“I tend to be generous with the benefit of doubt,” wrote Kathleen Parker, the mildest of conservative Washington Post columnists, in a recent effort at punditry. That’s an understatement, but then, understating is what Parker does. She also excels at writing equivocal near-condemnations that end up in pretzel form and stuck in dead-ends of ambiguity when clarity is called for.
This makes her very useful to the mainstream media, which like to present the illusion of balance while rigging the game. When I see her on a Sunday morning “roundtable” as one of the conservative voices recruited to spar with sharp, aggressive, no-holds barred progressives like Kathleen van der Heuvel or Van Jones (and a left-biased moderator), I know that the discussion will make any uninformed viewers believe that the truth consists of the midpoint between progressive spin, and Parker smiling and raising her eyebrow. She is, in short, a weenie. A nice weenie, to be sure, but when your job is battling in the marketplace of ideas, unyielding politeness, measured words, and the insistence that all sides have merit—which is often, indeed usually true–results in shorting her side, and giving the contest to the combatant with no such reticence about full-throated advocacy. Parker isn’t wrong. Parker is incompetent at her job, as it has evolved. Thus when she accepted a co-hosting gig in a CNN “Cross-Fire” clone as the Right commentator to Eliot Spitzer’s Left, he completely dominated her (he was also a bully and a boor in the process) until Parker left the show, frustrated and humiliated.
I was horrified recently to discover that Parker had written a column about the President’s non-apology apology that tracked closely with mine (posted the following day), because I dreaded Ethics Alarms readers concluding that I was cribbing from her. Her column was also notable for its theme, which was signaled by its opening sentences: Continue reading