I never thought it would happen. I am actually feeling sorry for Frank Rich. True, my feelings of sorrow and compassion — I won’t call it “empathy” — have stiff competition from irritation and contempt, the jolly old stand-bys that always step forward when someone brings a column by Rich to my attention. For, truth be told, that is the only way I encounter anything published in The New York Times these days. I long ago gave up my subscription — Free, free at last! And out of regard for both the preciousness of time — you can’t waste time without injuring eternity, said Thoreau, who (unlike Frank Rich) wasn’t wrong about everything — and solicitude for my blood pressure, I resolved some time ago never to visit The New York Times web site unless a trusted friend had directed me to a specific article.
So imagine my reaction when a friend sent me a link to “The Obama Haters’ Silent Enablers,” Rich’s column in the June 14 issue of the paper. The ostensible subject of Rich’s column is right-wing “haters,” a large and diverse population (according to Rich), membership in which you, too, Dear Reader, may qualify for if you deign to offer any but the mildest criticism of our Dear Leader, a.k.a. Barack Obama. No article by Frank Rich is complete without a swipe at President George W. Bush, and so it was only business as usual that he should indulge in a little preliminary Bush-bashing before getting down to the subject at hand: “In his scant 145 days in office, the new president has not remotely matched the Bush record in deficit creation.” For support, Rich links to another article in The New York Times. Never mind that that article actually apportions the blame for the deficit rather evenly between Bush and Obama. Personally, I think Bush was profligate with the taxpayers’ dough. But I see now that he was a rank amateur when it comes to serious economic blow-out. To appreciate this, all you need to do is to savor this chart which Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has been posting frequently in recent weeks as a public service.
Bottom line? Obama’s deficit in his first year is nearly 5 times the enormous deficit bequeathed us by the Bush administration. And that’s after only his “scant 145” days in office. Just wait till he sinks his teeth in health care, cap-and-trade, and other economic pits.
While we wait for that tragedy to unfold, let us return to Frank Rich and his campaign against “haters.” He starts by linking to a a video clip in which FoxNews anchor Shepard Smith expresses concern about the “out there” rhetoric of the anti-Obama email that has been pouring into his inbox. Rich’s gambit is essentially “If even FoxNews is worried, we have a problem.” But what struck me was the fact that someone at “conservative,” “right-wing” FoxNews would acknowledge and criticize the intemperate tone of missives critical of the president. Was there ever any such airing on NBC, CBS, CNN, or in the pages of The New York Times when the Bush = Hitler folks climbed up on their soap boxes?
Remember the childhood game “One of these things is not like the other one”? What Rich proceeds to do will bring it all back to you. The murders of Dr. Tiller and Stephen Johns. Then this:
A sizable minority of Americans is irrationally fearful of the fast-moving generational, cultural and racial turnover Obama embodies — indeed, of the 21st century itself. That minority is now getting angrier in inverse relationship to his popularity with the vast majority of the country. Change can be frightening and traumatic, especially if it’s not change you can believe in.
Let’s parse that, shall we? Are you worried about the Obama administration’s fiscal policies, their efforts to impose socialized medicine on all America, their contempt for the rule of law (ask the supposedly “secured bondholders” at Chrysler about that), their efforts to make government bigger and more intrusive? I am. Does that make me “irrationally fearful”? Where, in Frank Rich’s cosmology, does rational, justified fear come in — apart, I mean, from anything that can be associated with George W. Bush?
And note this association: if you are critical of Obama’s efforts to transform America into a European-style socialist state then you are “irrationally fearful” not only of all those “fast-moving” impulses Rich identifies but also “of the 21st century itself.” Gee whiz: and I thought I was trying to affirm the possibilities of the 21st century by criticizing policies that would make it less prosperous, less secure, and less free.
Which brings me to the Mantra of the Moment: “Change.” Obama campaigned on it. Many non-socialist commentators have delighted in pointing out how little change there has been from the policies of the Bush administration. Guantanamo. Secrets that must remain secret on account of national security. Etc., etc.
But those are side shows. Obama really is — no pun intended — going for broke in the change sweepstakes. As he promised his acolytes days before the election, he is out to “fundamentally transform” the United States of America. He’s made a good — by which I mean a large — start on this. Obama inherited the richest, mightiest, and freest country in the history of the world. The “fundamental transformation” he envisions will wind up changing all three of those achievements. I am fearful about that. Why should we listen to Frank Rich who tells us that such fears are “irrational”?
We shouldn’t. But we shouldn’t just leave it at that. Frank Rich is clearly a man who needs help. He is delusional, intoxicated partly by what he thinks of as his power at The New York Times, partly by his panoply of dislikes. It cannot be healthy, indulging in all that — can we use the word? — hate. Let’s start a “Save Frank Rich Society,” whose first aim would be to relieve him of a post in which he is clearly doing himself, and his newspaper, grave damage. A man of his talents should really be elsewhere — writing PR for ACORN, for example. Can’t someone find him an honest — or at least another — job?