No Country For Grumpy Old Men


One of my favorite people, George Carlin, once said:

Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.

Which, I believe, aptly describes one of my least favorite people, George Will.

George Will and I are of the same generation so I have been around for every captivating moment of Will’s philosopher-newsman journalistic career and I’m afraid that I am in total agreement with Frank Moraes of Frankly Curious on the merits of George Will:

I have a visceral hatred for George Will, because he is so much just William Buckley: the Next Generation. Although just like with Star Trek, the next generation has none of the spark of the original.

Even back in the day when Will was winning Pulitzer prizes and The Wall Street Journal was gushing that Will was “perhaps the most powerful journalist in America, in a league with Walter Lippmann,” no less, I didn’t care for his pompous, pseudo-intellectual bloviating or his hidebound patrician conservatism but now that he is a bitter old cynic flinging ill-considered hate-bombs, I like him even less.

I think that George Will started to careen, a bit, when Barack Obama was elected president.  Which, of course is not a race thing because George Will is far too well-bred for such base instincts.  But when Obama beat out Will’s ideal conservative, Mitt Romney—the guy he’d boldly predicted would win with a preposterous 321 electoral votes—George Will went completely off the rails.  That was just not the America George Will had signed on to.

Will has always treated President Obama with condescending contempt.  The titles of some of Will’s Top 40, during the Obama administration, tell that tale:

Barack Obama, The Adolescent President

When A President Goes Rogue

Political Exhibitionism: The President’s Pep Rally

President Obama’s Epiphanies About Government

How Obama Has Lived In An Atmosphere of Unconstitutionality

So.  It came as no surprise to find Will’s latest offering sporting the title “Stopping a Lawless President”  in which George Will tells America exactly how scared they should be:

What philosopher Harvey Mansfield calls “taming the prince” — making executive power compatible with democracy’s abhorrence of arbitrary power — has been a perennial problem of modern politics. It is now more urgent in the United States than at any time since the Founders, having rebelled against George III’s unfettered exercise of “royal prerogative,” stipulated that presidents “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

And here’s why, in George Will’s “expert” opinion:

Serious as are the policy disagreements roiling Washington, none is as important as the structural distortion threatening constitutional equilibrium. Institutional derangement driven by unchecked presidential aggrandizement did not begin with Barack Obama, but his offenses against the separation of powers have been egregious in quantity and qualitatively different.

Stripping out the PhD-speak, this boils down to “every president does it but somehow it’s worse when Obama does it.”

And the reasons that the Republic hasn’t already melted into an unappetizing stew over all of this “Obama abuse?” Why it’s the strength of the Constitution, of course, and the balance of power which Will believes is threatened like no other time in our history:

Congress cannot reverse egregious executive aggressions such as Obama’s without robust judicial assistance. It is, however, difficult to satisfy the criteria that the Constitution and case law require for Congress to establish “standing” to seek judicial redress for executive usurpations injurious to the legislative institution.

Excuse me Professor Will but that sounds awfully “checks and balances” to me.  Isn’t it supposed to be difficult for two branches of government to gang up on another?  And, I’m sorry to be petty but isn’t “usurpations injurious to the legislative institution” a tad overwrought when describing a legislature that refuses to legislate?  A cursory examination of Congress’ current approval rating and day-to-day dysfunction lead one to believe that Congress, rather than the Executive branch, is its own worst enemy.

Courts, understandably fearful of being inundated by lawsuits from small factions of disgruntled legislators, have been wary of granting legislative standing.

Or, maybe they are just more attuned to the legal restraints that limit the Judiciary’s power . . . and the unhinged quality of “disgruntled legislators’” fever dreams of impeaching a president because they don’t like him?

But never fear, House Legal Expert, Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has already teed up the goods to smash through that wall:

The House has passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) that would guarantee expedited consideration by federal courts of House resolutions initiating lawsuits to force presidents to “faithfully execute” laws. But as a bill, it is impotent unless and until Republicans control the Senate and a Republican holds the president’s signing pen.

As a bill, it should be impotent.  As a bill, it’s partisan window-dressing.  Oh, and what a shame!  Constitutional checks and balances only work pleasingly if one party controls all branches of government.

That reminds me of something that Ruth Marcus, one of Will’s Washington Post colleagues had to say, a little more rationally, on this very matter:

. . . assessments of presidential overreach are inherently matters of situational ethics: How you judge whether a president is overstepping his authority is inevitably colored by whether you agree with the substance of that exercise.

Put more bluntly, much of the hoopla about presidential imperialism is politics dressed up in constitutional clothing, to be put on and taken off depending on which party holds the White House.

Thus, Democrats condemned what they saw as Bush’s unilateral excesses, while Republicans remained largely silent and unconcerned. Now, the roles are precisely reversed.

In closing, I’d like to throw one more Carlin quote at you because I think that it so accurately describes George Will’s current condition:

The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept.

And that’s why we’ve unplugged you, Mr Will.

Posted by Bette Noir on 06/22/14 at 11:35 AM • Permalink

Categories: PoliticsBqhatevwrOur Stupid Media

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Although just like with Star Trek, the next generation has none of the spark of the original.

Oh, it’s on! Picard rules!

Life is Good!  Ain’t it @QinaB?

Very good essay and I have been watching Will too for much of the arc of his career.  He has always been a pedant even during the days when he would ruminate about the Chicago Cubs.  He remains an obnoxious, pedantic patrician and, as you rightly noted, Obama, the “Kenyan Usurper” has made him unhinged and so he is now down slopping around with the Tea Party morans and being utterly unself-aware that he is now consorting with the hoi-polloi.

From the first time I read George Will as a kid, I was stymied by the fact that he was considered an intellectual. All of his columns were typical right-wing rubbish peppered with words and phrases straight out of a learn-a-day calendar. Everything he does is like some trying to use a thesaurus to appear more intelligent than he really is.

I watched part of the interview they had on CSPAN. A lot of these old entrenched figures have really elitist views, but I was awestruck at how fucking royalist Will came across. From the first time he opened his mouth, there was this sense of “How DARE the commoners challenge me!” It dripped from every word, and he didn’t bother hiding it. Why not? He never has…

Which, of course is not a race thing because George Will is far too well-bred for such base instincts.

Blue blood, red neck…

george will and i are roughly the same age. i’m pretty grumpy, too, but i would submit that there’s a big difference between liberal and conservative grumpy old men.

plus the fact that he’s a cub fan. yuck. GO, GO WHITE SOX!

Since Obama was elected president, the rethugs have tossed around “unconstitutional” so much that is has basically lost any meaning and is now part of the general audio wallpaper that emanates from their noise machine.  Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.  Well, nothing except their incoherent rage, kept well-fed by the real string-pullers (Kochs, etc.) who need that wall of noise to keep at their project of securing the oligarchy. 

Will is just another court jester doing his part for the king(s); he’s a guy in a funny hat (or bowtie) with bells on though he thinks he’s a fellow prince.

. . . he’s a guy in a funny hat (or bowtie) with bells on though he thinks he’s a fellow prince.

WOW!  good one @SoaS!

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