An Idle Thought

As long as I’m here, let me share with myself a thought I just had.

Recall that great sequence in The Honourable Schoolboy, John Le Carre’s sequel to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. In it, George Smiley, having revealed the identity of a mole in “The Circus,” understands that the discovery of a spy in one’s midst, while distressing and galling and etc., provides an excellent opportunity. After lamenting all the secrets the spy has disclosed to his handlers, you are now free to follow his paths and examine his previous activity, and thus to unearth secrets about HIM and about those for whom he worked.

This is making high-kwality lemonade out of some serious lemons. Once you’ve identified and deplored the bad person, you are free to go back and examine his actions and his associates, and learn from them what you can.

So let’s do the same, sort of, with the current Boschian monster-fest that is today’s Republican Party. Ie, rather than just lament it, and find it disgusting, criminal, corrupt, hypocritical–stop yawning–and so forth, let’s use it as a kind of field test for revealing the nature and the habits of the American right.

Isn’t that vague? What I mean is, now that the Republican Party’s pretenses at military competence and moral integrity are in ruins, now that its more centrist, or mainstream, or reasonable elements have left it in droves, what remains? What can we learn about the right, now that it has been stripped of its less egregious camouflage?

A complete discussion of this topic would (and will) fill books, but here are a few bullet points:

1. THEIR DISCUSSIONS ARE NEVER SUBSTANTIVE. After saying, “What you liberals refuse to understand is, we are in a fight to the death with a mortal enemy,” they have nothing else to say about that supposedly dire issue. The rest is character assassination. The bloggers, the op-edsters, the braying asses on Fox Gnus: all they do is cry “traitor” and “dhimmicrat” and etc. Rather than write about the serious pros and cons of SCHIP, they attack a 12-year old. Rather than discuss the prosecution of the war in Iraq, and how it could perhaps have been done better, they simply attack its critics. What does this suggest?

2. IT SUGGESTS THAT THEIR ENTIRE POLITICAL POSITION IS EMOTIONAL, WHICH IS TO SAY, SYMPTOMATIC. You don’t need to be a psychiatrist, or even an adult, to know that people like Ann Coulter, Michele Malkin, and the worthies wasting electrons at Blogs for Bush, are at best soulless and at worst pathological. You do, however, have to remember that the only way to deal with such people without being sucked into the black hole of their own pathology is either to a) mock them openly with facts at the ready to disprove their every lunatic assertion, b) ignore them completely, or c) use their every lunatic assertion as a takeoff point for a reasoned, documented discussion of the topic at hand, without engaging with their smears, lies, exaggerations, and etc.

3. TAKE NOTE OF WHO REMAINS AS THEIR DEFENDERS. This, before your disbelieving eyes, is the lunatic fringe. When a major public party has nothing left to defend but the indefensible, only the non-rational constituency will still show up. Does this mean that, say, William Kristol is indistinguishable from, say, Pamela Oshry? No. But it does mean that William Kristol is less unlike her than he would like to believe, and that he is just as much like her as we have always thought.

(To Be Continued?)

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