Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas? observes in today’s New York Times:
>Now upon the national stage steps one Karl Zinsmeister, formerly the editor of the American Enterprise Institute’s flagship magazine and now the president’s chief domestic policy adviser. In right-wing circles he is regarded as an intellectual heavyweight. What his career really shows us, though, is the looming exhaustion of the conservative intellectual system; its hopeless addiction to dusty, crumbling clichés; and a blindness to the reality of conservative power so persistent and so bizarre that it amounts to self-deception or, in Zinsmeister’s case, delusion.
I like the cliche’ part. Take this from the National Review’s Jonah Goldberg.
>A year ago, Slate magazine’s legal correspondent, Dahlia Lithwick, recounted this observation–from one of her bounteously sophisticated liberal readers–as a neat summary of the “doctrine” of a “living Constitution.” And a neat summary it is. How droll and obtuse that conservatives think the Constitution should remain anchored against the tides of change while those currents bring with them torrents of newfangled iPods and ever-changing gusts of news; one day about Britney Spears, the next day Paris Hilton. How very horse-and-buggy to suggest that the commerce clause wouldn’t change with the latest in slattern chic and personal electronics.
To be fair, Goldberg sets up to challenge the cliche’–of conservatives. But it never crosses his mind that the argument on which he has premised the superiority of his view is itself a cliched straw man, even though he can barely mention without sneering. This kind of shallow discourse is seriously unserious. Moreover, it violates very simple rules of civilized behavior: treat others with consideration and charity. If you think you have arguments for your view, then it’s likely that your oppoent does as well. You don’t win until you consider them.