Monday, October 11, 2010

STREAKING. When I saw Jonah Goldberg hoisting a flagon of Pibb Xtra and declaring, "I score that as Anti-Wilsonites 5 defenders 0 (or forfeit)," I was intrigued. As has been proven by several incidents since his famous declaration that, after Juan Cole had handed him his ass, he was "going to take my victory lap now," Goldberg is never more ebullient than when he's pooped his drawers.

Turns out he's scoring an NYT seminar on the conservative fad of bashing Woodrow Wilson starring six historians -- not frauds like Goldberg, but experts in their field who write books rather than book-length cheerleading manuals. All concede negative aspects of Wilson's Presidency, which is probably why Goldberg thinks he's bested the field -- his agenda is that Wilson is a rat, and if other people discuss the subject without insisting Wilson was a saint, that means they're losers in the Jonah Goldberg remote control debate.

Some of the historians explain that the most obnoxious parts of the "progressive" Wilson program -- censorship, opposition to women's rights -- have since been absorbed by the conservative movement. Goldberg gets right to the important part:
A few of the folks use [the Times article] as an excuse to beat up on Glenn Beck, even trying to make him into a mouthpiece for Leo Strauss (no, really).
No, not really. The two guys who mention Beck and Strauss -- the conservative George H. Nash and the liberal Michael Lind -- don't "beat up" Beck; they just don't take him seriously, and who can blame them. But since Goldberg believes that "Beck got on the anti-Wilson train largely because of my book," you can see how he'd consider this an assault of some kind. (Also Goldberg himself is mentioned in the article and even more quickly dismissed. You can see how this became a grudge match!)

When John Milton Cooper, Wilson's biographer, says that "the main problem with this current denunciation is that it does not spread the blame far or early enough" and mentions that Theodore Roosevelt also made use of Big Government, Goldberg flies into a sack dance. That's "a game-ending concession," he yells:
So, John Milton Cooper — a great and revered historian — says that the chief problem with the right’s indictment of Woodrow Wilson is not that it is wrong on the merits, but that it’s too selective? In other words, the substance of the attack is fine, it’s just not inclusive enough. I’ll take that any day.
If you read the essay by Cooper -- Goldberg clearly hopes that you won't -- you'll see that the "main problem" passage is a rhetorical gambit used to bring up the immense change in Republican standards of government activism over the years. But Goldberg seems not to have read any further, and goes on for a couple more paragraphs about the tangential TR connection as if it were his Safe Place and he were afraid to leave it; yet even ensconced there, he's never out of danger so long as he keeps yapping:
So while Cooper is right to a limited extent, what he leaves out is that TR wasn’t nearly the progressive Wilson was as president. It is entirely possible that had TR won in 1912 (and all else was held constant) the same conservatives would be beating up on TR more than Wilson. Though even that I doubt, for the simple reason that Wilson’s progressivism was a real ideology. TR’s progressivism was far more instinctual...
Etc, fart, burp. If K-Lo hadn't come along and banged him on the back of the head, he'd probably have started typing IS TOO IS TOO IS TOO over and over again. Once unstuck, Goldberg relies on his old standby arguments. For example, his response to the comments of Harvard's Jill Lepore is "Riiiiiight." When challenged, he explicates:
What I found hilarious was the claim that liberals don’t label things. This from the crowd that has shouted “tea bagger” at everything that moves.
I have not been able to find any writings by Professor Lepore in which she talks about teabaggers, but unlike Goldberg I'm not looking for them through Miss Nancy's Magic Mirror.

Goldberg on what he considers a victory lap is like one of those guys who run out onto the field during a ball game, hear the bellowing crowds, and think, "They love me!"

UPDATE. Thanks John for correx.

UPDATE 2. "I'm a little confused here," says DKF in comments. "Are we modern liberals supposed to venerate Wilson? If we didn't, what would be the point of all this right-wing Wilson-bashing? I don't give a rat's ass about Woodrow Wilson. Why should they?"

I have a couple of theories on it, DKF.

1.) Republicans -- having been for a half-century the Party of Dirty Tricks, Southern Strategy, and the allegedly magical Deregulation that was supposed to make us wealthy forever but has instead doomed us all -- like to shift the conversation to the distant past, especially eras with decent Republicans and problematic Democrats. Hence the "GOP Can't Be Racist, Look at Frederick Douglass" argument (though I believe those National Review readers who actually looked upon Douglass' visage in that post probably wondered what Fred Sanford was all dressed up for.)

2.) Conservatives really despise Franklin Roosevelt, but when they tell people that FDR's crimes include using the federal treasury to employ hobos, they do not get the horrified reaction they seek. They can't even bitch about the Japanese-American relocation camps because that would get Michelle Malkin mad. So they turn to Wilson, who is not associated with such heroic issues as World War II and the Great Depression, and tell people about all the horrible things he did and that Obama would do if he had the chance. (Sometimes he does, unfortunately, but the problem with Obama's conduct is not that it differs radically from that of his Republican predecessor, but that it resembles it too closely.)

3.) Goldberg wrote a book called Liberal Fascism that made millions of rightwing knuckleheads believe a bunch of bullshit.

(Freshly Squeezed Cynic's explanation, also in comments, is shorter and better, which I can mention now that you've just read mine.)

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