1. In one of two essays on our dysfunctional political parties, conservative David Frum excoriated today’s “fantasy based” GOP, which the former George W. Bush speechwriter said he could hardly recognize (“When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?,” November 28). Most commenters agreed with Frum, especially those readers on the left, but also like-minded conservatives who’ve themselves left the fold. “Amen and amen,” wrote Steven L. Taylor at Outside the Beltway, a site for disenchanted conservatives. “It’s an interesting read, a cry for help and a plea for the GOP to return to sanity, but it’s also a complete waste of time,” writes fellow conservative apostate Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs. “The Republican Party and the right wing in general have totally rejected the likes of David Frum, and it’s going to be a long time (if ever) before they’ll be able to dig themselves out of the reactionary anti-reality hole they’ve excavated. Face it, David—the Republican Party divorced you. You’re not going to get back together, and you’re only setting yourself up for more angst by clinging to this futile hope.” To Frum’s suggestion that the Republican “flight from reality” was not just frustrating but puzzling, Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum pushed back: “The success of modern Republicanism isn’t all that hard to understand,” he wrote. “Rich people like it for obvious reasons. Social conservatives like it for obvious reasons. And the white working class—well, they might not actually like it all that much, but they mostly dislike liberals even more … And if there’s a large bloc of irritated registered voters, is it surprising that some political party somewhere is going to take advantage of this irritation by assuring them that heartland values are the real America, racism is a liberal scam, global warming is a myth, and social-welfare programs do more harm than good?”
2. In the second essay, liberal Jonathan Chait diagnosed Democrats with a congenital inability to be happy with their own presidents—Barack Obama being a case in point (“When Did Liberals Become So Unreasonable?,” November 28). “I keep saying this, but President Obama is the most progressive president since LBJ,” wrote Barbara O’Brien at the Mahablog. “Yet in liberal circles one is not allowed to point this out. It’s like everyone had an anti-Obama microchip planted in their brains.” “If Democrats hadn’t had such high expectations three years ago, they might be more enthusiastic today,” wrote Will Wilkinson at The Economist’s Democracy in America blog. “But it’s hardly surprising that they had high hopes. That was a key selling point of the Obama candidacy.” At the Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan disagreed that so much blame might lie with the president rather than his party faithful (or somewhat faithful). “Many Dems even now think Clinton was more successful in fighting the GOP in his first term than Obama has been. (Memo to the left: Universal health care was achieved under Obama),” he wrote. “But much of this is the usual Democratic limpness and whininess. If George Bush had taken out Osama bin Laden, wiped out Al Qaeda’s leadership, and gathered a treasure trove of real intelligence by a daring raid, he’d be on Mount Rushmore by now. If he’d done the equivalent on the right of universal health care, he’d be the second coming of Reagan. But Obama and liberals?
3. In an essay on the 48th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination, Frank Rich suggested that the partisan vitriol Kennedy inspired may be his most enduring legacy—and that it haunts the Obama presidency today (“What Killed JFK,” November 28). Readers were struck by the parallels, too. “The intensity of hatred swirling around both presidencies cannot be denied,” wrote one commenter at nymag.com. At the Corner at National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg called the essay “a weird, at times interesting, at times astoundingly tendentious affair on how the ‘hate that ended’ JFK’s presidency ‘is eerily familiar’ to the hate aimed at Obama. But as Rich circuitously acknowledges in the essay, JFK’s presidency wasn’t in fact ended by hate, it was ended by a Communist assassin.” Other commenters struck the same note. “ ‘Hate’ didn’t kill Kennedy, a sick, twisted individual was served up the opportunity to shoot JFK by a lot of twists of fate. There may have been a lot of JFK haters at the time, but they didn’t kill him. Oswald killed him.” Of course, a number of conspiracy theorists quickly disagreed. “There continues to be a charade concerning Kennedy’s death,” wrote one commenter at nymag.com. “When are we going to get real and acknowledge that it was an orchestrated takedown of a president that was pushing the envelope too far? Apologists like Frank Rich are doing the citizens an injustice by not at least hinting at the real causes.”
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