The Right's Cognitive Dissonance

The WSJ tracked down the 1968-style socialist turned Thatcherite, Paul Johnson, for an interview. I was struck by this exchange:

And then there was Ronald Reagan. "Mr. Reagan had thousands of one-liners." Here a grin spreads across Mr. Johnson's face: "That's what made him a great president."

Jokes, he argues, were a vital communication tool for President Reagan "because he could illustrate points with them." Mr. Johnson adopts a remarkable vocal impression of America's 40th president and delivers an example: "You know, he said, 'I'm not too worried about the deficit. It's big enough to take care of itself.'" Recovering from his own laughter, he adds: "Of course, that's an excellent one-liner, but it's also a perfectly valid economic point." Then his expression grows serious again and he concludes: "You don't get that from Obama. He talks in paragraphs."

Really: a "perfectly valid economic point" that vast and growing debt and deficits take care of themselves? One wonders what Johnson thinks of the current Tory government's savage cuts in public spending or his heroine, Margaret Thatcher's brutal spending cuts in the midst of the 1981 recession? Or of the Tea Party's alleged insistence on tackling debt? Oh, wait, he has something to say about the latter:

Pessimists, he points out, have been predicting America's decline "since the 18th century." But whenever things are looking bad, America "suddenly produces these wonderful thingslike the tea party movement. That's cheered me up no end."

And he repeated what he regarded as Thatcher's core values in an interview with the far right Newsmax magazine in 2004, equating her values with George W. Bush's:

Thatcher followed three guiding principles: truthfulness, honesty and never borrowing money.

"Never borrowing money." Yes, that sums up Reagan and George W. Bush perfectly, doesn't it? And Obama's failure? He talks in paragraphs. The whole ramble is almost a parody of the cynicism and blind partisanship of what's left of the right.