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« Anti-Capitalism: With Us Always? | Main | "The Triplets of Belleville" »

January 24, 2004

Is Bush a Conservative?

Dear Friedrich --

What exactly is conservative about George W. Bush? The question seems to be in the air. John Leo scratches his head here. Jonah Goldberg, here, points out that under Bush, "overall spending from 2001 to 2003 grew at 16 percent and discretionary spending went up 27 percent. That's double Bill Clinton's rate."

In Fortune (here), Anna Bernasek calculates that, as Boomers move into retirement, the country may face as much as $44 trillion in underfunding. That was no typo: $44 trillion. As Bernasek says, "It's more than four times the size of our GDP, and 1 1/2 times the size of the entire world's GDP. If we had a fire sale of all our nation's assets todayŚstocks, bonds, and real estateŚwe could just about pull in $44 trillion." Even the WSJ is reeling, here. And Andrew Sullivan (here) is now referring to the Bush/Rove approach as "the strategy of bankrupting the country to appease various interest groups."

Speaking of Andrew Sullivan, how do you react? Steve Sailer can't take him seriously, but I find Sullivan a brilliant scamp and troublemaker -- a born category-scrambler. (Underneath whose perversities are a lot of convictions I respect.) I don't read him expecting to agree or be persuaded. I read him for the dazzle and the sense of play, and to be provoked. And I find that he seldom disappoints. FrontPage's Jamie Glazov has interviewed Sullivan here.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at January 24, 2004




Comments

Well, certainly not based on Jim Kalb's definition of such. Not based on many other people's definitions either---when he just proposed---what is it?---$1.5 billion?---to go to Mars? Gives a whole new meaning to "Earth to George"!

Posted by: annette on January 24, 2004 5:32 PM



I went from thinking of Andrew Sullivan as a very interesting category-scrambler to thinking of him as just another poorly informed, spin-generating Republican. There's an entire blog dedicated to spotting his inaccuracies:
http://sullywatch.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Chris on January 26, 2004 2:21 PM



Annette -- "Earth to George" indeed!

Chris -- Thanks for the link. Scary: imagine a blog devoted entirely to spotting your inaccuracies. Sullivan's been pretty sparky recently, though, haven't you found? Very pro-war, but pro-gay (as per usual) and hot under the collar about the budget? Kind of a fun mixture, or at least so I find...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 27, 2004 1:15 AM



Well I haven't been reading Sully lately so I can't say if he's been sparky. His obsessive hatred of Clinton says more about him that it does about Clinton. And his pro-gay stance is compromised by writing for the Washington Times, which is owned by an anti-gay extremist. And his pro-pharmaceutical industry stance is compromised by the the generous "donations" he gets from said industry, not to mention that we now know that pharma companies spend most of their profit on marketing not research.

There's another Sullivan-watch blog at
http://smarterandrewsullivan.blogspot.com/
but it's been on hiatus since Jan 15.

Rittenhouse Review (rittenhouse.blogspot.com) also does a lot of Sullivan-watch articles.

Posted by: Chris Martin on January 27, 2004 12:19 PM



Chris -- You know far more about Sullivan than I do, and I probably shouldn't even be venturing this given how ignorant I am ... But I do wonder sometimes when certain writers or thinkers get criticized for accepting money from this awful foundation or writing for that awful publication. When the respectable press and the usual funding sources won't have anything to do with you, what are you supposed to do? Just accept their judgment of you?

Like I say, I should shut up here, and I certainly don't mean to be suggesting you're making this argument -- I'm just doing a little freelance, unsolicited sounding-off, and I hope you'll forgive me for that. What I've often run across that drives me a little nuts is an attitude of: "well, he's being published by whoever (City Journal, Washington Times) and funded by whoever (Scaife, maybe) -- that kind of establishes once and for all that he's an evil person, doesn't it?" My response to that has always been: "Well, maybe. But maybe what it establishes is less nefarious. Maybe it establishes nothing more than that the WashPost and NYTimes won't publish him, and the Ford Foundation won't slip him any grant money. So he's publishing where he can and taking whatever money he can get."

Admittedly, this can be taken too far. On the other hand, the Ford Foundation's hands aren't exactly clean either, nor are the NYTimes'...

Anyway, curious about your responses to this. But go easy: happy to admit I don't know the specifics of Sullivan's case.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 27, 2004 2:04 PM



I really don't know that much about Sullivan, but I remember that I was enamored by his writing at one point, but my opinion of him dropped sharply when he started his unnecessary attacks on Clinton.

As for funding sources, they always matter. Less so when you're talking about a board of directors, rather than a think-tank, but they always matter. I consider think-tanks worse, because they're basically going to fund your research only if you come to the conclusions they support. You will never ever read in a right-wing think-tank publication "We started with the convervative hypothesis x but were surprised when our research supported the liberal hypothesis y, so we've now changed our mind." (The converse is true for left-wing ones.)

Now having done a little research myself, I know it's very easy to spin results, especially if you know that your readers will fall prey to the availability heuristic and representative heuristic, not to mention framing effects. Social science PhD's will notice these things, but the general public won't.

Regarding newspapers, there was a famous incident here in Atlanta, where an editor was asked to resign because he ran a story on racial discrimination in the insurance industry. It turned out that some insurance executives were on the board of directors of that paper. How often does this sort of thing happen? I don't know but it is frightening.

The NYTimes seems to have a good share of left- and right-wingers on its editorial staff, so I'd worry less about it. I don't know who's on its board of directors, but I know it's not "owned" by a political party.

I'll stop here,

Posted by: Chris Martin on January 27, 2004 5:26 PM



Chris -- Couldn't agree more that the funding source always counts. Everyone who doesn't have a free-and-clear trust fund is working for someone else, and it's crucial to understand how the lines of command run. We may have a bit of a disagreement about, say, the NYTimes, which in my experience is the house organ for a certain class of Ivy/NYC lefties, or the Ford Foundation, which as far as I'm aware funds and supports the same class. (To the point where, if I remember right, the Ford family has grown quite outraged about it.). I'm no more a fan than you are of politically-driven research foundations (although why shouldn't they exist, and the more the merrier). But realistically, one of the reasons the whole rightie-foundation and rightie-press phenomenon happened was that a lot of bright and ambitious righties couldn't get anywhere in the respectable media and academic and foundation worlds. So they went and created their own alternative universe.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 27, 2004 6:34 PM



Well, William Safire has been writing for the NYTimes since 1973 and David Brooks is now on the editorial board, too. So I wouldn't consider the Nytimes left-wing. I don't know much about the Ford foundation.

Posted by: Chris Martin on January 28, 2004 11:20 AM






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