Ron Radosh has written an excellent piece at Pajamas Media about a blatant, but drearily familiar, smear of Victor Davis Hanson by Jeffrey Sachs — and Joe Scarborough’s underwhelming response to same. Anyone still planning to run out and get his No Labels membership card (75% off all David Frum books — act now) should watch the clip below then reconsider the wisdom of having Fifi the poodle guard the house.
Sachs I’m assured is “internationally known” – presumably by virtue of teaching at Columbia and being head of an organization with the name “Earth” in it. Hopefully he doesn’t teach ethics or logic, because his remarks on the recent Morning Joe episode provided no evidence of even a tenuous grasp of either. In response to a question about President Obama’s recent policy about-faces — in which an article of Hanson’s was quoted — Sachs’ immediate and visceral reaction was, in effect, “never mind the facts, Hanson is a wild eyed extremist responsible for getting us into Iraq and Afghanistan.”
This seems to have been enough to dazzle Joe Scarborough, who responded to Sachs’ repeated and baseless slanders with a few feeble attempts to change the subject, one lame joke, and that final redoubt of intellectual and moral courage, agreement with the slanderer to “put Victor Davis Hanson to the side.”
Evidently the more sensible option of putting Jeffrey Sachs to the side didn’t occur to him.
JEFFREY SACHS: Anything that Hanson says I’m likely to disagree with, cause no commentator has done more harm to the American people actually than that guy who led us into all these disastrous wars. But aside from that –
SACHS: No, that is real. Because this is an extremist. So quoting him doesn’t really make the point.
SCARBOROUGH: And I will put Victor Hanson –
SACHS: Sorry, that’s a side point, but that man – that guy’s done a lot of damage.
SCARBOROUGH: I will put Victor Davis Hanson to the side, you obviously, you guys aren’t on each other’s mailing lists, Christmas card lists.
SACHS: That guy got us into more wars, and more militarism, than anybody.
Now, it’s one thing to vilify someone, quite another to do so – to paraphrase the immortal Hannibal Lecter – with the ineptitude of a college freshman fumbling at a bra strap. One doesn’t need to have read a line of Hanson’s work to appreciate the absurdity of the notion that he or any other writer “got us into … wars,” unless someone appointed him Commander-in-Chief one week while I was out fishing.
On reading Hanson – and I would invite the reader to do just that over at NRO – one finds a classicist and military historian with a wide range of interests and views including, but not limited to, national defense and America’s position in the world. One can agree or disagree with his many positions but it’s doubtful the word “extremist” will come trippingly to anyone’s tongue.
In a similar vein, Sachs’ use of “militarism” betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the term, explicable perhaps by the fact that “military historian” sounds similar if you say it fast, and Sachs is nothing if not easily confused.
Anyone who has ventured beyond online dictionaries will understand that militarism is the imposition of military type authority and decision structures on society at large. (It’s no coincidence that statist power grabs are frequently cloaked in militaristic language such as “the war on poverty.”) It typically strives to supersede what is sees as slower, less efficient systems (you know, like a republic with checks and balances) in the interests of solving one or more urgent problems that, we are always assured, won’t yield to the normal political apparatus.
In and of itself militarism has nothing to do with the desire for a strong and effective military to defend a nation. Davis supports the latter; he has been vocal in his opposition to the former. Somewhere in the bowels of Columbia there must be a class Sachs can take to help him understand this distinction.
Further response probably gives Sachs too much credit inasmuch as his gratuitous swipes contained no real arguments worth responding to. As David Horowitz points out in the comments section of Radosh’s article, Sachs has no intellectual argument. His stock in trade – like every other Left-wing talking head – is extreme and unsupportable assertions delivered in a peremptory, eye rolling manner that implies – to the gullible at least – that their truth is self-evident. Such people, as we’ve seen repeatedly, do not respond well to questions like, “can you prove that?” or “where are you getting your information?”
Not that any such unpleasantness is likely to occur on Morning Joe.
Such is the level of discourse that the “can’t-we-all-get-along-while-we-reach-across-the-aisle-and-pick-the-labels-off-each-other” crowd would have us engage in. If this looks a lot like craven surrender to you, I’d go with my lying eyes on this one.
Perhaps the next time Scarborough needs to screw up his courage he should just pretend he’s talking to Sarah Palin. He appears to have no problem standing on his chair and defending several past presidents – and most everyone living or dead in the Republican Party – against her imagined slights. Maybe he could just take this excerpt from a recent Politico piece and use it as a template:
And now a point of personal privilege. I work hard every day to assume the best of Americans who engage in public service. But I am offended by Palin’s attempt to build herself up by tearing down great men like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
I appreciate that Victor Davis Hanson isn’t Ronald Reagan, but the principle holds, and on the evidence I’m not sure Reagan would’ve fared any better on Morning Joe if some smirking Ivy Leaguer had decided to take an ax handle to him as well.
Radosh has quite properly suggested that people register their complaints directly to MSNBC at the link below:
Scroll through the choices box and pick “Morning Joe.” If you do not do this it will not work.
I would counsel haste in conveying your thoughts to the network if the spirit so moves you. It’s always a good idea to press an issue while it’s still current, especially since MSNBC — or at least personalities like Scarborough who have consigned it to the ratings sub-basement — are all but being read last rites as we speak. Any apology extracted would thus be more in the character of a deathbed confession.
(Cross-posted at NewsReal Blog.)