Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Thomas Sowell, You Old Curmudgeon You

As I've mentioned before on this site, I often read conservative commentary not out of a spirit of masochism, but rather as a means of comparison. It is often helpful to know how the other side thinks and in attaining it, strive to obtain at least a grain of truth in the process. However, this article by Thomas Sowell I find objectionable in many ways.

The opening paragraph immediately grabs me.

Apparently there is nobody among either the Democrats or the Republicans who is going to cause a runaway stampede like that which toppled all the Republican front-runners in 1940, when the convention delegates began loudly chanting “We want Wilkie!”

I would question the logic of making this comparison, since if history serves me, Wendel Wilkie ran as a dark horse, outsider candidate against an extremely popular Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was at that point running for his third full term in office. Once all the votes were tallied, Roosevelt had garnered what might very conceivably be termed "a landslide victory" in the electoral college, to the tune of 449 to 82, as well as a majority of the popular vote in addition--nearly 55% of all ballots cast.

Is Sowell arguing that the GOP needs to select a candidate for President who is uniformly liked by all in his party, but then loses hands down in November? I certainly wouldn't have any problem with that, but it certainly doesn't seem to make much sense in the context of Sowell's argument.

This whole article is riddled with several nonsensical talking points, which I'm tempted to laugh at rather than take seriously. I'm not sure which among these is paramount. There are certainly many "candidates", so to speak, for the dubious honor of most ridiculous argument. His assertion that Fred Thompson has the best qualifications to be president? John Edwards is a phony? Barack Obama has no new ideas, just warmed over rhetoric? Mitt Romney looks Presidential? John McCain's campaign finance bill restricts free speech? Rudy Guiliani is articulate?

Has Mr. Sowell been paying attention to the same debates and statements I've seen over the course of several months of campaigning? If he bothered to do his homework and at least back up these opinion statements with facts, I might be inclined to take him more seriously.

The coup de grĂ¢ce, so to speak, occurs when Sowell states that, and I quote, "[Hillary] Clinton might even be shameless enough to put Bill Clinton on the Supreme Court." That really is funny. On what precedent? William Howard Taft is, to date, the only former President to become a Supreme Court justice but it also should be noted that Taft had years of experience as a judge before becoming President. Bill Clinton, as memory serves, does possess a degree in law but as a largely career politician, his experience in a legal setting has been limited, at best. Anyone seriously considered for the high court would have an extensive history as either a judge in some large position of authority or as a top-tier lawyer, and Bill Clinton fits neither of these qualifications.

The premise of Sowell's argument seems to be that no candidate in either party seems to inspire runaway support. To which I respond, is this such a bad thing? In this era of twenty-four hour news coverage, exhaustive analysis, and the blogsophere, could it be possible for anyone to escape criticism or to not have his/her credentials called into question? In years past, it was much easier to whitewash over the flaws of a candidate. I might also take Sowell more seriously if history proved that politicians in some past age were somehow more noble or at least weren't forced to give serious attention to their manner of presentation at the expense of their proposed ideas.

Like it or not, people often make decisions based on personality, not cold hard facts. They always have and they always will. With a more literate, informed populace and one with the benefit of a variety of different sources of information from an even wider variety of different viewpoints, it seems pretty understandable to me that we hold candidates for elective office under close scrutiny. So long as we are pondering whether we should elect human beings and not robots, every person running will have his or her own set of imperfections thrust out into the open. What's wrong with competition for the highest office in the land? At worst, this will be an entertaining race with the outcome in doubt until the very end. I believe that the days whereby any candidate for President caused "a runaway stampede" of support, as Sowell put it, are long ago and far away.


Dr. Zaius said...

Thomas Sowell is obviously a major moron. I don't think that Bill Clinton even has a law degree anymore. I thought he had to give up his law degree [ 2 ] after the impeachment hearings. I'm all for electing robots, however, as long as they are not Daleks.

Happy New Year, Comrade Kevin!

Anonymous said...

This is a really good post, C.K. I'm glad that you've highlighted that it's very hard to compare campaigns and elections of the past with today because today's media reality is very different.

I also wonder how much of a public sense that none of this matters, the powers that be decide everything anyway, so why engage or educate themselves? Monkey see, Monkey do.

I'm looking forward to being on the A.S. team with you!

Anonymous said...

I also wonder how much of a public sense that none of this matters, the powers that be decide everything anyway, so why engage or educate themselves? Monkey see, Monkey do.

Let me clarify - there are some words missing above.

I wonder how much of what we see now is a result of this general feeling that nothing the voter does matters.

Phew! Sorry about that earlier comment. Brain cramp or something.

Alicia Morgan said...

Happy New Year, Comrade! I try to detour around Wingnuttia whenever possible, but thanks for taking one for the team!

Fran said...

"Thomas Sowell is obviously a major moron." I love Dr. Z!

And I love what you have done here Kevin- great post and really insightful commentary on your part.

It is very important to learn what the "other half" is up to, so bravo for keeping that going.