Monday, February 28, 2005

The "West Wing Syndrome"

by Tom Bozzo

There must be something in the water. I am in a ranting mood this evening.

Today, on behalf of a college friend, I paid a brief visit to the right blogosphere to track down a site that ended up being Joe's Dartblog, a TTLB Large Mammal blog run by a member of Dartmouth College's class of '08 as a sort-of junior Instapundit. So says Dartmouth economics professor Andrew Samwick. This may be true, though not the entire blogiverse would take that as the intended compliment. (Samwick's credibility with me as a smart conservative economist flew out the window when he linked Alex Tabarrok's Marginal Revolution declaration that the Bush budget "looks pretty good" as "intelligent and succinct," when anyone who knows the first thing about the federal budget should have recognized that the usually sharp Prof. Tabarrok was only succinct this time.)

Dartblog proprietor Joe Malchow can perhaps be forgiven, for now, for among other things having no clue about competition law, seemingly of either the U.S. or E.U. variety — e.g., that multinational firms actually may be subject to local laws and regulations in the jurisdictions where they operate — so long as his readers are aware that things college freshpeople (oops, first-year students) consider abhorrent are not necessarily so.

(Update: Joe Malchow responds at Dartblog. My surreply is here.)

Now, I'm not constitutionally averse to engaging with the other side (as here), but finding the Dartblog involved wading through some of the usual tiresome blather about the Big Bad Oppressive Leftist Academy (not a link to a righty blog; via Majikthise) at blogs run by very conservative and presumably well-to-do men with homoerotic screen names (not that there's anything wrong with that), and basically this has left me fed up with the common right blogosphere theme that the right has some sort of absolute advantage over the left in well-reasoned argument. This belief ought at some point to run up against the problem that the American political right is run by — as Oscar incisively puts it — spokesmodels with so little non-ideological motivation that even some smart conservative ideologues (not that there's anything wrong with that, either) start worrying about it, and sooner or later turn around on policy grounds.

Prove me wrong if you can, but as far as I can tell, it doesn't happen. Indeed, it seems to be pervasive enough that I will dub it the "West Wing Syndrome" for future reference. The Syndrome is, in short, the irrational belief that the political leadership of the right is principled. You may, or should, recall that even in the superior Sorkin-run days, the West Wing parallel universe was inhabited by partisan conservatives who were both principled and sexy. Compare Ainsley Hayes to reality's Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin.

Another test case for West Wing Syndrome is Condoleezza Rice, whose recent redefinition of bête noire has further fueled some Rice '08 fantasies — see the exchange between Maureen Dowd, Tim Russert, and Bill Safire on yesterday's Meet the Press (search for "matrix" or "dominatrix" on the page) — though not so much yet that this blog doesn't still come up as the third Google search return for "Rice 08." It is, I propose, West Wing Syndrome that leads some center-to-righties to complain about the supposedly poor hearing room behavior of the likes of Richard Ben-Veniste, Barbara Boxer, or Joe Biden rather than Dr. Rice's job performance. After all, the memo didn't say how Bin Laden was determined to strike the U.S. And look at those boots! Those powerful, powerful boots.

Thank you, we'll be back to complaining about lousy economics reporting in Sunday Styles tomorrow.
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