WaPo‘s Michael Gerson problem

Is Michael Gerson trying for a Pulitzer?

After all, his Washington Post colleague, the faux-conservative Kathleen Parker, won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary this year for being, as she admitted to MSNBC talk show host Joe Scarborough, a “conservative basher”. It worked once; maybe it will work again.

Gerson is part of the Post‘s attempt at being fair and balanced. He is one of a handful of “conservative” writers whose columns are featured on the paper’s Opinion page along with the opinion pieces of a much larger number of liberals (or, as they prefer to call themselves these days, “progressives”).

Like Parker, Gerson is the kind of conservative liberals love — the kind who get their jollies bashing genuine conservatives. And, as Parker has found out, there are definite career advantages to being that kind of conservative.

One of those advantages is that you don’t have to worry about things like facts or logic. As long as you are dissing people on the Right, you can say pretty much whatever you want.

In a column last week that carried the title, “The GOP’s Sarah Palin Problem”, Gerson claimed that “weak, poorly vetted Senate candidates were the main reason that while Republican gains in the House were historic — the largest in 72 years — gains in the Senate were not”. He blamed Palin for this allegedly poor showing. “[Christine] O’Donnell and [Sharron] Angle were gifts of Sen. Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin to their party,” he said.

Never mind that neither Palin nor DeMint endorsed Angle until after she had beaten the establishment-anointed candidate in the GOP primary. In fact, Palin didn’t endorse her until more than two months after the primary. And Palin and DeMint endorsed O’Donnell six and five days, respectively, before the Delaware primary — too late in the game to have much effect on the outcome, as I’m sure Gerson’s pal Karl Rove could tell him.

Gerson is also wrong about the Republicans’ performance in Senate races. They won 24 of the 37 seats that were up this year. That’s 65 percent, better than the GOP did in the House of Representatives, where they won 56 percent of the seats.

Gerson got his conservative street creds by working as a Bush speechwriter. In that capacity he directed the public relations campaign to sell the American people on invading Iraq. He is also an evangelical Christian, but he doesn’t much like other evangelicals — except, of course, leftist evangelicals like Jim Wallis and Ron Sider. In fact, like other Bushies, he doesn’t much like any part of the Republican base.

The experience gained putting words in Bush’s mouth is evident in the ease with which Gerson makes up facts, rewrites history and creates straw men. For example, in an August 25 column titled, “Why the Tea Party is toxic for the GOP”, Gerson invokes Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, Edmund Burke and God in support of his disapproval of the Tea Party.

Anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with history can only scratch his head when Gerson tells us that “Reagan moved Republicans past Alf Landon’s resistance to the New Deal”. Huh? Landon supported the New Deal. He was the first me-too Republican. It was Reagan who finally got the GOP to stop acting like liberal Democrats.

And when Gerson tells us the Tea Party “does not reflect a Burkean suspicion of radical social change”, one can only wonder what planet he is living on. The Tea Party’s raison d’être is opposition to the radical changes the Democrats are trying to impose on the country.

Elsewhere in that column, Gerson implies that the Tea Party wants to yank the rug out from under the elderly. “Social Security abolition”, he warns, “would push perhaps 13 million elderly Americans into destitution, blurring the line between conservative idealism and Social Darwinism.”

This is a straw man. Nobody in the Tea Party is advocating that. Many have questioned — correctly, in my opinion — the constitutionality of Social Security and Medicare, and some have proposed gradual phase-outs of the programs or giving people the option of choosing private retirement and medical plans. But nobody has suggested that the elderly suddenly be cut loose to fend for themselves.

Oh, well. This kind of casual disregard for the truth has never been a barrier to winning a Pulitzer Prize in the past. Maybe Gerson can join Kathleen Parker on the podium.

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