There was a time when I admired Charles Krauthammer. An article he wrote in The New Republic, in response to Mario Cuomo famous Notre Dame speech, helped me to see the error of my ways and turn away from my previous pro-choice stance. Back then, Krauthammer was precise and exact in his arguments and allowed himself to be exposed to arguments from serious liberals as well as serious conservatives. Now, he discusses policy on Fox News and the only one to challenge him from the left is the always predictable and never incisive Juan Williams. No wonder Krauthammer's intellectual gifts have become blunt and ill-used.
But, this morning, Krauthammer outdid himself. In yet another rant against the President, Krauthammer takes aim at the President's newfound economic populism. It is ironic that Krauthammer attempts to shame Obama for adopting a re-election stratgey that is nearly identical to the one that got George W. Bush re-elected in 2004: "Play the outsider. Declare yourself the underdog. Denounce Washington as if the electorate hasn't noticed that you've been in charge of it for nearly three years. But above all: Find villians." Of course, Bush went further, challenging the patriotism of his opponent and smearing his war record. And, it is a simple lie to suggest that this, or any, President is "in control" of Washington, still less the country.
But, what really bothered me was this: "Popular resentment, easily stoked, is less easily controlled, especially when the basest of instincts are granted legitimacy by the nation's leader." Basest instincts? What base instincts does he intend? Those of us who think the rich should pay more to fund the social safety net, and those of us who are alarmed at the growing inequality of wealth in this country, and those of us who think Wall Street titans should be shamed into changing their culture of greed, and those of us who think it is more important to fund nutritional programs for women than to provide tax breaks to oil companies, what motivates us? I can't speak for everyone, but I will assert that a concern for social justice is part of my motivation and I do not think it a base motivation at all. Human motivations are complex things to be sure, and some may be motivated, in part, by the desire to bring down the mighty, although there is a certain healthy democratic instinct in that too. And, I would add that there is a certain religious warrant for that instinct in the Magnificat: "He has cast down the mighty from their thrones/ He has lifted up the lowly."
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It is a shame to see a once fine mind reduced to such agitprop as Krauthammer now delivers. Such a shame.