Saturday, June 15, 2013

Killing Confidence in Big Government

We argued several weeks ago (see here and here) that the President was doing a good job, in an Inspector Clouseau sort of way, of making the case for smaller more accountable government even as he has tried to expand it and grow its control over our lives.

Ron Fournier, a liberal at National Journal reluctantly agrees that the incompetence and turpitude of this administration have pretty much put the kibosh on the argument that government is a good thing and that the more of it there is the better it is for everyone.

Fournier writes:
I like government. I don't like what the fallout from these past few weeks might do to the public's faith in it.

The core argument of President Obama's rise to power, and a uniting belief of his coalition of young, minority and well-educated voters, is that government can do good things -- and do them well.

[But] look at what ... the past few weeks wrought.
He goes on to elaborate on a half-dozen of what he calls "clichés," but which a conservative might call obvious truths amply verified by history. They are, in his words, that big government is intrusive, Orwellian, incompetent, corrupt, complicated, heartless, secretive, and untrustworthy. He explains how the events of the past few weeks have confirmed each element of this unfortunate indictment of the Leviathan state. The essay is very much worth reading. Fournier's disappointment and disillusionment with the current administration and the punch it has delivered to the solar plexus of his liberal faith in government are keenly felt.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this and similar laments from those on the port side of the ideological ship is that they often express consternation that someone as savvy, intelligent, knowledgeable, and virtuous as is President Obama could have allowed all this to happen. Those who were somehow seduced by Mr. Obama's rhetorical charms just can't bring themselves to believe that it was all a fraud.

But when the conclusion - in this case that our government has massively screwed up - is obviously true but doesn't follow from the premise - i.e., that our nation is led by a nearly omnicompetent man of dazzling brilliance and goodness - there's usually something wrong with the premise.

Bad things happen in the administration of highly competent and ethical individuals, to be sure, but when so much bad happens - not only the most recent scandals, but the scandals surrounding Fast and Furious, the Solyndra cronyism, the abysmal employment picture, and at least a half dozen lesser disgraces - one eventually has to reexamine one's assumption that we really are being led by highly competent and ethical individuals.

Media Bias

One of our favorite topics here at Viewpoint is the various derelictions, delinquencies, and sundry other vices of a media that has abandoned all pretense of objectivity in its political news reporting, and has become pretty much an organ for the promotion of the Democratic Party.

It's a favorite target because it's an example of a social injustice that doesn't seem to be of much concern to those, many of whom are themselves in the media, who otherwise so earnestly voice their passionate desire for social justice, and because poking fun at media hypocrisies and fatuities is such easy sport that it's irresistible.

Mary Katherine Ham is a kindred spirit. She highlights in a piece at Hot Air, for example, the disparity between the picture the media often paints of Tea Party protests and their depictions of protests conducted by the left. Here's her lede:
I mentioned yesterday the ongoing liberal protests in North Carolina dubbed “Moral Mondays.” Protesters are self-consciously modeling their efforts on Wisconsin’s, which as I noted, doesn’t necessarily bode well for them. But it does give us a chance to witness, once again, the breathtaking double standard in media coverage for protests populated by liberals vs. protests populated by conservatives.

You’ll remember back in 2009, conservatives packed health care town halls to object to Obamacare. There was pointed questioning, occasional yelling, and rare cases (nonetheless very well publicized) of physical altercations of some sort. Back in 2009, in my post-mortem on the August town halls, which had inspired national media to openly fret about the impending doom of the Republic, I calculated that there were about 11 incidents of documented violence at more than 500 health care town halls, and that the majority of them were perpetrated by liberals on conservatives.

This, of course, was not the narrative that emerged from that month or what most people remember from it because the media was busy freaking out about how all these peaceful demonstrators and pointed question-askers were bringing the nation to the brink of collapse.

Since then, we’ve seen the destruction of public parks, total disregard for permitting rules, frequent violent eruptions, and occasional sexual assaults or mysterious deaths [at] Occupy Wall Street glossed over by media in their fervor to continue a national dialogue about inequality and stuff. Had a Tea Party ever resulted in mass arrests, defecating on cop cars, or sexual assaults of attendees, the public policy concerns of the protest’s participants would have been quickly dismissed and the group demonized. For Tea Partiers, those things happened despite holding actual peaceful protests in which public lands were left often better than they were found.

Now, we have “Moral Mondays.” Check out the L.A. Times’ coverage and imagine this kind of press release ever appearing on a Tea Party gathering in national news. Now, imagine that Tea Party protest had included hundreds of arrests. Laugh with me, people.
As Ham goes on to recount the Times' coverage of these "Moral Monday" protests one marvels at the sympathetic tone and the almost heroic portrayals of the demonstrators, especially when compared to the history of demonization of the Tea Partiers. You can read more of what Ham says about it at the link.

The media may profess a certain disapprobation of the treatment meted out to conservatives by the IRS - which was an attempt to limit their effectiveness in the political arena by treating them in ways that liberal groups were not treated - but, other than the fact that the media is not a government entity, how is their behavior significantly different? What the IRS did was done for political reasons and was unethical, unjust, and dishonest. The distorted portrayals of Tea Party groups by the media is no less so.

In fact, it could be argued that it was these very misrepresentations that convinced the IRS in the first place that conservative groups needed special scrutiny and even needed to be thwarted.