Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

"Smiling Through the Apocalypse"

Where are the sharp-tongued scribes of yesteryear? When I was a book publisher in 1970, I sent into the world a three-pound thousand-page Esquire doorstop about the 1960s edited by my long-departed friend Harold Hayes, who immortalized a decade with the work of Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, William F. Buckley, Gore Vidal and William Styron, among other literary writers.

That was before the death of irony in this century, where vitriol now passes for wit and meanness for meaning.

Such nostalgia is prompted by Peggy Noonan’s latest emanation about the President:

“Mr. Obama’s problem now is that people think he is smart.

“They think, as they look at his health-care vows, that either he didn’t know how bad his program was, what dislocations it would cause, what a disturbance it would be to the vast middle class of America.

“Or he knew, and deliberately misled everyone...

“They think he knowingly quelled people’s fears when he knew they had every reason to be afraid.

”Which makes him just another dishonest pol, just another guy hiding in the deliberately obscure paragraph on page 1,037 of the omnibus comprehensive reform bill.

“He has taken himself down, lowered his own stature.

“Commentators like to decry low-information voters—-the stupid are picking our leaders. I think the real problem is low-information leaders. They have so little experience of life and have so much faith in magic—-in media, in words-—that they don’t understand people will get angry at you when you mislead them, and never see you the same way again.”

There is much to criticize in the President’s history with the ACA, but dishonesty does not make the list of any fair-minded critic, with such sledgehammer logic.

If Noonan represents GOP “thinkers,” there should be little wonder that party Neanderthals are yowling about impeachment in Congress. Too bad that William F. Buckley isn’t still around to show us the wit and elegance that true Conservatives used to display.

Then again he would probably be considered too tame for Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.

Those who still think words matter will want to rinse their minds with Barack Obama’s eloquent discourse today on the American economy.


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