Frist, Do No Harm!

A mostly political Weblog.
May 31 2005 6:02 AM

Frist, Do No Harm!

Plus--McCain saves The Palm; CNN saves Thunder.

(Continued from Page 4)

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Buzz off: Two good critiques of the ubiquitous, left-pleasing menace, George Lakoff--by Marc Cooper  and Noam Scheiber. Oddly, neither attacks Lakoff at what would seem to be his central weak point, namely his conflation of politics and parenting--identifying "conservative" values with "the strict father" and "liberal" values with the "nurturant parent."

Is a country really like a family? Isn't that an idea with a ... checkered history? A family is a relationship between inherently unequal, not-completely-free people--parents and children. A country, at least in one American conception, is the relationship of equal, autonomous people. Using the family as the template for politics stacks the deck against social equality (the value I'd suggest as the liberal touchstone). For one thing, it lends itself all too easily to the condescending liberal notion of compassion, an anti-populist idea if there ever was one.  It's also horribly misleading as a guide to practical policies--no wonder that when Scheiber asks Lakoff about President Clinton's welfare reform, Lakoff responds "Why did he have to do that? ... I still don't understand it fully." In Lakoff's mind, Clinton wasn't changing the welfare system, he was beating his family's children!  Aren't there values that aren't family values?

Scheiber does get at a second, equally fatal flaw in Lakoff's argument that Democrats should "not move to the right" (an argument that's the source of much of his appeal at party fundraisers). If crucial swing voters are "biconceptuals" who hold both the "strict father" and "nurturant parent" views of families, why isn't the way to appeal to them by adopting a correspondingly mixed approach (e.g. Clintonian centrism)? Sure, if you're a Lakoff liberal you would want to appeal to the "nurturing" half of these biconceptuals--otherwise you'll never win an honest mandate. But what if you just want to win elections? ...  Never mind the possibility that you are a genuine, committed centrist, something Lakoff's dualism seems designed to exclude. ...

P.S.: Surprisingly, Lakoff tells Scheiber the Democrats "lost" the Schiavo debate, becoming the party of "callousness and death." Scheiber calls this assessment "devastatingly accurate" and I'd like to agree. But if Lakoff's right about Schiavo (and the polls certainly suggest he's wrong) surely it's because of the way the Democratic drift toward compassionate euthanasia (under cover of a "right to die") dovetails ominously with Lakoff's paternalistic familial version of liberalism--'We nurture you, and then when the time comes we kill you.' Don't worry, baby. It's all about quality of life! ... 11:31 P.M. link

A friend emails:

Sent: Sunday, May 22, 2005 12:48 PM

After getting very little sleep, I got woken up at 9 this morning by "Friends of John Kerry."  The called talked for a couple minutes about how John was going around the country promoting a bill that gives health care to poor kids.  Then they hit me up for $100!!  What the f**k is wrong with these people!?

10: 24 P.M. link

Das Feilerprinzip! "The velocity of German politics has suddenly increased a great deal." 9:12 P.M. link

Hey, I used to do this at my college paper.  ... Update.: Polipundit has the CNN angle. Is Elizabeth Landau the Greg Packer of student demonstrator/reporters?. ... 4:17 P.M.  link

Friday, May 20, 2005

Did Bill tell Belinda something? ... WaPo's story gets much of the soapy Canadian drama  but not the part that most interests Americans. ... Update: David Frum thinks Clinton would never give such bad advice. "Belinda's decision was not only harmful to her country, but catrastrophic to her own career." 1:23 A.M.

Isn't the most significant sentence in David Corn's report--on the International Committee of the Red Cross' claims of Gitmo Koran abuse--this one (quoting Reuters)?

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