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Liberals Versus Conservatives

Blah, Blah, Blah.

by Barnabas
September 18, 2002

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Liberals Versus Conservatives_Barnabas-Blah, Blah, Blah.
Arlo to son Eugene, age 10, who is watching television: “Which is Beavis and which is Butthead?”
Eugene: “This is Crossfire!”

--Cartoon strip, Arlo and Janis
I have just read two columnists for the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer and William Raspberry, on whether to wage war against Iraq. That we are already at war was my point last week, but if they read my column they didn’t get it.

Surprise, surprise, Krauthammer believes the President not only has a case, but also has the massive support of every thoughtful conservative in the country. The differences that have surfaced among them are more apparent than real. Equally surprising (which, if you follow my style, is not surprising at all), Raspberry believes that the President is hugely mistaken. Morally, diplomatically, militarily, and whateverly—he would have come up with another adverb had he room, I am sure—the President’s case is without merit.
Blah, blah, blah. Doctrinaire pundits on both sides are a depressing read, especially when they represent points of view basically unchanged since the 1952 campaign. We know what they are going to say, why they are saying it, and how they are going to say it, before they say it. That’s why I don’t normally read Krauthammer, Raspberry, and a dozen others like them. I am sure they sometimes depart from their respective party lines, but not when I check in on them. In truth, I don’t check in on them very often because I am a reader seduced by style, and their style is neither witty nor clever enough to seduce me. A couple of exceptions are Mary McGrory and Michael Kinsley, liberals both—who are often at their best while skewering their own side.

In high school debate we had to be able to debate either side of a proposition, even if we were personally committed to one side of it. It is a useful skill to learn, if only to see the absurdities in the arguments of those with whom you usually agree. High school debate might be a good course in punditry school. It would be refreshing for all of us if Raspberry and Krauthammer were to switch sides every once in a while, if only to demonstrate that they are not wearing blinkers.

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