Scott Brown and the critics
He is, in other words, a parody of the brainless bush Republican, mixed with Romney-like cynicism. ~ Andrew Sullivan on Scott Brown
I have trouble understanding where Sullivan is coming from with a post like this one, criticizing Scott Brown’s apparently “mindless op-ed” by cherry-picking everything he can find that casts Brown in a poor light. Certainly some of Brown’s points in his op-ed are little more than standard GOP boilerplate. But the thing about boilerplate is that it accurately represents the views of a very large group of people. Cutting taxes is not in and of itself wrong-headed, however unsurprising the idea may be. Certainly it’s not as wrong-headed as raising taxes would be right now before a significant economic recovery, and with unemployment in the double digits.
While the op-ed doesn’t address spending issues explicitly, it’s not as though Republicans or Brown in particular are calling for more spending. Perhaps spending cuts aren’t the best idea in the midst of a recession any more than hiking taxes. Additionally, one of the reasons Brown states for his opposition to the healthcare reform bill is its increased spending and tax burden. Perhaps he should also be proposing ways to cut current spending, but certainly there is nothing inconsistent with opposing future spending either.
Sullivan objects to calls for tax cuts because that will, essentially, starve the beast, leading to “massive cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and defense.” That this is not stated explicitly in Brown’s op-ed is immaterial. Republicans have long believed that cutting taxes will lead to cutting spending. What they need to do now is elect fiscal conservatives instead of people like George W. Bush. These cuts, after all, will be necessary unless we decide to shift course and adopt a social democratic model which I’m not sure the U.S. is ready to do at this point in history.
Moreover, judging the present policy positions of Republicans based on the poor fiscal record of George W. Bush is an odd approach. Few Republicans will tell you that they are proud of the spending record during the eight years of the Bush administration. It seems like a strange response to that to say that because of their past failures to rein in spending, any present or future attempts to block Democratic legislative agendas are simply hypocritical. Should they instead eschew fiscal conservatism altogether? I fail to see the logic in this.
Finally, Sullivan critiques Brown for his opposition to national healthcare reform and his apparent contradictory support for Romneycare. I addressed this earlier, but to sum it up I think the good people of Massachusetts have worked hard to create a system that works for them and they’d rather not have a system they fear will be more expensive and less efficient rammed down their throats. That makes sense to me.
Sullivan at this point seems reflexively anti-Republican. Gone is any measured attempt to actually assess the candidate. Unless that candidate is pro-Obama and pro-stimulus he may as well be Sarah Palin. Picking over a single op-ed and writing it off as “mindless” or “fraudulent” is lazy analysis. And it’s odd given how moderate Brown really is, even on issues like gay marriage which he believes should be left up to the states.
The trickier question for me comes to Brown’s support of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” I would note that he said he believed terrorists should be tried in military courts – something I agree with, though I’m not particularly passionate about it either way – and that we should do whatever we can within the law of the land to interrogate and extract information from terror suspects. Of course, that does not include waterboarding since that technique has been banned by President Obama. More than anything, I think Brown is touting his tough-on-terror bona fides. That may be a lame political move but it hardly makes him Dick Cheney.
P.S. – None of this is to say that all of Andrew’s criticism is unwarranted. It is only to point out that it is unnecessarily over the top, more of a knee-jerk reaction than the sort of analysis that I would hope this race would inspire from high profile bloggers like Sullivan. Calling Brown out for writing an uninspiring op-ed is one thing; calling him a parody of a Bush Republican is entirely off the mark and a little hysterical.