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Caveat lector

ALL TOO HUMAN! Try to believe that the Washington Post puts such consummate crap into print:

FRIDAY, MARCH 28, 2003

DECLINE OF THE POST: It was true at the dawn of the west. Sadly, it remains true today. Have you somehow failed to notice? We humans reason quite poorly. But you don’t have to run to talk radio to learn it—just visit the op-ed page of the Washington Post. How did this page decline as it has? Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t have the foggiest, but we tried to shield our analysts’ eyes from Robert Samuelson’s effort Thursday morning. How can it be that work so weak is so common at our greatest political newspaper?

Samuelson’s inquiring mind wants to know: What explains “[t]he great breach between the United States and the rest of the world over the war in Iraq?” The pundit rattled polling figs from Europe, with large majorities opposing the war. Then he began “explaining:”

SAMUELSON: What explains the anti-American fury, particularly in Europe? Simple. It makes people feel good. It gives them a sense of moral superiority. It doesn’t cost them anything. It diverts attention from domestic discontents. It doesn’t require hard decisions or hard thinking. It’s a convenient moral exhibitionism that, on inspection, is full of delusion, shortsightedness and moral hypocrisy.
“Simple,” he said—and Bob Sam wasn’t kidding. What explains European attitudes? Simple! Our tribe is right, and their tribe is wrong, the chin-pulling pundit informs us. Given Samuelson’s sweeping claims, we eagerly fell on the pundit’s “inspection.” And we uttered some harsh, mordant chuckles:
SAMUELSON (continuing directly): Start with delusion. Many foreigners wrongly think America’s stated motives cloak raw greed. In a poll late last year, Pew asked whether the United States might invade Iraq because it “believes Saddam is a threat” or because “it wants to control Iraqi oil.” Oil, said 76 percent of Russians, 75 percent of French and 54 percent of Germans—and only 22 percent of Americans. The idea that a country would risk troops and money for anything but selfish gain seems so silly to many other peoples that they cannot grasp it.
And yes, that’s his full “inspection” of this point. Europeans think the U.S. has vile motives, Samuelson notes—and they’re “wrong,” the pundit states, making no effort to say how he knows it. How easy it is to pen pundit piffle when such palaver goes into print!

And don’t worry—Europe is “shortsighted” too, the scribe says. Another great “inspection” quickly follows:

SAMUELSON: Next, shortsightedness. Even if foreigners mistake American motives, they might think that the war will backfire. A devastated Iraq will slip into chaos. The Middle East will be destabilized. These failures are possible, but polls suggest that Europeans—at least—doubt they will occur.

In its March poll, Pew asked whether “the people of Iraq will be better or worse off in the long run” if Saddam Hussein is deposed. By a huge margin (79-8), Americans thought “better off.” So did the French (73-14), the Germans (71-15), the Italians (61-18) and the Spanish (46-21). Only in two of eight countries polled, Russia and Turkey, did people disagree. Similarly, pluralities in the same six countries (the other two: Britain and Poland) thought the Middle East would be more, not less, stable after a U.S. victory.

And yes, that was the full brief in favor of Europe’s “shortsightedness.” Of course, by this analysis, if the “morally superior” Europeans are shortsighted, Americans are hugely shortsighted too. Attention disorder? Samuelson’s piece started as an explanation of why Europeans differ from American. Three paragraphs later, the brilliant savant is showing us all in one camp.

Samuelson’s attacks on Europe are especially odd, because he seems to doubt Bush policy too. (Read the column if you enjoy self-punishment.) But reread that passage about Europe’s moral squalor and ask yourself the obvious question. We’re a nation of 280 million people. We praise our schools of higher learning. So how, then, is it dimly possible? How is it possible that work like this now defines the Post’s op-ed pages?

The Daily update

NOT SO FINE: If you thought we had completed our ruminations on Kaus, you were shortsighted and engaged in delusion. We continue to marvel at El Compulso’s tracking of Kerry’s moral squalor. On Tuesday, Kaus was still playing the Kerry Mick Card; scroll back and weep for your own (human) race. But if it’s the healing waters of humor you seek, indulge yourself in a pleasing laugh as Mickey unveils his great modus:

Methodological note: As a contributor to the fast-paced world of Internet journalism, you have to discipline yourself to go off half-cocked. You can mull over your initial impressions, testing them against available evidence over the course of weeks, slowly coming to a conclusion. Or you can go with your best instinct and change your mind later if you’re wrong!…I’ve gone with my first impression of Kerry, which reassuringly jibes with the longstanding press’ CW on Kerry—that he’s an overambitious positioner who threw someone else’s medals over the wall. I’ve yet to see much evidence that clashes with this paradigm.
We marveled at the line of reasoning. Could anyone else draw reassurance when press corps CW supports his instincts? Sensible people would, of course, see this as occasion for massive self-doubt. Only Kaus could have failed to notice the press corps’ inability to make judgments on character. For example, whatever one thinks of this president’s policies, does anyone think that George W. Bush is a plain-spoken man who tells you what he’s really thinking? This portrait, of course, is utter nonsense—but the press corps has long pimped it. Similarly, has anyone failed to understand that AL GORE, LIAR was a simple press hoax—a tale the corps persistently conjured? Only Kaus could still pretend that the press corps is skilled at discerning Pol Character. Only Kaus could feel relieved when the corps sees the world as he does.

What explains the anti-Kerry fury in Kaus? Simple. It makes him feel good. It gives him a sense of moral superiority. It certainly doesn’t cost him anything. It doesn’t require hard decisions or hard thinking. It’s a convenient moral exhibitionism that, on inspection, is full of delusion, shortsightedness and moral hypocrisy.