Archive for Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rigid ideology stymies rational debate

February 1, 2009


This one is for Doug.

He was one of maybe 2,000 readers who fired off e-mails in response to a recent column criticizing that paragon of political analysis, Rush Hudson Limbaugh III. I excoriated Limbaugh for saying of Barack Obama’s presidency, “I hope he fails.” As is generally the case when you exact a pound of flesh from Brother Limbaugh’s hide, his legions of listeners were vociferous and unstinting in his defense.

They claimed I misquoted him (the quote was cut and pasted directly from Limbaugh’s own Web site). They claimed Limbaugh was referring not to Obama’s presidency, but to his supposed desire to institute a socialist government (except that Limbaugh was, by his own admission, responding to a question about his hopes for Obama’s presidency).

Doug, however, made neither of those arguments. His e-mail said in its entirety:

“I see your (sic) Mr. Sensitive when it comes to someone saying something bad about your guy. But I had to go 8 years watching, reading, listening to you ravage George W. Bush. Just who has the Class here?”

His subject line: “you ravage Bush we ravage Obama.”

Read that one again: “you ravage Bush we ravage Obama.” Not the barest pretense of principle, nor the slightest attempt at making an argument. Just a child’s game. Tit for tat and tag, you’re it.

You will seldom see a plainer illustration of the mental and moral midgetry to which ideological rigidity has reduced all too many of our fellow Americans.

I plead guilty to the charge, by the way. I did, indeed “ravage” Bush. He was, in my estimate, the worst president in memory if not the worst ever. Not “ravaging” him would have amounted to journalistic malpractice. Let Obama turn trillion-dollar surpluses into trillion-dollar deficits, sacrifice lives and treasure in an ill-conceived war of choice, preside over a government whose ineptitude is exceeded only by its arrogance, and I’ll “ravage” him, too. You bring the feathers, I’ll bring the tar.

But then, I also “ravaged” Bill Clinton when his inability to keep his zipper closed precipitated a constitutional crisis. I called him “sluttish,” a “human oil slick,” “Gomer,” “unprincipled, formless, opportunistic,” “manipulative slime,” a “sad, sex-addled liar” and, my personal favorite, “President Hefner.”

I bet that will surprise Doug. He seems to buy the notion, propounded by the likes of Limbaugh and lapped up by millions of Dougs and Dougettes, that one’s first loyalty as an American is to party or ideology. So that you must defend your guy with mindless zeal even if he is President God-awful and attack the other guy with mindless zeal even if he is so new to the office his business cards haven’t yet come back from the printer. Mindless zeal is the common denominator. What’s right, what’s wrong, what’s best for the country, these things don’t even enter the equation.

Yes, we all have our politics, our prisms, our pet narratives. Nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong with embracing an ideology that gives structure and order to your thinking. But for too many of us, ideology becomes identity, becomes an intellectual straitjacket, becomes an excuse not to think. Instead, they wallow in a lazy childishness such that questions involving the life and future of a great nation are treated like stickball or tag, games played with the mindless zeal of childhood, as if nothing of substance were at stake, and victory were its own reward.

That’s what you hear in Doug’s e-mail, an echo of childish voices chanting “nyah nyah nyah.” “You ravage Bush we ravage Obama.” Then what? You ravage the next guy and we ravage the guy after that? We don’t even know who those guys — or women — are yet. And you know what’s sad?

It doesn’t matter.

— Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. each Wednesday on


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

Wow, Leonard-- you just summed up a dozen or more of the BushCo sycophants who populate this board. But in fairness, I'm sure we'll have a (much smaller) number of Obama sycophants over the next few years, too.

manplanner 7 years, 3 months ago

Terrific article and precisely the type of intelligent and cohesive commentary that you rarely get from the "conservative" viewpoint on this website, ala Cal Thomas. I'm actually surprised that LJWorld even publishes Mr. Pitts considering this newspaper's agenda, so I have to give them credit for this.

AjiDeGallina 7 years, 3 months ago

Limbaugh represents that 20% of the country that is too ignorant to have principles. Those instead of sides.They are blind to facts, compromise anything that is not their side.Many, like Nancy boy are examples of the sheep who lie, cheat, probably steal just to win and never even blink when told the emperor has no clothes. It is an illness, a cancer and a shame of the USA that 20%.And do NOT get me wrong, we have them on both sides of the Aisle. Al Sharpton is a good example, as is Al Franken. I think they are just the same as Nancy boy, Rush, and Coulter.I would include that list and their ilk among the worst of America, the most failed traitors to what America is supposed to stand for and ask the rest of the USA, those of us that are willing to engage in debate, to change our minds, to find compromise to turn their back on traitors like Nancy Boy, to make sure that whether we agree or disagree with him or his kind on any one particular issue, that they are NOT welcome at the table until they open their eyes, reject lies and work for the best interest of the nation, not their side.I hold no hope of that happening on any significant level though because I honestly believe it is a form of mental or social illness and they are not in treatment. They will continue to lie, cheat and do whatever so their side can win, no matter what the reality or consequences. They are failed Americans.

jaywalker 7 years, 3 months ago

"But in fairness, I'm sure we'll have a (much smaller) number of Obama sycophants over the next few years, too."Puhleeaze! A much smaller number? I think not.Clinging to far-sided ideology is a problem in this country, no doubt, and people like Coulter make my stomach turn. But if you think about it, isn't that the way it's supposed to be? I mean, you're gonna have a full spectrum of positions in order to maintain balance. Start on the far left and proceed to center and then out to far-right. I imagine having 20% positioned on the outer edges of both extremes is balance, and having the other 60% of us spattered across the middle ranges is preferable. Better the majority is in the middle and available to compromise than two bitterly opposed sides at all times.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

"Puhleeaze! A much smaller number? I think not."Sorry, jaywalker, it's just a fact. Think back to when Clinton was in office. There were plenty of folks who decried the Republican witch hunt against him, but those who defended him "relgiously" were relatively small in number.Contrast that with the uncritical defenders of BushCo so well represented on this forum. They are part of the 20% of the US public who still supported them clear to the end. They represent the hardcore rightwing, whose ideology is primarily faith-based.Folks on the left tend to have much more information-based opinions, thought not exclusively so. That fact alone means that Obama will get much less uncritical fawning than BushCo saw from its base.

AjiDeGallina 7 years, 3 months ago

Of course the resident anti-semite, Marion is the first to defend the nancyboy. that says it all right there.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 3 months ago

Pitts nailed it!I could not agree more that cult like ideological based discourse has made us nearly impotent when it comes to creative problem solving.So we will have to see whether the pendulum now swings too far to the left as it has been far right for the last 8 years...and that was a disaster.

jonas_opines 7 years, 3 months ago

Haha, chuckles for Right-thinker."Holy crap, Pitts is on to me! Time to start going on about the "far-left" (read, anyone not as right as me) who "dominate" these boards." Because yeah, every thread I see such a dearth of rightist posts that it's almost as if they're side is not getting out there.You're funniest when you don't mean to be.

jonas_opines 7 years, 3 months ago

Not to mention, a couple of Pitts' lines above are virtually verbatim from Snap's keyboard since Obama won the election.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

XD40-- and if you take close look at a picture of him, you can see some little horns just above his ears.

labmonkey 7 years, 2 months ago

Bozo = Tom = Beobatcher = Close-minded. All of you are close-minded. All those who call Rush close-minded (rightfully so) or Pitts close-minded (leftfully so)rarely see their own close-mindedness. None of you can consider yourselves open-minded, nor consider that the other-side may have some good solutions. You just blindly attack with predictable responses.

labmonkey 7 years, 2 months ago

(Maybe that last post will get Tom, Bozo, and Beo to finally agree on something. "I am a U-niter!")

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 2 months ago

XD40:Maybe you need to relax.The sun will come out tomorrow.

jonas_opines 7 years, 2 months ago

From American Thinker, the source of XD40s link."Because we reserve the right to be partisan, we do not qualify for tax exempt nonprofit organization status."

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 2 months ago

The difference to me seems to be that those who criticize Bush do so on his record. A war of choice, a "fox in the henhouse" approach to regulatory function, an ideologically-driven agenda, a trillion dollar surplus turned into a trillion dollar deficit, ruination of the US and world economy.These are all real legacies of the Bush presidency and are independent of right or left or democrat or republican.On the other hand, name-calling seems to dominate the "discussion" from those on the "right"."Socialist", "muslim", "baby-killer".There are plenty of points to be made about Obama's ideas and policies. A rational discussion of these has not been forthcoming by the "right-wing" media.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 2 months ago

Where were all of these deficit hawks when Bush expanded the size of the government and increased spending more so than any modern president on a war of choice?Where were they just months ago when $800 billion was given away in the form of corporate bailouts?

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 2 months ago

And to the idea that Bush kept us safe from terror.He did not. The September 11 attacks were on his watch, almost a year into his first term.Evidence suggests that he was warned of the attacks and did nothing (the "Bin Laden determined to strike in US" memo).As I recall, at the time Bush was concerned with reviving the idea of a "star wars" anti-missile system. Only after 9/11 did he become concerned with terrorists.

labmonkey 7 years, 2 months ago

worstnightmare-Yes Bush was for that $800 billion waste of money....but who in Congress voted for it, and who killed the $700 billion bailout the first time? During the campaign, Obama went to Washington to also support it. Now the Democrats are trying to push another $800 billion in wasted money down our throats. It is never good when one party has both Congress and the Presidency. There are no checks and balances. If you think Bush and the Republicans spent a lot of money, I have a feeling "you ain't seen nothing yet." The 90's worked becuase you had a Democrat President and a Republican congress (and there was no large, natural, economic downturn).

labmonkey 7 years, 2 months ago

Bozo-I have very passionate beliefs.... but I am also open to the fact that I could wrong.

jaywalker 7 years, 2 months ago

"Sorry, jaywalker, it's just a fact. Think back to when Clinton was in office. There were plenty of folks who decried the Republican witch hunt against him, but those who defended him “relgiously” were relatively small in number."That's not how I recall those days. I was one of those that thought the whole Starr fiasco was ridiculous, Clinton never should have been asked the question. But his popularity hardly diminished, in fact, he was the first Prez I can recall who left office as well-liked as when he went in.There were a handful of posters here who've backed Bush, directly or indirectly, since I've been visiting this site. Time will tell if BO gets hammered if things go south, but with the majority of the posters here (and around the country) holding him up with Elvis-like awe I'll be genuinely surprised if that occurs. "..Obama will get much less uncritical fawning..."Aww, c'mon bozo! I can't believe noone's called you out on that phrase already. I think it could be argued fairly well that there's been a great deal of 'uncritical fawning' going on over Obama for quite some time now.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

"But his popularity hardly diminished, in fact, he was the first Prez I can recall who left office as well-liked as when he went in."There's a reason for that. Despite all his personal shortcomings (no pun intended,) and for as much as I disagreed with much of what he did, he was basically a policy wonk who understand quite well nearly every issue his administration needed to deal with, and he did it with a general level of competence. Such can't be said for either Bush or BushCo."I think it could be argued fairly well that there's been a great deal of 'uncritical fawning' going on over Obama for quite some time now."Yep, in the course of the campaign, amidst the desperation of most folks wanting to be saved from the last eight years of disaster, a lot of "fawning" has been heaped on Obama.But if he doesn't seem to be getting a handle on things fairly quickly, he won't be given anywhere near the free pass Bush got. Bush left things in such a mess that he'll probably get more than the normal 100-day honeymoon, but probably not much.

rusty2 7 years, 2 months ago

time to re-read "What's the Matter with Kansas" again.

oldvet 7 years, 2 months ago

A funny column, coming from a guy who in his own column on 1/25/09 wrote the same words... "I hope he fails.'' So the far left Pitts can hope Obama fails but he says that someone else can't say those words... hmmmmm...

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 2 months ago

Where were all of the GOP deficit hawks three months ago when Bush was pushing the $800 billion corporate bailout?It's called hypocrisy based upon politics.

Corey Williams 7 years, 2 months ago

Oldvet, he did say "I hope he fails." But, so did you. And if you really want to get specific about it, so did I. I can't say anything for you, but did I mean it? No. It's a quote.What you and a lot of others on this board really don't understand is that he was pointing out the obvious. There are those on the right and left who don't care about what they can do for this country, but what they can do for their party. If you "hope he fails" without doing your own research into what he wants to do and whether or not it would actually work, or just because they aren't in your party...then you're a fool and should be treated with the disdain reserved for those who can't or won't learn.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 2 months ago

Hypocrisy: not a single, a single, GOP house member voted for the stimulus, whereas many of them voted for the corporate bailout of a few months back.Hypocrisy.

labmonkey 7 years, 2 months ago

worstnightmare-The GOP house members voted the first bailout DOWN. The stock market crashed, they panicked and some of them voted for it the second time (which it should have never made it there the second time). Most of the GOP house members voted against it. Quit trying to rewrite history.

jaywalker 7 years, 2 months ago

"But if he doesn't seem to be getting a handle on things fairly quickly, he won't be given anywhere near the free pass Bush got"Again, time will tell. Personally, as long as there's no attack on American soil I don't see how Obama doesn't cruise to a second term. The utter fascination and rock star aura built up around him --- not just here but internationally as well -- would be hard to lose on purpose even. And with Bush's 'legacy' in his wake nearly anything he does could be looked on as 'better' than before, which for comparison's sake will carry water too.As to Bush getting a free pass........ I don't even know how you can possibly say that. He's enormously unpopular world-wide, not to mention here, and he's been excoriated, lambasted, and ridiculed as the 'worst Prez ever'. You're fairly hard pressed to find a positive media report on him for the last two years.If you're basing his 'free pass' on the lack of criminal charges brought against him, you should recall that Kennedy ordered the assasination of a foreign leader (Vietnam's Dinh Diem), Reagan defied an act of Congress and illegally supplied arms to Nicaraguan anti-communists, Roosevelt sent thousands upon thousands of fellow Americans into captivity after Pearl Harbor and during WWII, and Clinton cut the powers of the CIA, NSA, and FBI as well as miring them all in such depths of red tape that inter-agency cooperation was reduced to a trickle which led to the most deadly attack on U.S soil ever. And not one serious campaign to put any of them on trial for any of that.

oldvet 7 years, 2 months ago

Thanks, Corey, at least one other person sees this article for what it is, Pitts for who he is, and the out-of-context quote for what it is.... here is the context of Limbaugh's words..."If I wanted Obama to succeed, I'd be happy the Republicans have laid down. And I would be encouraging Republicans to lay down and support him. Look, what he's talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don't want this to work. So I'm thinking of replying to the guy, "Okay, I'll send you a response, but I don't need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails." (interruption) What are you laughing at? See, here's the point. Everybody thinks it's outrageous to say. Look, even my staff, "Oh, you can't do that." Why not? Why is it any different, what's new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what's gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it? I don't care what the Drive-By story is. I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: "Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails." Somebody's gotta say it. "You don't agree, so be it... but I don't like Obama's political direction, his agenda for liberalism and his beliefs either, so I also hope he fails...

Godot 7 years, 2 months ago

JW can thank Pitts for the cancellation of my subscription months ago. I won't pay for bilge.

Corey Williams 7 years, 2 months ago

What Limbaugh said:"Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what's gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here."So except for a very short period when a republican senator switched to independent, it's been liberals in control of congress? It's been liberal legislation passed? Since 1994, liberals have been in control of it all?Limbaugh is a fat drug addict that would lose any debate to anyone with a good head on their shoulders. He doesn't present news, he has an entertainment show. Anyone who takes what he says for fact is a complete and utter fool."There are more acres of forestland in America today than when Columbus discovered the continent in 1492.""Too many whites are getting away with drug use...Too many whites are getting away with drug sales...The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them, and send them up the river, too." --in 1995 "I am addicted to prescription pain medication." --in 2003 And, sorry oldvet. I wasn't agreeing with you in any way. If you agree with Limbaugh on anything, see the above.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 2 months ago

It is unfortunate for Republicans that Limbaugh is being presented as their spiritual and political guru. But it is a good thing for the truth to come out about what a phony he is and I think we should give him plenty of rope to hang himself.When it comes to this current rhetoric about Messiah worship in a political party, I think no one has fit the definition of phony Messiah more convincingly than Rush has.As long as Rush can paint the Democrats as the great Satan, he will continue to get sponsors and make a ton of money. It has all been a farce from the beginning. But if this guy is to be the conscience of the Republican Party of today, than I guess that says it all.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 2 months ago

So everything the Democrats do is "radical"?And nothing the Conservatives want to do is "radical"?People like Rush have turned too many of us into thumb sucking fools.

pistachio 7 years, 2 months ago

Well done, Pitts. You know you're dealing with a wingnut when they characterize everything in the most extreme way. Bush is a war criminal! Obama is a socialist! Fox News is corrupt! The rest of the media is corrupt! Here are some words/phrases that the middle 80% almost never say in the course of a policitical discussion: "fascist", "socialist", "Nazi", "class warfare", "liberal media", "impeach", "conspiracy", "anti-American", "agenda", "Hitler", and bastardizations of party names like "Dumb-o-crat" or "RepubliKKKan." They also never begin a response with "This is yet another example of (insert generalization here)..."The reason the middle 80% don't say things like that is because they are capable of calmly evaluating the pros and cons of all angles, and because they are loathe to casually accuse anyone of being like, say, Stalin.The reason the wingnuts get so much air play is that they speak more loudly and shrilly than the 80% of the country who are content to discuss politics with their "inside voice." Don't get suckered into a fight (especially a COMMENT BOARD fight - how pathetic) with a wingnut. They live for fights and it's just not worth the energy.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.