THE PLANK JUNE 12, 2009
On occasion I agree with Charles Krauthammer. (OK. On very rare occasion.) But even when he's making reasonable points, he generally comes across as so snide, derisive, heavy-handed, and embittered that it's hard to wade through the self-satisfied bile to get to the nuggets of insight.
For instance, in today's column, after a long, snarky windup about Obama's messianic self-regard, Krauthammer offers his objection to what he sees as the POTUS's habit of implying moral equivalence in situations where the wrongs involved are in no way comparable.
As one example, he notes Obama's remark that "Issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. The struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life." Krauthammer's response:
Well, yes. On the one hand, there certainly is some American university where the women's softball team has received insufficient Title IX funding--while, on the other hand, Saudi women showing their ankle are beaten in the street, Afghan school girls have acid thrown in their faces, and Iranian women are publicly stoned to death for adultery. (Gays, as well--but then again we have Prop 8.) We all have our shortcomings, our national foibles. Who's to judge?
Come on, now. Obama isn't contending that life here isn't immeasureably better for women here than in Tehran or Kabul; he's simply not posturing that we're perfect. Once again we seem to be stuck on this popular conservative position that any leader's public admission that
this country is not a 100% wart-free (even though I'm pretty sure this
isn't a secret to most of the globe) is tantamount to equating
America's behavior/morals with despots or terrorists.
Ok. Fine. Krauthammer doesn't like Obama's efforts to not project as aggressively holier-than-thou when addressing
the Muslim world. I get that. Still, if you're trying to convince readers of your rightness on this matter, why employ unnecessary, mocking hyperbole like the bit about softball funding being the only gender equality issue left to address in the U.S? (i.e., There are no issues worth addressing.) Why risk a cheap dig like that pissing off women, plenty of whom do think there are a few ongoing issues, when it's not central to your point? Just give a nod to the Lilly Ledbetter Act or the perennial attempts to chip away at reproductive freedoms--and then drive home your point that these matters don't rise to the level of socially sanctioned physical abuse. Which is obviously true. But by huffing that there aren't any issues that you find legitimate enough to bother noting, you risk losing a chunk of what might be an otherwise semi-sympathetic audience by coming across as unbearably pompous and dismissive.
Then again, it's that kind of mealy-mouthed outreach that you object to in Obama. So I suppose it would be hypocritical to try it yourself.
Better to rage to the choir with total purity than convince anyone of anything with nuance.