Greg Sargent is the liberal blogger for the Washington Post. He recently expressed his barely uncontained fury at Republicans, and Mitt Romney in particular, for daring to impugn Barack Obama’s motives. “Republicans react with bloody screams of outrage whenever Dems suggest that they might be trying to sabotage the recovery in order to harm Obama politically and make it easier for them to recapture the White House,” according to Sargent. “Yet here Romney has now made an even broader charge, arguing that Obama is making policy decisions across the board that he ‘knows’ are ‘counter to the interests of the country,’ including major decisions involving war and national security.”
Sargent concludes this way: “When Romney falsely claims that Obama apologized for America, insinuates that we should find his values suspect, and implies that we should be vaguely suspicious intentions towards the country [sic], it’s routinely treated a ‘part of the game.’ Now that Romney has taken this line of attack to its ultimate conclusion, I’m not expecting the reaction to be any different.”
I’ve addressed the issue of political discourse and impugning motives before. And people can link to Sargent’s blog to see the case Romney made for his judgments (including the fact that Obama’s decision to withdraw in September 2012 more than 30,000 troops in the midst of the fighting season in Afghanistan, and made contrary to every military commander’s recommendation, makes no military sense). For now I’ll simply say that Sargent’s outrage appears to be – what shall we say? – highly selective. After all, President Obama makes a point of impugning the motives of Republicans in almost every speech and interview he does these days, including his recent “60 Minutes” interview, in which he said of GOP opposition to his tax proposals: “And I could not get Republicans to go ahead and say, ‘You’re right. We’re gonna put country ahead of party.’” (Obama also takes delight in saying that Republicans are eager to have children with autism and Down syndrome “fend for themselves.”)
This is a common Obama refrain – that unlike our high-minded, unstained, pure-of-heart president, Republicans are putting their party ahead of their country and making major policy decisions they know are counter to the interests of the country. But this charge goes uncommented upon by almost everyone in the press, including Sargent.
As for Obama’s charge that Republicans want “dirty air and dirty water,” Sargent betrays the arrogance of reactionary liberalism, which assumes that if one opposes their policies one must expect – indeed they must want — the worst possible outcome. So the only way to a healthy environment is to embrace the regulations that Obama’s administration has implemented; to do anything less means you are wishing destruction upon Earth. I recall similar arguments being made about welfare reform in the 1990s. If you embraced reform, you wanted poor people to suffer. Conservatism was a form of sociopathy. Compassion was synonymous with reactionary liberalism.
In fact, welfare reform, by virtually every objective measure, helped the poor. From the high-water mark of 1994, the national welfare caseload declined by more than 60 percent during the course of a decade. Not only did the numbers of people on welfare plunge, but, in the wake of the 1996 welfare-reform bill, overall poverty, child poverty, black child poverty, and child hunger all decreased, while employment figures for single mothers rose. Welfare reform ranks among the most successful social reforms of the last 50 years. And yet liberals excoriated conservatives for favoring reform, criticizing not only their policies but their motivations.
And it continues to this day, as Obama demonstrates at almost every political stop. Now that Obama has taken this line of attack to its ultimate conclusion, I’m not expecting Sargent’s reaction to be any different than it has been in the past: support for Obama or complicit silence. I’ll leave it to others to judge what motivations may be driving Greg Sargent.