CNN host Fareed Zakaria, also the editor-at-large for Time magazine, derides today's conservative movement as out-of-touch and too abstract in a scathing Time article "How Today's Conservatism Lost Touch With Reality." He argues, "Conservatives now espouse ideas drawn from abstract principles with little regard to the realities of America's present or past."
Of course, if Zakaria is to paint with broad strokes and dismiss the modern conservative movement as entirely lost and ineffective, the reader would expect him to expound upon his point in detail and provide plenty of facts and evidence to support his thesis. His argument is largely devoid of substantial evidence and filled with debatable historical assumptions.
Zakaria mourns for the days of traditional conservatism "rooted in reality," but doesn't help his cause by distancing himself from this traditional conservatism in the first graph.
"Conservatism is true." That's what George Will told me when I interviewed him as an eager student many years ago. His formulation might have been a touch arrogant, but Will's basic point was intelligent.
This is certainly not a dismissal of conservatism, but neither is it a full embrace of conservatism. A friend of conservatism might have more authority to criticize today's movement than someone like Zakaria who keeps a safe distance.
Then he attacks the notion that lower taxes and spending will lead to economic growth, a favorite talking point of liberals today. "What is the evidence that tax cuts are the best path to revive the U.S. economy?" he asks.
Reaganomics would be a good starting point, although Zakaria makes no effort to address that conservative argument. He instead credits the economic growth of the 80's and 90's to government investing in education and infrastructure.
He also claims that Republicans are MIA when it comes to providing substantial ideas for improving health care in America. "When considering health care, for example, Republicans confidently assert that their ideas will lower costs, when we simply do not have much evidence for this."
Once again, Zakaria shreds the conservative side of an issue and moves on without providing a substantial rebuttal. Then he says Republicans "don't bother to study existing health care systems anywhere in the world," in a rather hasty accusation. "They resemble the old Marxists," he adds, "who refused to look around at actual experience."
He also hits conservatives for not embracing the findings of the bi-partisan Bowles-Simpson debt commission -- "because those ideas are too deeply rooted in, well, reality." Once again he sets up a straw-man argument by hailing the debt commission's findings as "reality" without explaining why, and condeming conservatives for running from it.
Does Zakaria know that President Obama has also been running from ideas proposed by the debt commission? Would he like to criticize him as well? Or is he too busy having foreign policy conversations with the president to hit him as "out-of-touch" with America? Is it because he voted for a "steady and reasoned" Barack Obama in 2008?
If Zakaria provided evidence and quotes to back up his barbs against Republicans, his argument would prove much more credible than it does. Instead, it appears he is content with accusations bordering on ad hominem attacks.
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