Bill Keller joins Krugman/Brooks Op-Ed fight

A defense of centrism from a convincing argument against it

Topics: New York Times, Media Criticism, Bill Keller, Paul Krugman,

Bill Keller joins Krugman/Brooks Op-Ed fightPaul Krugman and Bill Keller (Credit: AP)

Like a rich WASP family, the New York Times does not, as a rule, air its disagreements in public. The newspaper of record has a (supposedly unwritten) rule barring opinion columnists from criticizing one another by name. It would be unseemly. So you will never see columnist Paul Krugman specifically criticize something written by columnist David Brooks.

But what you will see, regularly, is Paul Krugman criticizing unnamed people who happen to have made the exact same argument as David Brooks. (Or Thomas Friedman.)

Last week, Krugman wrote a column attacking so-called “centrists” who defend the Paul Ryan budget plan and criticize the president for being too “partisan” about it. The column came a few days after Mr. Brooks defended the Paul Ryan budget plan and criticized the president for being too “partisan” about it.

Yesterday, former New York Times editor Bill Keller, who is now an opinion columnist despite his distinct lack of interesting opinions, attempted to defend the honor of centrists in a column in which he once again fundamentally misunderstands the argument against “centrism” as a philosophy: It depends entirely on finding the middle point between two extremes, and in our national politics right now, the middle point between two extremes is almost invariably “the Democratic Party agenda.” An ideological moderate has an ally in Barack Obama. The pathological centrist, on the other hand, dreams of a candidate whose beliefs are directly between Obama and Romney, even though such a candidate would be more conservative than “moderate.”

You Might Also Like

Keller defends his argument with research provided by “Third Way,” a centrist think tank dedicated to pushing the Democratic Party ever further to the right. According to “Third Way” polls, Democrats can only win by appealing to people exactly like the founders of Third Way: “pro-business” deficit hawks. “Pro-business” deficit hawks tend to be massively overrepresented in New York and Washington elite circles, so an argument that everyone else in America thinks the same way has a certain appeal to someone like Bill Keller. It is all bullshit: “Fiscally conservative, socially liberal” voters represent a slim minority of a slim minority of actual voters, even if they also represent a majority of newspaper and magazine editors.

Keller is maybe not the best example of the important role of the “centrist” in the American political arena, as he is one of those many “centrists” whose dedication to “centrism” led him to push for war against Iraq as a means of retaliating against an entirely different group of people who had attacked us on 9/11. The radical, extreme leftist view, at the time, was that maybe we don’t really need to invade and occupy Iraq, and many of those sage centrists now share that opinion.

Alex Pareene
Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>