Humility, Known Unknowns, and Ted Cruz

1tedcruzYesterday I wrote one of the most criticized posts I’ve ever written in ten years of blogging about Ted Cruz. Probably a large portion of the blowback was due to the deliberately inflammatory title, which hit bloggers right in their pathological insecurity about being told that they are not really qualified to offer an intelligent and perfectly cromulent opinion about literally any subject. We have been told by the mainstream media for so long that we are not qualified to opine about anything that we have an institutional reflex reaction to this criticism even when it is legitimate. A blogger could be a high school English teacher by trade writing a piece on quantum physics and if Stephen Hawking told this blogger politely that he didn’t know what he was talking about, the blogger would get his back up. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, half of succeeding in life is knowing what you don’t know, but there never has really been a place for that philosophy in the world of Internet commentary which pretty much demands instant and bombastic reaction. So I get that and perhaps to some extent I bear part of the blame for reactions like this, where people either flat out lied about what I said:

 


Mischaracterized what I said:  


Or engaged in a little fun hyperbole:

 


Look, whatever, I could not possibly have made it more clear that I welcomed criticism of Cruz, even on the merits of Senate procedure. Literally the first sentence of the article indicated that I welcomed the premise that Cruz might have been wrong about objecting to unanimous consent for the weekend recess. I understand that some people will literally not read (or understand) past the title of a piece though and I guess I bear some of the blame for titling the piece the way I did.

The reaction, though, speaks to a troubling phenomenon that is becoming increasingly prevalent on the right. I think it is absolutely fine and well and good to pull out the instant reaction bombast against the left and their surrogates. Probably, if [mc_name name=’Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’P000197′ ] and Markos Moulitsas are out there aggressively pushing something, we can feel comfortable dialing the rhetoric to 10 against it without too much self-reflection about the good faith of their position. They have earned this treatment through many years of bad faith maneuvering and pushing policies that are detrimental to the interests of America.

I don’t like, however, when the same reaction crops up among figures on the right. So many people literally did not care a whit about what my post said other than to determine if it was pro-Cruz or anti-Cruz, and having made that determination, they set phasers to rhetorical nuke levels. And this was the sole point of my post: we ought not treat our allies this way. Before unloading on a guy who is by all accounts a conservative Republican (Cruz, not me, I don’t care who unloads on me), we ought to at least engage what little humility we can muster, assume good faith (even if we disagree with tactics) and disagree respectfully. Look, do you think that if you say in public, “Ted Cruz is dumb but [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ] is smart” and you’re a prominent conservative commentator, the media is going to pick up on anything other than “Ted Cruz is dumb”? How many times do we have to go through this tired charade of conservatives being unwittingly used as pawns in their game to make literally all Republicans appear to be categorically stupid or less intelligent than Democrats?

And maybe, when [mc_name name=’Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000146′ ] says “Gee, I was planning on just letting these nominations go but now that [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] has reminded me that I can work weekends, I’m pretty sure we’re going to have time to get to them,” don’t suppress the part of your brain that reminds you, “[mc_name name=’Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000146′ ] pretty much always lies, especially to Republicans, why should I believe him now?” Look, I’m skeptical of the claim that Reid had any intention whatsoever of letting these nominations just die, knowing that the Republicans are taking control of the Senate in a few weeks. I’m exceedingly skeptical that Cruz giving him one more day of floor time made any difference whatsoever and that he had any intention at all of recessing before they were confirmed. The Occam’s Razor explanation here would seem to very obviously be that Senators are expressing personal pique that Cruz got their weekend passes back home cancelled.

But I’m willing to hear some reasoned, calm explanation of why that might be so. I’m not willing to hear “OMG [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] is an idiot, and you lemmings who follow him are just like the Christine O’Donnell cultists.” We get enough of that from the media about literally anyone who is in the slightest bit conservative. We don’t need to indulge it from people who are ostensibly on our side.