Sunday, November 11, 2007

Quin Hillyer Is A Stand-up Guy

My last post used a column by Quin Hillyer of the American Spectator as a jumping off point, and he was kind enough to respond. It's a long letter and I won't quote it completely but I will say that I found all of it to be intelligent and heartfelt. No, I don't agree with all of it, but I respect his point of view. Which is represented as follows:

I do happen to believe that the Left is more often guilty of this sort of behavior than the right is, but I have been way out front in blasting conservative scofflaws too, criticizing Tom DeLay in print as far back as 1998, and writing columns for places such as the New Republic -- in early 2005, WAY before everything blew up in their faces in 2006 -- warning that GOP congressional ethical lapses were a serious problem that could help cost the GOP its congressional majority. I happen to believe that Bill Clinton, however, is the most prominent example of the psychology described in the study, because time and again when I worked as a leadership press aide in Congress in 1995 and 1996 I was privy to people coming back from meetings with Clinton having been assured he would do one thing, only to turn on the TV and see him saying the exact opposite while fiercely attacking them for positions he had just told them he could work with. Neat trick.

Before getting to your main point, I really, really hope you understood, from both the headline and my closing paragraph, that the whole column was slightly tongue in cheek. I was using the study as a launch for me to criticize specific liberals for lies and hypocrisy, but I acknowledged in the end that I was stretching the study beyond its actual findings in order to make my points. 

In short, as I noted in the headlines (which I personally wrote, even though that is not always the case) that my column was a bit of a "psych job" intended to goad  my liberal friends (and my liberal adversaries), and that I was "having fun" with the study. In short, the column was intended to use mild humor and mild self-deprecation (noting that I myself wasn't being fully honest with the psychological study) to make serious points about how people in politics (of course I focused mostly on the left!) manage to talk themselves into doing incredibly unethical things while still telling themselves they are morally superior.

Now, as for your point about torture: Please know that I wasn't trying to divert attention from or "derail" ANYTHING, and that I wasn't even thinking about the torture debate when I wrote my column. Granted, I clearly come down more on the side of "enhanced interrogation  techniques" than you do ( But I also, at first glance (not an in-depth analysis), think that I agree with what Bill Clinton said about a narrow statute allowing a presidential finding, etc. I do NOT think we should broadly lower our standards to those of the inhuman monsters for whom torture is almost an end in itself, and I think it is good that we so clearly set so many hurdles in the way of any of our own folks who might fall into the self-justifying trap of deciding for themselves, without checks and balances, that their own ends are noble enough to make torture okay.

My only response, aside from thanks for the respectful reply, is that as my pal Skot suggests the phrase "just kidding" literally means "I'm not kidding." However, Quin, you're perfectly justified in not originally addressing torture in your column and you are graceful to not sidestep my attempt to drag you into my tangent.  Long may you wave.

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