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On Williams College and Civility

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 1:48 pm - September 13, 2011.
Filed under: Academia,Blogging,Civil Discourse

I’m back at my alma mater, once again named America’s top liberal arts college. I had come out here for the fall meeting of the executive committee of our Society of Alumni to which I was elected last year, and stayed for a few days in order to address the club I founded when I was an undergraduate, the Garfield Republican Club.

If you’re in western Massachusetts, please feel to stop by tonight at 8:30 PM in Williams College’s Griffin Hall Room 6 to hear me address the question, “Was the Bush Administration the Golden Age for Gays in America?

As I visit the campus, talking to professors and students, preparing my remarks, I recall so many things, but notably the conversations I had here, not just with my philosophical confrères, but also with my ideological adversaries.  I recall the respect that most showed for my ideas, how we each strove to respect the other’s arguments.  My favorite political science professor here was a Marxist who taught a course in conservative  political theory.  It remains to this day the best class I ever had where I perhaps worked the hardest and certainly learned the most.

And I recall how after Phyllis Schlafly spoke, students asked her tough questions, then engaged each other in thoughtful, though sometimes, heated exchanges about the arguments she made and the conclusions she reached.  My fellow Ephs offered a civil response to a controversial speaker.

I believe my concern for civil discourse begun here, beneath the peaceful shadows of these purple mountains.  As I recall the conversations that took place — and apparently still take place here — I wonder if this medium (blogging) sometimes compromises our ability to comment in a civil manner.  I note how my own tone has become snarkier since I first started blogging.

Now, to be sure, some of our critics, do respond to our points, but all too often they merely attack us not for what we say, but for what they believe conservatives would say.  And, alas, some of our defenders respond in kind.

Perhaps, the difference is that at Williams College, we looked our interlocutors in the eye when we took issue with their points, but in this medium, we don’t see the faces of those with whose arguments we take issue. (more…)

Obama’s jobs plan to be paid for with tax hikes after election

According to a Washington Times analysis:

At its root, President Obama’s jobs stimulus plan pays for spending and tax cuts now by promising tax increases that wouldn’t kick in until 2013 — after next year’s elections — and would last through the rest of the decade.

His bill, which the White House submitted to Congress on Monday afternoon, amounts to $194 billion in spending and $253 billion in tax cuts in the next couple of years, all of which is funded by raising taxes by $467 billion over the rest of the decade.

Emphasis added.  This leads me to repeating a question I asked earlier today: Who’s playing political games?

Does the president fear that hiking taxes now might threaten the increasingly fragile economic recovery?

UPDATE:  From Instapundit:

MEGAN MCARDLE: “I was tentatively in favor of the jobs plan that Obama proposed last week. But that’s before I realized that he has no intention of trying to get it passed. . . . I really wish that Obama hadn’t wasted my Thursday evening, and that of 31 million other Americans, listening to a jobs plan that was only designed to produce one job–a second term for Barack Obama.”

Who’s playing political games?

Surrounded by police officers, firefighters, teachers, construction workers and others he said would be helped by the $447 billion package,” Erika Werner writes, “the president said the only thing that would block its passage would be lawmakers deciding it wasn’t good politics to work with him. ‘We can’t afford these same political games, not now,’ Obama said.”

The Democrat casts his opposition as seeking to score political points rather than stand on principle.

Ms. Werner also reported that the Democratic chief executive “proposed paying for his costly new jobs plan Monday with tax hikes that Republicans have already emphatically rejected.”  He declared that “Congress needs to pass” his bill:

“No games. No politics. No delays.” He sent it to Capitol Hill saying, “The only thing that’s stopping it is politics.”

Can you imagine how the media would have reacted if the immediate past President of the United States had issued a similar statement about legislation containing provisions his opposition had already “emphatically rejected”?

It is not the president’s job to dictate to Congress how to legislate.  A post-partisan politician would understand that his ideological adversaries often have sound reasons for opposing legislation he advocates, particularly when said legislation increases federal spending — and the federal budget is severely out of balance.

UPDATE:  Jim Geraghty, quoting an Obama advisor, shows us just how intransigent this White House is:

On “Good Morning America” this morning, Obama’s chief strategist David Axelrod declared that Obama’s jobs plan must be passed in its entirety; no provisions may be rejected or excepted.

The blogger  concludes with the quip, “But remember, in the MSM narrative, it’s the Republicans who are being stubborn and inflexible.”