Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Procopius works at Newsweek

Andrew Sullivan's latest cover piece--Why Are Obama's Critics So Dumb--is a painful read. It's full of pseudo-facts, questionable analysis, and fan-boy braggadocio. In that regard, it proves one thing: clever panegyrics remain an art form. Because embedded in this rather lengthy love letter are the seeds of reality, seeds that--I think--Mr. Sullivan knows are there, all too well.

The economic analysis of the piece hits the same tired note once again, that lie that just won't go away:
Under Bush, new policies on taxes and spending cost the taxpayer a total of $5.07 trillion. Under Obama’s budgets both past and projected, he will have added $1.4 trillion in two terms.
The phony "tax cuts cost us X dollars" is once again taken as a given. Even worse, Sullivan speaks of Bush's "policies on taxes and spending," but only of Obama's "budgets." But here's the real rub: Sullivan makes this statement immediately after noting that Obama didn't raise taxes during his term, yet fails to factor those numbers into his analysis. Surely, he must know people will see that "error," mustn't he?

Sullivan also brags on Obama's "accomplishments" in solving unemployment. Seriously. Look:
The right claims the stimulus failed because it didn’t bring unemployment down to 8 percent in its first year, as predicted by Obama’s transition economic team. Instead, it peaked at 10.2 percent. But the 8 percent prediction was made before Obama took office and was wrong solely because it relied on statistics that guessed the economy was only shrinking by around 4 percent, not 9. Remove that statistical miscalculation (made by government and private-sector economists alike) and the stimulus did exactly what it was supposed to do. It put a bottom under the free fall. It is not an exaggeration to say it prevented a spiral downward that could have led to the Second Great Depression.
Now, Andrew Sullivan is--in  my opinion--a smart guy. Smart enough not to believe what he has written here, but maybe I'm wrong (I don't think I am). Because if we look back at the reality of the moment, we know that this version is just not what was being peddled. It was created wholesale from sackcloth much later. Moreover, we also know that--historically--actual recoveries don't follow the kinds of paths Sullivan outlines. And regardless, a simple comparison to the first term of Reagan shows what the consequences are for a very different set of polices.

Andrew Sullivan--who opens the piece by claiming to be "a conservative-minded independent"--writes like a DemocracyNow-watching, DailyKos-reading, dyed-in-the-wool progressive. How can that be?

One more bit worth looking at is Sullivan's praise for Obama's killing of Osama bin Laden. A portion:
And when the moment for decision came, the president overruled both his secretary of state and vice president in ordering the riskiest—but most ambitious—plan on the table. He even personally ordered the extra helicopters that saved the mission. It was a triumph, not only in killing America’s primary global enemy, but in getting a massive trove of intelligence to undermine al Qaeda even further.
Maybe Obama was even on the com-channel of the Seal team, barking orders and directing the assault? Regardless, it's worth treading carefully here. The President did what he had to do. But really, what President would not have done the same (aside from Carter, of course)? The actual locating of bin Laden was a process, however, that took years and began before Obama took office. Those responsible for locating him are the nameless, faceless operatives of out intelligence community and will likely never receive much in the way of credit. But what we have in Sullivan's version is a defiant Obama that almost single-handedly ordains the death of bin Laden, that uses his military expertise to design the perfect raid. Right.

During the reign of Justinian I in Byzantium, the official historian was Procopius. He composed several histories of the period, detailing the many triumphs and accomplishments of the Emperor, who was always portrayed as the principal actor, the driving force, the hero. But Procopius also composed the once-infamous, now-famous Secret History, which detailed some less-than-noble activities of the Emperor and his wife. It is widely accepted that this last history reflected Procopius' real attitude towards his leader. And indeed, a careful reading of the other works suggests the possibility of Procopius' tongue often being firmly in his cheek, as he glorified Justinian.

I suspect Sullivan is a fan of Procopius...

Cheers, all.

1 comment:

  1. Kudos for being able to read such disgusting, vile liberal twaddle.

    As for Sullivan and smarts, I wouldn't want him balancing my checkbook.