A Reader Complaint

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Liberal commentator Kevin Drum thinks my two posts about PolitiFact and Kellyanne Conway show a) that I’m really mad about PolitiFact and b) that I have screwy priorities. They also illustrate that c) conservatives generally have morally corrupt priorities. He faults me for being angrier about PolitiFact’s allegedly minor mistake than about “a Republican bill that slashes Medicaid funding so much that it tosses 15 million poor people off the rolls.”

I’ll make a few points in response:

1) Mad? I’ll admit that I frequently find PolitiFact annoying. I think that an enterprise the entire mission of which is to police our political debate for accuracy should try to get easily verifiable facts right, correct itself when it inevitably errs, and consider getting off its high horse.

2) It’s true that I have not written with “indignation” about Republicans’ throwing 15 million people off Medicaid. In large part that’s because I don’t believe their bill does that. I have explained why I don’t think it will have this effect here — in an article to which Drum links! At the same time I have argued, in that post and others, that the Republican bill should be modified so that more people have better coverage. 

3) I have written a lot about the larger questions of health policy. But usually when I write a post, it’s not because I think the subject is the most important thing going on in the world. Sometimes I write about a topic because I don’t think anyone else will make the same point, or because I happen to know something about it, or because something caught my eye and I can write a quick comment about it. Very often that means there are other topics that I consider more important than the one I’m discussing, but about which I don’t feel I have anything to add to the conversation, or don’t have the time to address adequately, etc. Perhaps Drum views his own writing differently, which is certainly his right.

It is certainly fair to look at someone’s body of work for a sense of what he thinks is most important — although even that exercise can go awry, because a person’s sense of his comparative advantage might not line up with his sense of importance — but it’s wrong to look at one or two posts that way. I find, though, that even the occasional tweet gets treated this way by some readers. So, for example, any jape about liberals, no matter how mild, is sure to draw the response that obviously I am trying to divert attention from some terrible thing Donald Trump is doing, which is what everyone really should be talking about. It seems to me that this is not a healthy way to read, think, or be. At any rate I intend to keep choosing my topics the way I always have.

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