Sunday, April 6, 2014

Kathleen Parker Defends the Kochs Because They're Wonderful Americans?

Sheldon Adelson and wife: These people are popular
because, uh, they're beautiful people? Is that it?

Kathleen Parker is my least unfavorite conservative writer. She's glib without being nasty. She's always a little outraged, but only a little. There's a touch of wry humor, and she isn't as lazy as David Brooks. She doesn't set out to make grandiose, unsupported statements. I'm not saying she has a remarkable command of the facts, just that her points don't require much.

Case in point: Parker's latest op-ed seems to feel that the problem with the Koch brothers is not that they support lying and misleading as a viable approach to political strategy, it's that they're the face of being humungously rich. Sorry Kathleen, that may be part of it, but spending gobs of cash on propaganda campaigns based on pure nonsense is the reason people like Harry Reid (and me) dislike them so much.

Many of us in the 99% are surprisingly neutral about the amount of wealth someone might have. We tend to admire a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffett because they use their money as a force for good. I'm sure they spend a little of their fortunes on political figures or causes, but I for one don't hear much if anything about it. It's a quiet affair.

But your Kochs and Adelsons, they're a different matter. Adelson calls leading GOP candidates for president in 2016 to Las Vegas, and, bing!, here they all come to genuflect. Amazing. For his money, they're going to have to adopt a number of Adelson's views. I wonder if they will?

The Kochs are a different matter. They've constructed a view of American life where we're supposed to be free, free, free to live the most unregulated lives, and anything we do together will destroy the fabric of our precious American culture because if we do something collectively, we wouldn't be free, free, free. Instead, we'd be collectivists, by which Charles Koch clearly means communists. Amazing, huh?

Now, Kathleen, Charles Koch is allowed by our precious American culture to believe as well as state openly that those with liberal views are bad for our country. And, because of recent Supreme Court decisions, the Koch brothers are free to spend bigger and bigger gobs of money on their political causes. We might not like it -- Harry Reid doesn't like it -- but that's not why we don't like them. It's because they're lying bastards who use their gobs of money targeting Democrats with lies.

And, Kathleen, it's widely established. It's not my opinion. Fact-checkers far and wide give their ad campaigns low marks for honesty.

Okay, I get that a rhetorical technique is at play here and is pretty obvious in your column. It's the whole "straw dog" thing. You can't defend the honesty and integrity of the Kochs because even your Washington Post, which has a fairly high regard for the Kochs' positions on things, has had to report that lying is an established Koch brothers' political strategy. So you say we don't like them because they're so rich, then you say, well, we shouldn't. There's your straw dog. Fine, go ahead, knock it down. Well done. Another column finished. Check. Now that wasn't so hard, was it?

To be fair, Parker had another complaint, and she's got a right to voice it. It's not a straw dog, either:
One needn’t support the brothers’ preference for unfettered markets or their willingness to fund positions that might favor them. Plenty of conservatives disagree with their support for tea party insurgents and their climate-change skepticism.
Allowing the super-wealthy to disproportionately influence political outcomes may indeed be bad for the democratic process — and that’s of legitimate concern to all. But one’s eyes should be wide open when people are singled out as un-American. What’s next? A Senate committee investigating such un-American activities as advocating free-market principles or pursuing capitalist endeavors?
Of course, I’m kidding. That could never happen here, except it sort of already has. When Reid called the Kochs un-American, a powerful government official fired a shot across the bow of two private citizens who have acted within the law while contributing wealth to the economy through employment.
Good point, Ms. Parker. The Kochs are job creators! We should be nice to them and shouldn't call them un-American. Fine, that is a little nasty of Harry Reid, and maybe a little untrue. It's very American these days for rich people to spend gobs of money on completely dishonest attack ads.

Politics needs well-framed messages, a craft the GOP excelled at for years before the Democrats learned what they were missing. So Harry Reid doesn't emphasize that the Kochs are lying bastards and you should watch this ad and this ad and this ad. That's my job. Reid's job is to find the well-framed message. The Kochs are un-American. Fine, that works, just like your straw dog technique works on a certain number of people.

Reid's point is somewhat well-founded. It is a bit un-American to work against so many people's best interests while fostering a libertarian view. A libertarian view requires a outright let-them-eat-cake view toward money, resources, and power. Marie Antoinette doesn't represent our American life, does she? Even the French didn't like her. They chopped off her head to prove it. So Reid's right. If the Kochs are going to act like French aristocrats, they risk being called un-American. Message delivered, message received.

WaPo's Jonathan Capehart disagrees with Ms. Parker. Here's a link to Michael Tomasky's take on the real Republican agenda that Capehart cites. It's stunning in its directness.

"Will the Republicans keep trying to lower our taxes?
Of course they will, Mortimer, of course they will."

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