[updated – I, II]
Andrew Sullivan has an odd post up about the debt and Obama. First, he confuses the proposed federal wage freeze with some other program that will actually help combat the federal deficit. Then he makes this very strange and cutting remark about Jonathan Bernstein, calling his discussion of the deficit a “Cheyneyesque remark”. Bernstein had said, quite sensibly, that nobody cares about the deficit – but plenty of federal employees do care about their pay. Which is true. Most people don’t care about the deficit. This doesn’t mean it isn’t important, of course. Most people don’t care about a lot of important things.
To Andrew’s first point, I can only say this: unless we tackle structural problems with the deficit (i.e. Medicare) and the defense budget, then all the other little political games we play won’t even scratch the surface. Pay freezes, pork-bans – you name it, they’re all just political shenanigans. Obama isn’t serious about the deficit, and freezing federal worker pay doesn’t make him serious about the deficit – any more than trying to ban pork barrel spending makes the GOP serious about the deficit.
To the second point, I nominate Andrew Sullivan for a Malkin Award. Nothing in Bernstein’s remarks are “Cheyneyesque”. It’s just bizarre to describe them that way.
Update. Some commenters feel that I’ve mixed up my awards and that we should give Sullivan the Moore Award. Well maybe we should give him both. The problem is, the Moore Award is for liberals who attack conservatives. Well Sully is a conservative (at least a self-styled one, and that’s good enough for me) attacking Bernstein – a liberal. Or at least, I think Bernstein’s a liberal. Yes, Sullivan uses a conservative to smear Bernstein with, but he’s still attacking a liberal from a conservative standpoint. I don’t think Moore Award really works.
Update II. Bernstein weighs in:
That’s presumably a reference to Dick Cheney’s claim that deficits don’t matter, not to his defense of torture and presidential (and vice-presidential) lawlessness — so I think E.D. Kain is perhaps a bit over the top in citing Sullivan for a Malkin Award nomination. Unless Sullivan meant that I’m well on the path to being a war criminal, but I really don’t think that’s the case.
Fair enough. However, I take a reference to Cheney to mean, essentially, that someone is deeply cynical and/or dishonest. Surely that’s the inference. I didn’t take it to mean that Sullivan was accusing Bernstein of war crimes; I took it to mean Sullivan was accusing Bernstein of being a hack. Which he isn’t.