The Dumbest Thing I Heard This Week

The opinion page of the Wall Street Journal has always played fast and loose with reality, but as a subsidiary of the Rupert Murdoch media empire its journalistic standards have taken the expected nosedive. And while the Journal has not yet been slapped with lawsuits over hacking into opposition phones, it has populated its opinion page with laughable commentary.

This week, James Taranto explained that he expects Barack Obama to perform better in November than Barry Goldwater. In fairness, this isn’t all that dumb, until you realize he’s arguing that Obama will come close to duplicating Goldwater’s massive defeat.

In 1964, Barry Goldwater captured the GOP nomination over the objections of the establishment and espoused a new vision of “conservatism” that proudly garnered 6 states and 52 electoral votes. In defense of Senator Goldwater, his vision did ultimately prevail under the banner of Ronald Reagan, even though Goldwater found himself to the Left of modern conservatism because of his strong libertarian beliefs.

According to Taranto, when President Obama compared the current election to the 1964 election election — between a President promising improvements to social welfare and a candidate seeking to dismantle the federal government — he was casting himself…as Goldwater. I’m assuming Taranto is being tongue-in-cheek. And failing.

Taranto begins with:

Perhaps Obama, stung by the mockery he has received for his ignorant ramblings on constitutional law, has been studying history, because this is actually an intriguing comparison.

CONGRATULATIONS, James! You win your talking head merit badge for the square-peg/round-hole mention of the Affordable Care Act hearings in a completely disconnected context. Bravo.

The attempt to tie Obama to Goldwater also requires tying Mitt Romney to LBJ. To wit:

Like Mitt Romney, LBJ was a man of his era’s political center. His legislative initiatives, including the Civil Rights Act and the creation of Medicare, commanded broad bipartisan support.

This is a fascinating GOP talking point that has sprung up in the wake of the Affordable Care Act hearings. To describe the Civil Rights Act and Medicare as enjoying “broad bipartisan support” requires affixing a healthy set of blinders to the review of history. While the ultimate vote tally secured by President Johnson, arguably the foremost parliamentarian President in history, revealed bipartisan support, the passage of these laws was deeply controversial. In fact, Goldwater secured his party’s nomination in 1964 because of the deep and powerful opposition to Johnson’s legislative accomplishments and the feeling among the rank-and-file GOP that the Establishment had failed the faithful by joining with LBJ. It’s more accurate to compare 1964 to the races that brought down Senator Bob Bennett of Utah, or that may end Senator Richard Lugar’s career than the 2012 Presidential race.

Goldwater, by contrast, championed an ideology that seemed decades out of date, just as Obama is doing now.

This is actually unfair to Goldwater. Despite the conservative label, the bundle of policies he championed were revolutionary not “decades out of date.” An ideology that championed unfettered states’ rights had not existed since the Civil War, if not the Jackson administration. On the contrary, Obama is championing, what, a 3% increase in marginal tax rates and forcing bar and restaurant staff to buy health insurance?

Of course in the long run LBJ turned out to be too centrist for his own party. In 1968 he was forced to retire after an unexpectedly strong showing by a left-wing primary challenger, Sen. Eugene McCarthy.

I’m not sure anyone, anywhere, ever has argued that Johnson’s problem in 1968 was that he was too centrist. I think there was something else looming over his Presidency. Something in Asia, maybe?

LBJ fell for one of the classic blunders... (via

Now here’s where it starts to look like Taranto is not being tongue-in-cheek, but really believes his own insane, deadline-induced rush job of an article:

On the other side, less than two decades after the 1964 election, with the election of Ronald Reagan, Goldwater ended up seeming ahead of his time rather than behind it. Still, it’s a little odd that Obama is taking Goldwater as his model this year. Has the president forgotten that the Arizona senator got less than 40% of the vote and lost 44 states?

All in all, a¬†gimmicky attempt to reverse a simple analogy founded upon a¬†cavalcade of ill-supported claims. It’s as though he believes that successfully linking Obama to a candidate…from the other party…espousing a different philosophy…48 years ago…will be enough to magically reverse the poll numbers in 2012.

In other news, Taranto is working on his new article explaining how Romney’s campaign outreach to women reminds him of Bella Abzug.

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