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Her name is Pamela Paul.
The competition is brutal — His holiness Ross Douthat, Bret Stephens (Pamela Paul’s ex-husband btw) and of course, perennial master of both-siderism and worse, David Brooks. But even Brooks can, e.g., turn out a genuinely touching piece on depression, as he did yesterday. Paul shows no sign of any redeeming value.
In her first few months as a columnist, Paul has been churning out predictable concern troll culture war crap. But she entered new despicable territory with her Thursday column, What Liberals Can Learn from Ron DeSantis, to which I will not link. Three excerpts show how bad this is.
I. The Migrant Stunt
In a country where government often looks sclerotic, DeSantis’s knack for action bears notice. We can decry his stunt in shipping migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, but we should also be attending to the real concerns of people living in areas of heavy immigration.
The “but” reveals the sickness at the heart of the column and the media’s tepid reaction to what DeSantis (and Abbott in DC) did . There is no “but.” There can never be a “but.” DeSantis’s “stunt” dehumanized real men, women, and children by treating them as pawns in a perverse “joke” on places who may be more tolerant, as “wretched refuse,” not to be welcomed, but exploited for political gain. And polls show 2/3 of Americans opposed the stunts.
A stunt like this is disqualifying for higher office. Using vulnerable human beings as pawns in a cynical stunt is unacceptable in a country dedicated to principles of fairness and humanity. It’s no exaggeration to say it’s a step in the progression leading to the worst horrors of the 20th century.
DeSantis and Abbott don’t care about dealing with immigration issues, except to whip up a frenzy of hatred among base voters. The only “lesson” is determining how to portray these stunts as monstrous acts that should remove their perpetrators from the scope of civilized society.
II. If you call him what he is, you’re the guilty one
Paul then writes Democrats need to “grapple” with his appeal as strong man of action.
It would be easy to write off DeSantis as a cartoon culture warrior or as racist, homophobic, transphobic and xenophobic. He may well be all those things, and so may some of his constituents. But he may not be, and either way, it would be foolish to characterize all his followers as such. Assuming a stance of moral superiority will do us no good. (See: Hillary Clinton, “deplorables.”)
Well, is he or isn’t he? Is the jury really out? Everything he is doing shows he is all those things and Pamela Paul knows it. So how can he “may not be?” But it’s worse, because for Paul, “either way,” even if DeSantis really is racist, homophobic, transphobic and xenophobic, liberals saying it insults his followers and we’re back to 2016 and “deplorables.” So even if someone is morally degraded because he is racist, homophobic, transphobic and xenophobic, merely pointing that out makes us condescending elitist liberals.
Isn’t the problem that for seven years and longer, too few have asserted moral superiority over racist and abusive behavior? Isn’t the problem that behavior like this has not been condemned enough. That “pussy grabbing,” “shit-hole countries,” “fine people on both sides” and all the rest have come and gone with insufficient condemnation and become normalized?
DeSantis’s migrant stunts, book banning et al are aberrant behavior. But the media treats them as “branding” and if we call them what they are, we are the guilty ones. No.
III. Can we really know about his COVID policy?
The jury is still out on whether DeSantis’s unorthodox response to Covid-19 was a colossal error or an unexpected success or, more likely, something in between,
No it’s not. Overall, over 85,000 people died of COVID in Florida — the 14th highest state per 100,000 residents -- higher than New York.
And it’s much worse if you begin with January 2021 — when vaccines became available. Paul Krugman calculates 20,000 excess deaths:
And DeSantis still has an anti-vax surgeon general, is trying to haul vaccine companies before a grand jury, and sneers at high school kids for wearing masks.
So the “jury” has returned with a verdict, even as new evidence arises.
And to complete the broken family circle, Pamela Paul’s ex Bret has his own culpability for COVID. In July 2020, I wrote Bret Stephens' April 24 Column has Turned Deadly. Perhaps IT should have been "Canceled." That column stated:
Right now, there’s a lot of commentary coming from talking heads (many of them in New York) about the danger of lifting lockdowns in places like Tennessee. Perhaps the commentary needs to move in the opposite direction. Tennesseeans are within their rights to return to a semblance of normal life while demanding longer restrictions on New Yorkers.
Taking Stephens’s advice pushed Tennessee up to currently eighth out of 50 states in per capita COVID deaths. Bret and Pamela may be separated, but their joint damage to America continues to date.
h/t to @AJ Bauer for his work on this.
[Note: Thanks for your kind thoughts in my “out of the closet” diary on Thursday.]
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