Do As I say not as I do – Profiles in Liberal hypocrisy, Peter Schweizer & he Truth (With Jokes), Al Franken
7 Dec 2005 – Introduced by: James Matthews. Held at Columbia University, School of International Affairs
Do As I say not as I do – Profiles in Liberal hypocrisy, Peter Schweizer
The Truth (With Jokes), Al Franken
Summary of the Introduction:
The recent historical context to these books is an increase in the number of populist or “partisan” books on the bestseller lists. However, given the mud-slinging and generally low-level of debate in these types of books, what appears to be the reinvigoration of politics is actually a sign of its denigration.
Schweizer – fellow at the conservative Hoover institution – charges leading liberals of being hypocrites because some aspect of their personal lives (such as financial and business arrangements) appear to be inconsistent with their proclaimed beliefs. He says liberal hypocrisy matters more than conservative hypocrisy (as in the cases of Limbaugh and Bennett), because liberals want to impose views and change individuals’ behavior, and “if their prescriptions don’t work for them, how can they work for the rest of us?” Schweizer contends that his book is not an example of “gotcha” journalism, but it is more of a Cliff Notes cram guide for conservative TV debaters than a serious study. No arguments against liberal ideas are lodged; if this is all the conservatives have, they are in trouble.
Franken – comedian, TV and radio broadcaster and wannabe future senator – explains why he thinks Bush won the election using “fear, smears and queers”. He focuses on Bush and the Republicans, and he downplays the weaknesses of the Kerry campaign. His main complaint about Kerry is that he didn’t get down and dirty to counter Republican tactics (which is also a justification for Franken’s own approach in the book); no real criticism of Kerry’s lack of compelling ideas is presented. Interesting parallels with the Schweizer book: Franken too emphasizes personal attacks at expense of discussion of ideas. Franken presents a fantasy at the end of the book, with Republicans self-destructing from scandals (note, not by appeal of strong Democrat ideas), and Democrats introducing lots of welfare improvements (which are not on any Democrat agendas today). So, like Schweizer, a lack of true political engagement.
The group discussed and debated a number of questions, including:
* Do we agree that big, contending ideas are lacking in politics today?
* How effective are charges of hypocrisy as a means of political attack? Do they simply blame the messenger rather than the message?
* Do motives matter as much as ideas/arguments?
* Did liberals open themselves up to hypocrisy charges because of their emphasis on the personal sphere (eg, Michael Moore’s films)
* The personal is political” – is that true? Should we care about leading figures’ personal lives?
* Is there more corruption today? Does power corrupt individuals? Or, is there a greater emphasis on corruption today for other reasons, such as the emphasis on flawed individual characters?