From Eric Alterman atÂ the Nation:
A week before his 2009 inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama chose as his first high-profile social engagement a dinner party at George Willâ€™s house, where he was joined by William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer and David Brooks. Obama no doubt intended to demonstrate his desire to reach across the ideological divide and engage his neoconservative critics in a healthy debate. Conservatives saw a president they could roll.
I remember that meeting distinctly. Â A few paragraphs later:
The primary difference between liberalism and conservatism, at least in theory, is that the latter is an ideology and the former isnâ€™t. Conservatism, as Milton Friedman argued, posits that â€œfreedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself.â€ Liberalism, however, as Lionel Trilling observed, â€œis a large tendency rather than a concise body of doctrine.â€ And while John Kenneth Galbraith helpfully pointed out that only those programs and policies that honor â€œthe emancipation of beliefâ€ are worthy of the term, liberalism, at bottom, is pragmatism. Conservatives desire low taxes and small government because this is how they define freedom. They like to pretend that liberals prefer the opposite in both cases, but the truth is that liberals are OK with whatever works.
Though I’m not a fan of these dinner-party distinctions between liberals and conservatives, my own contribution would be this: the conservatives here described (the ones who met Obama in 2008) engage in a type of discourse liberals do not engage in. Â I used to think that liberals should learn how to play their game. Â Now I’m not so sure.
Anyway, just for fun, here’s Alterman’s reductio of George Will:
Will, undoubtedly Americaâ€™s most prominent conservative intellectual, thinks that rape victims enjoy their â€œprivileges,â€ that Ebola can be spread through the air, and that global warming is a hoax. Faced with the fact that 97 percent of climatologists have formed a scientific consensus about man-made climate change, he responded, â€œWhere did that figure come from? They pluck these things from the etherâ€â€”as if his own purposeful ignorance were a counter to empirical data.
Like I say, I’m not so sure one should learn how to play that game.