Commentary Magazine


Ad Hominem Attacks Are Not Necessary

As Republicans in Congress and the president negotiate over raising the debt ceiling, liberal commentators are, as they so often do, adding to the quality of the debate based on the rigor and care of their arguments. For example, the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen compares the GOP presidential field as “a virtual political Jonestown.” Then there’s MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who – when he’s not complaining about the incivility of Republicans – finds time to describe the GOP as “the Wahhabis of American government.” Not to be outdone, Tina Brown of Newsweek and the Daily Beast refers to Republicans in Congress as “suicide bombers.”

All in the name of elevated public discourse, of course.

It’s hard to know whether these pundits understand how stupid and childish their rants are, or whether they’re so blinded by their ideology they don’t understand it’s not really appropriate to refer to people with whom you disagree on taxes as Wahhabis, suicide bombers and members of a death cult.

Either explanation isn’t terribly encouraging. And it would be nice if a few liberals who pretend to care about the quality of our political dialogue – at this point I’d settle for one – might point out, in the gentlest way possible, this kind of ad hominem attack isn’t necessary or helpful.