Friday, December 21, 2001

Reader Chad Orzel compares Mind Over What Matters favorably to Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall on his links page:
Jay Zilber's weblog: Political blog with a rightward tilt, though not as annoying as Sullivan's, and not as well-written as Marshall's. Also useful as a convenient index of other political blogs I look in on from time to time.

Much as I'm appreciating the compliment of being mentioned in the same breath as Sullivan and Marshall -- even if I'm "not as good" as the latter (what the hey, it's an honor just to be nominated!) -- I'm also forced to come to grips with Chad's description of me as tilting rightward.

Me? Rightward? Yipe. Whatever you do, don't tell my mom -- an unreconstructed Pete Seeger liberal from way back, who once took me on a drive-through tour of the low-rent district in Columbus, Ohio, to make sure I knew that poor black people were living in slums less than three miles from the quiet, white suburban wonderland I called home. Mom had enough of a shock when, at age 12, I announced my preference for Richard Nixon in 1968 because he seemed like a more sympathetic candidate than her guy, Eugene McCarthy. But I digress. (Hi, Mom. Jus' trying to make you proud.)

There is, of course, the temptation to make a doleful observation that "after 9/11, we're all right-wingers now," or that a right-winger is merely a left-leaning moderate who's still sweeping up accumulations of free-floating World Trade Center demolition dust from his office after three months. But I think the personal growth dynamic you're seeing here, in these pages, is that I'm being forced to reconcile a great deal of generally liberal dogma -- with which I still acknowledge some emotional sympathy -- against the grotesquely dishonest manner in which it is so often packaged and delivered.

On issues like gun control, for example -- emotionally, who can argue with the traditionally liberal view that it's Objectively Bad to allow guns to be easily procured by Bad People? But the transformational events of this year have served to lay bare how brazenly some gun control lobbyists put forth patent falsehoods in order to solicit funds -- and when you realize that their livelihood actually depends on maintaining the status quo, so that they may rail against gun ownership in perpetuity, one can't possibly take their arguments seriously. Strict gun control is a perfectly sound, commonsense idea when the only statistics you present are the numbers of tragic, accidental shootings and deranged, suicidal postal workers. But when you take the trouble to think through what gun control would really mean to this country, it's not such a pretty picture either.

This is not -- never was -- a struggle of liberal and conservative principles. Rather, it is -- always has been -- a war between intellectual honesty and those who would corrupt public policy for their own craven purposes. It is only in that context that one can begin to explain why, for example, someone like Sen. John McCain registered such a strong appeal among registered Democrats (including myself) last year: Not because McCain is a liberal (which he is not), but because one can sense in the man a virtue rare among professional politicians: He appears to be capable of intellectual honesty. One can easily imagine John McCain, in private consultation and contemplation, considering both traditionally liberal and conservative arguments and weighing them fairly against one another, before making consequential policy decisions as President.

(Whereas, who -- even among the rational wing of the conservative punditocracy, like William Kristol and Christopher Caldwell -- seriously believes that George W. Bush ever actually sweated bullets as he rationally determined that stem cell research was moral up until a certain date, and immoral thereafter?)

Now, how I could rationalize voting for Sen. Hillary Clinton -- which I did -- is a whole 'nother story which I'll save for another day. Anyway, thanks, Chad -- not just for the kind words, but for clueing me in to Arts and Letters Daily, which will get a permanent sidebar link on the next revision-go-round.


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