Sunday, April 29, 2012

Please Mr. Lowry 1/3

Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review and sometimes contributing op-ed writer for about a million other respected publications, can be very insightful. Other times, he can be very inciteful. His rhetoric is of a pragmatic nature, laced with conservative ideologies and something peculiar. Although far from paranoid, he suffers from skepticism and suspicion of non-likeminded thinkers. It is pervasive in his writing, but not unhealthy in any substantive way.

Skepticism and open suspicion of the unknown or unrelatable is healthy and human. It can also be limiting. Those two qualities often get him to the good questions but rarely lead him to answers of a similar quality. When he spoke at Skidmore College he was a well-informed individual that curated one of the most respected conservative publications in the country. His logical underpinnings were sound but rarely were his conclusions satisfactory.

As an example, take his latest commentary piece in Time. His second paragraph is well-written, “the economy is sunk in a subpar recovery and the nation’s balance sheet is deep in the red…the welfare state is in crisis throughout the Western world. The President’s approach amounts to fiddling while Athens burns, or at least defaults.” Indeed the economy does suffer from a subpar recovery, the nation’s balance sheet is deep in the red, and the welfare state is in crisis throughout the Western world—previous recoveries have put up much better results, there is a severe deficit, and the EU is self-asphyxiating with cuts to programs while need steadily increases. So the question is what sorts of policies would produce better results (the implicit good question that Mr. Lowry is so excellent at finding)?

Mr. Lowry responds that “the President’s approach amounts to fiddling while Athens burns, or at least defaults.” An excellent zinger but indicative of Lowry’s stuck logic. While Athens is on the brink of default, it was Rome that burned while Nero fiddled—an inconsequential inaccuracy that defeats the rhetorical flair but doesn’t detract ultimately from his argument.

Except it does. The statement basically accuses the President of doing nothing in his first term and having no policy goals going forward. “There is no signature proposal for his second term, no discernible agenda.” Yet in the very next sentence, Mr. Lowry states clearly that Obama’s platform is “microinitiatives.” Mr. Lowry also states that the President uses ad-hominem attacks additionally as part of his campaign strategy—a charge that can’t be denied but has little weight when every slimeball or righteous human coveting the majority vote from a constituency engages in the practice. Microinitiatives, by their very nature, are policy proposals. That there is no “signature proposal” is merely a marketing shortcoming. One cannot fault a candidate for having specific policy goals that are clearly outlined. Simple deductive reasoning shows that all of the proposals taken as a whole constitute an agenda.