Curse of the Giant Muffins and Other Washington Maladies

Kin, Michael

In this inaugural collection of Mi- chael Kinsley's writings the concerned reader finally has a chance to take the measure of the New Republic's sometimes awkward, sometimes agile editor...

...Friedman wants to raise incomes...
...He is no Friedmanite advocate of free markets...
...His work is strangely devoid of many of the marks of a civilized mind...
...Kinsley afflicts liberals differently from the way that he afflicts conservatives...
...At liberals he merely snickers, leaving them hurt and bemused as to the substance of his complaints...
...This should not be too surprising...
...He misrepresents them...
...The planet Earth might be imperiled by pestilence and flames, and Michael Kinsley would want to make just one more point about Felix Rohatyn's tax write-offs...
...Yet I shall fain defend Kinsley against those who say that he is neither liberal nor conservative, or that he has no higher political principle than jealousy...
...It has exchanged the welfare state for the redistributive hoosegow...
...He ducked the first controversy by pleading ignorance of courtesan's unsavory meaning...
...He does not seem to know what an argument is...
...Nonetheless he is celebrated, and the adjective applied to him with curious inveterateness is "smart"ónot intelligent, not thoughtful, just "smart...
...Nowhere in this book does he demonstrate an acute awareness of our time's great evils: the totalitarian shade now pulled over Southeast Asia, the decline of much of the Third World into barbarism, terrorism's manifold cruelties and dangers, the enduring horror of Communism again elucidated but with unusual vividness by Armando Valladares...
...Close textual analysis of this slim volume reveals that he does adhere to one very important political principle...
...He simply ignores the liberal's rationale for them...
...Liberalism has gone off in many contradictory directions...
...THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR NOVEMBER 1987 41...
...From these pages he now emerges as the Republic's most sedulous interpreter of the master's work, hence his stunted sensibility and narrowness...
...He, unless he is a stupid man, lies...
...Consider when he snickers at the Democrats' devotion to Social Security and toagricultural price supports...
...In this inaugural collection of Mi- chael Kinsley's writings the concerned reader finally has a chance to take the measure of the New Republic's sometimes awkward, sometimes agile editor undistracted by the controversies, surprising in number, that have en-toiled his brief career...
...They are declaring both regimes morally equivalent, and conservatives are right to complain...
...He must realize that "greed" is not admired by supplysiders, that neoconservatives do not "see socialism everywhere," and that those stoneheads who speak of "moral equivalence" between Washington and Moscow are not speaking of the equivalence of the two powers' strategic forces as Kinsley claims...
...He ignores their most telling arguments...
...Kinsley just wants to begrudge them...
...Furthermore he is an embarrassingly insecure self-promoter as is recognizable in his habit of repeatedly introducing persons in this book as "my friend " Nowadays such petty fellows are called neoliberals, that is to say a liberal who makes his way in the world disarming conservatives by appropriating their arguments against liberals...
...How he got out of the second I do not recall...
...Yet neither Macaulay nor Orwell lived in an era when a political philosophy justified being a nuisance...
...It is a dispensation allowed him in the grim American media because he presents himself as a moralist, and that he is but in strictly contemporary terms...
...I have now been in the company of Michael Kinsley for over two hundred pages, and let me tell you he puts me in mind of a mean little lawyer down in an alcove of the Bureau of Labor Statistics...
...As he himself indicates in R. Emmett 7yrrell, Jr...
...Today's liberals still believe in disturbing the peace...
...Then he disarms liberals by reviling his intellectual benefactors on the right...
...Elsewhere in this volume he will discomfit the peace movement by snickering at its melodrama and urgency...
...There is none, and he offers none...
...Kinsley does not even demonstrate much awareness of the squalor of our slums...
...He knows it disturbs people...
...Modern liberalism is the only political philosophy ever based on a simple misdemeanor...
...Aside from chiding these programs because they "benefit people at least as well off as those who are paying for them," Kinsley goes no deeper...
...He never troubles himself to answer the arguments of his opponents...
...Animal rights is rising on the agenda...
...That is not to say that he bothers to refute them...
...Perhaps some day he will marry a President...
...He offers false analogies...
...It is a matter of principle...
...But he does much more than merely snicker...
...True, he has little reverence for liberal pieties...
...It has never occurred to him that there is a difference between assertion and demonstration . . . that two contradictory propositions cannot be undeniable truths, that to beg the question is not the way to settle it . . ." George Orwell, too, would be out of sympathy with the Kinsley style, and Orwell's 1940 essay suggests where Kinsley might side were he in London when funny old Adolfwas menacing the bourgeoisie and Orwell noted the prewar British intelligentsia's "general negativism, querulous attitude, their complete lack at all times of any constructive suggestion," and finally their "emotional shallowness...
...For instance, it is untrue to write that "some conservatives speak almost wistfully of the advantages enjoyed by ruthless totalitarians . . . and medieval religious zealots . ." or that the Reagan Administration's "greatest moral outrage is reserved for people who acquire some advantage because they are black...
...It is just possible that Kinsley is beginning to be recognized as a primitive...
...He tortures logic...
...Conscientious readers might recall that in a preceding section on conservatives he blamed them for "helping to spread war fever" in the 1980s...
...Employers have questioned his ethics: a junket to Lebanon, his choice of manuscripts for publication, his taste...
...As Kinsley shows in this volume, such liberals can occasionally have great fun, but that is because they have no honor...
...Later the magazine insulted Susan Sontag, the writer, associating her with rock groupies...
...There was the time when Harper's under his editorship called Clare Boothe Luce a "courtesan" in a headline...
...That Kinsley practices his misdemeanors against liberals and conservatives alike does not make him a nihilist but rather a liberal of the finest metal...
...These have actually been past props for this genius's satire...
...Southey reason has no place at all...
...Kinsley takes more care in afflicting conservatives...
...Moreover, Kinsley can be funny, especially on things that are not all that serious, such as fads, poseurs in politics and business (Mary Cunningham...
...Kinsley's literary style has admirers and critics...
...If I were Kinsley that would make me a little uneasy...
...Kinsley believes that it is his moral duty to disturb his neighbor...
...But one age-old liberal principle endures the erosions of time, and Kinsley adheres to it lovingly...
...Has Kinsley forgotten the Administration's moral denunciations of Communism...
...Perhaps they would go easy on him...
...one of this book's few affectionate essays, he once worked for Ralph Nader...
...That, of course, is the surviving principle of modern liberalism...
...possibly he said "she looked good to me...
...A shorter version of this review appeared in the Wall Street Journal...
...The world has always harbored self-promoters...
...Still, this does not mean Kinsley is some sort of jolly nihilist...
...He is Eleanor Roosevelt for the 1980s...
...Are there no limits to his absorption with human baseness...
...is editor-in-chief of The American Spectator...
...But the modern moralist restricts himself to a very narrow range: thy neighbor's tax returns, thy neighbor's police radar detector, his uses of frequent flier coupons...
...And true, he serves up fearsome drubbings to conservatives, discoursing frequently on the sordidness of their black hearts...
...If only he could deliver an elbow to the ribs of some figures from history, say Schweitzer, or a literary eminence, say Proust, or Nietzsche or Marx or Beethoven, with all his annoying grievances...
...Because he is a nuisance...
...In fact Kinsley is a self-promoter as is obvious from his public rows...
...It has moved from prizing a color-blind society to prizing a color-obsessed society...
...News stories have echoed with his complaints about his salary and insufficient vacation time...
...He is absorbed with the minor peccancies of the moment...
...So why is he snickering at the peace movement's worries...
...CURSE OF THE GIANT MUFFINS AND OTHER WASHINGTON MALADIES Michael Kinsley/Summit Books/$17.95 R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr...
...Kinsley is given to put-downs...
...Were he alive I think Macaulay would be numbered among the critics, at least based on his 1830 appraisal of Robert Southey: "In the mind of Mr...

Vol. 20 • November 1987 • No. 11


 
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