Frank Rich is perhaps the New York Times’ worst regular columnist. A homosexual activist and former drama critic, he substitutes a hysterical and abusive style for knowledge of public policy issues, of which he displays little or none. Even more than Paul Krugman, he can fairly be described as Keith Olbermann in print.
In his current column, Rich describes the state of the Union as “comatose.” If you keep reading, you’ll figure out that this means the hard Left isn’t advancing its agenda as successfully as Rich would like.
His take on President Obama’s State of the Union speech is characteristically belligerent:
Hands down, the State of the Union’s big moment was Barack Obama’s direct hit on the delicate sensibilities of the Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. The president was right to blast the 5-to-4 decision giving corporate interests an even greater stranglehold over a government they already regard as a partially owned onshore subsidiary. How satisfying it was to watch him provoke Alito into a “You lie!” snit.
Alito’s “snit” consisted of inaudibly mouthing “simply not true” as Obama described–incorrectly–the Court’s decision in the Citizens United case. Rich, of course, knows nothing of the constitutional issues at stake or the specifics of the Court’s ruling. He’s just mean-spirited and, as always, spoiling for a fight. He continues:
[O]ur union is not strong. It is paralyzed. Many Americans were more eagerly anticipating Steve Jobs’s address in San Francisco on Wednesday morning than the president’s that night because they have far more confidence in Apple than Washington to produce concrete change.
Of course! The federal government is not in the business of “produc[ing] concrete change.” That is and always has been the province of the private sector. Positive change is the result of 1) sharp competition that prompts 2) supremely competent and hyper-motivated men and women to achieve beyond normal limits. Government, on the other hand, is mostly devoted to perpetuating the status quo–whatever that might be at the moment–in the form of re-election and steadily increasing budgets.
Rich claims to know, however, what Obama needs to do to revive his moribund vision of “change:”
Only body blows to the legislative branch can move the country forward.
Another charming metaphor, one I don’t recall Rich employing during the eight years of the Bush administration when body blows to the executive branch were more to his taste.
For a political columnist, Rich seems sorely lacking in knowledge of politics. This is how he understands Republicans:
In Obama’s speech, he kept circling back to a Senate where both parties are dysfunctional. The obstructionist Republicans, he observed, will say no to every single bill “just because they can.”
Actually, Republicans say no to Obama’s legislative agenda because it embodies far-left principles with which they disagree. And they “can” oppose the Democrats’ left wing bills because most Americans are against them, too. Rich’s reading of the Democrats is equally myopic:
But no less culpable are the Democrats, who maintain “the largest majority in decades” even after losing Teddy Kennedy’s seat — and yet would rather “run for the hills” than accomplish anything.
But the Democrats are not afflicted by a mysterious compulsion to “run for the hills” despite their overwhelming numbers. Rather, they are painfully aware that their political agenda is unpopular with the voters–as reflected most recently in the stunning Massachusetts Senate race, which Rich glancingly refers to but evidently fails to understand. This is, after all, a democracy. It isn’t supposed to be easy to enact far-reaching legislation that is bitterly opposed by most voters.
Rich thinks the Dems just need better leadership; he yearns for the days of Lyndon Johnson when the Majority Leader engaged in “crude and cynical” horse trading and knew how to “punish” disloyal Senators. He is contemptuous of Harry Reid, who doesn’t know how to wield the whip like LBJ. But, as always, Rich’s greatest scorn is reserved for Republicans. (In his world, the fault to which Democrats are most prone is failing to hate Republicans with sufficient venom.) This is over the top, even by Rich’s classless standards:
If Reid can serve as the face of Democratic fecklessness in the Senate, then John McCain epitomizes the unpatriotic opposition.
When did the Democrats become addicted to referring to Republicans as “unpatriotic”? I’m not sure just when it happened, but Rich’s application of the epithet to McCain is more evidence that the Times has laid off all of its editors.
Why is McCain unpatriotic? It’s unclear, actually, but the most coherent explanation seems to be that McCain “sneered” at Obama’s suggestion that the federal government’s current and projected deficits are not his fault. I don’t know whether McCain sneered or not, but if he didn’t, he should have. Maybe Rich is unaware that Obama’s budgets promise to send this country into a sea of debt that has never been approached since World War II. The Heritage Foundation supplies the necessary data; click to enlarge:
Rich’s prescriptions for Obama are characteristically hyperbolic and partisan:
Obama should turn up the heat on both the G.O.P’s record of fiscal recklessness and its mad-dog obstructionism.
Of course, it’s hard to “turn up the heat” on the other party’s “fiscal recklessness” when you tripled the deficit in your first year in office. And defending the people’s right not to have a government takeover of the country’s health care system jammed down their throats without their consent is not what sane people think of as “mad-dog obstructionism.”
Rich concludes by coming full circle, returning to the glorious moment when Obama’s unfounded attack on the Supreme Court provoked a mild reaction from Justice Alito:
Just look at how a sharp public slap provoked Justice Alito, threw a spotlight on the court’s dubious jurisprudence and sparked an embarrassing over-the-top hissy fit on the right.
To give Frank Rich his due, he is something of an expert on over-the-top hissy fits. This time, though, wishful thinking seems to have gotten the better of him. But that’s apparently how the world looks in the parallel universe of the left.