Is it me, or in the last year have we seen a shocking rise in the number of major pundits who have acknowledged (perhaps inadvertently) their own sociopathic tendencies? I ask this after reading this from the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen:
“I originally had no moral qualms about the war…I was encouraged in my belief by the offensive opposition to the war — silly arguments about oil or empire or, at bottom, the ineradicable and perpetual rottenness of America…In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic.”
This came days before the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, a cheerleader for the Iraq War, published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times headlined “Bring Back Saddam Hussein”:
“Just maybe our best option is to restore Saddam Hussein to power…Yes, I know. Hussein is a psychotic mass murderer. Under his rule, Iraqis were shot, tortured and lived in constant fear.”
I would be quick to dismiss these statements as the insane blatherings of merely two lunatics who are clearly so embarrassed by their advocacy for the Iraq War, that they have lost all control of their faculties. But such absurd comments have now become a mainstay of today’s op-ed pages. Just a few months ago, the New York Times’ David Brooks wrote that “voters shouldn’t be allowed to define the choices in American politics.” Then there was was columnist Mort Kondracke on Fox News saying the veterans health care system “doesn’t work” even though by all objective measures, it is the best health care system in the entire country.
And of course, we have the New York Times’ billionaire columnist Tom Friedman appearing on national television to admit that he regularly uses his space on the op-ed page to push free trade deals that he hasn’t even bothered to read. He’s the same guy who pushed the Iraq War, then criticized the war, and now, just today, published a piece saying we should consider “reinvading Iraq with at least 150,000 more troops” and staying there for 10 more years. He’s also the same guy who has taken to destructive proportions the famous laugh line in the Money Pit about the house being fixed in “two weeks,” using his column since 2003 to keep claiming that all in Iraq will be finished in a matter of another “six months.”
But I must admit, as funny/sad as it is to watch Friedman’s house of credibility come crashing down as he does his best Walter-Fielding-on-the-collapsing-stairway impression, nothing is more enjoyable these days than to watch the Wax Figure himself, George Will. His entire column today is about how “uncivil” it was for Sen.-elect Jim Webb to tell President Bush he wants the troops brought home, and how nauseating it is to the Washington pundit class that a U.S. Senator would have the gall to talk about economic inequality. I mean, you need to read this thing – Wax Figure even goes off on Webb for using blunt language, saying he is supposedly “turning out slapdash prose that would be rejected by a reasonably demanding high school teacher.”
Yes, folks – the sociopaths on the right have been relegated to grammar criticism and demands that everyone in Washington attend Miss Manners. Because what really offends someone like George Will is not Americans dying in a war based on lies (Why should it? He’s a Washington insider with connections, dammit, and he’s not personally affected by such dirty things); it’s not an economic class war being waged on working people (Why should it? he’s a well-paid pundit who can’t be bothered with such trifles); it’s not even his fellow Washington Post pal Richard Cohen saying that violence is “therapeutic” (what a message for the kids!). No – what really truly offends the Wax Figure’s Capital Grille sensibilities is “incivility” and grammar. Oh, except for one thing – that’s not offensive when it comes from people like Dick Cheney who told other Senators to “f*&! off” and George W. Bush, that world famous master of the King’s English.
None of this is normal, socially acceptable behavior in the real, non-pundit world. These are the kind of sociopathic outbursts that, outside the Beltway, get people fired from their jobs, expelled to pariah status, and ridiculed as having “lost it.” But I guess the laws of regular society just don’t apply to these people. That’s not all that surprising. As I documented in an earlier post, most of the supposedly “national” opinionmaking apparatus resides not throughout the nation, but instead inside elite circles in Washington and New York City – places that apparently aren’t subjected to the normal rules of America, places where sociopathic behavior gets you labeled a Serious Person.
But here’s the deal, folks – just because you read sociopathic claims on your op-ed pages from the Washington opinionmaking machine about how violence is supposedly “therapeutic,” how we should supposedly bring Saddam Hussein back to power, how voters suppposedly shouldn’t be able to make choices in America and how new Senators have no right to tell the President they want the troops home – remember, that doesn’t make these claims truthful or acceptable out here in the real world, and it doesn’t make you crazy for thinking that the people who make these claims ARE crazy.