A Blogger's Lament

…but someone is wrong on the Internet!

In a comment about politics, Kevin Drum writes, “I sure feel crazier these days. How about you?” Yes, I think I do feel crazy, because almost every day lately I am flabbergasted by a subset of people for whom all political conversation is treated as if it’s some kind of kabuki dance. It frustrates me to no end, and if you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’ll offer an example.

There is one necessary piece of background information — the depressing Web site Newsmax published a column by a guy named John L. Perry outlining all the reasons it would make sense for the military to depose Barack Obama, all but advocating that it happen.

Now set that aside and consider something I wrote yesterday:

…readers ask who I think would be a successful Republican candidate in 2012. I take this to mean “someone who could plausibly defeat President Obama’s bid for re-election.”

My somewhat uninformed guesses: David Petraeus and Colin Powell (who’d have all kinds of difficulty winning the primary). These accomplished generals share one related trait: deep credibility as men who are serious about national security, enabling them to run as sane, experienced stewards, rather than bellicose idiots so desperate to seem toughest on terrorism that they spend the primaries calling for “doubling Gitmo” and competing to see who would torture in more contrived ticking time bomb situations.

They’re also both post-partisan figures of the kind that Americans seem to like, haven’t got long voting records to be picked apart, and can nevertheless credibly claim more executive experience than President Obama. I’m sure there are other candidates who could also mount a credible challenge, though I don’t know who they are.

Obviously there is a difference between saying “David Petraeus is the man with the best shot at beating President Obama in 2012,” and saying, “I want David Petraeus to run for president and win in 2012.” As it happens, I very clearly said the former, and I don’t actually know who my ideal candidate in 2012 is, or whether I’ll vote for President Obama or whoever runs against him, or even whether I’ll cast a ballot at all.

But okay, some folks took my post as a statement that David Petraeus is my ideal 2012 candidate — probably due to analysis I offered about the likelihood that he’d run on a saner foreign policy platform than other Republicans. I don’t particularly mind that mistaken assumption. It is in the nature of blogging that some nuances get lost, whether due to sloppiness by the author or the reader. I am guilty on both sides all the time.

What I mind is the blogger Doug J at Balloon Juice, a reasonably popular blog, who read the post I excerpted above and wrote this:

Maybe I’m way off base on this, but in my opinion, the Conor Friedersdorfs and Nicole Wallaces of the right aren’t so different from coupmeister John L. Perry. The idea of David Petraeus sweeping in and becoming president in 2012 isn’t unethical or unconstitutional, but I can’t help but think that Friedersdorf and Wallace simply want an institution they see as Republican—the military—to depose a Democratic president they dislike. (Friedersorf’s other preferred candidate is Colin Powell.)

The desire to depose Obama runs much deeper on the right—even the so-called moderate right—than anyone is willing to admit. The Perry piece wasn’t any kind of outlier.

Though I realize that this isn’t any more egregious than all sorts of stuff that gets published each day in the blogosphere, and that I may be trying the patience of readers by highlighting it at such length, I can only say that for whatever reason I feel a particular contempt for that post, and were its author sitting in a dunk tank right now I’d forgo throwing baseballs and just use my fist to depress the lever so as to reciprocate his sense of fair play.

Imagine it! Writing that David Petraues is the guy who’d enjoy the most success were he to run on the Republican ticket, and being told as a result that deep down you want the military to depose President Obama — a notion that the bulk of Balloon Juice commenters accept as sound analysis.

There is, in truth, zero desire on the moderate right “to depose Obama,” an absurd assertion all its own, but what bothers me here is the ease with which a literate person considered worth reading by his fellow citizens jumps to the most absurd conclusions about someone — me in this case — because I am on the right. Insofar as conversations across ideology are necessary for a healthy polity, it is depressing to see how many erroneous assumptions his orthodoxies of thought so quickly produce — that I dislike President Obama, that I am a Republican, that I see the military as Republican, that I harbor desires about the 2012 election that I will not admit, and that I want the president deposed, if you care for a list.

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6 Responses to “A Blogger's Lament”

  1. smargolis Says:

    I think the proper way to understand Doug J’s absurd reaction to what you wrote is to realize this: the guys at that blog (and many others of course) tend to react to a few words that they haven’t read in context, haven’t read with any care, and haven’t read with any attempt at objectivity. In short, Doug J is barely reacting to what you wrote at all; he’s merely using it as a pretext for a hysterical outburst.

  2. obushidoo Says:

    Connor, I thought you might find this relevant and interesting

  3. Rick Ungar Says:

    I think smargolis got it correct. When you write reasonably, you deny those who use the commentary opportunity of blogging to express their never ending rage over…well, everything. When that happens, those who use the web as their shrink are going to twist it to accommodate their need to rant. Part of the deal.

  4. dougj Says:

    Well, this may sound like an excessively prickish thing to say, but I don’t think you would have reacted so angrily if there weren’t a little bit of truth to what I wrote. Honestly, what makes you think that David Petraeus is a Republican in the first place or that he’s interested in running for president? (I’m not denying that either of these things is true, I”m just wondering what your evidence is.)

    And I don’t see how I’m more irrational for claiming (with admittedly no justification) that there is support for a coup among the moderate right that you are for claiming (also with no justification) that there is.

    That said, I may have phrased things too harshly in my blog post. And I apologize for that.

    • smargolis Says:

      Doug J:
      Do you really believe that you would be angrier to be somewhat misrepresented than to be completely misrepresented? I have to second your commenter who suggested you step away from blogging for a while. Your judgement here is incredibly flawed.
      And why haven’t you posted a link to this post on your blog?

  5. smargolis Says:

    also Doug J, please point out where Conor says he believes Petraeus is a Republican, or where he says he believes Petraeus is interested in running.
    Reading comprehension: it’s really underrated.

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