Tom Edsall 1, George Will 0

George Will engages in a little bit of abusive misrepresentation. Tom Edsall calls him on it.

George Will is well-read (for a journalist), writes competent and occasionally witty prose, is just unpredictable enough so that you have to read his stuff to know what he thinks, and not a bigot, an obscurantist, or a violence-worshipper. That puts him well into the top percentile of conservative columnists. It does not, however, keep him from being A Very Bad Man, with a nasty habit of bullying and a streak of intellectual dishonesty a mile wide.

For once, Will has picked more of a fight than he was ready for. As long as Tom Edsall was just one of the best daily journalists in the country, Will could have mischaracterized Edsall’s book to his heart’s content, and Edsall would have had no effective way to hit back.

But now that the Post has been foolish enough to offer Edsall a buyout, he has outlets: for instance, TNR Online. And Edsall calmly and methodically tears Will a new one. Good for him!

It wouldn’t have been appropriate for Edsall to say it, but I will: Will’s reference to Edsall’s “anger” is about the least plausible lie I’ve read this week; Edsall, as all his acquaintances know, is what shows up in the Pictionary under “flat affect.”

Go read Building Red America. I don’t agree with all of it; I think Edsall could have been a little more critical of the substance of the right-wing talking-points whose political effectiveness he so clearly describes. But he clearly lays out both the Rovian ambition to achieve permanent power and the problems the Democrats face in fighting it off.

And compare what Will says Edsall said with what Edsall actually said, and adjust your opinion of Will’s veracity accordingly.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

10 thoughts on “Tom Edsall 1, George Will 0”

  1. I knew I didn't trust George Will as soon as I realized he was a fan of little ball. It's great for junior baseball, but in the real world, little ball died once Ruth started hitting homers.
    Why anyone pays attention to him escapes me, but I can say that about a hell of a lot of people.

  2. Funny, I stopped reading when you asserted that unmarried motherhood is the cause of most social pathologies.
    Now tell me you have to bunt the 8th-place hitter over.
    Little ball.

  3. In a previous life I used to get Newsweek and so read Will's column there each week. I started to notice a pattern. There was usually one paragraph in the middle with at least three words that I had to look up. And ya know that was always the place where the weasle or lie was burried.
    Does he still do that?

  4. A note to Thomas about facts: the percentage of children born to unmarried mothers is greater in several Scandinavain countries than it is in the US – and their rates violence, theft, rape, venereal disease, abortion, and teen pregnancy are about 75% LOWER than ours.
    So, when you say that childbearing by unmarried mothers is "the cause of most social pathologies," what social pathologies and what FACTS are you thinking of?

  5. The parenthetical should have quotes around it or should have been block indented, but I'm too lazy to do it properly–it's from Will's column, as quoted in Edsall's response.
    IOW: react to Edsall and Will, or react to me, but don't confuse the two.

  6. Folks:
    A housekeeping note: typing your comments, or parts of comments IN ALL CAPS gives the impression of SHOUTING, which is not consistent with our "play nice" rules.
    ALL SUCH COMMENTS WILL BE DELETED.
    (And, as the Cretan philosopher said, "Everything a Cretan says is a lie.")

  7. Sorry about the caps. I've reread Thomas' post three times – and can't see why any reader would assume the sentiment is not his.
    Quoting people who are quoting each other – and making a point about how others have (mis)read their exchange – involves four voices and the potential for confusion.

  8. Michael, I assumed that others would read the Will piece and the Edsall response, both of which include the quoted bit. If someone were to read those short articles and then, soon thereafter, read my post, I suspect they'd realize that the quoted material was from the article.
    I didn't have any problem with your caps–it is difficult to emphasize *particular* words without using some convention.

  9. Let me be clear: using all caps for a word or two is FINE. The comment I was referring to was four lines in all caps, by a commenter who made a habit of it.

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