Juan Williams

Juan Williams, a reporter and analyst has been fired.  I don’t think it was because of his admission of bigotry, but for confusing confessional with analysis.

I’m one of those who have found him irritating on NPR.  He’s found a niche becoming the moderate, the centrist, the skeptical liberal.  I found his analysis of Obama particularly grating, a little churlish and usually pedestrian.   Too often he takes a David Brooks-like attitude: a little self-righteousness, a little smarmy, a little slippery, and usually patronizing.  The smartest kid in the class, who never had to learn from anybody, surrounded by the rest of us idiots.

It wasn’t always the case.  Once he was a reporter, and a very good one.

But I also sometimes enjoyed watching him on Fox.   He was the token liberal, a little more aggressive and thoughtful than Alan Colmes, trying to understand the conservative mindset without getting in too deep.

The quote that began this kerfuffle was kind of like the liberal who says, “hey, we’re all racists, right?”  Williams then didn’t defend racism but challenged O’Reilly to reconsider his views.  He honestly tried to change O’Reilly’s mind.

Self-revelation is one way we try to describe what is true.  Sometimes, such as in group therapy, it is useful.  It is not part of the traditional culture of public debate.   Perhaps NPR could have quietly suggested that he’s got to find other ways to share his analysis.

I can’t help but think that there were already plenty of people thinking of ways to get him out of NPR, and this was just an excuse, the final straw, an opportunity to cut him loose.  After all, he’s been a headache for NPR for a long time.

I won’t miss him, but I think he’s been wronged.  An apology and a reprimand would have been enough.  That said, now that he’s been fired by NPR, perhaps his credibility among conservatives will soar.

But please, Juan, handle this like with magnanimity and grace.  Handle this as if you’d like your job back.  Don’t feed into the madness.

The NPR Ombudsman argues the firing could have been handled differently, although it was probably legitimate.

On Obama’s Conservatism

Obama was able to do what no president has been able to do since Teddy Roosevelt tried a hundred years ago.

He succeeded because he’s a conservative.

Against what many people claim, Obama is far more institutionally conservative than most progressives.  He works within institutions.  He build relationships.  He is skeptical about broad ideological claims.   He understands the nature of personal power.  It’s in his community organizing background.  It’s also a traditional part of conservative thinking.

He didn’t impose a plan.  The plan came from congress; it was developed in committee.  He appropriated some of the policies from Republicans.  The plan created was politically moderate, imposing modest restrictions upon various parties.  Everyone had to give.  It was written after every stakeholder had its say.

Obama was patient.  He was more patient than the left, who wants everything immediately.  His patience allowed the Republican party, alas, to dissemble.  They could not offer a coherent plan, and the foot soldiers were revealed to also be incoherent, if not also adolescent and racist.  Their claims were often imaginary, the hyperbolic product of resentment and fear.  Obama’s patience – a conservative trait – exposed the opposing side to be uninterested in serious matters of policy.

Obama was also strategic.  Republicans are right to note that the proposal, as is, is probably a bit inaccurate when it comes to future costs.  There will have to be more government involvement to manage the competing claims of the various parties involved.  They are also going to have to confront the fact that plenty of their constituents – registered Republicans – will benefit from broader health care, especially lower-middle class race populists.

I think it is relevant that a black president passed this reform.  This reform will especially impact poor Americans, both black and white.  They will be indebted to this bill.  It is a very practical way, especially, our government can diminish the impact of racism.

Yes, Obama may be more sympathetic to the progressive cause.  But his success is not because he’s a progressive.  His success is because he’s a conservative.  He is not motivated by ideology or political correctness.  He moves once he has built relationships with people who represent institutions.  This will irritate both liberals and race-populists.  But it is why he is successful.

If more progressives were as conservative as Obama, they’d have a lot more success.