Stupidity Sells

Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell's WaPo article from the weekend was too dumb to bother rebutting. This paragraph tells you everything you need to know:

If the president goes down the reelection road, we are guaranteed two years of political gridlock at a time when we can ill afford it. But by explicitly saying he will be a one-term president, Obama can deliver on his central campaign promise of 2008, draining the poison from our culture of polarization and ending the resentment and division that have eroded our national identity and common purpose.

James Joyner points out the bleeding obvious:

Recall ... that every second term president is in the position to which Schoen and Caddell advise Obama to skip ahead.  Does anyone recall the halcyon bipartisan achievements of the second Bush term?  The second Clinton term?  The second Reagan term?  The second Nixon term?

Weigel dubs it the "worst column of the year." But Schoen and Caddell's hackery has paid off:

Caddell and Schoen have inspired almost 5,000 "likes" and almost 2,000 comments (and counting), in what has become the paper's most-read piece of the day. Undoubtedly they've inspired some smaller number of TV producers to book "One and Done" segments, even though no one buys the Schoen/Caddell argument that Obama could achieve more by declaring himself a lame duck. ...This is the paradox of the opinion industry: If it sounds stupid, it leads. If it's counterintuitive, it's surely because the columnist has found a fresh angle on a mundane problem, and this angle will produce insights. Data is unexciting, especially if it's the same data everyone else has. Discussions of fantasy scenarios that could prove your theories right? Exciting!

Weigel gives away for free six ideas for op-ed columns in this genre. Drezner applies Weigel's rule more broadly:

 When it comes to policy debates I'm always on the side of John Stuart Mill -- the best way to deal with stupid arguments is to counter them with better arguments in the public sphere.  That said, there's a serious cost to this philosophy in a world in which the stupid ideas can command the policy agenda.  The opportunity cost to the inordinate amount of time that is spent swatting away these ideas is that less time is spent debating policies and ideas that have a real chance of being enacted.  Furthermore, sometimes the dumbass idea just goes into hibernation among a few die-hard believers until a propitious moment arises for its zombie revival. 

In the end, I think Mill still carries the day.  Still, every once in a while, it sure would be nice not to have to waste the energy and the attention on stupid policy ideas.