James Carville is a very, very bright guy, so I was taken aback to see him recently on Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” arguing that President Barack Obama did not mislead the nation in an oft-repeated promise that no one would lose his or her health insurance policy because of the Affordable Care Act.
So what about all those policies recently canceled because they did not meet the law’s standards? Why, they weren’t really, truly policies because they did not cover very much, he explained, adding that the president could have made “a more nuanced, accurate statement.”
Sorry, but the bit about “nuance” is disingenuous and the bit about an insurance policy not being an insurance policy is inane, on the order of saying an automobile is not an automobile because of high gas mileage.
A worse-than-desired level of performance does not dictate that a thing has lost its identity, as any logical brain will instruct you. And Obama absolutely sounded as if he were talking about the whole universe of health insurance policies when he made his perfectly clear pledge, ending one with the word “period.”
Does it follow that I am upset with Carville, the usually convivial, sometimes passionate former campaign strategist for President Bill Clinton?
No. Just the opposite. I am grateful that he defended Obama with wackiness. In trying to exculpate the president from obvious chicanery that way, Carville, other progressives, the president’s own dutiful press secretary and the president himself are parading a scary truth about themselves. It is that politics and ideology rule over reason that might otherwise bring them to truth.
For further enlightenment about one aspect of this phenomenon, turn to a book by Daniel J. Flynn called “Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas.” The author looks at such ideologies as communism, environmentalism, feminism, multiculturalism and animal rights and says that while the “core idea” of some of these movements may be “laudable,” you have to watch out for “true believers.”
The most adamant of these will conclude that the ideological end justifies immoral means, that good “intentions” matter more than “outcomes” and that anything done in the name of the cause is “noble.” For such people, he says, ideology “deludes, inspires dishonesty and breeds fanaticism.”
The 2004 book is loaded with powerful examples of what Flynn is talking about. There was, for instance, Herbert Marcuse, a hero of the New Left some decades back as he “preached that freedom is totalitarianism, democracy is dictatorship, education is indoctrination, violence is nonviolence and fiction is truth.”
In the realm of radical environmentalism, we have Professor Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University. In a 1968 book on population growth, he said science showed how tens of millions would soon be dying yearly of famine and how, by 1984, we in the United States wouldn’t have enough water to keep us alive. Remember those awful days? Neither do I.
Maybe I shouldn’t even bring up Peter Singer, a bioethics professor at Princeton who argues that scientific experiments on animals should be prohibited, although human sex with them is sometimes OK. He not only thinks that abortion is always permissible, but that killing newborns, if they are disabled or unaffordable, is not the same as killing a full-fledged person.
Author Flynn has quarrels with some on the right, such as the Ayn Rand Objectivists who endorse that philosopher’s embrace of selfishness, and there is cause for worrying about that. It still falls short of laxity about baby killing.
Despite the myth of progressive intellectuals being head and shoulders higher than conservative or libertarian intellectuals, it seems to me the leftists in general are far less attuned to reality and common sense than these counterparts.
The intellectual pretenses of the left too often evaporate into nothingness when the evidential heat is turned up. A prime example of the moment is a health care act designed to fit the ideological supposition that government knows better on anything and everything than individual citizens and should intervene massively — which is to say recklessly — when there are problems.
It’s coming apart, and so is the credibility of its defenders.