Not long ago, some editor at the Washington Post must’ve slapped his forehead and said: “Omigod, we don’t have enough moronic conservative columnists!” And, he would’ve had a point – after all, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Gerson, Marc Thiessen, Jackson Diehl, Fred Hiatt, etc., are clearly inadequate to satisfy the public’s insatiable thirst for more mouths repeating the same tired old talking points.
And so, said editor must’ve gone on a wild search for the new voice of conservatism – “I want a female, provocative, ultraconservative, like Palin, damn it!” he may have barked at his startled underlings. And this, I imagine, must have been the origin of Jennifer Rubin’s new WaPo blog.
She surely couldn’t have been chosen based on the quality of her thought. Take her recent disgorgement, “Broccoli, or human rights?” (titled “Laura Bush’s human rights model,” online, which makes me wonder if the print copy editor purposely used the headline to ridicule this piece).
Her point – using the term loosely – is that Michelle Obama shouldn’t talk about children’s health because there are more important things to focus on. And, by contrast, she cites Laura Bush making a phone call to Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leading democracy activist.
Now, I’m all for human rights, and I’m glad that conservatives have finally discovered that ol’ Jimmy Carter was right on that issue after all. But anyone who devotes even three neurons to thinking about this will realize that Ms. Rubin’s logic has more holes than a wiffle ball.
All she really does here is repeat a few ridiculous assumptions, or myths, without making much effort to prove them. Here’s my dissection of the putrid and hollow cadaver that is Ms. Rubin’s argument:
Myth 1: Michelle Obama hates freedom. Ms. Rubin’s overall point (I guess) is that no one has the right to tell Americans how to live their lives, but we all have the right to tell other countries what to do (and invade them when they don’t listen). Conservatives, like teenagers, know everything and therefore are highly offended when anyone tries to tell them they’re doing anything wrong.
This despite the fact that Michelle is not doing anything the slightest bit dictatorial. She is not proposing to execute anyone for eating Twinkies. She is simply trying to create more healthy choices for children, who are suffering from record obesity rates, with dismal health consequences for which we all end up paying. What in God’s name is wrong with that?
Myth 2: Conservatives love freedom. Right wingers these days so overuse and abuse the words “liberty” and “freedom” that they are in danger of being worn out. But conservatives’ understanding of these concepts has some serious holes in it – for example, their refusal to acknowledge the existence of what economists call “externalities”, those pesky impacts that don’t get recorded in one’s economic transactions, like pollution, or rising inequality, or the near-collapse of our financial system (oops).
Americans’ food and activity choices also produce externalities – putting aside your personal loss of Gramps from a heart attack after too many Big Macs, there is a profound social and economic cost to obesity and its associated health consequences. Our health costs go up – and guess what happens to Medicare when all those overweight, unhealthy folks reach retirement age? There is no such thing as a free lunch – in more ways than one.
As for human rights, I can’t help wondering what Laura Bush was saying to her hubby when his policies were leading to the death of 100,000 people and $1 trillion in Iraq for no good reason. Don’t the human rights of people in oil-rich countries matter too?
Myth 3: We can only focus on one issue at a time.. Forget the fact that Michelle is an accomplished, intelligent lawyer, mother and First Lady. If she focuses on healthy eating and living, she — and the entire White House — will be incapable of doing anything else!
There is nothing even remotely resembling logic here. Why focus on this administration’s childhood health programs when it’s doing so many other things that take require even more attention, like, I don’t know, maybe the war in Afghanistan? The false equivalency between Michelle’s Let’s Move campaign and the intractable situation in Myanmar just makes zero sense.
Myth 4: Blogging requires no actual thought or homework.. Ms. Rubin appears to be a graduate of the Richard Cohen School of Column-Writing Based on Reading Headlines – as opposed to doing any research or reporting.
If she has a problem with Michelle’s Let’s Move campaign, or thinks that America’s obesity epidemic, with related rises in diabetes, heart disease and cancer, is utterly irrelevant, fine – let her do her research, make her points and build her case.
The pathetic thing is that Ms. Rubin doesn’t even try to make a case. She just mentions Michelle and then shifts the focus to one phone call by Laura Bush. This barely qualifies as argumentation – how can it qualify for a spot in the lofty Washington Post?
And that is the question that moved me to write this diary. The WaPo, whatever you may think of it, remains one of America’s top newspapers. How can it devote serious space to such poorly written and thought-out nonsense? Ms. Rubin clearly comes from the Palin/O’Donnell school of non-thought, and perhaps the Post feels that the intellectually disadvantaged need representation too.
But why even bother to publish a newspaper with content that paralyzes rather than stimulating the brain? How long before we just go back to caveman-like scratches on the walls instead?