Conservative Degeneracy Watch

Yuval Levin is one of the right's brightest intellectual stars. He has written intelligently on many subjects and although I don't know him, he seems the kind of person conservatism will need if it is to recover. So imagine how one feels reading a paragraph like the following:

Democrats, as the president’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel explained in 2008, have sought to use the ongoing economic crisis to achieve all kinds of unrelated goals: health care policy they have craved for decades, environmental policy that has little to do with the economy, more protections for unions, a greater role for government in the financial and automotive sectors, and on and on.

The health-care plan to provide access to insurance for the tens of millions was a clear part of Obama's election campaign. It eschewed the left's dream - single-payer - and eliminated a public option. It was supported by the drug and insurance companies. It needs constant monitoring and improvement if it is to control costs, but it has set up a market in insurance that could be a model for future conservative innovation. It strongly resembles Mitt Romney's legacy in Massachusetts. None of this was snuck through in the stimulus package described by Rahm Emanuel's infamous aside. It was the result of almost two years of painful attempts at some kind of bipartisan agreement. It reduces the deficit over the long run if the CBO is to be believed - unlike the unpaid for, budget-busting Medicare D that Bush and Cheney foisted on the next generation.

Yuval then writes the befuddling phrase: "environmental policy that has little to do with the economy." In fact, as we know, no gains have been made in curtailing climate change, unless you include some of the green energy components in the stimulus package, and Obama's biggest gesture was to endorse off-shore oil-drilling, to make his environmental policy close to identical to John McCain's. Climate change legislation - cap-and-trade - didn't occur, but even there, that strategy is designed to minimize disruption to markets and came from the right, not the left in the 1980s and 1990s. Again, Yuval makes it seem as if this comes from nowhere, as if the evidence that America is being trounced by China in this vital new industry and if the climate isn't clearly veering toward unpredictable crises were phantasms of the mind.

Then: protection for unions. Again, there is no card-check legislation. It was not a priority. It was not snuck into the stimulus package.

Lastly "a greater role for government in the financial and automotive sectors." What you will notice is that there is no reference in any of this to the appalling economic circumstances Obama inherited which determined both policies. It's like describing FDR's policies as if the Great Depression never happened. What a leap toward Kenyan anti-colonialism that was. Indeed, in the Weekly Standard's headline "madness".  Levin, of course, makes no reference to the deregulated chaos that precipitated the financial meltdown that created the worst recession since the Second World War ( or are Richard Posner and Alan Greenspan Kenyan anti-colonialists now as well?). And what Obama has done to rein in some of the abuses is relatively modest, wrought by such radicals as Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, to the consternation and contempt of the left. As for the auto companies, the emergency aid given has been a gleaming success with Detroit managing to turn things around far more quickly than most imagined. Ditto the banks, where the government may actually be making money off its bailout soon, just as GM is eager to sell off its government-owned stock to the private sector.

I leave behind Obama's refusal to prosecute war criminals, drastic escalation of the war in Afghanistan, continuation of Bush policies in Iraq, or disdain for advancing gay equality. This "madness" is presumably something the Republicans would continue.

All this Yuval knows. He is not a Beck or Palin with no grip on reality at all. And yet this is what the intellectual right at its best is now dedicated to: pure propaganda on the crudest old right-left axis, arguing that a recession caused in part by a Republican administration's neglect and in part by failed Republican policies can be rectified merely by Republican rule.

Again, I thought it would get worse before it got better on the right. But that we have propagandistic, intellectually dishonest dreck like this coming from their brightest stars - and that large swathes of the American public seem to be buying it - brings one close to despair.