New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait explained how conservative media personalities helped coerce the GOP into climate-science denialism.
In a December 1 article, Jonathan Chait discussed the way right-wing media has bullied the GOP to adopt climate-science denialism or face the "AM radio interrogation" from conservative radio hosts. Chait wrote that "GOP politicians that understand climate science [are] cowed into submission by an angry minority," and media figures like Fox News contributors George Will and Charles Krauthammer, and The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens.
Though it was surely not his intention to do so, David Brooks' column today has made an airtight case for why no sane person would support any Republican candidate for president next year.Brooks begins his column by conceding that climate-science deniers have a hammerlock on public discourse within the party. "On this issue the G.O.P. has come to resemble a Soviet dictatorship," he writes, "a vast majority of Republican politicians can't publicly say what they know about the truth of climate change because they're afraid the thought police will knock on their door and drag them off to an AM radio interrogation." Brooks uses this observation as a launching point to tout glimmerings of moderate (or, at any rate, less extreme) thought within the party.
In fact, as terrifying as the reality depicted by Brooks may sound, matters are actually worse. Brooks presents the situation as a "vast majority" of GOP politicians that understand climate science cowed into submission by an angry minority. Perhaps the vast majority of Republican politicians who confide their private beliefs to Brooks feel this way, but this is probably not a representative cross section. It is clear that a large proportion of party elites proclaim themselves to be climate-science skeptics for reasons purely of their own volition. Nor is this sentiment confined to talk-radio shouters. Esteemed chin-strokers and collectors of awards, like George F. Will and Charles Krauthammer, broadcast their disdain for the findings of the climate-science field.
Here is a typical example at hand in Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens's offering today, which dismisses climate change as an imaginary problem. "The hysteria generated by an imperceptible temperature rise of 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880--as if the trend is bound to continue forever, or is not a product of natural variation, or cannot be mitigated except by drastic policy interventions. The hyping of flimsy studies--melting Himalayan glaciers; vanishing polar ice--to press the political point."
Parties operate by coalescing around mutually agreeable policies. The presidential nominee may downplay the most outlandish anti-scientific conspiracy theories, but the party's agenda will have to accommodate the beliefs expounded by the likes of Smith, Inhofe, Will, Krauthammer, Stephens, and many others.
This week conservative media personalities also attacked the U.N. climate summit in Paris. Conservative radio and Fox News host Sean Hannity called those who believed in climate change "idiots." Fox host Bill Hemmer pointed to increasing snowfall in Alaska to dismiss the summit entirely. And radio host Rush Limbaugh said that the climate summit is "an attack on capitalism" and is "about weakening the United States."
George Will ignored Hillary Clinton's substantial accomplishments as secretary of state, senator, and first lady in order to suggest that her support from Democrats is due solely to "identity politics."
In his latest Washington Post column, Will describes the Democratic Party as "adrift in identity politics, cling[ing], as shipwrecked sailors do to floating debris, to this odd feminist heroine," and writes that Clinton's "performance in governance has been defined by three failures." Will goes on to cherry-pick instances from Clinton's career, ignoring her achievements in the White House, Senate, and at State to portray her as a failure.
In citing Clinton's time as first lady, he omits, for example, Clinton's role in the passage of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which expanded health insurance for children in lower-income households. Will also ignores her pivotal role in the Adoption and Safe Families Act, which eased processes allowing the removal of children from abusive situations.
Clinton also helped to create the Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women and used her platform to raise the issue of abuse against women internationally, telling the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women in China that, "It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and for the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights."
Will says Clinton's tenure in the Senate was "an uneventful prelude to her 2008 presidential quest," failing to note that she sponsored or co-sponsored 54 bills that eventually became law. These including writing a section of the No Child Left Behind law addressing recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers; co-authoring a law compelling drug companies to conduct pediatric safety tests on products prescribed for children; working with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on language in a defense authorization bill giving members of the military access to the Tricare health system even when they aren't deployed; and sponsoring a bill which would mandate more efficient distribution of flu vaccines.
Going on to describe her appointment as Secretary State as a "consolation prize," Will downplays Clinton's accomplishments during her years in the position. These include opening up Myanmar as the first secretary of state to make an official visit there since 1955, negotiating a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas with the help of Egypt in 2012, and tightening international sanctions on Iran to their highest level ever with nearly a dozen countries significantly reducing their purchases of Iranian oil in 2012.
Will concludes by ominously noting, "Another Clinton presidency probably would include a reprise of the couple's well-known patterns of behavior." But readers won't get a clear picture of those "patterns" by reading Will's dishonest column.
As young women, there's a conversation many of us have with our parents before we head off to college about how to decrease the risk of being raped or assaulted. We are told things like, never walk alone at night, or have a buddy system with friends at parties. Most importantly, my mother wanted me to know that if something did happen, no matter what, I would be believed, and to take that trust very seriously. This conversation was not part of a feminist power grab or radical lefty ideology. It was about my mother trying to keep me safe.
Professors in the Miami University program on women, gender and sexuality studies are objecting to George Will's planned appearance next week on campus, declaring in a unified voice that previous comments he made about campus rape are "hate speech" that "amount to the sort of vitriol that potentially encourages violence toward women in particular."
"The Miami I believe in is committed to creating a welcoming and safe environment for all of our students," said Anita Mannur, director of the Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies program at the Oxford, OH, campus. "I am disappointed that a speaker who clearly does not respect women, or take the issue of sexual assault seriously, is being given a platform to speak, particularly because such inflammatory rhetoric has the potential to re-victimize and re-traumatize some of our students."
The Washington Post syndicated columnist has been under fire from U.S. senators, media, and women's equality groups since the publication of his June 6 column, which argued that efforts to fight sexual assault have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges." Will has been making similar comments for more than two decades.
In early October, Scripps College of Claremont, CA, canceled a planned appearance by Will in light of the column, with the school's president stating, "Sexual assault is not a conservative or liberal issue. And it is too important to be trivialized in a political debate or wrapped into a celebrity controversy."
The columnist will receive $48,000 for his scheduled speech at Miami University's Farmer School of Business for its annual Anderson Lecture Series on October 22. Earlier this week, a school spokesperson told Media Matters that the administration is aware of the controversy surrounding Will and that "Members of our campus community may rightfully have questions about Mr. Will's writings on a number of issues and we support their right to pose those questions."
The university's women's, gender, and sexuality studies faculty slammed Will's speaking engagement in a joint statement authored by Lisa McLaughlin, an associate professor in the program (emphasis added):
Will's June 6 opinion piece featured an attack on some imagined "campus victimization" advocacy campaign centered on "rape, aka 'sexual assault'." "She asked for it" or "misrepresented it" certainly isn't an original position. The invitation for him to hold forth for the endowed Anderson Speaker Series, overseen by the Farmer School of Business, inflicts on Miami University a misogyny that "diminishes the autonomy, resources, prestige and comity" of this university, to borrow some words from Will's opinion piece.
I'm reticent to give Will any additional attention. Privilege is much more the property of talking heads who are paid so much to enlighten so little, not that of women who have attained victimhood status because they have been sexually assaulted. George Will is privileged. Perhaps he would be more invisible and have less to say if he had ever been raped, but, instead, he draws more attention than anyone who has ever had to endure sexual assault. I do think that he is engaging in hate speech as opposed to free speech. His column amounts to the sort of vitriol that potentially encourages violence toward women in particular. It is not simply a case of Will taking a derisive stance toward the progressivism of government and universities in the spirit of debate. His words on this subject are more in the spirit of bullying than dialogue.
What "serves [us] right," to again borrow a few more words from Will's June 6 column, is Miami University President David Hodge's call for MU to develop new policies and a culture in which the campus has an "obligation to foster and maintain an environment that is free of harassment, discrimination and sexual violence."
I am guessing that Will would not have been invited to this campus if some divisional administrators had taken President Hodge's words seriously. But, the invitation was extended, the contract is signed, and I can't imagine that it will be rescinded. It's too late for that. On the university website, I read the announcement of the George Will presentation and noticed that the final words are that 'seating is limited.' I think that's the only good news in this case."
UPDATE: Scripps College President Lori Bettison-Varga responded in a statement, explaining that she felt sexual assault was not an ideological topic and that Scripps had chosen not to finalize the speaking agreement with Will after his column "trivialized" these cases (emphasis added):
We invited George Will to speak as part of our Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program because he is a prominent conservative commentator, and we believed our community would benefit from the healthy intellectual debate that has been the hallmark of the program since 2006. Over the past eight years, the Malott Public Affairs Program has diversified the educational environment for our students by featuring conservative thought leaders in a widely publicized and well-attended event series. We do not shy away from bringing strong conservative viewpoints into our community.
Sexual assault is not a conservative or liberal issue. And it is too important to be trivialized in a political debate or wrapped into a celebrity controversy. For that reason, after Mr. Will authored a column questioning the validity of a specific sexual assault case that reflects similar experiences reported by Scripps students, we decided not to finalize the speaker agreement.
Scripps College revoked a speaking invitation to the Washington Post's George Will, an act the columnist believes is in response to a piece he wrote in June which trivialized sexual assault on college campuses.
In June, Will used his column to dispute evidence that 1 in 5 women on U.S college campuses experience sexual assault and argued that efforts to fight sexual assault on college campuses have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges."
On October 6, a college newspaper called the Claremont Independent reported that the all-female Scripps College had revoked an invitation for Will to speak as part of a program "designed to promote conservative views on campus." Will suggested that the controversial June column was the impetus for the disinvitation, telling the Independent, "They didn't say that the column was the reason, but it was the reason."
According to the Independent, Christopher DeMuth, a member of the program's speaker selection committee who previously served as president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute resigned in response to the revoked invitation.
Will's June 6 commentary on sexual assault was widely criticized. Four senators publicly condemned his comments in an open letter, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch dropped his syndicated column and apologized for publishing Will's "offensive and inaccurate" arguments, and women's rights groups called for the Washington Post to fire him. Will refused to apologize for the the column and later doubled down on the claims. The Washington Post stood by him, telling Media Matters that his comments were "well within the bounds of legitimate debate."
Washington Post columnist George Will deepened his ethically challenged connections to big-money conservative groups by participating in an Americans for Prosperity summit where prominent Republican presidential hopefuls made their pitch to major donors.
Will's attendance at the Koch-backed group's annual convention comes after he spent months promoting Koch-backed candidates for public offices and advancing Koch-backed policy issues in his syndicated column.
On August 31, Politico reported that Will was part of an "exclusive group of major donors and VIPs" who "dined privately" at AFP's eighth annual Defending the American Dream summit. According to Politico, the summit "has become an increasingly important stop for aspiring GOP presidential candidates." In previous years, Will has also spoken at the summit and been given AFP's highest honor, the George Washington Award.
Will's cozy relationship with AFP has not been disclosed in any of his recent columns promoting key Republican candidates for Congress or governorships, who have benefited from AFP's ad spending. Using his platform at The Washington Post, Will has promoted Michigan Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land, suggesting that she is "the GOP's best answer to the so-called war on women" and contrasting her with Sandra Fluke, whom he smeared as "a professional victim and virtuoso whiner." Will argued that by electing Land, Michigan voters would be able "to show what they think of 'war on women' hysterics as a substitute for thought." Like Will, AFP supports Land and, as Will noted, has already spent $5 million on her behalf. Will did not note his connections to the group.
Will has similarly promoted North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis' candidacy for the Senate, parroting his anti-Obamacare campaign advertisements in a May 30 column. Will defended Tillis against charges that he is an "establishment" moderate by praising his conservative credentials: "Tillis has been an enthusiastic enactor and implementer of the conservatism that North Carolinians voted for." Will noted that AFP has spent $8 million on advertising attacking Tillis' opponent, Democrat Kay Hagan. Charles Koch and his family have also maxed out their contributions to Tillis, and he received a $5,000 donation from the Koch Industries PAC.
Will has profiled Republican Bruce Rauner, who is running to be governor of Illinois, framing the election as a choice between Rauner's push for term limits and his "vows to change the state's fundamental affliction --its political culture" and "the acceleration of stagnation" under the Democratic incumbent, Pat Quinn. AFP has spent at least $120,000 attacking Quinn.
Will also supported the candidacy of Monica Wehby in Oregon. In a July 25 column, he argued that since she has spent 17 years as a pediatric neurosurgeon, "She probably can cope with the strains of legislative life." He cited her "two X chromosomes," opposition to abortion rights, and support of marriage equality to claim she "complicates the Democratic Party's continuing accusation that Republicans wage 'war on women.' " Will also suggested that Wehby isn't too extreme for Oregon because she "won 50 percent of the vote in a five-candidate primary in which her rivals accused her of moderation." The Koch-affiliated group Freedom Partners, which Politico called the "Koch brothers' secret bank," plans to spend $3.6 million on Wehby's race.
Organizations that receive large amounts of Koch funding have also been prominently mentioned in Will's recent columns. Will twice hyped the work of the Institute for Justice, which relied on Charles Koch for seed money, and has since received more than $1 million in money from Koch-backed groups. Will dedicated another column to pushing the Goldwater Institute's effort to create a balanced budget amendment. The group has received more than $1.6 million in donations from Koch-affiliated groups.
Will also offered praise for U.S. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa, who halted a criminal investigation into possible illegal coordination between the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and outside groups during a recall election. Walker has benefited from more than $10 million in spending by AFP.
Will has previously had problems with nondisclosure. Will has been criticized by media ethicists and veteran journalists for citing groups that are funded by the Bradley Foundation without disclosing that he is a paid board member of that organization. Tom Fiedler, dean of Boston University's College of Communications and former Miami Herald editor, stated that Will's acceptance of an award from the Bradley Foundation "signaled his alignment with its philosophy." Washington and Lee University journalism professor Ed Wasserman said that Will's failure to disclose the relationship was "[o]f course" a problem, explaining that even though Will is known to be a conservative, readers should know if Will's commentary is "independently arrived at rather than a reflection of a nexus of relationships and entanglements that he is embedded in."
From the June 14 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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Washington Post columnist George Will dedicated his most recent column to bashing citizens uncomfortable with forced participation in Christian prayer before they can petition town officials, characterizing both the Jewish and atheist plaintiff in the Supreme Court's recent decision on the constitutionality of state-sponsored prayer as "flimsy people" with "thin skins."
The suit, Town of Greece v. Galloway, was filed by two residents of Greece -- a small town in upstate New York -- who objected to their town officials' decade-long practice of inviting almost exclusively Christian clergy to deliver at times extremely sectarian prayers before the start of town meetings. On May 6, the Supreme Court's conservative justices held that the Christian prayer regularly invoked at town meetings before residents could engage their local officials in town business did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In the majority's view, the prayers were appropriate because "although most of the prayer givers were Christian, this fact reflected only the predominantly Christian identity of the town's congregations." In their dissent, the liberal justices noted that although "legislative prayers" have been held to be a ceremonial exception to the First Amendment's prohibition on the establishment of religion, the Town of Greece crossed the constitutional line by embedding Christian prayers as the bar citizens must cross before they can engage their representatives.
In his Washington Post column, Will celebrated the majority's reinterpretation of what constitutes permissible "legislative prayers." He also took the opportunity to gratuitously slam the "prickly plaintiffs" for bringing the case at all, falsely pretending the concerns of religious minorities are the same as those of "militantly aggravated secularists."
From Will's May 7 column (emphasis added):
Three decades have passed since the court last ruled on the matter of prayers during government meetings. In 1983, the court held:
"The opening of sessions of legislative and other deliberative public bodies with prayer is deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country. From colonial times through the founding of the Republic and ever since, the practice of legislative prayer has coexisted with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom."
Since then, however, many Americans have become more irritable and litigious and less neighborly. Also, there are many more nonbelievers. And the court has made establishment-clause jurisprudence more labyrinthine with nuances such as the "endorsement test": What government behavior touching religion would a reasonable observer see as endorsing -- or disapproving -- a particular religion or religiosity generally?
The majority held that ceremonial prayer -- an encouragement to gravity and sobriety -- is not harmful to the plaintiffs, who felt somehow coerced when present at public prayers, and who said such prayers are necessarily divisive. The court should have told them: If you feel coerced, you are flimsy people, and it is a choice -- an unattractive one -- to feel divided from your neighbors by their affection for brief and mild occasional expressions of religiosity.
Taking offense has become America's national pastime; being theatrically offended supposedly signifies the exquisitely refined moral delicacy of people who feel entitled to pass through life without encountering ideas or practices that annoy them. As the number of nonbelievers grows -- about 20 percent of Americans are religiously unaffiliated, as are one-third of adults under the age of 30 -- so does the itch to litigate believers into submission to secular sensibilities.
Washington Post columnist and National Review Online contributor George Will has found yet another legally dubious lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to champion.
At issue in this new lawsuit, which will be heard by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on May 8, is whether the ACA was passed in violation of the "Origination Clause" of the U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section 7 says that "All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills."
Will, who apparently never met a far-fetched anti-ACA lawsuit he didn't like, dedicated his NRO column on "Obamacare's Doom" to this latest right-wing challenge. Because the Supreme Court ultimately held that the individual mandate of the ACA -- a bill drafted in the Senate -- was a tax, Will is convinced that "this surely makes the ACA a revenue measure" and therefore runs afoul of the Origination Clause. Will continued:
In June 2012, a Supreme Court majority accepted a, shall we say, creative reading of the ACA by Chief Justice John Roberts. The court held that the penalty, which the ACA repeatedly calls a penalty, is really just a tax on the activity -- actually, the nonactivity -- of not purchasing insurance. The individual mandate is not, the court held, a command but merely the definition of a condition that can be taxed. The tax is mild enough to be semi-voluntary; individuals are free to choose whether or not to commit the inactivity that triggers the tax.
The "exaction" -- Roberts's word -- "looks," he laconically said, "like a tax in many respects." It is collected by the IRS, and the proceeds go to the Treasury for the general operations of the federal government, not to fund a particular program. This surely makes the ACA a revenue measure.
Did it, however, originate in the House? Of course not.
Two years ago, the Supreme Court saved the ACA by declaring its penalty to be a tax. It thereby doomed the ACA as an unconstitutional violation of the origination clause.
But Will ignores some key facts about the legislative process -- not to mention one-hundred-year-old Supreme Court precedent. Will's Obamacare doomsday device is actually a routine and bipartisan Congressional practice: the use of a "shell bill."
Conservative Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor George Will cherry-picked outlier examples of campaign finance violations while ignoring legitimate concerns about the potential for big-money donors to corrupt elections and balloted measures .
In his October 30 column, Will attacks campaign finance reform and celebrates the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for large donors to corrupt elections with outsized contributions. Will highlights a pair of lower-court cases where judges struck down regulations on political speech that affected seemingly small-time civic participation to downplay the danger of political corruption, conveniently overlooking how these decisions might make it easier for large corporations to obfuscate their own political participation:
Brick by brick, judges are dismantling the wall of separation that legislators have built between political activity and the First Amendment's protections of free speech and association. The latest examples, from Mississippi and Arizona, reflect the judiciary's proper engagement in defending citizens from the regulation of political speech, a.k.a. "campaign finance reform."
In 2011, a few like-minded friends and neighbors in Oxford, Miss., who had been meeting for a few years to discuss politics, decided to work together to support passage of an initiative amending Mississippi's Constitution. The amendment, restricting the power of the state and local governments to take private property by eminent domain, was provoked by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo ruling that governments could, without violating the Fifth Amendment ("nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation"), take property for the "public use" of transferring it to persons who would pay more taxes to the government.
The Mississippi friends and neighbors wanted to pool their funds to purchase posters, fliers and local newspaper advertising. They discovered that if, as a group, they spent more than $200 to do these simple things, they would be required by the state's campaign finance law to register as a "political committee." And if, as individuals, any of them spent more than $200 supporting the initiative, they must report this political activity to the state.
Mississippi defines a political committee as any group of persons spending more than $200 to influence voters for or against candidates "or balloted measures." Supposedly, regulation of political activity is to prevent corruption of a candidate or the appearance thereof. How does one corrupt a "balloted measure"?
The answer to this question should be obvious, and even Will begrudgingly admits "there is some slight informational value in knowing where money supporting a voter initiative comes from." Although Will doesn't mention it, the judge in the Mississippi case clearly left the door open for future regulations of political speech, giving a nod to the possibility of improper influence with respect to ballot initiatives:
Significantly, the Court does not hold that Mississippi may not regulate individuals and groups attempting to influence constitutional ballot measures. Instead, the Court holds only that under the current regulatory scheme, which is convoluted and exacting, the requirements are too burdensome for the State's $200 threshold.
Nevertheless, Will goes on to call the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United -- one that allowed a tsunami of corporate money to enter the election process -- an "excellent" one. But even Citizens United noted the corrupting danger of unchecked money in the political system, and transparency was explicitly recognized as the critical protection against such a problem.
Rush Limbaugh wants to know why George Will can root for Obamacare to fail without consequence while he faced criticism for hoping Obama fails, sentiments that are "the same thing" according to the radio host.
Newly-crowned Fox contributor George Will appeared on Fox News Sunday's online after-show Panel Plus on October 27 to discuss glitches in Healthcare.gov. Will told the panel, "Of course I want Obamacare to fail. Because if it doesn't fail, it will just further entangle American society with a government that is not up to this."
To Rush Limbaugh, Will's remarks reflected the same sentiment Limbaugh himself expressed back in 2009. Because "if you want Obamacare to fail," Limbaugh reasoned, "you want Obama to fail."
Indeed, four days before then-President-elect Barack Obama took office in 2009, Limbaugh infamously declared that he "hope[s] Obama fails," a refrain he repeated that day and throughout Obama's presidency.
Part of the impetus behind this sentiment, Limbaugh explained at the time, is that he did not want the government involved in health care:
LIMBAUGH: Look, what he's talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don't want this to work.
Now, Limbaugh is attempting to drag George Will under the bus with him. On the October 28 edition of his radio program, Limbaugh aired Will's remarks about his desire for Obamacare to fail, and claimed this was the "same thing" he had said in 2009 for "the exact same reasons":
Newly christened Fox News contributor George Will sat down with NPR's Steve Inskeep on the October 9 Morning Edition to educate us all on the subtle governmental intricacies behind the week-old government shutdown and the week-or-so-away debt limit fracture. Leaning on the Founding Fathers, Will gave his stamp of approval to the Republican-led effort to repeal Obamacare and argued against the inviolability of the Affordable Care Act as "the law," observing that "the Fugitive Slave Act was the law, separate but equal was the law, lots of things are the law and then we change them."
Will is right: laws are not sacrosanct and can be altered or thrown out at any time. Obamacare is real-time proof of that -- the Supreme Court upheld the law but ruled that states could not be forced to participate in its expansion of Medicaid. But that's a pedestrian observation made provocative by the out-of-line invocation of segregation and slavery. "Separate but equal" and the Fugitive Slave Act were moral travesties; the ACA helps people buy health insurance. The similarities begin and end with their status as laws. Other laws have been scuttled too -- Prohibition, for example -- but Will chose those two particular laws and in doing so invited a comparison that he can't justify because it's unjustifiable.
And then there's Will's assertion that what we're seeing with the government shutdown and the attendant gridlock over Obamacare is the "Madisonian scheme," the idea that government is "hard to move, it's supposed to be. People look at Washington and say 'oh, this is so difficult.' It's supposed to be difficult."
Again, Will is right that governing and passing legislation is hard work. It was hard work for the Democrats to win majorities in both houses of Congress, and it was hard work for Barack Obama to win the presidency in 2008. Even with those majorities, it was really quite difficult for the president and the Democrats to craft a health care bill and get it through Congress, and they paid a difficult price for it at the ballot box in 2010. Defending the law in front of the Supreme Court was a monumentally difficult task, and even though it emerged, it did not do so unscathed. And then Obama and the Democrats had to go before the electorate again, in 2012, to defend the law, and not only did they succeed, they actually improved their standing in both the House and the Senate.
Here's a quick synopsis of George Will's last five columns for the Washington Post: bemoaning the politicization of the Federal Reserve Board; tracing the history of isolationism; counseling Republicans to let Obamacare stumble on its own; inveighing against college football's corruption and lawlessness; and examining the legacy of the Bay of Pigs invasion. In those five columns, Will cited a proposed constitutional amendment from 1938, used the phrases "semantic infiltration" and "perverse fecundity," and quoted Ernest Hemingway and H.L. Mencken. He has degrees from Oxford and got his Ph.D from Princeton.
All this to say that George Will is a brainy fellow who enjoys a broad array of scholarly pursuits and has a long-running reputation as a public intellectual. And that's why it's kind of baffling that he's joining Fox News.
To be clear, Will's conservative politics and his counterfactual denialism of climate change fit the Murdoch network hand-in-glove. And he's an old, white conservative man joining what is basically the ongoing televised celebration of old, white conservative men. But the barking partisanship of Fox News and its crude appeals to cultural resentment don't mesh with Will's style of commentary and analysis. You look at George Will, in all his carefully cultivated patrician nerdiness, and the Fox News environment just seems wrong for him. He revels in elitism, whereas Fox News sops to Tea Party anger. Being associated with that does nothing for the George Will "brand," if that's the right word for it. In fact, it probably hurts it.
George Will argues in his Washington Post column today that what he terms the Justice Department's "drive to federalize voter registration" is an unnecessarily complex answer to "the non-problem of people choosing not to vote," and that high voter turnout isn't all it's cracked up to be, citing the German elections of the early 1930s that resulted in Nazi dictatorship.
Describing "obvious reasons for non-voting," he writes:
[T]he stakes of politics are agreeably low because constitutional rights and other essential elements of happiness are not menaced by elections. Those who think high voter turnout indicates civic health should note that in three German elections, 1932-33, turnout averaged more than 86 percent, reflecting the terrible stakes: The elections decided which mobs would rule the streets and who would inhabit concentration camps.
There's a lot to unpack here, but I'll try to keep it brief. Germany in the early 1930s was reeling from the global depression, increasingly bitter over the outcome of World War I and the punitive terms of the Treaty of Versailles, and overrun by extremist parties with their own paramilitary wings brawling in the streets and shooting at each other outside political rallies. Anti-Semitism was widespread, everyone hated the Weimar government, and nostalgia for the heady days of the Kaiser led most people to actually yearn for a dictatorship of some form. And in this toxic political environment, the Nazis managed to prevail over the other extremist groups -- largely due to popular support, but also through conspiracy and outright intimidation.
None of that, however, is an argument against the high voter turnout as a sign of "civic health." It's an argument against war, depression, anti-Semitism, Nazis, Communists, and political violence. Will could just as easily have argued that representative government, or elections themselves, aren't a sign of "civic health," given how they were misused and perverted by Hitler and his associates.
From the December 18 edition of ABC's This Week with Christianne Amanpour:
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