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What Makes Barack Obama Juvenile: Liking Orange Juice, Or Parroting John Rawls?

Former Jewcer Abe Greenwald is taking a bit of a beating in "Contentions"'s comments section after Andrew Sullivan linked to a Greenwald post extracting armchair political analysis from armchair psychoanalysis of Barack Obama's scandalous substitution of orange juice for coffee … Read More

By / May 2, 2008

Former Jewcer Abe Greenwald is taking a bit of a beating in "Contentions"'s comments section after Andrew Sullivan linked to a Greenwald post extracting armchair political analysis from armchair psychoanalysis of Barack Obama's scandalous substitution of orange juice for coffee at an Indiana diner a few weeks ago. Sez Greenwald:

I realized what the diner incident was: it was childish. The switch from juice to coffee is a rite of adulthood. It’s not that Obama seemed to hold himself above the coffee drinkers. It’s that he seemed to lag behind them. He’s still on fruit juice while the adults are sipping bitter and bracing coffee.

Uh-huh. The tone of the comments ranged from "This is hilariously bad" to "This is the most retarded article I ever sat through to read about politics" to "God you are a vacuous twit."

But that's just being uncharitable. As one of the Commentary stalwarts puts it, "the orange juice…was mainly a device (what writers call the 'hook') to draw the reader’s [sic — there is more than one Commentary reader] interest." And indeed, Greenwald's argument for Obama's essential immaturity is more substantive than his observation about breakfast beverage preferences. The real point (what writers call the "nut") is to call attention to Obama's proposed increase in the capital gains tax "for purposes," in Obama's words, "of fairness."

QED. That's not fair!, Greenwald notes, is the whinge of a petulant child, not a grown-up senator and would be president.

He's right. What mature adult — besides John Rawls, and every political theorist of every ideological orientation since Rawls — has taken the argument that considerations of fairness should constrain policy choices seriously (if only, in the case of grown-up conservatives and libertarians, to disagree)? Why, it's almost as if there's more than one side to the argument over whether to increase, decrease, or maintain the current rate of capital gains taxes and it would behoove opponents of an increase to actually make their case on its merits instead of throwing up a wall of pseudo-psychological bullshit. (My position on capital gains taxes is far from the standard liberal one, incidentally, but you don't get to take my side if you think the reason to oppose a capital gains tax hike is to help Republicans win elections.)

Still, two can play this game. As of 9:48 pm last night, on the website of the flagship magazine of the conservative movement, there were 7 mentions of "health care," 15 mentions of "Iraq," and 230 references to Jeremiah Wright. (Commentary fares marginally better — a closer to 1:1 ratio of giddy freak show coverage to minimally significant issues, though the deluge of fact-free hackery inundating the divisor of that ratio is a thing to behold.)

What's a fitting description for pundits fixated on preachers and orange juice and flag pins and Weathermen and laughably affecting connections to rural and blue-collar communities, to the near total exclusion of any cogent discussion of two actual wars, potential future wars, skyrocketing debt, swelling generational deficits, and (literally) crumbling infrastructure? "Inane" and "irrelevant" always seemed to me to hit the mark, but — hat tip to Greenwald for the suggestion — "infantile" works pretty well too.

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