Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Soft on "Soft on..."

Getting back to Jonah Goldberg's defense of the 'soft on terror' meme ("Some accusations aren't tactical, they're observations"), the response is simply that this particular accusation is inherently tactical.

If you want to offer a purely informational observation, you engage the details of the policy with which you disagree (not a simplistic caricature of the thing, as Jonah does here, but the thing itself). Reasonable people can disagree about how to fight terrorism effectively; this sort of debate could be constructive, if it ever happened.

Once you're in the territory of 'soft on X' (terrorism, Communism, crime, drugs, what have you), you've shifted from talking about policy to talking about attitude. 'Soft on X' is a critique not of ideas, but of posture.

It's not just content-free; it actively prevents the introduction of content. Drug treatment programs may be more effective than incarceration, for example, but once 'soft on drugs' enters the picture that point will never be heard.

'Soft on X' is worthless from an informational perspective, but history shows that it has been (unfortunately) effective from a tactical standpoint. It is, as we see repeatedly, all the Republicans have left--their policies all having collapsed in blood and fire and corruption and incompetence--and they use it every chance they get. Jonah has to be very stupid or very dishonest to pretend otherwise.