Reasons to Believe

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POLITICS DECEMBER 28, 2007

Reasons to Believe

Cass Sunstein honorably comes
to the defense
of his friend and former colleague, Barack Obama. His doing
so reminds me of why I am among Sunstein’s many admirers. Unfortunately, his
loyal reply has nothing to do with what
I wrote

My essay was not about Obama, and certainly did not “smear”
him. The subject was the way Obama’s devotees in the press have made their case
for him on the basis of emotional appeals about “intuition” and “identity”--a
kind of delusional political journalism we have seen before. Those supporters
occasionally cite a bill or two that Obama has sponsored, or some position he
has taken, while ignoring how, for example, he has been negligent as chair of
the European Affairs subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But Obama’s credentials, such as they are, seem insufficient as a basis for
recommendation among his more delusional supporters.  So they emphasize matters of symbolism,
emotion, and “intuition.” And they seriously expect us to regard this piffle as
reasonable arguments to support a presidential candidate.

This would be ridiculous if it weren’t alarming--not so much
about Obama and his campaign (although, to their discredit, they embrace it) as
about the bizarre state of so much political commentary today. Take a look,
once again, at the first five paragraphs of the Boston Globe’s pro-Obama endorsement editorial,
which Sunstein cites and which I have criticized for its emptiness, and you’ll
see what I mean.

Sunstein offers his own reasons to vote for Obama. I find
them unpersuasive when compared to the reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton,
whom I’ve openly supported for some weeks--but at least Sunstein’s are cogent,
based on something other that emotional symbolism. If only the writers I criticized,
including Fareed Zakaria and David Brooks,
were as reasonable and substantial! (For a more recent example of the
delusional style, see this
piece
by Dominique Moisi for The
Guardian's website.)

But, unfortunately, they have not been, and their irrational
appeals to promote their views echo far and wide. Hence, I wrote my essay on
their delusional style. 

Sean Wilentz is a contributing editor at The New Republic,
and the author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson
to Lincoln (Norton).

By Sean Wilentz

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