Since the Dawn of Recorded Conservative Time (which began on Jan 20, 1981), a mighty beast has guarded the gates to Republican political success: a three-headed Centrist the Greeks called Suburberus.
Legend tells us that Suburberus was developed at the AEI Skunk Works in a join venture between a very busy Conservative movement and a very lazy Establishmentarian media. For Conservatives, the beast's toxic mantra of "Both Sides Do It" has become the ultimate weapon to simultaneously suffocate both any serious media scrutiny of Republican perfidy, and any serious Conservative introspection on the subject of their complicity in a long and horrifying string of Republican crimes, failures, lies and treasons.
Instead, no matter how rancid the hypocrisy or ridiculous the lie behind which a Conservative finds himself cornered, he has been trained to simply incant "Well, yeah, but Libruls are worse!" and then walk away. Smirking. As if Sweet Baby Jebus Himself had reached down from Republican Heaven and high-fived him for being such a silver-tongued genius.
It serves the lazy Villager media machine equally well by insuring that no issue of political accountability -- no matter how blatant or bloody the crime -- ever needs to come down to matters of truth and falsity; ever needs to reach a definitive, factual conclusion that one side is simply and overwhelming shithouse-rat crazy and the other is not. This method of reporting -- while true -- would also alienate the shithouse-rat crazy portion of the audience which would, in turn, make the boner pill and hair dye vendors who pay everyone's salaries very unhappy.
So instead we get grotesquely overpaid twats like David Gregory who use their privileged access to American airwaves to plop a decent human being like E.J. Dionne down oppose a babbling sot like Peggy Noonan so they can "debate" whether or not "partisanship" is Barack Obama's fault.
Because, y'know, both sides...
But today is a special day in the life of the story of Suburberus, because today an honest-to-God, silver-haired, old-school journalist took off his pince-nez, put down his copy of "Plutarch's Lives", set aside his Lemon Lift tea and said, "dang it!"
From James Fallows in "The Atlantic":
In Which I Become a Conservative
Nov 29 2010, 2:42 PM ET
Ross Douthat, an Atlantic alumnus, contends today in the NY Times that the recent controversy over "enhanced" TSA procedures illustrates the dominance of partisan reflex in today's politics. Liberals complained about excessive state power when Bush and Cheney were in charge -- but now they're happy, and it's conservatives up in arms about the excesses of Obama, Biden, and 'Big Sis.' EG:But people who follow politics closely -- whether voters, activists or pundits -- are often partisans first and ideologues second. Instead of assessing every policy on the merits, we tend to reverse-engineer the arguments required to justify whatever our own side happens to be doing.Sounds sensible, even-handed, and fairmindedly tut-tutting to all sides. But as it applies to the real world?
The TSA case, on which Douthat builds his column, is in fact quite a poor illustration -- rather, a good illustration for a different point. There are many instances of the partisan dynamic working in one direction here. That is, conservatives and Republicans who had no problem with strong-arm security measures back in the Bush 43 days but are upset now. Charles Krauthammer is the classic example: forthrightly defending torture as, in limited circumstances, a necessary tool against terrorism, yet now outraged about "touching my junk" as a symbol of the intrusive state.
But are there any cases of movement the other way? Illustrations of liberals or Democrats who denounced "security theater" and TSA/DHS excesses in the Republican era, but defend them now? If such people exist, I'm not aware of them -- and having beaten the "security theater" drum for many long years now, I've been on the lookout.
The anti-security theater alliance has always included right-wing and left-wing libertarians (both exist), ACLU-style liberals, limited-government-style conservatives, and however you would choose to classify the likes of Bruce Schneier or Jeffrey Goldberg (or me). I know of Republicans who, seemingly for partisan reasons like those Douthat lays out, have joined the anti-security theater chorus. For instance, former Sen. Rick Santorum. I don't know of a single Democrat or liberal who has peeled off and moved the opposite way just because Obama is in charge.
So: it's nice and fair-sounding to say that the party-first principle applies to all sides in today's political debate. Like it would be nice and fair-sounding to say that Democrats and Republicans alike in Congress are contributing to obstructionism and party-bloc voting. Or that Fox News and NPR have equal-and-offsetting political agendas in covering the news. But it looks to me as if we're mostly talking about the way one side operates. Recognizing that is part of facing the reality of today's politics.
The bad news is, of course, that Mr. Fallows has reached this somber and tragic epiphany about, oh, 20 years after every Liberal I know figured it out.
The good news is that he has figured it out: Mr. Fallows is a nice guy and a good writer who I assume will now be cast into the same journalistic Gehenna that awaits everyone who dares to take public notice of the fact that the Right is not only completely fucking unhinged, but completely immune to any arguments based on facts, history or simple causality. And that that is, y'know, a bad thing...
Welcome to Liberalville, Mr. Fallows. We have a secret handshake, some headgear you'll be required to wear at Liberal events, dietary restrictions and a few other things you'll need to know about. Not to worry; the pamphlet will cover it.
We also have an official riddle.
Wanna hear it?
I wrote that over six years ago and it was old news then.
Q: If Dick Cheney were caught red-handed tossing burning kittens at homeless veterans from the White House lawn, what would be the first three words out of Cokie Roberts' mouth?
A: "But the Democrats...."
Still, welcome aboard.