James Fallows take Ross Douthat to task for his latest in The New York Times. Douthat's piece (which I don't agree with, btw) deals with how the right and left have changed places now that Obama is in charge of the security state. Fallows says nuh-uh--the right has, not the left.
Here's some of Fallows' evidence:
There are many instances of the partisan dynamic working in one direction here. That is, conservatives and Republicans who had no problem with strong-arm security measures back in the Bush 43 days but are upset now. Charles Krauthammer is the classic example: forthrightly defending torture as, in limited circumstances, a necessary tool against terrorism, yet now outraged about "touching my junk" as a symbol of the intrusive state.
That's Fallows' idea of hypocrisy? If you say we should be tough on captured terrorists you can't get mad over invasive searches of millions of innocent citizens?
As for the left not changing, that's because Fallows hasn't noticed any examples, so he assumes there aren't any. That's funny, since I can find plenty of editorials saying shut up and take it--many from papers that opposed Bush's enhanced interrogation techniques (I know it's not the same thing, but this is Fallows' comparison). As for politicians, quite a few who would shout from the rooftops about Bush's tactics are suddenly silent--and I don't think they're silent because they're consistent so much as they know what's good for them. (I don't mean they fear Obama, I mean they know how the people feel.)
Fallows uses this case an example of a bigger point:
So: it's nice and fair-sounding to say that the party-first principle applies to all sides in today's political debate. Like it would be nice and fair-sounding to say that Democrats and Republicans alike in Congress are contributing to obstructionism and party-bloc voting. [...] But it looks to me as if we're mostly talking about the way one side operates. Recognizing that is part of facing the reality of today's politics.
This is astounding. It's one thing to miss the point about a particular issue, but to say in general one side is fair and reasonable and the other side isn't shows, at the very least, a shocking lack of perspective.
Speaking of which, at The New Republic, Jonathan Chait discusses an alleged smear against Obama. Many on the right say he doesn't believe in American exceptionalism. That's because when he was asked about the issue, he said: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." When everyone's special, no one is special.
But wait, Chait says. Obama is much more nuanced. If you look at the whole statement, he's standing up for exceptionalism:
I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I'm enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don't think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.
And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.
Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.
And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone.
You say nuanced, I say mealy-mouthed. This is how all politicians talk when they don't want to say anything. On the one hand, but on the other... Obama wouldn't mind if you believe he's an exceptionalist--unless that bothers you, in which case you can say he's not going that far. (My guess is if a person were truly an American exceptionalist, he'd be more likely to state it without ambiguity (pardon me, nuance), but I generally try to avoid mindreading.)
Yet Chait considers it so self-evident that Obama is defending American exceptionalism that he believes anyone who says otherwise is close-minded or lying. He notes "There's been a debate about epistemic closure on the right, and this is a prominent example."
Yes, there's been a debate, and it's held entirely on the left. They just can't understand how anyone would have the nerve to disagree with them. Ironically, there aren't many better examples of how close-minded the left is than their debate about the right's epistemic closure.
PS Douthat responds to Fallows.