Thursday, April 20, 2006

Always and Never

I would be a terrible marital counselor myself -- I would save marriages only by virtue of the fact that they agreed their counselor was a critical fathead and have something new in common - but I recall an important part from my training. The use of the words "always" and "never" are giveaways that a person is responding emotively rather than logically. "She always undermines me in front of our friends." "He never supports me with the children's discipline." There is no always and never. (If you ever go to a marriage couselor, you can stay one-up on your spouse by remembering not to use unqualified statements like that).

One occasionally sees comments on conservative blogs that Clinton (or Carter) was a completely terrible president. Worst ever. No redeeming qualities. Please note I said "occasionally." More frequently, amidst the scathing criticisms, one will find grudging praise or acknowledgement. I thought Clinton did well on NAFTA and GATT, and showed some real backbone, and I don't mind saying it. For all the mistakes in Bosnia and Kosovo, Clinton had more success in that impossible situation than most others in the last 7 centuries. Welfare Reform, though it happened under pressure, did happen on his watch. Great. He was on balance rather a cipher, neither advancing nor destroying foreign policy or the economy. With the former USSR, benign neglect was an okay thing. With Islamic terrorists, it was a bad thing.

It is this general balance on the sites I am in agreement with that causes me to shake my head in disbelief visiting lefty sites -- even supposedly moderate or reasonable liberal sites. People will claim with a straight face that George Bush is the worst president ever, that the war in Iraq had zero justification and has been an unmitigated disaster, that civil rights have been set back decades, etc. It defies common sense.

You could pick any president at random in history, list up the negatives and ignore the positives, and declare him to be the worst president ever, if you wanted to simply make statements that looked like an argument, rather than actually examining the evidence. Why would that be a valuable exercise?

The extreme statements, the always and never statements, are the tipoff that the writer is not worth reading another sentence of, unless your goal is to teach instead of to learn.

2 comments:

OBloodyHell said...

> You could pick any president at random in history, list up the negatives and ignore the positives,

The problem with Carter is that it is exceedingly difficult to come up with any positives in his admin. I don't claim there can't be, but, dang it, I can't think of any.

That list of negatives include double-digit inflation, double-digit unemployment, Soviet adventurism, Gas lines around the block, and a bunch of Iranian students thumbing their noses at a sovereign nation to an extent which was humiliating and embarassing. Add to that a thoroughly demoralized and ineffective military (he certainly solidified the results of Vietnam in military plaster), a screwed up energy policy, and last, but not least, the Moscow Olympics (as well as the L.A. Olympics 4 years later).

What's positive from that era which he had the slightest thing to do with? The fact that he had nothing to do with the Bee Gees?

And, post-presidency whatever little good he's done with regards to helping the homeless, it's been totally negated by his unabashed, senseless criticism and demonization of the current admin, in direct violation of historical ex-presidential conduct.

In addition, whatever good he's done post-presidency has also been negated by his spectacularly ill-targeted support for just about every dictator on the planet looking for legitimacy.

In short, the list of negatives, both in his presidency and afterwards, far outstrips the list of positives, both in number and scale.

leliaforeman said...

To nick b,
Most of what you're complaining about Carter for he did not cause.
I was proud when he was president because he made the US stand for human rights. I loved that he taught Sunday School and that his family were personaly thrifty and approachable. I liked a number of his appointments.
And then there was his work with habitat after and a number of other things I admired him for.
In hindsight, though, in hindsight, I see the current war with Islamofascism began on his watch and his response was inadequate. That embassy should have been stormed even if that killed all the hostages, a tragedy, but one that might have prevented the hundreds after. Look how Libya backed off when Reagan bombed it. And how it quit altogether when W invaded Iraq. He began the dept of education, another money sucker that returns nothing.
And then there are his recent comments about Bush, conservatives, and New Orleans. I want to cry. I loved that man and he has turned into someone despicable.