Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 6, 2009
POLITICS: Where We Will And Won't Go

An interesting debate between two people I know and greatly respect in the blogosphere: Patterico and my RedState colleague streiff - about a topic I addressed immediately after the election: how the Right should conduct itself in opposition. The debate is, unsurprisingly, reflective of their backgrounds - Patterico, as a prosecutor, has a lawyer's sensitivity to the costs of losing credibility, while streiff, as an old infantryman, is focused more on how to confuse and overwhelm the other side. Basically, Patterico argues broadly that there are lines we should not cross, and specifically that certain types of personal attacks on Obama run the risk of sinking to the level of madness and virtiol characteristic of the Left and the Democrats the past 8 years; streiff cites chapter and verse of Obama's inspiration, Saul Alinsky, to argue that those tactics were ultimately successful against Bush and that the Right should not hesitate to use them, at least within reason, and has suffered in the past from refusing to do so.

I agree with a good deal of what both of them say, and at the end of the day it comes down to specific cases. Surely, there is a happy medium between being an aggressive advocate and ending up like the Left.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:08 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (28) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Sorry, but I can't take Patterico seriously anymore. I followed his debate with Jeff Goldstein extensively, and he was handed his lunch over and over again, consistently reevaluating his position (and moving the goalposts, claiming that was what he was saying all along), finally, and quite ironically, engaging in the kind of tactics the left are notorious for and what was the basic crux of the debate to begin with.

If you really want to get into this type of thing, may I suggest you add Jeff Goldstein (Protein Wisdom) to your list and, more specifically, look up 'Inentionalism' in his archives.

Patterico lost all credibility and honor, as far as I'm concerned.

Posted by: Agent W at April 6, 2009 2:44 PM

Wait, let me get this straight, the right "has suffered in the past from refusing to" engage in vitriolic personal attacks? What planet have you been living on?

At least since Atwater, the right has made vitriolic personal attacks, and "tax cuts in response to everything" the two prongs of its election strategy. The lack of perspective here beggars belief.

Posted by: Magrooder at April 6, 2009 6:07 PM

You missed April Fools' Day by 5 days. What a joke.

Posted by: jim at April 6, 2009 6:14 PM

You guys have some amazing, amazing amnesia about the last 8 years. And quite a grudge against straw men, for that matter.

Posted by: Crank at April 6, 2009 6:23 PM

Agent W - I think Patterico was perhaps singing from the wrong hymnal, so to speak, in that particular debate, but I do agree with his broader point about the fact that you have to live with the consequences of words that are easily twisted. It's a lesson any litigator knows all too well.

Posted by: Crank at April 6, 2009 6:27 PM

but I do agree with his broader point about the fact that you have to live with the consequences of words that are easily twisted.

Under Patterico's points, and what I've quoted, any agency can twist the well meaning words of anyone, at any time. The broader point, which Patterico still fails to grasp, is that the debate we should be having is not how to carefully craft our words so that they cannot be twisted (that's IMPOSSIBLE), but to fight back when a would be interpreter attempts to add their own signifiers to our signs in a deliberate attempt to rewrite our words under the guise of interpretation.

It's a fools errand to believe we can craft our words in such a fashion as to not have them taken out of purpose, if the distortion of our words is the sole intention of our combatants.

Posted by: Agent W at April 6, 2009 8:19 PM

Not having read the debate, I think I know where the right will go and where they won't: They'll do whatever they think will work and they can get away with.

When Obama's ratings dip below 55%, expect the personal slams.

It has nothing to do with anything but blowback.

Posted by: Zufall at April 6, 2009 8:44 PM

Like many "intentionalists," Agent W is completely misrepresrenting my words and intent. Whether this is intentional, or whether he's just repeating what he's heard, I don't know. Either way, however, he is propagating a false version of my views.

"Under Patterico's points, and what I've quoted, any agency can twist the well meaning words of anyone, at any time."

Flatly false. I have argued for weeks that a speaker has no responsibility to avoid *unreasonable* and *bad faith* interpretations of his words. Agent W either didn't follow the debate as extensively as he claims, or he's lying about what I have said and meant.

My argument does not provide cover for people who "twist" others' words, and for Agent W to claim otherwise twists my words.

The ironic thing is that "intentionalism," as practiced by so many on the Internet, provides no defense whatsoever against having one's words twisted. I have never in my entire life seen my words twisted so badly as they have been twisted by people claiming to be intentionalists. As long as they have decided they don't like the speaker, many so-called "intentionalists" don't give a rat's ass about the speaker's intent.

As prima facie evidence, let's watch how Agent W responds to my claim that he has twisted my words. Will it mean anything to him that I have declared him to have misstated my intent? Not likely. Instead, I predict that he will declare his view of my intent to be elevated over mine -- and he will (I predict) utterly fail to provide any hard proof in the form of my words to justify this shocking usurpation of my intent.

Posted by: Patterico at April 6, 2009 11:34 PM

The Clinton years should have taught Republicans the virtue of sticking to the real problems of their political enemies rather than flailing at shadows (Vince Foster and videos about the Mena airport ring a bell?). It's a long time until the next election--taking the time to pick out the best material to use against Obama and concentrating on it would be a good idea.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at April 7, 2009 12:59 AM

I'd agree completely that some lines of argument are dead ends like Vince Foster and Mena. I still don't think the birth certificate argument gets us anywhere with anyone who isn't already on our side, for example.

Posted by: Crank at April 7, 2009 1:04 AM

Pat, I have no desire to argue with you over this point. You were destroyed, time and again, by Goldstein.

Your reaction? To misinterpret his words, make a ridiculous claim of a 'death threat' -- which most of your posters didn't even believe happened, and you've even said was most likely not the case -- and then banned Goldstein from participation in the discussion (while subsequently refusing to visit his site to continue).

You acted in bad faith, have argued in bad faith, and quite frankly have proven that it's pointless debating with you. With you, Pat, it's not about having an honest discussion/debate, it's about making sure you come out on top. If that means you show a complete lack of integrity -- while simultaneously having a call to arms of your posters to defend your honor -- so be it.

If you really want to continue the intentionalist argument, go back to Protein Wisdom. Stop being such a jackass.

I used to follow your site quite often. I was never much of a poster, just liked reading during my breaks. You seemed like a pretty stand up guy but, after this whole ordeal, I've seen you for your true colors.

As I said, if you want to truly discuss this, go to Protein Wisdom. I will not bother rehashing old arguments that you've already lost in such painful fashion.

Posted by: Agent W at April 7, 2009 6:15 AM

"It's a long time until the next election--taking the time to pick out the best material to use against Obama and concentrating on it would be a good idea."

As someone who is not a republican, but nevertheless willing to vote republican, I'd rather see the party take that approach. I'm not going to vote republican just because Obama slips on occasion, just like I don't vote democrat because some moron compares Bush to Hitler.

Posted by: MVH at April 7, 2009 10:54 AM

I'm not going to vote republican just because Obama slips on occasion...

Nobody would expect you to. The only thing I'd ask that you take away from these repeated gaffes of Obama's is the incredibly different treatment he gets for them than Bush did for his.

If nothing else, you'd about have to suspect that the press is trying to play you and those like you. (I am probably preaching to the choir, as you seem a healthy skeptic here.)

Posted by: spongeworthy at April 7, 2009 2:49 PM

Agent W,

I'm not interested in re-hashing that unpleasant episode in any way, shape, or form. I said what I said at the time and will not revisit it.

Right now, I'm interested in using your statements as an example of the bad faith I have encountered from people flying the "intentionalist" banner.

You did precisely what I knew you would do: having been called, by the author (me) on your distortions of the author's message, you blithely ignore what I have said, and fail to provide any proof to back up your distortions of my writing. Instead, as I accurately predicted, you resort to airy, lazy, and wholly false generalities.

Put simply, you are not telling the truth about me or my views.

You do not care in the slightest what I meant or what my intent was. That's because you use "intentionalism" selectively. As do many others who claim to adhere to that philosophy, but throw it out the window when they don't like the speaker.

Thanks for serving as such a perfect illustration of my point.

Posted by: Patterico at April 7, 2009 4:16 PM

Agent W:

Ultimately, the irony here is that you are participating in a slander of my views, which is what I was accused of doing with Rush. The difference is that I backed up my point with argument, and in fact, I proved my point in every case (not that my opponents were willing to acknowledge it). By contrast, you are happy to slander my views and not even put forth the slightest effort to defend your falsehoods with references to my writing.

You are behaving in precisely the way you claim to denounce.

Posted by: Patterico at April 7, 2009 4:33 PM

The only thing I'd ask that you take away from these repeated gaffes of Obama's is the incredibly different treatment he gets for them than Bush did for his.

And spongeworthy summarizes in a nutshell a point I am getting at here. The Left never had an instant's hestitation in attacking every last little thing Bush did, however inconsequential, with the ferocity normal people would reserve for great moral evils. People on the Right look at something like Obama walking into a window trying to get into the Oval Office, and they get kind of sheepish about asking people to take this stuff seriously, and end up falling back on pointing out (accurately) that stuff like this got so much attention when it was about Bush. I'm not sure I want us to adopt the Left's complete and utter lack of perspective, but I recognize that the difference in approach sometimes puts us at a disadvantage in mounting personal attacks.

Posted by: Crank at April 7, 2009 4:34 PM

Crank,

I made fun of Obama for walking into that window, for his excessive Teleprompter use, etc. The Red Stater you cite seems to think I reject such mockery, but I don't. To the extent he suggests I refuse to engage even in mockery of Obama, he is arguing against a strawman.

It's OK. I'm used to it.

I do, however, think that such points are more effective if not oversold. Make fun of the Special Olympics comment (as I did), but don't fly into a storm of victimized outrage over it. That just makes us look silly and opportunistic.

Posted by: Patterico at April 7, 2009 5:01 PM

Simply pay close attention to how Obama's socialistic policies are working for the country and constantly point out the ineffectiveness.

Next, pay close attention to how safe Obama is protecting our country from those waiting to pounce on us the minute we let our guard down.

Appeal to our core base of voters as well as a family-oriented Hispanic group. At this point, the GOP can't waste time trying to take away from Obama's base. That's not going to work. A lot of conservative voters didn't vote last November. It's time to reel in the "silent majority". It's possible, but bringing this fragmented party together as a whole again needs to take place now. I've said since July last year that no one will reinvigorate the GOP like Obama.

See you at the next tea party that the media refuses to cover!

Posted by: CaptainKirk at April 7, 2009 8:22 PM

Simply pay close attention to how Obama's socialistic policies are working for the country and constantly point out the ineffectiveness.

Next, pay close attention to how safe Obama is protecting our country from those waiting to pounce on us the minute we let our guard down.

Appeal to our core base of voters as well as a family-oriented Hispanic group. At this point, the GOP can't waste time trying to take away from Obama's base. That's not going to work. A lot of conservative voters didn't vote last November. It's time to reel in the "silent majority". It's possible, but bringing this fragmented party together as a whole again needs to take place now. I've said since July last year that no one will reinvigorate the GOP like Obama.

See you at the next tea party that the media refuses to cover!

Posted by: CaptainKirk at April 7, 2009 8:22 PM

Crank, is this an example of the high-minded political dialogue for which the right has always been known?

http://washingtonindependent.com/37360/scenes-from-the-real-america

Thought so.

Posted by: Magrooder at April 7, 2009 8:46 PM

"And spongeworthy summarizes in a nutshell a point I am getting at here. The Left never had an instant's hestitation in attacking every last little thing Bush did, however inconsequential, with the ferocity normal people would reserve for great moral evils"

You can point them out, like some on the left did, but to what end? And if by the left you mean left-wing bloggers, how many people do you think they really influence that don't -already- hate Republicans for policy reasons??

Posted by: MVH at April 8, 2009 9:09 AM

I'm not sure I want us to adopt the Left's complete and utter lack of perspective, but I recognize that the difference in approach sometimes puts us at a disadvantage in mounting personal attacks.

Part of it's the audience. I would be reluctant to make too big a deal of Telepromter Jesus walking into a window, but if I thought the listener was dumb enough to think it mattered, I might go ahead anyway.

MVH and those like him aren't going to be played like that. (That's not to say they aren't playable at all.) People who, say, think Bush served the troops a plastic turkey, that's a sucker audience, there. Stupid and lazy people, the lowest common denominator--those're the boobs the Left is baiting.

Posted by: spongeworthy at April 8, 2009 1:11 PM

You did precisely what I knew you would do: having been called, by the author (me) on your distortions of the author's message, you blithely ignore what I have said, and fail to provide any proof to back up your distortions of my writing.

No, Pat, I refused to engage in debate with you because I've seen your tactics first hand at Protein Wisdom and your own site.

This discussion was already done by you and Goldstein, and you repeatedly tried the same tact with him. It's your M.O.

You repeatedly accused him of not answering your questions when, in fact, he had answered them on at least a few occasions, and gave several examples and insights into your writing as to where you were wrong.

I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to rehash a debate that you were so thoroughly beaten on that you had to ban your opponent from posting on your site. It was at that point where it was obvious you threw up the white flag.

Instead of debating someone with years and years of knowledge and study of Intentionalism, you decided to let people such as SEK frame the argument in their own view so you could knock it down and what, feel all proud of yourself? That's why you're here now. You know you will lose any argument on this with Goldstein, so you look for those without the years of experience he possesses, in hopes of stroking your ego and having a, "See I was right" moment.

Sorry, Pat, but you're too caught up in being a lawyer, attempting to win, rather than attempting to decipher the facts.

As I said, if you ever want to have the Intentionalism debate, there's always room for you at Protein Wisdom.

In the meantime, have fun knocking down those strawmen, Pat.

Posted by: Agent W at April 8, 2009 1:45 PM

Ultimately you're always the same person and shouldn't say something to one audience that you'd be embarrassed to have repeated to another. I understand the need to tailor one's approach to the audience: you don't talk the same way in church that you do in the locker room. However, ultimately you should be willing to have what you say in the locker room repeated in church and vice versa, and have the audience respect you as consistent. If you can't do this, you become Obama-like and have no core. You talk about bitter clinging to guns and religion to the San Francisco crowd and slink down in your seat when it's repeated to the rural crowd.

So mock Obama's frailties, but if you pretend to be more outraged than you are to appeal to the stupid crowd, be prepared to be called on it by others.

My approach is just to say what I think in a way that hopefully won't embarrass me no matter who hears it.

Posted by: Patterico at April 8, 2009 1:49 PM

Agent W,

Your comment is strewn with lies, from top to bottom.

If you're going to make claims about what I've said you should be man enough to defend them.

Instead, as I knew you would, you resort to an utterly distorted characterization of weeks of unpleasantness.

You made statements about me and you refuse to back them up. That tells readers here all they need to know.

Posted by: Patterico at April 8, 2009 1:54 PM

"Part of it's the audience. I would be reluctant to make too big a deal of Telepromter Jesus walking into a window, but if I thought the listener was dumb enough to think it mattered, I might go ahead anyway."

I guess this what I am asking when I say: to what end - what audience are you chasing? There is probably a trade-off to some extent: if you chase every argument in hoping to reel in the suckers, you risk losing people like me who care about credibility and who will stop listening to you after a while. I'd like to think there are more people like me than those who are totally brain-dead, but I don't have any numbers to back that up!

As far as I'm concerned, there are idiots in both parties, and they tend to spat with each other over issues that at the end of the day, don't mean very much. And it happens on redstate as often as it happens on the liberal blogs. I've seen some breathtakingly stupid and irrelevant posts on many of those partisan sites.

Posted by: MVH at April 8, 2009 2:12 PM

Here is proof Agent W is misrepresenting my views: "Speakers have no responsibility to self-censor to prevent unreasonable and bad faith misinterpretations of their words."

Like a leftist, Agent W has twisted my words and refused to provide evidence for his misinterpretation.

Be a man. Back up your own words or be shown to be a liar.

Posted by: Patterico at April 8, 2009 2:27 PM

MVH,

I think we can mock Obama without losing credibility. But credibility is paramount. I have seen far too many conservatives lately arguing that we should be willing to employ deceptive tactics because they worked for the left. I draw the line there. I have never engaged in willful deception and I believe we need to clearly reject it as a political tactic.

Posted by: Patterico at April 8, 2009 2:43 PM
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