Ezra takes issue with Douthat's broad brush:
Douthat doesn't get into specifics here. Instead, he uses a rhetorical move that I've noticed fairly frequently among conservative commentators sympathetic to Obama's agenda but discomfited by the growth in government. "Taken case by case," Douthat writes, "many of these policy choices are perfectly defensible." Or, to put it in David Brooks's words, "Each of these projects may have been defensible in isolation, but in combination they created the impression of a federal onslaught." Taken case-by-case, those lines may be perfectly defensible. But together, I think you're seeing something less defensible.
It's a sentence that absolves the writer of having to say what he or she would've done differently, which makes broad-brush criticism a lot easier. "Centralization" sounds like a bad thing, and maybe it is. So does a "federal onslaught." But maybe not! Just as these decisions were made on a case-by-case basis, they have to be critiqued on one, too.
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