But I object strenuously to politicians and pundits who use civility as a tree to hide behind while they take potshots at people with whom they disagree – for example, the kind of people you will find at No Labels (about which I have written here and here). Paco Enterprises, therefore, effective immediately, is establishing a watchdog group – No Fables.
A few hours later…
Well, that was fast! Let’s take a look at a couple of the “Founding Leaders” of No Labels.
Jonathan Cowen is President and founder of Third Way, a “leading moderate think-tank.” How moderate exactly? The outfit’s web site describes it as:
…the leading moderate think-tank of the progressive movement. Our aims: an economic agenda that is focused on growth and middle class success; a culture of shared values; a national security approach that is both tough and smart; and a clean energy revolution. We create high-impact products for use by elected officials, candidates and the Administration.So, Third Way’s pantheon of presidential worthies is stocked with one progressive Republican and three Democrats (including, somewhat laughably, LBJ, whose dedication to social justice was so strong that he had the FBI spy on its leading proponents, I suppose in order to drink deeply of the wisdom to be found in their unfiltered, private counsels).
Our team is comprised of a former White House deputy and agency chief of staff, senior congressional aides, policy experts, nonprofit leaders and campaign veterans. We are governed by a prominent private sector Board of Trustees. We also have a dozen elected officials who serve as honorary co-chairs. Three of our former chairs now serve in the senior ranks of the Obama administration: Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Under-Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher.
With our name, we proudly join the tradition of 20th century leaders who held true to core progressive values but also challenged outdated orthodoxies: Theodore Roosevelt, who tamed the fierce capitalism of the Gilded Age; Franklin Roosevelt, the “Great Experimenter;” Lyndon Johnson, who pushed his own party to embrace social justice; and Bill Clinton, who offered a new covenant with the middle class. And today, we are working with President Obama and Congress to ensure that this tradition continues—that reform and new thinking are essential parts of this next progressive era.*
As to team composition – “a former White House deputy and agency chief of staff, senior congressional aides, policy experts, nonprofit leaders and campaign veterans” – one is hard-pressed to imagine a talent pool less likely to be knowledgeable about “middle class success”, or truly sympathetic to the middle class’s genuine interests. The fact that three former chairs of this organization now serve in the most ideologically leftwing administration in decades is prima facie evidence that a key part of the mission statement is bunkum.
One can only guess as to the nature and purpose of those “high-impact products for use by elected officials, candidates and the Administration.” Perhaps this is a reference to the high-caliber talking points found on the web site which are marshaled in support of, among other things, the D.R.E.A.M. Act and ObamaCare.
"Third Way", indeed. I am reminded of something the late Bill Buckley wrote decades ago in an essay on Mexico’s sociopolitical system. The country’s economic theme was “neither capitalism nor socialism” - “leaving you,” Buckley wrote, “with, well, with what Mexico’s got.” Thank you, Jonathan, but the first way adopted by our nation’s founders – limited government in conjunction with individual freedom and responsibility – still strikes me as the best way.
* The web site's "About Us" section has been changed since I read it this morning. What I typed above is what I cut and pasted earlier. It now reads like this. The change was presumably for the purpose of giving the site a more "moderate" tone, something more...non-labelish.
Another “Founding Leader” is John Avlon, a CNN political analyst whose main contribution to civility appears to be a volume bearing the scholarly and non-inflammatory title, Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America”. I have not read the book, but a glance at the table of contents reveals the basic drift:
“Of Tea Parties and Town Halls”
“Obama Derangement Syndrome”
“The Birth of White Minority Politics”
“Sarah Palin and the Limbaugh Brigades”
True, one peruses the (oddly short) “Wingnut Glossary” and finds a few references to groups such as Code Pink and the 9/11 Truthers, but this seems to be mere tut-tutting over the occasional small leftist splinter group, the flake content of which is so high that even a CNN commentator finds it indefensible. No, what gives the game away is the naming of two mainstream conservatives – Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh – in the context of the lunatic fringe. If one sets the boundary of right-wing lunacy this side of Palin and Limbaugh, and the boundary of leftwing lunacy this side of Code Pink, then the effect is to shift the center considerably to the left, making it possible for someone – say, John Avlon – to condemn people who dare to entertain the very notion that Obama might just have some socialist leanings.
BTW, if you’re dying to buy this book, Amazon has new editions marked down to $10.35, or you can buy one used for as little as $0.01. Better purchase Wingnuts now, though, before David Frum refers to it as “Burkean” and drives the price through the roof (maybe to two or even three cents).
More to come at a future date - unless, as I suspect, the organization collapses from the weight of its own hubris, which could happen at any moment.