Born for the role: Or why I love it when conservatives play stupid…
Sullivan has company. Eugene Volokh, who is supposed to be smart, jumps on the bashing-Krugman/neoptism-bandwagon.:
THE SINS OF THE FATHERS: The Phantom Tollbooth forcefully criticizes Paul Krugman’s complaint about powerful Republican children of powerful Republican parents. (Yes, it’s just the Republicans who come in for criticism, and not Democrats, such as Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Andrew Cuomo, Jesse Jackson, Jr. — and this partisanship is part of The Tollbooth’s complaint.)
Three out of the four cited by Volokh were…here it comes….wait for it….elected to office, not appointed.
But what particularly bothers me is the way that Krugman lambasts the children without any inquiry into whether they might have actually earned the jobs on the merits. After all, isn’t it possible that children of smart people may be smart (partly out of heredity and partly out of upbringing)? That children of ambitious people may be ambitious? That children of successful politicians might have the attitudes or experiences that are helpful to making them successful politicians? (Actually, both Bush 43 and Jeb seem to be more gifted in the political arts than their father.)
Krugman points to the Bush brothers, Elizabeth Cheney, Eugene Scalia, Eugene Scalia (sic), Janet Rehnquist, William Kristol, and John Podhoretz, and says “What’s interesting is how little comment, let alone criticism, this roll call has occasioned.” Now maybe some of these people got their posts chiefly because of their lineage, and maybe others didn’t. But shouldn’t it occasion comment and criticism that Krugman is essentially impugning the qualities of each of these people — by suggesting that each got his or her post as a matter of “inherited status,” which is to say based primarily on family connections — without any attempt to prove this?
As Volokh points out, Krugman says:
“What’s interesting is how little comment, let alone criticism, this roll call has occasioned.”
Volokh leapfrogs over Krugman’s comment and asks ‘shouldn’t we comment and criticize Krugman for asking if we should comment on and criticize these appointments’. Which means that Volokh has chosen to not answer Krugman’s assertion (offense being easier to play than defense). It’s a nice rhetorical dodge made all the easier by the unfounded charge that Krugman “lambasts” the children. Evidence of “lambasting”? It looks like counsel has chosen to not submit it.
Now let’s look at the names involved here: Cheney, Scaila, Rehnquist. Not exactly children of the First Assistant to the Under Secretary of Dairy Products Assigned to the World Bank. To say that these three were the best possible choices who got where they are by hard work and pluck, and not by their names, is to give new meaning to being obtuse. And, just in case you weren’t entirely thrown off the scent by Volokh’s tapdance, he provides the obligatory immigrant-child-who-pulled-themselves-up-by-their-bootstraps stories of Viet Dihn and himself so that we can forget what the gist of the Krugman story was. Because no matter how sad the story, everyone enjoys a happy ending…
One last comment. Volokh also writes:
Is having a prominent Republican father prima facie evidence of inadequate competence?