Anybody else think George Will is becoming a pain?

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Back in the years c. 1990-2000, George Will was probably the best and most effective conservative columnist around. His syndicated columns, Newsweek commentaries, and full-length books usually received respectful notices, including from liberal publications. Even within the confines of an opinion column, Will managed to pack more erudition per column inch than any other writer.

Yet there were problems for anyone who admired Will. The first sign of creeping jackassery was back in the '80s, when Will got it into his head that tax cuts were bad and that the Feds should raise taxes to cover the deficit. Not an uncommon opinion (among Democrats), and not totally indefensible. But it was the way he dissented from the conservative line that was so infuriating. If you didn't agree with him that an additional 50-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, you were irresponsible and childish. He was the schoolmaster, you were the naughty little child who couldn't seem to pay attention in class.

It was this magisterial style that I appreciated when it was deployed against people who were truly childish and immature, like President Clinton. When he used it to argue against my own views, I began to understand why my left-wing friends found him so maddening. A high-church Episcopalian, Will often displays the worst tendencies associated with that tiny sect: haughtiness, snobbery, and a habitual preference for talking down one's nose at one's intellectual inferiors -- which includes just about everyone.

He will brook no dissent himself, even when he has his facts wrong. Here's a telling excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for George Will:

Will's journalistic ethics, along with those of the newspaper that syndicates his column, The Washington Post, have also been questioned by conservative critics at Accuracy in Media (AIM). In their Media Monitor, AIM revealed that in December of 2004 The Post, in an article related to the Indian Ocean tsunami, claimed that, after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, Catholic priests "roamed the streets" hanging suspected heretics, whom they blamed for the quake. Such a charge appears nowhere in the historical record, and The Post was duly informed of that fact. Not only did The Post fail to retract the calumny, but its columnist, Will, quoted as fact the same charge as it appeared in the 2005 book A Crack in the Edge of the World, by the English author Simon Winchester. Though notified of the complete falsity of the charge, neither Will nor Winchester, unlike others who mistakenly made the claim, has taken any steps to correct his error.
He's also showing disturbing signs of Paleocon Disease, where every fault of American foreign policy can be blamed on the "neoconservatives":
The administration, justly criticized for its Iraq premises and their execution, is suddenly receiving some criticism so untethered from reality as to defy caricature. The national, ethnic and religious dynamics of the Middle East are opaque to most people, but to the Weekly Standard -- voice of a spectacularly misnamed radicalism, "neoconservatism" -- everything is crystal clear: Iran is the key to everything.
"No Islamic Republic of Iran, no Hezbollah. No Islamic Republic of Iran, no one to prop up the Assad regime in Syria. No Iranian support for Syria . . ." You get the drift....
Will doesn't bother to refute the Standard's premise that Iran is driving much of the murder and mayhem throughout the Middle East. It's like writing in 1983 that the actions of Nicaragua, East Germany, and North Korea had nothing to do with the Soviet Union -- or that the Soviets were largely irrelevant. Does Will think that Iran isn't bankrolling and directing Hezbollah? That they aren't allied with Syria? That's news to most people, I should think.

Will isn't quoted much in the conservative blogosphere anymore. His general opposition to most aspects of the War on Terror has something to do with it, but I suspect it's also because people have grown weary of his hectoring tone. Maybe they're tired of the hackneyed baseball references, which are supposed to show Will's "egalitarian" side:

Neoconservatives have much to learn, even from Buddy Bell, manager of the Kansas City Royals. After his team lost its 10th consecutive game in April, Bell said, "I never say it can't get worse." In their next game, the Royals extended their losing streak to 11 and in May lost 13 in a row.

Hang it up, George.

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1 Comment

Well said Eric. Maybe Will needs to do what certain other-parties-whom-shall-not-be-named in the Catholic blogosphere need to do and at least take a time out if not question their own infallibility from time to time on non-doctrinal issues.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric Johnson published on July 18, 2006 9:12 PM.

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