The Agenda


Matt Steinglass, in his response to my post below, writes the following:

REIHAN SALAM responded yesterday to my post on Ramesh Ponnuru’s proposed GOP agenda. Snide tone aside, I think some of his critiques are valid. I may have been guilty of doing something Ezra Klein has prodded Mr Salam about: substituting the things I wish people thought for the things they actually think. As Mr Salam says, it’s not clear that the Obama administration would be willing to embrace a deal that provided increased aid to states conditional on reductions in state-employee pension plans. (Though Mr Salam’s argument that the fact that such plans haven’t made much headway implies Obama administration opposition is not a particularly strong one.) It’s also true that, since high-tax, high-income states tend to be Democratic, scrapping the state-income-tax deduction would likely not sit well with many Democrats in Congress.

I’ve addressed Ezra’s observation at length. And, as Steinglass suggests elsewhere in his post, I also think it’s unlikely that congressional Republicans would adopt the Ponnuru platform, which is a shame. But of course that was implicit in Ramesh’s original post.

Steinglass takes exception to my tone. It is possible that he has mistaken my genuine confusion — could someone who blogs for DiA really believe X, Y, and Z? — for snideness. Yet I’ll add that I often find Steinglass’s contributions “tonally challenged,” e.g., the following from June of last year:


Andrew Sullivan has a good letter from a reader explaining why it’s so infuriating to watch neocons, as stupid as ever, imagine that the events in Iran somehow vindicate their position, when in fact the opposite is true. Of course, the opposite is always true: everything is always constantly refuting neoconservatism, much as everything is always constantly refuting Aristotelian mechanics, Maoist economics, and various other completely wrong doctrines.

I just wanted to note that for me, the kernel of untruth that replicates into a totality of error in neoconservative thought is the…well, actually, there are two kernels. I was about to write that the kernel was the identification of “America” with “freedom”, such that anyone who loves freedom, which is everyone, must ipso facto love America. Hence everyone loves America, and anyone who doesn’t love America is some kind of abomination inimical to the universe, and must be destroyed.

But in fact there’s a deeper kernel to the neocon mind, and that is an inability to cope with the ambiguity of information; or, to say the same thing, the ambiguity of reality; or, to say the same thing, the multiplicity of human subjectivity.

The post continues in this vein. If this strikes you as a series of thoughtful and informed observations, I urge you to read Steinglass. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to sort DiA posts by contributor. But if you do manage to identify the posts by M.S., rest assured that you will find a number of posts that convey the same subtlety and lightness of touch.

Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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