This comes courtesy of the NRO. Krauthammer last night:
“The ones [ed: policies] that I think the Democrats ought to have anxiety over are the deficits, the auto takeover, and Guantanamo, because each of them is a symbol. Deficits is the old bugaboo about Democrats as free-spending liberals. Autos is the idea of Democrats who want to expand the reach and authority of government.
And Guantanamo is a double effect, soft on crime. You get those pictures of Uighurs in paradise swimming on the beach in swim trunks in Bermuda. And secondly, soft on national defense, the idea of having terrorists in America. Cheney capitalized on that, and he won in that debate.”
A brief explanatory note: My friend Ben made the point that I shouldn’t go cherry-picking absurdities from the National Review and RedState and mocking them, because they’re so easy to tear into. Like candy and babies, or fish in a barrel, or whatever. So from now on, I’ll try to eviscerate only those pundits whose opinions grace the pages and/or airwaves of the mainstream media. George Will, you’ve been warned. Tom Friedman, you’re on notice. (Oh, and I might keep picking on Jonah Goldberg, too. He’s worth it.)
So. Krauthammer. You make three points, or rather you claim that Democrats, from a tactical perspective, ought to worry about three issues: 1) deficits, 2) the auto takeover, and 3) Guantanamo. Look sharp, kiddo. Here we go.
1) The deficit is mostly an inheritance from the Bush era–tax cuts for the fabulously wealthy, two wars, the Medicare prescription drug plan, etc. What Obama has added to the deficit with this year’s stimulus amounted to less than 10%, and was widely considered necessary–and even, by some economists, barely enough–to keep us from careening into a Depression. I would go get links for all that, but I don’t feel like it. There, I got one for Krugman. It’ll send you to the Wikipedia entry. I’m feeling lazy at the moment.
2) Nobody wants to buy American cars or American car companies. So the federal government stepped in as the buyer of last resort, much like we did for all of those troubled assets. At least with GM’s sub-par product you get a physical object that can do things like transport you to and from work every day if you’re lucky enough to still have a job. Not so with toxic assets.
3) Closing Guantanamo is not being “soft on crime” or “soft on national defense.” First of all, being “soft on crime” presupposes a criminal justice system that permits things like, oh I dunno, the right to challenge your indefinite detention before a court with, like, a real judge and shit. Not the case with the inmates at Guantanamo. Being “soft on crime” also presupposes that there’s a crime in the first place. Not the case with the Uighurs (somebody please send Krauthammer the memo). Second, and to echo a sentiment I’ve seen elsewhere and is not original to me, the idea that having “terrorists in America” could possibly frighten anybody who can read beyond a fifth grade level is absurd. We have things called prisons. They keep bad people away from virtuous ones. They also keep a lot of unlucky people away from virtuous ones. But they mostly work and it’s really hard to escape from them. I honestly don’t understand what there is to be afraid of, and I don’t understand how this meme–that keeping “terrorists” (and the quote marks remind us that they’re innocent until proven guilty) in the United States is inherently dangerous– got any traction at all outside of the wingnut-sitting-around-the-campfire-telling-ghost-stories-and-scaring-ourselves-silly-while-eating-smores crowd.
Obama’s got to allay fears about the deficit because right-wing war-mongers have suddenly turned into fiscal scolds. The auto-bailout and Guantanamo should not be on his radar.