Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Conor Friedersdorf Defends Rand Paul from an Attack from the New York Times

Conor Friedersdorf sees Frank Bruni's "confused" critique of Rand Paul as an example of a a problem many of Rand Paul's critics have:

What vexes me is seeing Paul constantly subject to reductio ad libertarium, even as critics like Bruni compare him unfavorably to Jeb Bush without ever delving into the latter man's support for the Iraq War or votes to impose mandatory minimums on drug offenders -- stands that Bruni would never dare call "loopy," though their costs compared to their benefits make them look that way to me. Paul "carped about the 'nanny state' in relation to seat-belt laws. Yes, seat-belt laws," Bruni scoffs. Is he even aware that Bush repealed Florida's mandatory motorcycle helmet law? And what possible justification is there for judging these men based on a seat belt or a helmet law anyway?

Disagree with their minor positions, sure.

But reading Bruni, you start to suspect he'd be more bothered by a presidential candidate opposed to seat belt laws than one who wants to keep nonviolent marijuana offenders in jail and wage war on Iran. Like so many journalists, Bruni has adopted heuristics about what positions render a politician "crazy" that don't stand up to even cursory scrutiny, causes him to attach outsized importance to relatively unimportant stances while ignoring consequential ones, and even leads to journalistic mistakes, as with his misleading characterization of Paul's PATRIOT Act efforts.

It's time to abandon this frame for good.

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