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Friday, December 05, 2014

Dubya and The Newly Republican

Dubya gets something right. Woah. Has the experience of squeezing tubes of Old Holland onto a palette actually transformed George Dubya Bush into a raffishly bohemian thinker? Look at these words about the Eric Garner decision...
"You know, the verdict was hard to understand," he said. "But I hadn't seen all the details -- but it's sad that race continues to play such an emotional, divisive part of life."
Bush said the United States has improved since the 1970s, when he was young, and said he remembers "race riots with cities being burned."

Bush discussed the recent racial unrest that followed a Missouri grand jury's failure to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in the shooting death of Michael Brown, who was black, over dinner with his former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"We talked about this subject, and yeah -- she just said, you gotta understand that there are a lot of black folks that are incredibly, more and more, distrusting of law enforcement," Bush said. "Which is a shame, because law enforcement's job is to protect everybody."
I see nothing wrong here. Amazing. Can you believe that Bush managed to get through that many paragraphs, on so touchy a topic, without saying anything dunderheaded?

The Newly Republican. We are hearing wails of mourning for an institution that isn't dead. The New Republic is moving to New York, and most of editorial staff sent in letters of resignation. The new editor-in-chief of TNR is Gabriel Snyder of The Gawker. So far, so good (or at least so not-bad). I've linked to rather more Gawker stories than TNR stories over the years.

The eulogies for the old TNR tell us a lot about what's wrong with American liberalism. Dylan Byers in Politico:
Through its history, The New Republic has been a vehicle for progressive thinking, while priding itself on a willingness to challenge liberal orthodoxy, from the left or right. In its early decades, it provided intellectual fuel for the emergence of the United States as an international force. And in recent decades, particularly after the 9/11 attacks, it continued to urge a robust foreign policy, even endorsing the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Byers writes as though this is a good thing. Byers is a dolt. How can there be such a thing as progressive neoconservatism? Isn't that like talking about a spherical triangle or a green-ish shade of purple?

Now comes Ezra Klein:
The American Prospect was labor-liberalism. The Washington Monthly was technocratic neoliberalism. The New Republic oscillated from editor to editor, but tended towards a hawkish, contrarian neoliberalism (hence the "Even the liberal New Republic" meme). The Nation, which was based in New York, and Mother Jones, which was based in San Francisco, were a bit less policy-oriented, but a lot more liberal.
I have problems with all of those journals, but especially with the Newly Republican. There is, or should be, much distance between the concepts of "liberalism" and "neoliberalism."

Who is more liberal, Dubya or TNR? Here's TNR on the Ferguson decision...
The Ferguson Decision Was Not a "Miscarriage of Justice." Liberals Need to Accept That.
In all, the forensic evidence did not prove Wilson innocent of killing Brown when he was trying to surrender, but it also did not give the grand Jury “probable cause” to indict him on that basis. Other evidence may surface, but from what the grand jury learned, I think it did the right thing...
Looks to me as though "even the liberal New Republic" could take lessons from George W. Bush.

Let's be fair. In response to the Garner death, TNR published a perfectly sensible idea.
If prosecutors and police departments are too tightly linked for due process to mean anything, then puncturing the impunity requires breaking the link.

One way to do this would be for citizens at state and local levels, through ballot initiatives, to take the authority for presenting evidence of police misconduct to grand juries out of the hands of local prosecutors. That authority could be handed to publicly accountable review boards staffed with civilian lawyers from within the jurisdiction, or to special prosecutors’ offices.
I love the concept of a citizen's review board. In this era of ubiquitous pocket camcorders, those guys could be watching movies all day long. (Hint to street videographers: You're supposed to keep your iPhone horizontal.) Of course, if there were a serious attempt to bring this plan to fruition, the Powers That Be would do everything they could to keep these review boards fettered.

So, that's the Newly Republican: Bad on Ferguson, better on the Garner case, awful on health care (or just about anything related to the Bill Clinton presidency) and downright horrific whenever we think about the inseparability of Democratic and Republican insiders on foreign policy issues.

If the new TNR fails, how will you behave at the funeral? Will you look mournful or dance a jig?

Perhaps the new version of the journal should specialize in bogus stories. Make a game of it: Spot the fake in every issue. Or maybe the whole enterprise has long been a kind of hoax, and the only real sin of Stephen Glass was to make obvious that which was supposed to remain covert.
The first article, that I am aware of, that questioned the Oswald as lone gunman theory was "Seeds of Doubt" in the New Republic, I believe in December of 1963. I really liked TRB back in the 1960s. It felt a little like inside baseball, but gave me a feeling a little more than the next guy. After Peretz bought the magazine, I stopped reading it, for a variety of reasons. But then he hired Sullivan as its editor and I think it totally lost its way. I know Peretz is pro-Israel, so am I. But the notion that Republicans are good for Israel is mind boggling. Pat Buchanan is a Republican. And most right wingers care only about increasing wealth inequality, which they see as a good thing. If throwing Israel under the bus would increase wealth for the rich, under the bus Israel would go. And I fail to see how the destruction of the American economy is good for Israel.
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