This because it’s been a long while since my last installment of the Weasel Watch:
President Obama and Paul Ryan are two of the smartest, most admirable and most genial men in Washington. It is sad, although not strange, that in today’s Washington they have never had a serious private conversation. The president has never invited Ryan over even for lunch. As a result, both men are misinformed about the other, and both have developed a cold contempt for the other’s position. Obama believes Ryan wants to take America back to what he sees as the savage capitalism of the 1920s (or even the 1760s). Ryan believes Obama wants to turn America into a declining European welfare state… If they met, would they resolve their differences? No, but they would understand them better.
David Brooks excels at pushing right-wing agendas while pretending to be the voice of moderation, the man in the middle. He trots out false equivalencies and flawed assumptions in support of his arguments, then pretends to be distressed by the partisanship of those who can’t match his magnanimity.
He is, as I wrote in January, the Earnest Weasel of American pundits,
tweaking an imaginary congregation of moral midgets who don’t understand how sinful it is to oppose, in an uncompromising way, those who would destroy not only the social safety net woven from the New Deal but also the political system that put the safety net in place.
The country will collapse, you see, unless we uphold civility in our debates, even when our opponent is a cold-blooded libertarian twerp — Paul Ryan, that is — who starts from the premise that budget reform is impossible without huge cuts in the funding of programs that help define what it means to live in a society built on humanist values.
Today’s dispatch by Paul Krugman — “Let’s not be civil” — implicitly dismisses the weasel’s false felicity. Obama lunching with the likes of Ryan is “a bad idea,” because the Republican budget proposal is irreconcilable with progressive, or even mildly liberal, notions of good government. It proposes that spending cuts “pay for tax cuts rather than deficit reduction. The transparent and obvious goal [is] to use deficit fears to impose a vision of small government and low taxes, especially on the wealthy.”
And yet the weasel would have readers believe that the gulf between ideologies is bridgeable; that it’s merely a question of how much spending on social programs must be cut, not whether such cuts are fundamentally wrong.
I wish Obama had Krugman’s clarity, or at least the willingness to act on some of the moral arguments he makes in his speeches.
From George Lakoff: “What is called a ‘tax break’ for the rich is actually a redistribution of wealth from the poor and middle class—whose incomes have gone down—to those who have considerably more money than they need, money they have made because of tax investments by the rest of America.”