My impression as to why George Will is such a successful columnist and pundit is the same reason cartoons are successful – they don’t challenge the consumer and they are entirely predictable.
Watching an animated television show, like reading Will’s words, does not challenge the intellectual facilities of the viewer above the brain stem because its setup is the same episode after episode after episode.
A viewer of cartoons knows beforehand that the Roadrunner will escape, Spongebob Squarepants will do something silly, Bart Simpson will engage in some deliquent behavior, and Bender will say something sarcastic. In this same vien, a reader of Will can predict that his column will contain one or both of these ideas:
- Republicans / conservatives are good, wholesome, love their country, and are on the side of the angels
- Democrats / liberals are evil, despise this country, and/or both
Two of Will’s recent columns (and really, I probably could have picked any two from his repertoire) highlight this.
In this January 16, 2011, column, “Congress reasserts its power“, Will makes the following statement in the second paragraph:
Many congressional Republicans, and surely some Democrats with institutional pride, think Congress is being derogated and marginalized by two developments
I chuckled at the qualifiers Will uses when describing the Democrats. It is only those Dems with institutional pride that think Congress is being derogated (verb, to take away; to detract). The Republicans need no such qualifer in Will’s mind because all members of the GOP have instiutional pride so it goes without saying.
In addition, Will uses the word “surely” to even further qualify the fact about Democrats as if to say that while he can think of no specific Democrat who has pride in Congress, surely, the law of averages states that there must be at least one Congress-loving mutant in the Democrat fold. It’s akin to Abraham, in the Torah, arguing with the Lord when the Almighty is about to destory Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham keeps saying, “Surely, there must be one good man in those cities who can be saved”
Moving on to Will’s column of Jaunary 20, 2011, “Hurbis heading for a fall“, Will shows a disingenuous towards the party that uses the donkey as its symbol as he writes:
[Lawrence] Summers leaves a federal government funded by a continuing resolution. Congress has been so busy passing gargantuan legislation to expand government’s responsibilities that it has not had enough time, energy or sense of responsibility to pass a budget.
It is true that the 111th Congress, with Democrats in the majorities of both houses of Congress failed to pass a budget for Fiscal Year 2011. Will’s opening line of “Summers leaves a federal government…” uses a current historical event to attempt to make the point that this lack of a budget, under the Democrats’ watch, is a recent event. Will, as a political columnist, knows his history and is fully aware that Congress has not been able to pass a budget on time since Fiscal Year 1998 – a time frame that includes a span when Republicans rules both houses.
As to “gargantuan legislation”, I can point to the law that created a whole new Cabinet department, the Department of Homeland Security, that was signed under President George W. Bush (a Republican as I recall). And as for a law that “expand[ed] government’s responsibilities”, I can point to the “No Child Left Behind” Act that poked the camel’s nose of the federal government even further into the tent of local school districts. This bill, if memory serves me right, was also signed by Bush.
My main point here is not to say that Will’s right-leaning philiosophy is good or bad. It is to say that a political columnist or pundit of any stripe should not be so lazy as to have the same reaction (i.e., conservatives bad, liberals good – or vice-versa) to every political situation. If you are lucky enough to have the priviledge to write for a large audience, enage their minds with thought-provoking commentary. Don’t lazily reinforce what you think their bias already is – make them think, stretch their minds, make them slightly uncomfortable.
That being said, however, I bet that when the next Will column appears, the Roadrunner escapes.