Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Via Yglesias, Charles Murray has a graph that shows that white people who are not intellectuals are marginally more likely to say that they're conservative than to say that they're liberal, and has concluded that Barack Obama is hopelessly trapped in a bubble and is unable to understand that America is a nation of torturers.

Of course, presidents are absolutely in danger of falling into a bubble of sycophants, and never realizing that the particular people they spend time with is not necessarily representative of America as a whole. But, really, which does that seem more likely to describe: Barack Obama, who has spent time as a community organizer and a state legislator before his rapid rise to the presidency...or a guy who spends his time with a bunch of conservative thinkers. Using that word very loosely. Sounds like a guy who can't quite believe that Obama won, since no one he knows thinks that way (except for those liberal academics, who indoctrinate all their students. But not the students. Something like that).

On to the substance of his point, such as it is: is this really where conservatives want to stand? With the torturers? Really?

I don't know how torture plays out as a political issue, but neither does Murray. No question but that the same people who are riled up about death panels and birther conspiracies can believe that the United States of America needs to torture in order to prevent all sorts of mayhem, but those people didn't vote for Obama in 2008 and aren't going to vote for Obama in 2012. My guess is that if there's no terrible terrorist attack on U.S. soil before the next election that no one is going to vote against Obama because he's not torturing, and if there is one, torture policy isn't going to be the key variable determining whether Obama is helped or hurt politically. Murray is certain that the torturers would become Ollie North-like folk heroes if they went on trial, but Ollie was actually pretty unpopular beyond the GOP base. And Ollie, for all his faults, didn't torture people. Americans seem to have failed to make a folk hero of our other war criminals.

Oh, and Pauline Kael never said that thing about Nixon.

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