Category Archives: Dinesh D’Souza

The whites of their eyes

I'm all for public debate of even the dumbest stuff–birtherism, etc., has its place somewhere in our public discourse.  But that somewhere really shouldn't be the Washington Post.  Today they publish the incoherent babbling of Dinesh D'Souza on the "anti-Colonialism" of Obama.  

The argument is that Obama is "just like his fathah."  Here's how it begins:

If you want to understand what is going on in the White House today, you have to begin with Barack Obama. No, not that Barack Obama. I mean Barack Obama Sr., the president's father. Obama gets his identity and his ideology from his father. Ironically, the man who was absent for virtually all of Obama's life is precisely the one shaping his values and actions.

How do I know this? Because Obama tells us himself. His autobiography is titled "Dreams From My Father." Notice that the title is not "Dreams of My Father." Obama isn't writing about his father's dreams. He is writing about the dreams that he got from his father.

In his book, Obama writes, "It was into my father's image, the black man, son of Africa, that I'd packed all the attributes I sought in myself." Those who know Obama well say the same thing. His grandmother Sarah Obama told Newsweek, "I look at him and I see all the same things — he has taken everything from his father . . . this son is realizing everything the father wanted."

People who have read this book seem to have a very different impression from D'Souza.  But anyway, let's just say that Obama is realizing everything his father ever wanted.  What did his father want, you might wonder?  What does Obama want?  Well, D'Souza continues. 

Some have described the president as being a conventional liberal or even a socialist. But liberals and socialists are typically focused on poverty and social equality; Obama rarely addresses these issues, and when he does so, it is without passion. Pretty much the only time Obama raises his voice is when he is expressing antagonism toward the big, bad corporations and toward those earning more than $250,000 a year. I believe the most compelling explanation of Obama's actions is that he is, just like his father, an anti-colonialist. Anti-colonialism is the idea that the rich countries got rich by looting the poor countries, and that within the rich countries, plutocratic and corporate elites continue to exploit ordinary citizens. 

I'm most impressed by the false sense of even-handedness–Obama's no socialist.  That's critical, because Obama, in D'Souza's world, is just like his father.  What was his father like? 

Consider the article "Problems Facing Our Socialism" that Obama Sr. published in 1965 in the East Africa Journal. Writing in the aftermath of colonialism, the senior Obama advocated socialism as necessary to ensure national autonomy for his country. "The question," he wrote, "is how are we going to remove the disparities in our country, such as the concentration of economic power in Asian and European hands . . .?

"Obama Sr.'s solutions are clear. "We need to eliminate power structures that have been built through excessive accumulation so that not only a few individuals shall control a vast magnitude of resources as is the case now." He proposed that the state seize private land and turn it over to collective cooperatives. He also demanded that the state raise taxes with no upper limit.

Just in case the point is unclear, Obama Sr. insisted that "theoretically there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100 percent of income so long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed." Absurd as it seems, the idea of 100 percent taxation has its peculiar logic. It is based on the anti-colonial assumption that the rich have become rich by exploiting and plundering the poor; therefore, whatever the rich have is undeserved and may be legitimately seized.

He was a Socialist.

To reconstruct.  According to D'Souza, Obama was just like his father, a socialist, but Obama is no socialist. 

Doesn't that mean Obama is not like his father? 

A little back and forth

Normally these op-ed arguments go one way: pundit makes them, you must sit in stunned silence at the lunacy or the genius.  This week, however, we get a chance to see a little back-and-forth.  Well just once–once back, once forth (not sure if that phrase is supposed to work this way).  Anyway.  Here is Eugene Robinson on Newt Gingrich:

The latest example comes in an interview with the conservative Web site National Review Online. Unsurprisingly, he was criticizing President Obama. Bizarrely, according to the Web site, he said the following: "What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?" According to Newt, this is "the most accurate, predictive model" for the president's actions, or policies or something.

What in the world is "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior" supposed to mean? That Obama is waging a secret campaign to free us from the yoke of British oppression?

So Robinson wonders what Newt's claim means.  Here's Newt's Spokesperson's reponse today in the Post:

Speculation on the origins of the worldview of world leaders has been going on since there have been world leaders, and the influence of fathers is often the strongest influence. The reaction to Newt Gingrich's remarks has bordered on irrationality. Mr. Robinson asserted that merely bringing up President Obama's father in this way is equivalent to doubting that the president is a U.S. citizen, and others have gone so far as to suggest that doing so is coded racism. What is so off-limits about Mr. Obama's past, specifically his father?

Nice.  Robinson did not say anything was "off limits."  He wondered what the hell Gingrich's approving citation of the blathering D'Souza was supposed to mean.  He didn't question the legitimacy of the remarks, he questioned their meaning and by extension their cogency. 

This is why we can't have nice discussions, part 3,453.


Trapped in his father’s time machine

If it's wrong to be ruled by Kenyans, then we're in trouble in my college (the Dean is actually from Kenya):

Our President is trapped in his father’s time machine. Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation’s agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son. The son makes it happen, but he candidly admits he is only living out his father’s dream. The invisible father provides the inspiration, and the son dutifully gets the job done. America today is governed by a ghost.

Three questions: (1) Obama's father had a time machine? (2) won't someone save him if he's trapped? and more importantly, (3) why can't we use this time machine to warn Obama about Obama getting trapped?

Newt Gingrich calls this "most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama."  He wants to run for President.

Argumentum ex malo

A while ago we wrote about Dinesh D’Souza’s sorry attempt to defend his indefensible book–you know, the one in which he blames the terrorists attacks of 9/11, and terror generally, on our loose morals and overly restrictive divorce laws. Now he uses the shootings at Virginia Tech in order to score points for Jesus. He writes:

>Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found. Every time there is a public gathering there is talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing. Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning.

That’s not really interesting. At least not in the way D’Souza thinks it is. All the talk of Divine Mercy in the face of death and mayhem are precisely the kinds of self-interested motivations for religious observance that people like Dawkins seek to explain. And furthermore, they’re the kinds of things other atheists use in their arguments for the non-existence of God. “What loving creator, they argue, would allow such a warped young mind to destroy so many innocent lives?” they might ask.

And he continues:

>The atheist writer Richard Dawkins has observed that according to the findings of modern science, the universe has all the properties of a system that is utterly devoid of meaning. The main characteristic of the universe is pitiless indifference. Dawkins further argues that we human beings are simply agglomerations of molecules, assembled into functional units over millennia of natural selection, and as for the soul–well, that’s an illusion!

That’s a rather silly version even of Dawkins’ view. But no reason to bother with D’Souza’s lack of philosophical sophistication. Take a look rather at the conclusion:

>To no one’s surprise, Dawkins has not been invited to speak to the grieving Virginia Tech community. What this tells me is that if it’s difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil. The reason is that in a purely materialist universe, immaterial things like good and evil and souls simply do not exist. For scientific atheists like Dawkins, Cho’s shooting of all those people can be understood in this way–molecules acting upon molecules.

>If this is the best that modern science has to offer us, I think we need something more than modern science.

D’Souza has probably not been invited either. Neither has, to my knowledge, Pope Benedict XVI. That doesn’t demonstrate anything. And it certainly doesn’t provide evidence for the view that atheism suffers from the problem of evil–for, on D’Souza’s on shamelessly ignorant account, for atheists there’s no meaning, so no evil. Just as however the absence of a God does not eliminate evil (but rather explains it), the human need for comfort and the hope for something better does mean there really is something to hope for.

In a way all things

Competitive alpha-dog types often view critical thinking as a kind of verbal combat in which one party establishes dominance over another. That may be the case at the Dartmouth debate club, but in the real world critical thinking involves the rigorous examination of what we believe and more importantly the reasons we believe it. But that’s a very general notion, since as Aristotle said, “the soul is in a way all things” (De Anima III.8 431 b22). So the first step in thinking rigorously is identifying what it is we need to be thinking about. If we’re responding to someone else’s criticisms of our beliefs, for instance, we must have some notion of what those criticisms are.

And this brings me to today’s installment of the D’Souza op-ed of some weeks ago. The reader might remember that a commenter said a few weeks ago that no sentence in D’Souza’s op-ed was immune from some kind of error. So far that’s been about right. The most basic kind of error–the one we noticed when we first read this–was a failure to grasp the basic content of his opponent’s criticism. Considering the amount of criticism he has received in his professional lifetime and before, this is really hard to believe. But alas:

>One of my earlier books, “The End of Racism,” explored why nonwhite immigrants to the United States (like me) tend to succeed academically and economically compared with African Americans who are born here. I received lots of abuse for playing down racism — as a “person of color,” no less — and taking sides with the white man. Some of my fellow immigrants from India advised me to “decolonize” my mind.

>But the personal attacks have reached new heights with “The Enemy at Home.” So much so, in fact, that I feel compelled to explain why I wrote this book, what it does and doesn’t say and why I think it prompts people to threaten me with hospitalization.

D’Souza’s first problem is that he doesn’t even bother responding to the substantial criticisms of his beliefs. So he commits the first mistake of critical thinking. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His second problem is that he assumes everyone else thinks like he does. Which ought to be a canonical rule of critical thinking:

>never assume others think as you do.

They don’t think as D’Souza does. So their views don’t require the same kind of explanation as his. As a matter of fact, the truly critical thinker realizes that views don’t require explanations at all. They require justifications. And this D’Souza simply does not understand.

Incorrectly political

Some right wing commentators wear the “politically incorrect” label like a badge of honor. So Glenn Beck, when he asks a Muslim congressman whether he is working for America’s enemies is being politically incorrect, not just ignorant about Muslims, Islam, America’s enemies, and terrorism (to name a few things). What does the phrase “politically correct” mean anyway? If we are to take Beck’s usage, then being “politically incorrect” means being unashamed of one’s ignorance–especially when it’s offensive to a minority group.

But that’s probably not what D’Souza means by it. He writes,

>The reaction I’m eliciting is not entirely new to me. As a college student in the early 1980s, I edited the politically incorrect Dartmouth Review and was frequently accosted by left-wing students and faculty. They called me names back then, too. And at the time I didn’t care. I often informed them that taking on our iconoclastic paper was like wrestling a pig: Not only does it get everyone dirty but the pig likes it.

For him being politically incorrect has meaning in opposition the left wing students and faculty. They were “politically correct” and so against his paper. That phrase, however, has no value here unless it carries with it the supposition that the politically incorrect person is actually correct, and the politically correct person is wrong–but politically in the right place. So, in D’Souza’s mind, the politically incorrect person has the courage to be right.

But this usage confuses contradiction with argument. Just because a view draws a reaction or invites opposition, does not mean it has any merit. As a commenter said recently (citing Monty Python), gainsaying is not argument. Like Beck and O’Reilly, D’Souza has little tolerance for the substance of arguments and so confuses any opposition with his poorly reasoned or researched view with personal opposition to him. Criticisms of his book are personal attacks and so all fights, for him, are dirty. Thus his oddly reversed metaphor. Someone ought to tell him–it’s bad to be the pig.

In case you’re lost, previous posts on this article can be found here.

Enemy of the state 2

A propos of the D’Souza piece yesterday, a commenter wrote:

>It was hard to read a single paragraph (or sentence) in the D’Souza piece without a refutation, often obvious, coming to mind. I was starting to lose count of the straw men alone.

That’s just barely an exaggeration. Here is an edited (not for content) six part analysis of D’Souza’s op-ed. Apologies to those whose comments were lost in the process.

Part I

>As a conservative author, I’m used to a little controversy. Even so, the reaction to my new book, “The Enemy at Home,” has felt, well, a little hysterical.

>”Ratfink writes new book,” James Wolcott, cultural critic for Vanity Fair, declares in his blog. He goes on to call my book a “sleazy, shameless, ignorant, ahistorical, tendentious, meretricious lie.”

>In the pages of Esquire, Mark Warren charges that I “hate America” and have “taken to heart” Osama bin Laden’s view of the United States. (Warren also challenged me to a fight and threatened to put me in the hospital.) In his New York Times review of my book last week, Alan Wolfe calls my work “a national disgrace . . . either self-delusional or dishonest.” I am “a childish thinker” with “no sense of shame,” he argues. “D’Souza writes like a lover spurned; despite all his efforts to reach out to Bin Laden, the man insists on joining forces with the Satanists.”

>It goes on. The Washington Post’s Warren Bass writes that I think Jerry Falwell was “on to something” when he blamed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on pagans, gays and the ACLU. Slate’s Timothy Noah diagnoses me with “Mullah envy,” while the Nation’s Katha Pollitt calls me a “surrender monkey” and the headline to her article brands me “Ayatollah D’Souza.” And in my recent appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” I had to fend off the insistent host. “But you agree with the Islamic radicals, don’t you?” Stephen Colbert asked again and again.

Let me add Michiko Kakutani from the New York Times:

>His new book, “The Enemy at Home,” is filled with willfully incendiary — and preposterous — assertions that “the cultural left in this country is responsible for causing 9/11”; that the left is “secretly allied” with the movement that Osama bin Laden and Islamic radicals represent “to undermine the Bush administration and American foreign policy”; and that “the left wants America to be a shining beacon of global depravity, a kind of Gomorrah on a Hill.”

Part II

>Contrary to the common liberal view, I don’t believe that the 9/11 attacks were payback for U.S. foreign policy. Bin Laden isn’t upset because there are U.S. troops in Mecca, as liberals are fond of saying. (There are no U.S. troops in Mecca.) He isn’t upset because Washington is allied with despotic regimes in the region. Israel aside, what other regimes are there in the Middle East? It isn’t all about Israel. (Why hasn’t al-Qaeda launched a single attack against Israel?) The thrust of the radical Muslim critique of America is that Islam is under attack from the global forces of atheism and immorality — and that the United States is leading that attack.

Just the first claim alone ought to make one bristle. Assertions can be seen to fall into several different categories. But for the moment, let’s say that those assertions which might be labeled “liberal” or “conservative” are prescriptive ones. In other words, they are claims about what we ought to do (not get gay-married or drive fuel-efficient cars are examples of prescriptive-type claims) not about how things are (the average global temperature is rising or Bin Laden said “I hate it when you put your soldiers in the land of holy places”). The second, you might notice, are claims of fact. Claims of fact are neither liberal nor conservative.

How does this relate to the first sentence of D’Souza’s piece? It’s the placement of the adjective. He ought to have said, “many liberals claim that “the 9/11 attacks were payback for U.S. foreign policy.” After all, it’s not a “liberal view,” it’s a view held by liberals. But it’s also a view held by conservatives. It’s wrong therefore–categorically wrong–to submit a factual claim of that nature to an ideological grammar–that’s a category mistake.

Part III

>Contrary to the common liberal view, I don’t believe that the 9/11 attacks were payback for U.S. foreign policy. Bin Laden isn’t upset because there are U.S. troops in Mecca, as liberals are fond of saying. (There are no U.S. troops in Mecca.) He isn’t upset because Washington is allied with despotic regimes in the region. Israel aside, what other regimes are there in the Middle East? It isn’t all about Israel. (Why hasn’t al-Qaeda launched a single attack against Israel?) The thrust of the radical Muslim critique of America is that Islam is under attack from the global forces of atheism and immorality — and that the United States is leading that attack.

The highlighted claim (and the rest of the paragraph) suffer from factual problems (already noticed by reviewers). Warren Bass, writing in the Washington Post, writes:

>D’Souza, the author of the bestselling Illiberal Education, has no particular expertise on terrorism, which may explain why he writes twice that there are U.S. troops in Mecca (someone should probably alert Bob Gates) or why he thinks that President Reagan’s 1986 airstrikes on Libya “convinced Qadafi to retire from the terrorism trade,” despite the bombing of Pan Am 103 by Libyan agents two years later. But D’Souza’s inexperience doesn’t explain why he so badly misreads bin Ladenist ideology, despite the peppering of jihadist quotes that he uses to lend the book a sense of authority.

He’s added the allegation that liberals are responsible for the Mecca claim. Now to Bin Laden’s complaint:

>Of course, the ascetic bin Laden doesn’t like American culture or values, including such far-left ideas as democracy or educating women, but he has a clear politico-religious agenda that’s important to take seriously. You’d never know it from reading D’Souza, but bin Laden’s February 1998 “Declaration of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders” — the most considered summation of his casus belli — laid out three main grievances for which al-Qaeda kills. First and foremost comes the post-Gulf crisis deployment of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, which are “occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of its territories” and “using its bases in the peninsula as a spearhead to fight against the neighboring Islamic peoples.” Second comes the supposed Crusader-Jewish alliance’s “long blockade” of the Iraqis, designed “to destroy what remains of this people and to humiliate their Muslim neighbors.” Finally, America’s anti-Muslim wars “also serve the petty state of the Jews, to divert attention from their occupation of Jerusalem and their killing of Muslims in it.” See anything about Hollywood there?

Facts are important.

Part IV

>Contrary to President Bush’s view, they don’t hate us for our freedom, either. Rather, they hate us for how we use our freedom. When Planned Parenthood International opens clinics in non-Western countries and dispenses contraceptives to unmarried girls, many see it as an assault on prevailing religious and traditional values. When human rights groups use their interpretation of international law to pressure non-Western countries to overturn laws against abortion or to liberalize laws regarding homosexuality, the traditional sensibilities of many of the world’s people are violated.

I thought we were talking about Bin Laden and his motivations for recruiting, funding, and inciting suicide terrorism against United States’ military, economic and political targets. But it turns out we’re talking about “their” objection to contraception, premarital sex, and homosexuality. Who are they? People with traditional values in non-Western cultures. Whether these non-Western cultures include Saudi Arabia–where women can’t drive for Chrissake–is left for the reader to conclude. And nevermind that these three things also constitute the core of the Christian right’s position against “secularism” (“how convenient!” the Church Lady might add).

But more fundamentally, while Bin Laden might object to these features of Western Culture, it doesn’t follow from that fact that these things are the features of Western Culture for which he attacked us.

Part V

>This argument has nothing to do with Falwell’s suggestion that 9/11 was God’s judgment on the ACLU and the feminists for their sins. I pose a simple question: Why did the terrorists do it? In a 2003 statement, bin Laden said that to him, the World Trade Center resembled the idols that the prophet Muhammad removed from Mecca. In other words, bin Laden believes that the United States represents the pagan depravity that Muslims have a duty to resist. The literature of radical Islam, such as the works of Egyptian writer Sayyid Qutb, resonates with these themes. One radical sheik even told a European television station a few years ago that although Europe is more decadent than America, the United States is the more vital target because it is U.S. culture — not Swedish culture or French culture — that is spreading throughout the world.

Notice that D’Souza expects us to make two inferences here, both of them unwarranted. First, he wants us to draw the conclusion that the World Trade Center “idols” fall into the same class as the socially progressive ideas (abortion, gay marriage and so forth) he railed against in the previous paragraph, such that an attack on the World Trade Center is an attack on these ideals. They have in common their “westernness” perhaps, but that would be such a broad class of objects that it would amount to nothing at all. But more than that, the progressive ideas D’Souza complains about don’t amount to idols to be worshiped. No one worships gay marriage. But that might, and this is only a suggestion, worship our economic (WTC) and military (the Pentagon) hegemony. There seems to be no connection, in other words, between the World Trade Center (and the Pentagon) and homosexual marriage (the Pentagon actually banned homosexuals from enlisting openly in the armed forces).

Second, D’Souza expects us to believe that Sayyid Qutb who visited the United States in the 1950s (and complained, among other the things about racism, restrictions on divorce, poor haircuts and the mixing of the sexes) and the radical sheik interviewed on European TV accurately represent bin Laden’s motivations more than bin Laden’s own pronouncements (see here for them). There is therefore a much simpler answer to the question “why they attacked us” than the one D’Souza is proposing: ask Bin Laden. He’ll tell you. Asking Sayyid Qutb, who is dead, or a radical sheik who does not represent al Qaeda, why bin Laden attacked the US on 9/11 makes about as much sense as asking Ronald Reagan why George Bush invaded Iraq.

Part VI

So far we have noticed that D’Souza’s apologia suffers from grievous logical and factual problems. And we’ve so far only looked at three paragraphs. But today’s installment is no different:

>What would motivate Muslims in faraway countries to volunteer for martyrdom? The fact that Palestinians don’t have a state? I don’t think so. It’s more likely that they would do it if they feared their values and way of life were threatened. Even as the cultural left accuses Bush of imperialism in invading Iraq, it deflects attention from its own cultural imperialism aimed at secularizing Muslim society and undermining its patriarchal and traditional values. The liberal “solution” to Islamic fundamentalism is itself a source of Islamic hostility to America.

Interpreting the motivations of others–especially warlike ones such as terrorists–is not an easy thing to do. But it’s certainly the case that one cannot do it a priori, as D’Souza has done. “I don’t think so” in other words, does not an argument make. It may be the case that it’s more likely that they would attack us if they felt their way of life was threatened, but that’s not something you can just assert without any evidence. Aside from that, D’Souza excludes the Israel issue by narrowly framing the question. In other words, the Palestinians’ not having a state might not have mattered or matter to Bin Laden and company in that specific sense, but that doesn’t mean that Israel isn’t for them a major source of complaint. In fact, has Bin Laden and the suicide hijackers have said as much. Here’s what the 9/11 Commission Report says:

>In his interactions with other students, Atta voiced virulently anti-Semitic and anti-American opinions, ranging from condemnations of what he described as a global Jewish movement centered in New York City that supposedly controlled the financial world and the media, to polemics against governments of the Arab world. To him, Saddam Hussein was an American stooge set up to give Washington an excuse to intervene in the Middle East (section 5.3).

Nothing about the Palestinians’ statehood. But that doesn’t make D’Souza’s claim any less false.

Enemy of the state

Today the Washington Post has given Dinesh D’Souza a forum to defend his recent book from the near universal chorus of devastating criticisms (many of which concern obvious and colossal errors of fact). But D’Souza doesn’t have the faintest idea how to defend himself, because he does not appreciate or perhaps understand the nature of rational criticism. Sure, much of the criticism was put forward in harsh tones, but that shouldn’t distract D’Souza, a “scholar” at the Hoover Institution, from addressing its content. As he winds up his lengthy apologia pro sterco suo he writes:

>All my arguments can be disputed, but they are neither extreme nor absurd. So why has “The Enemy at Home” been so intemperately excoriated? I can imagine only two reasons. The first is given by James Wolcott himself. I am not, as he says, an unqualified right-wing hack. Rather, I am a scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, so Wolcott fears that I will be taken seriously.

When I read the reviews in the New York Times and the Post (Wolcott, as far as I know, hasn’t written a review of the book), I was struck by the arguments of the reviewers. They pointed out that D’Souza’s history was hallucinatory and his logic specious. Those are criticisms relating to the book’s content. But the best D’Souza can do here is attempt to divine the psychological motives of the reviewers. There’s no need at all for that. They have told you that your book is “a national disgrace”.

The second of D’Souza’s conclusion is even more delusional:

>The second reason can be gleaned from the common theme in the reviews: that mine is a dangerous book. But if a book says things that are obviously untrue and can be disproved, then it is not dangerous — it is merely fiction and should be ignored. A book is dangerous only if it exposes something in the culture that some people are eager to keep hidden.

Yours is a dangerous book, dear fellow, because–according to the reviews mind you (the content of which you seem to have ignored)–it has asserted many falsehoods and made appalling arguments. It has lowered the level of the national discussion and emboldened the enemies of civil discourse.


James Wolcott did read the book in galley form (click here for the review). Thanks to Vagabond Scholar for the tip.

It’s not so hard, it it?

If one wants to laugh (or cry) than one can read Dinesh D’Souza‘s op-ed in the LA Times (home of another logic and fact-challenged op-ed writer, Jonah Goldberg). Compare the op-ed’s falsified version of history (Clinton wasn’t tough enough on terrorists) to his book’s making common cause with the terrorists.

In sunnier matters, today George Will writes one of his bio-pieces: usually a flattering series of quotes about a person he likes. They’re often harmless, practically always about some conservative, and they usually contain some Rush Limbaugh style dig at “liberalism” (a view Will thinks synonymous with communism). Not today. As a matter of fact, today’s subject is Barney Frank, Massachusetts uberliberal. What stands out today is the fact that Will takes seriously the idea that Frank has an argument for his view. He doesn’t by any means endorse Frank’s view, but he allows for the possibility that Frank has reasons for the criticisms he levels at income distribution:

>Frank may be the most liberal member of Congress. His thinking is what today’s liberalism looks like when organized by a first-class mind. He thinks he discerns cultural contradictions of conservatism: Some conservative policies — free trade and tax and other policies that (he thinks) widen income inequalities — undermine support for other conservative policies. When capitalism’s “creative destruction,” intensified by globalization, churns the labor market and deepens the insecurities of millions of families, conservatives should not be surprised by the collapse of public support for free trade and an immigration policy adequate to the economy’s needs.

Will doesn’t assess the merits of this position other than to grant that it’s an argument worth considering on its merits. If this shows anything, it shows that it’s not that hard to exercise a little charity. Not hard at all.