plan Is So Good It Is Bad: "As for the [Simpson-Bowles] plan, it is good…. One can quarrel with many items… and not just over details. The overall fiscal adjustment may be too mild. It takes decades…. Also, the chairmen adopt the goal of holding revenues at no more than 21 per cent of gross domestic product indefinitely, without saying why. That number is questionable; so is the intention to hold it constant…"

  • Clive Crook Is Simply Completely Incoherent: "Obama is wrong to lecture the world [against premature fiscal retrenchment]…. [O]ne could forgive the US for lecturing others on fiscal policy, were it not for the fact that (a) poor US financial regulation and inattentive monetary policy caused the crisis in the first place, and (b) its own fiscal policy is a shambles….[But] unforced austerity is bad for Germany (though it might be good politics for Angela Merkel). Britain’s new government has a much more serious public debt problem but its fiscal plans – which gave rise to much boasting in Toronto – also look needlessly severe. Europe as a whole seems intent on one-size-fits-all austerity, despite limping output and very low inflation. Some countries have no choice but to curb their borrowing immediately. All should make a credible commitment to fiscal consolidation in the medium term: deficit hawks are right that if you wait until the bond market hammer comes down, you have waited too long. But with economies still so weak – remember Japan – this should not dictate a universal headlong rush to fiscal retrenchment…"

  • Clive Crook Attacks Democratic Policy Commitments as "Populist": "Whoever wins their party’s presidential nomination, the Democrats are preparing to fight the next election on a platform of left-leaning populism. The contrast with Bill Clinton is evident…. A striking feature of many Democratic proposals is the belief that cheaper petrol, cheaper drugs, universal health insurance, higher wages, more generous employment benefits, almost any good thing you can think of, can be achieved by demanding them, in one way or another, from companies, or else by raising taxes on the super-rich…. There is no question that the Democratic contenders are talking about the issues that concern most Americans. There is an excellent centrist case to be made for tax reform, to lift the burden of income and payroll taxes from the low-paid and to increase the burden on the better-off. Universal healthcare is long overdue, a shameful state of affairs in so rich a country. Americans pay more than they should for their medicines. More generous and more imaginative assistance for Americans who lose their jobs because of trade – or because of changing tastes and technology – is needed."

  • Brad DeLong : Clive Crook says: (i) a stronger CAFE is better than what we have now; (ii) full-fledged gas tax would be better than a stronger CAFE; (iii) there is little chance of a full-fledged gas tax; (iv) I'm against a stronger CAFE: "Posturing will not save the planet…. Far from being the biggest single step the US can take on this issue, tighter Cafe standards might be the smallest single step – apart that is, from doing nothing…. In the end, a tighter rule would make America burn less gasoline and emit less carbon dioxide than otherwise – but not that much less…. Switching to a lower-carbon economy has a cost. A high tax on gasoline makes it explicit, and is therefore dismissed as politically impossible. But the idea that the Cafe approach is costless, or that its costs will fall entirely on companies that had it coming anyway, is infantile. Given a choice between the ambitious and the fatuous, is it not better to press for the first?"

  • Clive Crook vs. Clive Crook: April, 2011: "Congress could let recovery crumble: Fiscal policy, properly measured, is moving abruptly from neutral to contractionary. To make matters worse, Republicans in Congress are playing an outrageous game of brinkmanship over the budget…. [W]hatever Congress can do to undermine confidence and add to uncertainty, it is doing. Just as the private sector shows signs of reviving, Capitol Hill is threatening to drag it back down…. The fiscal outlook clinches the point…. The federal stimulus was mostly absorbed in offsetting the automatic tightening of fiscal policy by individual states, whose borrowing is strictly constrained. The federal stimulus was big but, in the aggregate, fiscal support for the recovery has been modest. Now the federal stimulus is running down and many states are embarking on severe and immediate spending cuts and tax increases…. In a democracy people are supposed to get the politicians they deserve. What on earth did Americans do to deserve these?" February 2009: "Fiscal stimulus: repent at leisure: [I]f ever a rushed extravagant purchase was likely to induce a touch of buyer's remorse, it is this one. Republicans have a point when they complain about the inordinate length of the bill…. Republicans are right to say that not a single senator or congressman voting for it can have read it…. Not every unread piece of legislation costs taxpayers $800 billion…. It will be interesting to see what is hiding in those 1,400 pages. Some disturbing early discoveries have already been reported. For instance, the bill appears to reverse or at any rate undermine the Clinton welfare reforms. It appears to ban the hiring of skilled immigrants in much of the finance industry. It appears to cap finance-industry pay much more aggressively than the Obama administration has proposed… these ideas are harmful or unworkable or both…"

  • Clive Crook: Glenn Kessler's Shameless Lie: "I try to be fair, God knows I try. Like Ezra Klein (what would we do without that impartial authority?) I strive to do justice to both sides. But here's the thing. At some point, you can be fair, or you can seem to be fair, but not both. Kessler's foundational lie--the stinking lie on which his whole corrupt operation is based--is that he's "fact-checking". Untrue! Last week the purported Fact Checker went so far as to pre-check the speech he thought Romney would probably give to the convention. Here he is, referencing a Romney ad: '"President Obama gutted welfare reform. My plan for a stronger middle class will put work back in welfare." This highly inaccurate Four Pinocchio claim is at the center of what the Romney campaign considers its most effective ad. At issue is a memo issued in July by the Department of Health and Human Services, encouraging states to consider "new, more effective ways" of meeting employment goals. As part of that, the HHS Secretary would consider issuing waivers to states concerning worker participation targets….' All you sniveling false-balance types, you know what you can do with your middle way. Mickey Kaus, screw your efforts to look at the welfare controversy more 'carefully'. Don't bore me with your 'nuanced' examination of Kessler and his ilk…. I'm not exaggerating when I say it violates every canon of civilization. Angry? You bet I'm angry. I'm crying tears of rage right now. We don't tolerate people who torture small children and we shouldn't tolerate atrocities like this. I can't think of a penalty too severe."

  • Clive Crook Says an Exuberant Democratic Caucus Intent on a Liberal Makeover of the United States Passed Two Big Moderate Bills: "Barack Obama’s economic policy address to a joint session of Congress last week lived up to the billing. It was an ambitious and impressive speech – an attempt to reset his presidency. Nothing less is required if Mr Obama is to recover his standing with US voters and move economic policy, insofar as he can, in the right direction…. [I]n his first two years he stood there while an exuberant Democratic caucus, intent on a liberal makeover of the US, crafted two enormously consequential initiatives – the stimulus bill and healthcare reform. The policies that eventually passed were not hard left by any means – but this was no thanks to Mr Obama. He acted neither as a moderating influence nor as salesman in chief…"