Jonah Goldberg was probably delighted with a more than six-minute interview on NPR’s Morning Edition on Wednesday to promote his book “The Tyranny of Cliches.” True to his book, Goldberg presented himself on NPR’s airwaves as a conservative. That’s not what happened on Monday’s Morning Edition, when liberals Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein pretended to stand only for facts and science and conventional wisdom. '
Anchor Steve Inskeep actually stuck to the book’s thesis, unlike CNN’s bizarre Piers Morgan performance. But when Goldberg underlined how there is no such conservative grouping as the social Darwinists, Inskeep claimed there’s “probably more evidence” Republicans are social Darwinists than there is for Obama being a socialist:
INSKEEP: Although I'm sure that there are people who can say 'Well, if you guys can call President Obama a socialist, he's certainly able to call you a social Darwinist.' There's probably more evidence for the latter than the former.
GOLDBERG: Well, to a certain extent, sure. And then you have to have an argument about it.
Goldberg was, by my lights, a little too civil in reply. But then, I believe NPR anchors should be exposed as liberals every time they ask a loaded question like this one. Obama can nationalize several car companies and pass almost a trillion dollars in "stimulus" money and pass a plan to heavily regulate the health-care system, but that's "probably less" proof of socialism than it's "social Darwinism" for Republicans to propose defunding, say, NPR or Planned Parenthood.
Inskeep is only exposing the irony: liberal journalists are perpetually outraged by a socialist label on Obama, but Obama can call Republicans a pack of social Darwinists, and they apparently consider that fair and accurate rhetoric.
Inskeep also insisted that if Goldberg thinks the Left tries to shut down arguments with cliches, that conservatives have shut-up cliches, like, you know, appeals to patriotism:
INSKEEP: Well, let's be fair. There are plenty of conservative labels that are applied -- on the rivals of conservatives. We could go back to the past administration: "You're with us or against us; are you with America, or are you with the other guys?" There are plenty of rhetorical devices that are used to shut down debate on the other side, to make it -- to not just appeal for unity, but to make it seem unpatriotic if you don't agree.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, no. And some of these things, I absolutely agree. I think that there is something endemic. One of the reasons why some of these cliches appeal -- why they have power, why they move men -- is because they appeal to the hard-wiring in our human nature; that we're all built from the crooked timber of humanity. We all want to live in groups. We all want to live in tribes. We all want to, you know, band together and do good things.
The best part of the segment came at the end, where Goldberg whacked the liberal bias of the media and academia as Inskeep tried to suggest Goldberg was wildly overgeneralizing with that old Ronald Reagan cliche that government is the problem, not the solution:
INSKEEP: So you're opposed to these catchphrases that substitute for arguments. You're opposing making too many assumptions. I want to ask about one that is commonly said on the right, though: Government is the problem - said again and again. In fact, you imagined - I think, in September of last year - a speech that you wished that President Obama would give, and the last sentence was: Government is the problem. Is that an oversimplification? I mean, you're not against having a government.
GOLDBERG: No, I'm not against having a government. Yeah, and it's - I don't know, actually, if that qualifies as the kind of cliche that I am talking about, because one of the - sort of things I try to unite all the cliches in the book around are ones that have this sort of progressive bias towards a certain understanding of the role of the state, and all of the rest. And I'm sure a liberal could come up with a whole bunch of conservative cliches that go the other way.
But you're never taught in schools -- we don't teach anyone in public schools that government is the problem. We don't teach anyone in college that government is the problem -- except maybe a handful of sort of unique, conservative schools. But mainstream media never talks as if government is the problem. You never hear that repeated over and over again -- even on Fox, to a certain extent. And so it's a catchphrase, to be sure, and it's a glib catchphrase that oversimplifies things. But the context in which I was talking about it was -- was that Ronald Reagan had said, in the current context - in the current situation, government is the problem, not the solution. And that is a - it is the beginning of a serious argument.
Exactly. Modern liberalism begins with the notion that government's job is not to insure certain inalienable rights. It's to solve social problems. Reagan's speech was suggesting the irony that while liberals say government is in business to solve problems, it often creates more problems than it solves.