Maybe I should spend more time reading lefty blogs because they can be quite amusing. Yesterday, I noted that two members of the reality-based community, Yglesias and De Long, had been honest enough to note that there was nothing improper in William Bennett’s allegedly racist reductio ad aburdum argument against defending abortions based on utilitarian goals such as reducing crime. Now Garance Franke-Ruta (great name, not-so-great journalist) is taking co-blogger Yglesias and De Long to task for being intellectually honest enough to commit a philosophical deed when they could have ignored the merits and simply engaged in helpful Republican-bashing. She writes:
One of the reasons the left has such a difficult time moving public opinion is that, all too often, it reacts with cleverness to situations where outrage would be a more appropriate response. Bill Bennett yesterday offered left bloggers a golden opportunity to make political hay, and what do we have? The spectacle of them explaining his remarks away in order to prove … what exactly? That they, too, studied Latin and philosophy?
So that’s the left’s problem — too much intellectual sophistication, not enough venom.
Ultimately, of course, Franke-Ruta wants to show that she too is familiar with reasoned argument. If anything, though, she demonstrates the contrary:
Implicit in Bennett’s statement is the assumption that African Americans contribute only criminality to America, and that if he could he wave his magic wand and bring African Americans’ tenure in this nation to an end, that is all that would disappear. That’s what’s offensive about his statement.
But Bennett made no factual assumption that African Americans contribute only criminality to America. Instead, he implicitly assumed that even if that were all they contributed, it would still be reprehensible to argue in favor of aborting black babies. The moral bankruptcy of arguing for abortions on that basis made it unnecessary to resort to a utiltarian argument based on all the positive things African-Americans contribute to America. Bennett’s whole point is that these sorts instrumental considerations have no place in a discussion about the right to life.
Maybe Franke-Ruta disagrees.
UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg has a similar, though perhaps less amused, reaction to Franke-Ruta’s effort to enforce the mindless orthodoxy of Republican bashing.