Flashback: “On Nobility,” November 2008
Looking through my Twitter thread today I came across a Tweet by motionview that referenced this piece by Erick Erickson over at Red State. In the piece, Erick argues that Obama is not merely incompetent but malicious, and that there are consequences to rejecting the notion of American exceptionalism (either directly or through jaded academic relativism):
There is grave incompetence in the White House. But there is also a maliciousness that views the very image of the shining city on the hill a jingoist insult to the rest of the world.
Al Qaeda once sensed weakness when, during the Clinton administration, we prosecuted instead of fought. How much more weakness does ISIS sense as we retreat from the globe, dither on the world stage, and watch our President play the back nine.
It is malicious hostility toward the world order those American leaders who lived through World War II sought to create to foster stability, peace, security. Because Barack Obama and the left have no sense of history and no respect for their predecessors on the world stage, they will seek to undo without ever appreciating why it was that order came to be.
But then the body bags will be some future President’s problem.
In responding to Erickson, motionview pointed to his own comprehensive guest post from back in 2012, along with my 2009 piece for Hot Air that, though well received, was one of my last links to (or from) the erstwhile Malkin site.
All of which put me in mind of the post that launched a thousand hatreds, which I revisited today to see exactly how it has withstood the test of time. And now you can, too. “On nobility,” November 5, 2008:
Good men do bad things, and in the pursuit of ambition, they almost always do. Barack Obama is not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination.
What’s more, I think he will damage this country with bad policies. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. Inevitably, he is going to take actions that I think are disastrous, and somebody will come back and say: “Hey, Patterico! I thought you said Barack Obama was a good man!” Yes, but I never said he wasn’t going to do horrible things. It’s quite clear he will.
What’s more, there is no way in hell he is going to do away with the poisonous atmosphere in Washington, and anyone who thinks that he can is a fool. It will be amusing to watch him try.
But I make no apologies for saying he is a good man. He is my President. He is our President. And while he hasn’t always done good, I do believe he is fundamentally a good man and a patriot who wants to make this country a better place.
Precisely the kind of self-righteous civility that fried McCain. Want to be clapped on the back for your decorum? Fine. Just say so.
But let’s not pretend you are being honest or principled. Graciousness is one thing; praise is another.
This “good man” was involved in ACORN blackmail schemes. With an attempt to fraudulently undermine the Second Amendment by gaming court rulings. He got rich off of schemes that led to the mortgage crisis — then stood by and let others fix it in order to keep his hands clean during the final stages of an election. He has thrown in with race hustlers,”reformers” who believe that domestic terrorism was a valid form of expression, odious foreign potentates —
There is nothing at all noble about praising a man and a party who reviles you simply because in doing so you appear noble. Jews have tried that. And it’s often ended with skeletons and ash, or the twisted wreckage of a bus in Tel Aviv.
In this case, it will end with more McCains — and so more Obamas and Reids and Pelosis and Olbermanns.
If that’s nobility, I’m not interested. Yes, Obama is my President. But that doesn’t mean I’m forced to forget all he’s done to get there — and all that’s been done on his behalf, either by the savage supporters who went after Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin, or by the “objective media” that sold its soul for a shot at establishing the government it desired.
A good man?
A good politician, sure. A dedicated husband and father, perhaps. But a good man?
Sorry. But good men don’t lie, cheat, steal, and throw longtime supporters by the wayside just so they can rise to power — even if they’ve convinced themselves they’re doing so for some Greater Good.
Because the fact is, in this country, they’re not supposed to get to decide what that is. We are.
The rest is hubris.
update: For those coming over from some of the sites linking this piece, my follow-up post is here, and it explains in greater detail why I think Patterico’s position is not only wrong but dangerous.
And no, I don’t think Patterico in general dishonest or unprincipled. Quite the opposite, in fact. But in this instance, I believe he made a calculated and ostentatious decision to take the high road, and in doing so he forced himself to call someone a good man whom he knows to be quite the opposite (and has in fact suggested as much on a number of occasions).
In so doing, he has given cover to reprehensible behavior. If he believes such pragmatism will win elections, fine. Me, I’d rather lose the next few rounds if it means resurfacing with classical liberal principles intact and at the core of every campaign we run.
I believe it interesting to revisit this piece now because you can see in it what were clearly the beginnings of a divide in the GOP support structure. By this time, I had already appeared on NPR noting that McCain was a terrible candidate, and that if we were going to have a country run on big government narcissism, I’d rather that governing strategy be laid at the feet of the Democrats. This was before he selected Palin as his running mate — the only reason I could bring myself to vote for him, though he seemed determined to lose no matter what.
Interestingly, we didn’t learn from McCain’s defeat, and so when Romney was pushed as the candidate four years later — and I pointed out we were repeating our mistake of 2008 (though in point of fact, I did believe Romney would win, just that he was a lousy candidate, one that essentially removed ObamaCare as an issue for the GOP) — I met with another round of resistance, and saw my marginalization compounded.
Obviously, I stand by what I wrote at the time; Rick Moran penned an interesting piece on the conflict that erupted because of it, agreeing with my larger point (ironically so, because later, he ridiculed the TEA Party and gave people like me the charming Visigoth moniker) — though he chided me for presuming to see into Patterico’s soul and glean his intent.
But here’s the thing: though I was at pains to say, as I believed at the time, that this was not something either isolated to Frey or indicative of his overall character, I nevertheless was willing to argue that, based on any number of his prior posts written about Obama, he didn’t really believe what he was writing in his “good man” post — and that for reasons I’ve before and since argued, it is not only wrong but dangerous to try to play the game by left’s urgings, hence my distinguishing between graciousness and praise. There was and is no nobility in knowing the truth and pretending not to when the fate of a nation is at stake, just as ceding linguistic ground by playing in the left’s sandbox insures that we lose, even if it slows down how quickly that inevitably happens. Fundamental transformation can operate at many speeds.
The TEA Party elections of 2010 gave many of us hope; the GOP establishments actions since then, however, have turned that promise to pessimism — reaching its nadir with the McDaniel “defeat” in Mississippi that it turns out was bought with GOP establishment funds and sold with leftist race-baiting rhetoric.
We are where we are. And though I’m still being carefully bracketed by many major conservative outlets for the treason of finding fault in my own and openly discussing it, it heartens me to know that, pace allegations that the entire outlaw credo was just a cynical way to fundraise, in this piece you can clearly see in the conclusion that I’d already gone rogue — and that those who were serious about individual sovereignty and the classical liberalism upon which this country was founded had better begin standing on principle rather that being seen standing on ceremony.
Nearly 6-years later, and I have been making this same point nearly daily since: “I’d rather lose [a few] rounds if it means resurfacing with classical liberal principles intact and at the core of every campaign we run.”
The irony is, had we begun in 2008 — and allowed the momentum of 2010 to carry us — we’d already be where we need to be.
Instead, we got Romney, the party’s outward hostility toward its base, an impotent congressional leadership, and a world in chaos as the country disintegrates under our feet.
— And we’re beginning to hear the call for Romney to run again.
It was never my intention to show anyone up or to hurt his feelings: I was under the illusion, since rectified, that we as a conservative online movement were truly interested in finding ways to beat back leftism — and that a crucial part of that was going to include self-examination and a willingness to engage in intellectual discussion, the end result being a more unified party going forward.
Instead, I uncovered the politics of talking politics. And I can’t say that as a movement we’re anything but far worse off for it.
In fact, I doubt anyone will care much about this post. Despite there being a saying about history and forgetting it that seems quite apropos here, even if it’s inconvenient or impolitic to bring it up…