I am quite honestly shocked reading this piece from Glenn Greenwald yesterday. His reaction to defenses of Obama is quite visceral – and in fairness, I’m sure many of the attacks on him for attacking Obama have come from a similar type of unreasoned anger. But I expect more from a figure of Greenwald’s statute, of his intellect. His reaction – to be generous – mirrors those he is critiquing.
His attacks on Ezra Klein, who has been consistently fair-minded in evaluating the politics and policy of the health care debate in a manner of which Greenwald sometimes seems scarcely capable, are especially unfair. Klein has been strongly making the case that this bill, for all its faults, should be passed – against the Tea Partyers back in the late summer and now against progressives – all the while acknowledging flaws in the bill and the process. Thus, he has been taking on a number of important progressives recently – and in doing so, at least once, he found that his progressive opponent (Jane Hamsher) had made an arguments against this health care legislation that substantially misstated the facts of the case, as so much political propaganda does. Klein writes that of the list he is responding to:
Some of the list is purposefully misleading and is clearly aimed more at helping activists kill the bill than actually informing anyone about what is in the bill.
Klein then goes on to deal with each of the points Jane Hamsher raised in a substantive manner. Greenwald linked to this piece claiming that Klein is calling opponents of health care reform, “liars” (a word that appears nowhere in the piece) and then later in an update, insisted that Klein is part taking part in “coordinated efforts by the President’s loyal supporters to attack the credibility and character (rather than the arguments) of Obama critics.” Greenwald does acknowledge that “there has been some very responsible and informative debate among these various factions, the insults have flown in both directions, and it’s understandable that passions run high on an issue of this significance.” But then he goes right on to equate “campaigns by White House loyalists in government and the media to destroy the personal credibility and malign the character of the President’s critics” during the Bush years to out Valerie Plame as a secret agent to efforts today regarding health care.
Really?! This attack falls fall short to me – the type of hyperbolic rhetoric that generally leads me to take a several-week break from Greenwald. I mean – does this post by Nate Silver on “Why Progressives Are Batshit Crazy to Oppose the Senate Bill” which Greenwald specifically cites strike you as the equivalent of the demonization of Valerie Plame and Richard Clarke? I suppose that depends on whether or not you see the title as serious – or deliberately heightened language.
Don’t trust my take on this – read Klein’s piece, read Greenwald’s piece, read Hamsher’s piece, read Nate Silver’s piece – and see if your respect for Greenwald is diminished. Respond in the comments either way.
Greenwald likewise took the curious tact of defending Matt Taibbi. He slandered all critics of Taibbi as, like Ezra Klein, part of “coordinated efforts by the President’s loyal supporters to attack the credibility and character (rather than the arguments) of Obama critics.” But even the piece Greenwald linked to defends Taibbi against one of his critics concludes with this rather limited endorsement:
Personally, I love it that Taibbi exists, and I’m impressed that his 6,500-word screed (into which a great deal of work clearly went) in fact has very little in the way of factual errors, let alone “lies”. Yes, Taibbi is polemical and one-sided, and he exaggerates his thesis, and he’s entertaining; I daresay he’s learned a lot from watching Fox News. And no, I would never want to live in a world where everybody wrote like that.
This is roughly the opinion I, along with most admirers and critics of Taibbi, have. While hiding behind the fact checkers of Rolling Stone, Taibbi makes various un-fact-checkable statements (that also seem to be designed to convey his meaning without being subject to a lawsuit for defamation), for example:
The point is that an economic team made up exclusively of callous millionaire-assholes has absolutely zero interest in reforming the gamed system that made them rich in the first place.
Ezra Klein, as usual, has an excellent substance-based critique. This is more than I can say for Greenwald’s visceral response. As I wrote earlier, Greenwald “creates his own politically stereotyped parody of Obama defenders, which he then viscerally, emotionally reacts to.” Yesterday’s post was more of the same, with just a bit less of the good Greenwald than usual.
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