Is it gub'mint that fumbles, or our nearly brain-dead politics?
Yesterday, Bob Gates, the conservative and Republican Defense Secretary startled the moderately liberal blogosphere with a Defense budget proposal that -- at least in regard to its internal allocation of resources -- was rational. The liberal blogosphere was, of course, putting aside its concern that the ("external") allocation of resources to Defense, already way too large by any reasonable assessment, will actually increase a bit, to marvel that the Defense Secretary was able to present a budget and strategy with face validity for its internal allocation of resources.
The Republicans in Congress, with support from the plutocrats' incompetent Media, of course, attacked Obama's "cuts" in Defense.
My point, in introducing this example, is not to open a discussion of defense spending, or give anne an opportunity to harangue us all with criticisms of Obama's excessive Defense spending. (While agreeing with anne and all sane people that U.S. Defense spending is wildly excessive in magnitude, I can see that Obama is moving in the right direction down the road of the politically possible; but that's not what I want to argue, here.)
My point is that the partisan divide in this country has the Republican/conservatives championing ignorance, corruption, stupidity and irrationality. Just notice that. On every issue, they are basically arguing for stupidity. On the stimulus, they take the "Treasury view", which is a logical fallacy, or they screw up Ricardian equivalence, or just spout nonsense. On global warming, they are "deniers" and liars (see Will, George - Washington Post). On Defense, they want to spend tens and even hundreds of billions on strategic missile defense, surely the stupidest military proposal made since the French Maginot Line.
This isn't a complaint about conservative philosophy, per se. This is about a Republican Party and conservative movement, which, for reasons of political dynamics, has made the strategic decision to adopt teh Stupid as a default political tactic, and a Media establishment that enables that tactic, by elevating mediocrities and incompetents to the journalistic elite and its punditocrisy, where they do nothing to make this reprehensible Republican tactic untenable. Cable news and major op-ed columns are fact-free zones, bereft of logic, while the "straight" news reporting is regularly faulty and corrupt -- respecting only the journalistic standards of pseudo-neutrality and "he said, she said" reporting, while perversely granting anonymity to protect the powerful.
Bob Gates is very conservative. It is possible for a conservative to be smart and rational about Defense spending, as he just demonstrated. Liberals and progressives would still disagree, but the debate would be a rational and sincere one, grounded in reality and some overlapping sense of common purpose.
On global warming, it is certainly possible to imagine conservative positions, founded on something other than an insincere denial of reality. It would be valuable to have a real debate over the right mix of self-restraint and adaptation, as the world develops institutions to responsibly manage the natural environment, globally. Really, it would.
But, not only are the Republicans going to be Stupid liars on Global Warming, but the centrist politically independent pundits -- Tom Friedman writes on cap-n-trade in the NY Times, today -- are going to be stupid as well, and will never, ever call the Republicans and the conservative movements out, on their destructive political tactics.
The same phenomenon dominates our politics across the full spectrum of issues. We cannot have a rational and humane health care system, because the Republicans are going to make completely irrational and idiotic charges, whenever they can spare some time from frightening their cable news and radio audience about liberal fascism and Obama's plan to take away their guns and make them marry gays.