Taranto falls flat

I used to really enjoy James Taranto’s The Best of the Web. He’s a witty writer capable of wonderful snark, which I always appreciate even if it comes from the other side of the ideological divide. He does have a few irritating quirks, such as adopting Rush Limbaugh’s loathsome habit of using diminutive titles to refer to females – blogress instead of blogger, for instance. But I put up with that because, again, he was an entertaining writer and his analysis was interesting and enlightening.

Since Obama took office, though, Taranto has gone downhill. His attacks have become more partisan and talking-point oriented and less dependent on logic and reasoning – though he does a facile job of hiding that deficiency. Take for instance, his assessment of President Obama’s Monday speech on the debt ceiling crisis. Taranto said this:

A couple of other points on the Obama speech: The president said he rejected Boehner’s plan that “would temporarily extend the debt ceiling” because it “would force us to once again face the threat of default just six months from now.” Today the White House issued a written veto threat. Yet last night he praised Congress for raising the debt ceiling 18 times during Ronald Reagan’s presidency–once every 5.3 months on average.

In demanding an extension that would carry him through next year’s election, Obama is departing from the precedent he cites in support of his position. His anxiousness at the prospect of another such confrontation reflects his political weakness in this one.

Let me see now. What has happened between the time when debt ceiling increases were routine business and now? Oh, yes. One of the two major parties in this nation went insane and decided to use the debt ceiling increase to hold the nation hostage unless it gets its way. Taranto doesn’t address the fact that the Republican Party he almost always sides with created the current crisis by insisting that any debt-ceiling increase be accompanied by a deficit-reduction package consisting solely of spending reductions. This spectacle has already shaken faith in the security of Treasuries – up until now the most rock-solid investment across the globe. That could lead to higher interest rates – which will increase the deficit, by the way – and possibly even a downgrade of our sterling credit rating.

And Taranto really can’t understand why the current crisis might make Obama less than eager to face another debt ceiling increase during an election year, when Republicans will be even more stubborn – if that’s even possible.

Obama is not “departing from the precedent he cites in support of his position.” Republicans departed from the precedent he cites. That is why a temporary debt-increase plan is unacceptable. It is not what should be a routine increase in the debt ceiling that “would force us to once again face the threat of default just six months from now,” but the extreme likelihood that Republicans would once again use the debt ceiling increase to hold the nation hostage.

Taranto used to be worth reading. Sloppy, partisan analysis like this, though, makes him worthless to anyone but the Tea Party radicals he has apparently thrown in with whole-heartedly.



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