The Seattle Times columnist has long puzzled me; he often arrives at at a conclusion without showing his work, as if he had teleported to the conclusion from some unknown location. It is not just that I disagree with his conclusions — though I often do — it's that I often can't understand how he reaches them.
Over time, I have come to a tentative solution to this problem, tentative because I do not have direct evidence for some of the steps in my argument. Simply put, I think that Westneat judges political actors differently depending on their party, race, and sex. Specifically, Westneat treats white Republicans, especially white male Republicans, as responsible adults, who can be blamed if something goes wrong when they are in charge. Or just in the neighborhood, in some instances.
In contrast, Westneat treats politically correct minorities as children, who can not be held responsible for their actions or inactions. Some examples: Like almost every other "mainstream" journalist, Westneat blames George W. Bush for Katrina failures, but has little to say about former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, or former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. (The citizens of Louisiana disagree, as polls showed, and as the election of Bobby Jindal showed.)
In December 2006, a powerful windstorm hit this area, killing 15 people and knocking out power for days. As far as I can determine, then King County Executive Ron Sims did nothing to relieve the suffering — and drew no blame for that failure from any local journalist. Certainly, I have never seen any criticism of Sims' inaction during and after the storm from Danny Westneat. (Having failed here, Sims is now working for the Obama administration.) As those unfamiliar with Sims may already have guessed, he has a better tan than I do.
There was an even more remarkable example in a column Westneat wrote one month ago.
Before discussing the column, let me remind you of a small problem we all have:
(Thanks much to a reader for correcting the colors and direction of the graph.)
The lighter-colored red bars show how much worse Obama's policies are likely to make our long-term budget problems. And that's without counting the likely effects of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid health insurance "reform". I suppose that I should add that these Congressional Budget Office estimates are generally more optimistic than they should be, often because Congress requires them to use unreasonable assumptions.
One or two people have been disturbed by these dismal prospects. Some have even gone out to demonstrate against the policies that are bankrupting our country. And after more than a year of those demonstrations, Danny Westneat left the comfort of his leftist cocoon and went out to talk to a few of those demonstrators.
We get a hint about what might go wrong in that encounter from this:
For instance, several speakers inspired the crowd with stories about how the most courageous and noble people left are the capitalists. Because they bravely walk the road of struggle against a powerful, socialistic bureaucracy.
And I'm thinking — didn't the capitalists just nearly destroy capitalism? Only to be saved by the socialists?
Didn't all that happen just a year and a half ago?
It is possible, even likely, that Westneat has heard of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It is possible, even likely, that Westneat knows that the big banks that received federal loans have paid much of the money back, with interest. It is possible, though unlikely, that Westneat knows that the Bush administration objected to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, precisely because they were not subject to market disciplines. It is almost certain that Westneat does not know about Barney Franks' support for those two corrupt institutions, since Franks is one of the most politically-correct Congressmen, ever.
With that poor start, it is not surprising to read his conclusion:
The tea party's focus on deficits is right on. But it needs to get real. It needs a Ross Perot-like figure to spell out an honest plan — one that's probably going to have both tax increases and spending cuts (as Bill Clinton pushed through).
Also, drop the red-scare rhetoric. And run as fast as you can from bumper-sticker simpletons like Sarah Palin.
Otherwise, this tea party's stuck in Wonderland.
Westneat blames the tea party demonstrators for not having a comprehensive plan to solve our massive deficit problem. And he is probably right that most of them do not have such a plan in their pockets or purses. (If Westneat really wants such a plan, he should investigate what Republican Congressman Paul Ryan has come up with. Experts seem to think that Ryan's effort is serious, and might actually solve our deficit problems.)
But why should they?
Few of the demonstrators are elected officials, and none of them are President of the United States, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Majority Leader of the Senate, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, or Chairman of the House or Senate Appropriations committees. Those are the people who are obligated to come up with a plan.
None of them have, though they have made our deficits far worse by their actions since the Democrats took control of Congress after the 2006 election. Not only have none of them come up with a plan, this year the Democratically-controlled Congress may not even pass a budget.
But Westneat has not a word of criticism for those people, not does he ask any of them to come up with a plan. (Or even pass a budget this year.)
Why doesn't Westneat hold them responsible? I would like to hear his answer to that question. Until I do, and maybe even after I do, I will, tentatively, conclude that he does not think that Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and all the rest, are responsible adults who can be held accountable for their actions.
But he does think the tea party demonstrators are, since he holds them responsible for not having a plan for our deficits. That is, I suppose, an indirect compliment, just as his refusal to hold Obama and company responsible is an indirect, but very nasty, insult. Perhaps Westneat should consider dropping his double standards, and judging all of us by our actions, and by the content of our characters.
Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.
(Oh, and two small suggestions for Westneat: First, instead of casting a childish insult at former Governor Palin, why not look up her record on budgets in Alaska? You might learn something, if you are able to suppress your political correctness for a few hours.
Second, consider giving Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole some credit for our improved budgets after the 1994 election. I would like to believe that doing so is not a firing offense at the Seattle Times, at least not yet.)
Note to would-be commenters: I'd like to give Westneat a chance to respond, before opening this post up, or putting up a new one, just for comments.Posted by Jim Miller at May 17, 2010 05:38 PM | Email This