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Life may be too short to unwind everything Ron Radosh distorts in his PJ Media blog post on Monday. In it, he purported to recap both Charles Krauthammer’s recent appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and my NRO column from last weekend, which examined that appearance in the context of mainstream Republican enthusiasm for the federal welfare state.

I need to say that again: mainstream Republican enthusiasm for the welfare state.

The emphasis is warranted because Ron provides readers with the following synopsis of my position: “McCarthy says no mainstream Republican accepts” the “centralized welfare state” that began with “the Progressive Era of Woodrow Wilson followed by FDR’s New Deal” (emphasis added). Of course, that is exactly the opposite of what I said. Ron evidently missed not only the column’s main point – viz., that the mainstream of the Republican Party fully accepts the centralized welfare state – but also its headline, which announces in bold black letters, “The Republican Embrace of the Welfare State,” followed by the sub-heading, “The establishment GOP has accepted progressivism’s central premise.”

There is a salient distinction between Republicans and conservatives. That was the upshot of my argument, which follows up on the theme from the previous weekend’s column: Mainstream Republicans are sympathetic to President Obama’s case for a massive, centralized welfare state; mainstream conservatives favor the Tea Party’s emphasis on individual liberty and limited government – which, contrary to Ron’s apparent misconception, is hostile not to humane, transparent welfare programs but to the insatiable, Washington-centered imposture that is devouring the prosperity of present and future generations of Americans. That is the rift on the Right.

Ron is similarly sloppy throughout. In this post, I address the hash he makes of my Krauthammer-Stewart critique. This weekend, I will have more to say about Ron’s fanciful depiction of Social Security as a bona fide retirement insurance program – which parrots a Roosevelt administration fairy tale that even its authors abandoned three-quarters of a century ago when forced to justify the program in Supreme Court litigation. I’ll also discuss Ron’s misstatement of my position on welfare.

Like Ron, I value “serious and respectful” debate, and have generally managed to keep things civil through 30 years of mixing it up with some fairly strident characters: aggressive lawyers, government officials, journalists, talk-show hosts, academics, Islamic-supremacists, etc. I might nevertheless be more receptive to Ron’s Dale Carnegie lecture if he were a better practitioner of what he preaches. I have not commented on this but, since he brings up the subject of civility, I am still taken aback by the tone of his review of Diana West’s American Betrayal … and I cringed upon learning that, in the midst of the nasty cross-fire that it ignited, he sent Diana a giddy email taunt when another commentator, Conrad Black, published a similarly intemperate review. To be clear, I am not talking about substantive merit here – I happen to disagree with Ron and Conrad about Diana’s book, but that is neither here nor there (I’ll have more to say about it soon). I am talking about peer-to-peer civility. Even in the context of Ron’s post about my column, the “serious and respectful” twaddle is just a set-up for branding my argument as “a child’s temper tantrum.” “Serious and respectful” starts to seem a lot like “agrees with Ron.”

That said, we can certainly stipulate that Charles Krauthammer is a charming, consummate gentleman, and that his discourse with the reciprocally gracious Jon Stewart was a model of civility. I fail to see the relevance, however, since my quarrel had nothing to do with the tenor of the Krauthammer-Stewart dialogue. Nor with the forum in which it took place. Ron claims I “chastise[d]” Dr. K for appearing on The Daily Show. I did no such thing. While I’ve not been on that program, I’ve appeared on more left-leaning media broadcasts and in more debates at left-leaning universities than I can count. It is a good thing for conservatives, especially compelling conservatives like Charles Krauthammer, to engage progressives in settings where they meet good faith interlocutors (as Stewart, whom I don’t know, seems to be), or where there is an open-minded (even if left-leaning) audience that might be moved by conservative arguments.

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Goes back to the late 1950s when Ayn Rand criticized Republicans/conservatives for "Me, too"ing the welfare state.

Fifty years down the road, nothing has changed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dear Andrew,

I agree with you on almost everything but has Charles weighed in on this very public Red on Red debate? My simple interpretation of what Charles said on the Daily Show was that those programs were a great achievement of liberalism but not that they were good for the country. Just like Obamacare was supposedly a great achievement of progressivism, it is a disaster in practice. Am I missing something?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You might be right. Only Charles Krauthammer's acclamation of New Deal welfare programs is open to confusion and interpretation as you have done here, not unlike Patrick Buchanan's tribute to Hitler as "an individual of great courage" is open to interpretation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Jon Burack is saying is that if the fiction that Social Security is an insurance program is maintained, it is indeed a Ponzi scheme; if it is transformed into a straightfoward redistributionist program, it will no longer be. But there are obviously very good political reasons why it was sold and continues to be represented as the former. Straightfoward redistribution has always been extremely difficult in the US--without the communal, collectivist and monarchical traditions of Europe, it is too clear that nothing but robbery from one group of people for the benefit of another is taking place. So redistribution always gets disguised as insurance, with the question of how, if most individuals are unable to set aside enough money for their own health care and retirement, pooling everyone's money will suddenly provide for enough of it. In fact, just taking money from, say, 80% of the population and giving it to the neediest 20% would be far simpler and more sustainable--but, again, politically impossible (and immoral). There is probably no way to break the fantasy that we all have more money together than we do individually, at least intellectually--only reality can destroy such fantasies. But until that point it is helpful to have as many people as possible challenging the fantasy, and beginning to construct necessarily radical alternatives that people will be able to discuss as more of them realize they will have no choice.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is dishonest on the Social Security-Ponzi analogy. Krauthammer is right that mandatory contributions undercut the analogy, and contra McCarthy it is not a distinction without a difference. You cannot pull your money (taxes) out of the system simply because you suspect the rate of return isn't good enough. Raise those taxes or adjust the payouts in various ways and the program is perfectly sustainable. What has made it problematic is not its semi-Ponzi character (which by the FDR was not happy about either - McCarthy is VERY unfair to his understanding of what he was doing and why), but the vast demographic transformation underway. It was not a transformation FDR or anyone could have expected in the extreme form it has taken - skyrocketing life expectancy and baby boom-baby bust fertility. Krauthammer dwelt on that with Stewart not to ingratiate himself with a liberal audience, but because it is so.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Your link shows up on PJ Media's most popular, but does not show up on their main page. Go figure, you, and I, oppose Ron Radosh's argument.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Life may be too short to unwind everything Ron Radosh distorts in his PJMedia blog post on Monday.

Certainly too short for casual readers to follow.

I need to say that again: mainstream Republican enthusiasm for the welfare state.

The Pubs want theirs a la carte.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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