Fred Campbell: “I think you’re off base with the elitism discussions you’ve been having. I don’t think someone is begrudged because she attended an Ivy League school and is doing well. I think the problem is that the ‘elite’ seem to talk down to the rest of us. Obama says we aren’t voting Democrat because we don’t understand, Krugman says we’re idiots for voting Republican (not literally but subtly), and others on talk shows and op-eds are saying similar things (Pelosi, Biden, Maureen Dowd). You are dangerously treading in that territory yourself as many of your recent columns indicate you can’t imagine why anyone would vote Republican.”

☞ No one should be talked down to. On that you’re dead right. It’s both offensive and counterproductive. But I don’t entirely buy your premise. I don’t hear the President or Vice President or Paul Krugman often talking down to people; I hear them making impassioned arguments. And I hear and share their frustration when people have been misled.

Take Iraq. It is deeply frustrating that 70% of the folks who voted to reelect Bush believed Iraq attacked us on 9/11. But they didn’t believe that because they are stupid; they believed it because they were deliberately misled. To the extent we fail to frame it that way, we diminish the power of our argument.

Take taxes. It is deeply frustrating that so many people thought the Bush tax cuts were good policy, “the vast majority of which” would go to people “at the bottom end of the economic ladder” – which was demonstrably false. They didn’t think this because they are stupid, they believed it because they were deliberately misled. (Even more frustrating: they never seemed to get angry at having been misled. Instead, they are blaming Obama for the disastrous economic mess Bush left him.)

Take the deficits and National Debt. Reagan/Bush/Bush ran it up from under $1 trillion and 30% of GDP to over $10 trillion and 100% of GDP. These are just facts. It is deeply frustrating that a great many people have been misled into believing that the $1.4 trillion deficit Bush handed Obama was somehow Obama’s doing – and/or that in our current perilous economic situation it would be smart to roll back the government stimulus so we can extend tax cuts on income above $250,000.

How do you get people to give more credence to Joe the Plumber than to Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman without the subtext being, well, he’s a plumber and the other guy’s a Nobel-prize-winning economist? (I sure wouldn’t want Paul Krugman fixing my sink.)

To the extent I and others let exasperation or frustration cross the line from spirited debate to sarcasm or belittlement, we err. It’s fine, it seems to me, to belittle a bad idea; a big mistake to belittle one’s audience. I hope I don’t do that – not least because I happen to have a truly wonderful audience. (Maybe it’s worse to suggest Sarah Palin isn’t competent to lead the world than to suggest Barack Obama pals around with terrorists and is Hitleresque – even though the former would seem to be less offensive – because one is obviously true, and, thus, hurtful, and the other is just ridiculous.)

TOM FRIEDMAN

And speaking of mocking bad ideas, don’t miss Tom Friedman’s latest column, snarky sarcasm notwithstanding. (“Let’s have more tax cuts, unlinked to any specific spending cuts and while we’re still fighting two wars – because that worked so well during the Bush years to make our economy strong and our deficit small. Let’s immediately cut government spending, instead of phasing cuts in gradually, while we’re still mired in a recession – because that worked so well in the Great Depression. Let’s roll back financial regulation – because we’ve learned from experience that Wall Street can police itself and average Americans will never have to bail it out.”)

RARE EARTH

I’m not suggesting our Borealis ship will ever come in. We are now 11 years into this. But press releases like this one at least keep it fun.

THE PRESIDENT AND THE GAY BLOGGER

These were the right questions to have asked, it seems to me, and thoughtful, straightforward answers. If you have gay friends who are angry with the President, please loop them in.

 

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